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15 Fun Facts About Meet the Parents

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Meet the Parents—the first film in a comedy trilogy that made more than $1 billion at the box office—helped give Robert De Niro new cinematic life as a comedic actor, and solidified Ben Stiller as a leading man. On the occasion of its 15th anniversary, here are some facts about the film that you unfortunately cannot milk.

1. IT'S A REMAKE OF A 1992 INDEPENDENT FILM.

In 1992, Greg Glienna and Mary Ruth Clarke wrote and starred in Meet the Parents, a 75-minute flick that Glienna also directed on a budget of about $100,000. Unable to find a distributor for their film, the filmmakers eventually sold the rights to Universal Studios.

2. JIM CARREY CAME UP WITH THE NAME "FOCKER."

At one point in the film's development, Jim Carrey was set to star as Greg, with Steven Spielberg directing. It was during this back and forth that Carrey came up with the idea that the main character's last name should be "Focker." After Carrey and Spielberg moved on, the studio offered the project to Austin Powers director Jay Roach.

3. JAY ROACH WAS "TERRIFIED" TO DIRECT THE FILM.

Roach was apprehensive in attempting to sell the project to both De Niro and Stiller. Stiller thought Roach was only pretending to be nervous. Roach swears he was not. "I don’t think it was strategy," Roach told Entertainment Weekly. "I wanted them to know I was terrified. I’m really bad at faking."

4. NAOMI WATTS AUDITIONED AT LEAST FIVE TIMES TO PLAY PAM.

"I think the director liked me but the studio didn’t," Watts told The Daily Beast of her multiple auditions for the film. "I heard every piece of feedback you could imagine, and in this case, it was 'not sexy enough.'" Teri Polo landed the role.

5. STILLER PROPOSED TO HIS GIRLFRIEND DURING THE FILM'S PRODUCTION.

Stiller proposed to Christine Taylor at the same time he was rehearsing Meet the Parents. "I asked her father for permission before I did it," Stiller recalled to Parade. "It was like Meet the Parents in real life, because Christine’s father is an intimidating guy who owns a security company; we’re good friends now, but at the time I was in the basement rec room saying, 'I really would like to marry your daughter' ... He's a man of few words but he was very welcoming. I was more nervous asking him than asking her."

6. THE ORIGINAL OPENING SCENE WAS TOO EXPENSIVE TO FILM.

The film's original opening had Greg proposing to Pam during a Cubs game at Wrigley Field—and failing spectacularly. To save money (the film had a $55 million budget), they had Greg’s failed proposal take place outside of a school instead.

7. THE IDEA FOR THE LIE DETECTOR CAME FROM DE NIRO.

While researching a role, De Niro read up on polygraphers. He then talked about what he had read to Roach at a pre-shoot dinner. "At that point, there was no lie detector scene in the script," Roach told Entertainment Weekly. "But after hearing all this, I thought, 'Oh, this has to be in our movie.' Now it’s become the central image of all the ads, the trailers, everything." Jack Byrnes being ex-CIA was in the script from the very beginning.

8. GREG'S CHARACTER WAS INFLUENCED BY DUSTIN HOFFMAN'S CHARACTER IN THE GRADUATE.

Jim Herzfeld was one of the two credited screenwriters for Meet the Parents, along with John Hamburg. Herzfeld said he always thought of Greg as someone who was misunderstood, like The Graduate's Benjamin Braddock. (For the 2004 sequel, Meet the Fockers, Dustin Hoffman was cast as Greg's dad, Bernie Focker.)

9. THE PHARMACY USED IN THE MOVIE STAYED OPEN WHILE THE ACTORS FILMED.

For a scene in which Stiller interacts with a pharmacy cashier (played by Judah Friedlander), the production not only used a real pharmacy—but an open one. Whenever the actors would finish a take, the actual cashiers would get back to work and deal with the customers. When the cameras started to roll again, the cashiers would stand off in a corner so that they wouldn't be seen by the cameras. "Maybe it was a legal thing where they had to keep the pharmacy open," said Friedlander of the scene. "It made it pretty chaotic. But that scene was a lot of fun, because it was mostly improvised, and that's my favorite thing to do, is making stuff up on the spot."

10. BLYTHE DANNER WAS GOING FOR GRACIE ALLEN.

Blythe Danner (mom to Gwyneth Paltrow in real life) took inspiration from Gracie Allen, the wife and comedic partner of George Burns, in her role as Dina Byrnes.

11. "FOCKER" WAS ALMOST CHANGED.

The MPAA refused to allow the use of the last name "Focker" unless the filmmakers could find someone with that actual surname. (Presumably, they did.)

12. MR. JINX WAS PLAYED BY TWO CATS.

Five year-old Himalayans Bailey and Misha played the Byrnes’ beloved cat. DeNiro grew attached to the two, and kept kibble in his pocket to keep them close.

13. THE MOVIE INSPIRED A CAT TOILET-TRAINING PRODUCT.

Jo Lapidge and her husband, Terry, came up with the idea for Litter Kwitter—a toilet-training tool for cats—after seeing Meet the Parents. (Litter Kwitters come with plastic rings you put over the toilet seat. Gradually the hole in the rings gets bigger until the rings aren’t needed at all.) On set, though, the cats weren’t actually trained to use the toilet.

14. YOU CANNOT SEE GREG’S AIRPLANE RANT ON AN AIRPLANE.

If you happen to be watching Meet the Parents on an airplane, you won't see the airplane scene. It was cut out of the in-flight version.

15. ROACH DID HIS BEST TO MAKE STILLER UNCOMFORTABLE.

Stiller hated the clothes he wore in the movie, which Roach knew; he wanted the actor to be as uncomfortable as his character.

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16 Geeky Coasters to Keep Your Coffee Table Safe
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Avoid unsightly ring stains on your coffee table with this delightful selection of coasters:

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This ceramic set celebrates all the best ships from Star Trek.

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These coasters feature scenes from the classics My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, and Howl's Moving Castle.

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15 Educational Facts About Old School
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Old School starred Luke Wilson as Mitch Martin, an attorney who—after catching his girlfriend cheating, and through some real estate and bitter dean-related circumstances—becomes the leader of a not-quite-official college fraternity. Along with his fellow thirtysomething friends Bernard (Vince Vaughn) and newlywed Frank (Will Ferrell), they end up having to fight for their right to maintain their status as a party-loving frat on campus.

The film, which was released 15 years ago today, marked Vaughn’s return to major comedies and Ferrell’s first major starring role after seven years on Saturday Night Live. Here are some facts about the movie for everyone, but particularly for my boy, Blue.

1. THE IDEA ORIGINATED WITH AN AD GUY.

Writer-director Todd Phillips was talking to a friend of his from the advertising industry named Court Crandall one day. Crandall had seen and enjoyed Phillips's movie Frat House (1998) and told his director buddy, “You know what would be funny is a movie about older guys who start a fraternity of their own.” After being told by Phillips to write it, he presented Phillips with a “loose version” of the finished product.

2. SOME OF THE FRAT SHENANIGANS WERE REAL.

While Crandall received the story credit for Old School, Phillips and Scot Armstrong received the credit for writing the script. Armstrong put his own college fraternity experiences into the script. “We were in Peoria, Illinois, so it was up to us to entertain ourselves," Armstrong shared in the movie's official production notes. "A lot of ideas for Old School came from things that really happened. When it was cold, everyone would go stir crazy and it inspired some moments of brilliance. Of course, my definition of ‘brilliance' might be different from other people's.”

3. IVAN REITMAN HELPED OUT.

Ivan Reitman, director of Stripes and Ghostbusters, was an executive producer on the film. Phillips and Armstrong wrote and rewrote every day for two months at Reitman’s house, an experience Phillips described as comedy writing “boot camp.”

4. THE STUDIO DIDN’T WANT VINCE VAUGHN.

Vince Vaughn in 'Old School' (2003)
DreamWorks

It didn’t seem to make a difference to DreamWorks that Phillips and Armstrong had written the role of Bernard with Vince Vaughn in mind—the studio didn't want him. After his breakout success in Swingers, Vaughn had taken roles in dramas like the 1998 remake of Psycho. “So when Todd Phillips wanted me for Old School, the studio didn’t want me,” Vaughn told Variety in 2015. “They didn’t think I could do comedy! They said, ‘He’s a dramatic actor from smaller films.’ Todd really had to push for me.”

5. RECYCLED SHOTS OF HARVARD UNIVERSITY WERE USED.

The film was mainly shot on the Westwood campus of UCLA. The aerial shots of the fictitious Harrison University, however, were of Harvard; they had been shot for Road Trip (2000).

6. VINCE VAUGHN FANS MIGHT RECOGNIZE THE CHURCH.

In the film, Frank gets married at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Pasadena, California. Vaughn and Owen Wilson were in that same church two years later for Wedding Crashers (2005).

7. WILL FERRELL SCARED MEMBERS OF A 24-HOUR GYM.

Frank’s streaking scene was shot on a city street. As Ferrell remembered it, one of the storefronts was a 24-hour gym with Stairmasters and treadmills in the window. “I was rehearsing in a robe, and all these people are in the gym, watching me. I asked one of the production assistants, ‘Shouldn’t we tell them I’m going to be naked?’ Sure enough, I dropped my robe and there were shrieks of pure horror. After the first take, nobody was at the window anymore. I took that as a sign of approval.”

8. FERRELL REALLY WAS NAKED.

Ferrell justified it by saying it showed his character falling off the wagon. “The fact that it made sense was the reason I was really into doing it, and why I was able to commit on that level," Ferrell told the BBC. "If it was just for the sake of doing a crazy shot, then I don't think it makes sense.” Still, Ferrell needed some liquid courage, and was intimidated by the presence of Snoop Dogg.

9. ROB CORDDRY WAS NOT NAKED, BUT HE STILL HAD TO SIGN AWAY HIS NUDITY RIGHTS.

Old School marked the first major film role for Rob Corddry, who at the time was best known as a correspondent for The Daily Show. He had a jewel bag around his private parts for his nude scene, but his butt made it into the final cut. He had to sign a nudity clause, which gave the film the right to use his naked image “in any part of the universe, in any form, even that which is not devised.”

10. SNOOP DOGG AGREED TO CAMEO SO HE COULD PLAY HUGGY BEAR IN STARSKY & HUTCH.

Phillips admitted to essentially bribing the hip-hop artist/actor, using Snoop Dogg’s desire to play the street informant in the modern movie adaptation of the classic TV show (which Phillips was also directing) to his advantage. “So when I went to him I said, 'I want you to do Huggy Bear,' he was really excited. And I said, 'Oh yeah, also will you do this little thing for me in Old School a little cameo?' So he kind of had to do it I think."

11. SNOOP WANTED TO HANG OUT WITH VINCE VAUGHN ON SET, BUT NOT LUKE WILSON.

Snoop Dogg in 'Old School' (2003)
Richard Foreman, Dreamworks

Vaughn and his friends accepted an invitation to hang out in Snoop Dogg’s trailer to play video games on the last day of shooting. Vaughn recalled seeing Luke Wilson later watching the news alone in his trailer; he had not been informed of the get-together.

12. WILSON WAS TEASED BY HIS CO-STARS.

Vaughn, Wilson, and Ferrell dubbed themselves “The Wolfpack”—years before Phillips directed The Hangover—because they would always make fun of each other. A particularly stinging exchange had Ferrell refer to Legally Blonde (which Wilson had starred in) as Legally Bland. Wilson said it didn’t make him feel great. Wilson retorted by telling Ferrell that "the transition from TV to the movies isn't a very easy one, so you might just want to keep one foot back in TV just in case this whole movie thing falls through!"

13. TERRY O’QUINN SCARED HIS SONS INTO THINKING THEY WERE TRIPPING.

Terry O’Quinn (who went on to play John Locke on Lost the following year) agreed to play Goldberg, uncredited, in what was a two-day job for him. He neglected to inform his sons he was in the movie, and when they saw it, one of them called their father. “I got a call from my sons one night, and they said, ‘What were you doing in Old School? We didn’t even know you were in it!’ They said, ‘We’re sitting there, and the first time we see you, it’s, like, in a reflection in a window. And when we saw it, and we both thought we were, like, tripping or something!’”

14. THE EARMUFFS WERE IMPROVISED.

Before filming, Vaughn worked with Ferrell to figure out their characters' backstories and how they knew each other; he credited that with helping him figure out who Bernard was, which led to several ad-libbed moments. “The earmuff scene where he swears in front of the kids, and then I tell the kid to earmuff, that all is off the cuff. But that stuff is a lot easier to do when you know who you are and your circumstances, and who your characters are,” Vaughn explained.

15. FERRELL AND VAUGHN DIDN’T LOVE A SCRIPT FOR A SEQUEL.

Armstrong had written Old School Dos in 2006, which saw the frat going to Spring Break. Ferrell said that he and Vaughn read the script but felt like they would just be “kind of doing the same thing again.” Wilson, on the other hand, was excited over the new script.

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