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25 Groovy Facts About Austin Powers

New Line Cinemas
New Line Cinemas

After two Wayne’s World movies and a six-season run on Saturday Night Live, Mike Myers took a break from show business. Almost two years after he left SNL, Myers reemerged on May 2, 1997—20 years ago today—with a feature comedy he had conceived of and written about a time-traveling secret agent with terrible teeth titled Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.

Its positive reviews and robust home video sales led to the popular sequel Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, which made more than $312 million worldwide at the box office, making more money in its opening weekend than the original film did throughout its entire theatrical run. 2002’s Austin Powers in Goldmember received weaker reviews, but was nearly as huge a moneymaker.

1. MIKE MYERS STARTED THINKING UP THE AUSTIN POWERS CHARACTER DRIVING HOME ONE DAY.

Burt Bacharach’s “The Look of Love” was playing on the car radio, leading Mike Myers to think about where the “swingers” of the world went off to. This inevitably led to the comedian asking his then-wife Robin Ruzan if she “swung” and if he was "making her horny." Told to stop and to just write this new character down somewhere, Myers wrote the first draft of Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery in three weeks.

2. IT’S WIDELY BELIEVED THAT DR. EVIL IS BASED ON LORNE MICHAELS.

Anonymous former writers and actors from the legendary sketch show claimed that Dr. Evil did an excellent job of mimicking SNL's head honcho, from his overall control-freak behavior to the physical mannerisms, including the famous upturned pinkie. It was even rumored that Dana Carvey was angry with Myers for more than a decade because he felt that Myers stole his Lorne Michaels impression for Dr. Evil. A few months after The Spy Who Shagged Me came out, Myers appeared in an SNL sketch insisting to Michaels that Dr. Evil was not based on him.

3. MICHAEL CAINE BELIEVES THAT AUSTIN POWERS IS BASED ON A 1965 CHARACTER OF HIS.

Caine portrayed bespectacled government agent Harry Palmer in the British espionage movie The Ipcress File. When he first saw Austin Powers, the actor thought that he was Palmer—but with poor teeth (of which Caine was not a fan). Years later, Caine would play Austin’s father, Nigel, in Goldmember.

4. ELIZABETH HURLEY BELIEVES THAT AUSTIN POWERS IS BASED ON A 1960s BRITISH TALK SHOW HOST.

Simon Dee was the host of the hip and popular BBC celebrity chat show called Dee Time that ran in the late 1960s. It aired twice a week and episodes concluded with Dee driving off in a Jaguar with a blonde model. When he passed away in 2009 of bone cancer, obituaries quoted Hurley—who played International Man of Mystery’s Vanessa Kensington—as saying that Dee’s “sixties grooviness” made him the inspiration for the Powers character. One international news service even used the headline “Original Austin Powers Simon Dee Dies.”

5. OTHERS BELIEVE THE PLOT WAS INFLUENCED BY ANOTHER ENGLISH '60s SHOW.

The BBC's Adam Adamant Lives!, which ran from 1966 to 1967, was about a British man who is frozen by a villain in 1867 and reawakens in 1966 to fight said villain.

6. COLIN QUINN WAS OFFERED THE ROLE OF SCOTT EVIL, BUT TURNED IT DOWN.

The former SNL cast member has said he regrets the decision, but doesn’t begrudge the movie franchise’s success.

7. A ONE-HOUR MTV SPECIAL STARRING AUSTIN POWERS AIRED BEFORE THE MOVIE PREMIERED.

Austin Powers' Electric Pussycat Swingers Club was a Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In-inspired extravaganza which featured some clips from the movie, a Powers-curated “Fab Birds of the ‘90’s” list, and cameos from Julianna Margulies, Bill Bellamy, Kurt Loder, Rosie O’Donnell, Robert Wagner, Steven Weber, and Michael York, who were credited collectively in the closing credits as part of “The Swingers Club.”

8. MUCH OF THE FIRST FILM WAS IMPROVISED.

According to Myers' estimation, "about 30 to 40 percent" of the first movie was improvised. But there are examples of non-scripted scenes running throughout the series, including Basil telling the audience to not think so hard about all of the time travel logistics; Austin pointing out the differences between the English countryside and Southern California; and the shushing scene.

9. A REFERENCE TO PRINCESS DIANA WAS EDITED OUT OF THE THEATRICAL RELEASE IN THE UNITED KINGDOM.

One of Dr. Evil’s nefarious plans was to make it look like Prince Charles was having an affair to create a shocking royal divorce, without knowing that Charles and Di were no longer married. International Man of Mystery was released in the U.K. on September 5, 1997, five days after Princess Diana’s death, so that part was taken out. It was restored by the time it came out on home video.

10. DR. EVIL’S LINE ABOUT HIPSTERS IS A LENNY BRUCE QUOTE.

The famous comic once said: “There is nothing sadder than an aging hipster.” Dr. Evil attempted to insult Austin with saying, “Really, there's nothing more pathetic than an aging hipster.” Myers has referenced Bruce in various interviews over the years.

11. MR. BIGGLESWORTH’S REAL NAME IS TED NUDE-GENT.

Thanks to Ted, the popularity of sphinx cats skyrocketed after International Man of Mystery came out.

12. IN THE ORIGINAL SCRIPT, AUSTIN DRINKS A ZIMA, NOT A TAB.

Either way, Powers looked out of touch in the scene at the Las Vegas bar when he got laughed at for flashing a peace sign.

13. STARBUCKS PAID NOTHING FOR BEING IN THE SPY WHO SHAGGED ME.

The company agreed to take part after producers showed them the script and storyboards.

14. THE WORD "SHAG" IN THE SEQUEL'S SUBTITLE MADE SOME COUNTRIES UNCOMFORTABLE.

Singapore came up with The Spy Who Shioked Me; in English, “shiok” means “treat nicely.” Malaysian censors changed it to The Spy Who Dot-Dot-Dot Me. Some British theater owners simply put Austin Powers II on their marquees.

15. ROB LOWE GOT THE ROLE OF YOUNG NUMBER TWO BY DOING A SPOT-ON ROBERT WAGNER IMPRESSION.

He did the impersonation for Myers one day while the two were golfing. A couple of months later, he was presented with a script with him already cast in the role. Lowe actually appeared in, but was cut out of, the first movie; he played a friend of John Smith, one of Dr. Evil's henchman, who gets "decapitated by an ill-tempered mutated sea bass." Lowe is forced to deliver that news at Smith's bachelor party.

16. 1970s DANCE MUSIC PLAYED BETWEEN TAKES ON THE SPY WHO SHAGGED ME SET.

Rob Lowe wrote that to this day, the opening claps of Rose Royce's “Car Wash” remind him of the shoot. He also wrote that he in fact did the Wagner voice, and there were no overdubs by Wagner involved.

17. IT TOOK MYERS SEVEN HOURS TO PUT ON THE FAT BASTARD SUIT.

According to Myers, it smelled like a “sewer filtration plant.”

18. HIS CHAIR ON SET HAD A STRANGE NAME WRITTEN ON IT.

It said: "Sir Stinky Bottom, Viscount of Stinkvania in the Bottom-ic Empire."

19. A BONUS TRACK ON A 1999 ALAN PARSONS SOLO ALBUM FEATURES DR. EVIL.

The title track from The Time Machine received a “Dr. Evil edit.”

20. THE ORIGINAL SCRIPT FOR THE SPY WHO SHAGGED ME FEATURED ALTERNATE SUBTITLES THAT PURPOSELY COMMITTED COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT.

Co-written by Myers and former SNL writer Michael McCullers (who collaborated again on Goldmember), the first draft began with a joke that the film was titled Austin Powers 2: The Wrath of Khan, before pressure from lawyers forced them to change it to Austinpussy.

21. MGM ALMOST FORCED THE THIRD MOVIE TO BE TITLED SOMETHING ELSE.

In January 2002, New Line began recalling all promotional materials for Goldmember after MGM sent a cease-and-desist order stating that New Line was attempting to make money off of their James Bond franchise. The lawsuit was settled in April, just three months ahead of the film’s release, with New Line telling CNN that “as part of the agreement to allow use of the ‘Goldmember’ title, all future titles that may be construed as parodies of James Bond will be subject to MGM's approval.”

22. THE FIRST CUT OF GOLDMEMBER CLOCKED IN AT OVER THREE HOURS.

It was actually three-and-a-half hours. In order to trim the running time down to a more manageable 95 minutes, several scenes were left on the cutting room floor, including the return of both Heather Graham’s Felicity Shagwell and Will Ferrell’s Mustafa.

23. NIGEL POWERS’ RANDOM HATRED OF THE DUTCH WAS INSPIRED BY MYERS’ FATHER.

"That idea came from my actual father, who was English, and who had an ax to grind with the Hawaiians because 'they bloody murdered Captain Cook in his sleep,'" Myers told USA Today in 2002. "We couldn't even have a pineapple in the house. So I thought it would be funny if Austin's father, Nigel, had a problem with the Dutch—who nobody has a grudge with."

24. THE GOLDMEMBER CHARACTER CAME ABOUT THANKS TO HBO’S REAL SEX.

A gentleman with a Dutch accent appeared on the late-night program Myers was watching while writing one night, talking about his sex farm near Rotterdam.

25. HBO ORDERED 13 EPISODES OF AN ANIMATED AUSTIN POWERS SERIES IN 1999.

New Line Television shopped it as having less of a Saturday morning cartoon feel and more of a King of the Hill sensibility. But it mysteriously never came to be.

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The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Turkey Day Marathon Is Back
Shout! Factory
Shout! Factory

For many fans, Mystery Science Theater 3000 is as beloved a Thanksgiving tradition as mashed potatoes and gravy (except funnier). It seems appropriate, given that the show celebrates the turkeys of the movie world. And that it made its debut on Thanksgiving Day in 1988 (on KTMA, a local station in Minneapolis). In 1991, to celebrate its third anniversary, Comedy Central hosted a Thanksgiving Day marathon of the series—and in the more than 25 years since, that tradition has continued.

Beginning at 12 p.m. ET on Thursday, Shout! Factory will host yet another Mystery Science Theater 3000 Turkey Day marathon, hosted by series creator Joel Hodgson and stars Jonah Ray and Felicia Day. Taking place online at ShoutFactoryTV.com, or via the Shout! Factory TV app on Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire and select smart TVs, the trio will share six classic MST3K episodes that have never been screened as part of a Shout! Factory Turkey Day Marathon. Here’s hoping your favorite episode makes it (cough, Hobgoblins, cough.)

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11 Bite-Sized Facts About Cannibal! The Musical
Troma Entertainment
Troma Entertainment

Back in their film school days, the creators of South Park made a twisted tribute to Rogers and Hammerstein. Cannibal! The Musical is (very) loosely based on the life of Alfred "Alferd" Packer, an American prospector who resorted to eating his travel companions in the harsh winter of 1874. Below, you’ll find a buffet of bite-sized facts about this weirdly upbeat black comedy. Bon appétit!

1. IT ALL STARTED WITH A GAG TRAILER.

In 1992, Trey Parker was studying film at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where pretty much everyone knows all about the legend of Alfred "Alferd" Packer. Indeed, when a new restaurant opened up on campus in 1968, the student body chose to name it after this famous man-eater. The restaurant’s slogan? “Have a friend for lunch.” As a joke, Parker rounded up some of his fellow film majors and spent three days shooting a phony trailer for a nonexistent movie called Alferd Packer: The Musical. Included in the ensemble was Matt Stone, with whom Parker would go on to create South Park.

Once the Alferd Packer promo was finished, those who worked on it weren’t sure if they could turn this concept into a feature-length picture. Fortunately, the trailer was a huge hit. “People thought it was really funny,” Parker told The Denver Post, “so we went around … and said, ‘So do you want to invest?’” Thanks (for the most part) to donations from a few CU grads with wealthy parents, Parker and his co-stars amassed a $100,000 budget.

2. LIANE THE HORSE WAS NAMED AFTER TREY PARKER’S EX-FIANCÉE.

At age 21, Parker was all set to marry his high school sweetheart. “We had plane tickets, the dress was bought, the church was paid for,” Parker shared on the DVD commentary. Then, about a month before the wedding, he caught his bride-to-be with another man. Devastated, Parker broke off the engagement and came up with an unusual way to get even. “I really wrote this movie for her,” he said.

A major character in Cannibal is Liane, Packer’s beloved horse, who leaves him for another rider. The two-timing equine was named after Parker’s former fiancée. Some artistic license was taken here, as there’s no proof that the real Packer ever owned a horse named Liane—or that he ever wistfully sang about being on top of her.

3. AN AVANT-GARDE LEGEND WAS CAST IN A MINOR ROLE.

World-renowned for his experimental filmmaking, the late Stan Brakhage taught off and on at the University of Colorado, where he met Parker and Stone. The two convinced him to appear in Cannibal! as George Noon’s father, who gets about two minutes’ worth of screen time.

4. PARKER’S DAD WAS IN IT, TOO.

Just like Stan Marsh’s dad in South Park, Trey Parker’s father, Randy, is a geologist. In Cannibal! The Musical, he portrays the Breckenridge judge who sentences Packer (played by Trey) to death.

5. “SHPADOINKLE” WAS MEANT AS A FILLER WORD.

In addition to penning the Cannibal! script, Parker also wrote the film’s musical numbers. The first of these is “Shpadoinkle Day,” an offbeat tribute to “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” from Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! Parker knew that the first verse had to include a positive, three-syllable word, but couldn’t think of any that fit. So he used the made-up term “Shpadoinkle” to plug the gap until he could come up with an alternative. However, the creative team liked “shpadoinkle” so much that it stayed put and became one of Cannibal’s running jokes.

6. THEY SHOT IN THE COURTROOM IN WHICH PACKER WAS ACTUALLY TRIED.

On April 6, 1883, Packer was put on trial at the Hinsdale County Courthouse in Lake City, Colorado. Over the next few days, he admitted to dining on two of his dead travel companions—one of whom he supposedly killed in self-defense (the other died of natural causes). Packer was found guilty of murder, but avoided the hangman’s noose by fighting for a second trial, which took place 30 miles away in Gunnison. This time, he was charged with five counts of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to 40 years in prison. However, while Packer languished behind bars, public opinion slowly turned in the cannibal’s favor. Under near-constant pressure from The Denver Post, Governor Charles S. Thomas pardoned Packer in 1901.

More than 90 years later, Parker filmed the trial scenes of Cannibal! The Musical at the still-standing Hinsdale County Courthouse. About halfway through the movie, the judge delivers a big speech in which he sentences Packer to death. His on-screen monologue was copied word-for-word from the court transcript of that 1883 Lake City trial.

7. AS THE MINERS SING “THAT’S ALL I’M ASKING FOR,” YOU CAN SEE PARKER MOUTH THE WORD “CUT.”

It goes by fast, but you can see Parker call "cut" to end the shot at the 3:06 mark in the clip above.

8. PARKER USED A PSEUDONYM FOR THE OPENING CREDITS.

Parker billed himself as "Juan Schwartz" in the cast of Cannibal because, according to the movie's website, "Trey doesn't like seeing one person's name plastered all over a movie's credits." Since he is properly credited as writer and director, he likely felt the additional acting credit was a bit too much. Incidentally, Packer called himself “John Shwartze” while evading the law before his arrest.

9. A FEW SONGS WERE DELETED.

The original cut of Cannibal! The Musical ran for two and a half hours, but thanks to some major-league editing, the runtime was reduced to a breezy 93 minutes. “There were fights about that from the get-go, but I give credit to Trey for being the toughest critic,” producer Jason McHugh told MovieMaker Magazine. “He had the maturity to know that a musical comedy about cannibals can’t be two and a half hours long.”

In the streamlining process, two musical numbers got the axe. The first was a quick little dirge called “Don’t Be Stupid,” wherein some nameless miners tell Packer’s group to postpone their journey until springtime. The other was “I’m Shatterproof,” a rap/funk song that Packer, hardened by his recent ordeals, delivers during a bar fight. Also deleted was a reprise of “When I Was On Top of You.”

10. COMEDY CENTRAL WOULDN’T BROADCAST IT.

Cannibal! was distributed by Troma Entertainment, an independent production company best known for creating The Toxic Avenger series. When South Park began to emerge as a major player on cable TV, Troma’s co-founder, Lloyd Kaufman, assumed that Comedy Central would jump at the chance to air some of Parker and Stone’s earlier work. Instead, the channel flatly refused to air Cannibal.

Kaufman was sent a rejection letter from Comedy Central, which read: “Thank you for submitting and re-submitting Cannibal! The Musical, but it is simply not up to our standards for broadcasting.” Troma forwarded a copy of this dispatch to Parker. Today, it’s prominently displayed in his office—at Comedy Central!

11. IT HAS BEEN TURNED INTO A STAGE MUSICAL ON MANY OCCASIONS.

Can’t get tickets to The Book of Mormon? Perhaps you can catch a live reenactment of Cannibal! The Musical instead. Since 1998, the movie has been seen more than 60 stage adaptations. There’s no “official” version of the theatrical show. As such, acting troupes that might be interested in performing Cannibal! have to write their own scripts based on the original movie. 

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