In what has become this generation’s “Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown,” beloved actor and apparent Highlander Paul Rudd has spent literal decades going on Conan O’Brien’s various talk shows, setting up a clip of his new project, and instead playing the same ridiculous scene from the craptastic 1988 E.T. rip-off Mac and Me, in which a boy in a wheelchair careens off of a cliff to the horror of the titular, Big Mac-loving alien.

Now, despite the fact that Conan doesn’t have a TV program anymore, this week Rudd popped by the Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend podcast, meticulously described a clip for his new scripted Audible series that sounded totally real and … well, you can probably guess what happened next.

But as much as this scene, and this movie in general, has been played for laughs over the years, the story behind it is surprisingly sweet. The actor who played Eric, Jade Calegory, was born with spina bifida and uses a wheelchair in real life. According to a 1988 interview, then-12-year-old star Calegory was happy to get the lead role in a movie that wasn’t specifically about disabilities. Calegory also bemoaned the ableist mentality he had encountered in other Hollywood productions, having previously lost out on a job playing a character in a wheelchair to an actor who didn’t require a wheelchair, ultimately feeling as though the producers were auditioning people with disabilities "just to say they did.” So this dumb movie, seemingly designed to sell garbage food to children, was, oddly enough, actually a win for representation.

And sure, the movie was ultimately just a giant commercial for McDonald’s – but technically, it wasn’t even funded by McDonald’s, but rather by their meat supplier. McDonald’s was apparently “not particularly enthused” with Mac and Me once they landed a lucrative deal with Disney, but still had to go through with this nude alien-filled nightmare factory that, at one point, ended with a small child being gunned down by the police.

Admirably, part of the reason why the producer of Mac and Me was so determined to cast a child who uses a wheelchair in the lead role was that the film had “a profit-sharing arrangement with the Ronald McDonald Children’s Charities.” Unfortunately, the movie made less than half of its budget back at the box office. Maybe they were able to recoup some losses thanks to the world’s least-erotic 900 number.

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Top Image:  Marvel Studios/Orion

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