24 Trivia Tidbits About ‘Office Space’ on Its 24th Anniversary
Office Space went from being a film so obscure that no one knew how to make a trailer for it to a cult classic that went on to influence everything from Sorry to Bother You to political hit pieces. Created by Mike Judge in the 1990s, the film will forever be known for its flair, red staplers and the fundamental understanding that absolutely everyone loathes incompetent machinery.
To celebrate its 24th anniversary, here are 24 insights into the making of the film that memefied the term PC load letter...”
The Times Square Marketing Stunt
The marketing campaign was, in short, a disaster. Judge and the studio execs struggled to agree on anything because no one really knew how to market this quirky, quite different comedy. One bizarre story of this campaign involved the hiring of actor Andrew Burlinson (band member of Mouse Rat in Parks and Rec) to sit in a Plexiglass cube on top of a Times Square billboard for two weeks while people phoned in to talk about their shitty jobs. It’s so weird. Also, they live-streamed the whole event — in 1999.
Buster Keaton Was the Inspiration for the Crazy Car Crash
Judge said he didn’t want to mimic a car crash that looked like it was filmed in the 1980s or 1990s with “seven different angles, like a Steven Seagal movie.” He explained that he had just watched a Buster Keaton movie “where he’s on top of a car. The camera is moving along, and then a tree branch knocks him out of the thing — and it really happened — and the camera keeps going. I was trying to simulate something like that where you’re not making a big deal out of it really, but, umm, we really did smash that car.”
Chuck Norris’ Son is in It
Yep, the guy who drove the truck in the car-crash scene above is Norris’ son, Eric, who apparently told Judge, “Don’t tell my dad I did this.” Judge said it was a pretty scary stunt to pull off, and that “there was a moment there where I was thinking, oh my god, this is how you become… I don’t know, (under his breath) John Landis. Am I gonna be the guy responsible for something horrible happening? But they knew what they were doing in incredibly precise ways.”
It All Started With Milton (and ‘SNL’ )
Judge’s original 1991 cartoon shorts featuring Milton first aired on Saturday Night Live and MTV’s Liquid Television. The one below formed the basis of the movie we eventually got — Gary Cole even said that he used it to create his character Lumbergh because “Shit, I can’t do it better than that.”
Peter Was Busy Fixing the Y2K Problem
When Peter finally finds the courage to ask Joanna out to lunch, she asks him what he does at Initech, to which he replies: “I sit in a cubicle, and I update bank software for the 2000 switch.” A joke to many at the time (and probably still today), the Y2K conundrum was a real headache for banks and other companies. Whether or not the efforts of folks like Peter (in real life) changed the outcome, many did manage to update their systems and fix the “bug” in time.
Judge Was Asked to Do ‘The Office’
He explained that, following the eventual success of Office Space, studios wanted him to do some big comedies. NBC approached him with the idea to do the American version of The Office, and Judge might have considered it if the accompanying review didn’t state, “The Office succeeds where movies like Office Space failed.”
Milton Was Quite Unhygienic
In an interview with NPR, actor Stephen Root said that Milton was “a squirrely little guy” and not hygienic at all. In fact, the actor said that his character had so many stains on his tie that the thing actually stood up by itself. “This guy was not your typical worker that you would want to be around,” he admitted.
All the Memes
Office Space might well be the 1990s comedy with the most memes. From Lumbergh’s “That would be great,” to “I believe you have my stapler,” the movie is stacked with evergreen quotes and insufferable sayings like “case of the Mondays.”
It Was Responsible for the Red Swingline Stapler
Prior to the movie, Swingline didn’t make big red staplers like the one Milton’s obsessed with. The production team spray-painted one of Swingline’s black staplers, and it was such a hit that the company started making similar red ones in April 2002. Every U.S. Swingline employee now gets a red stapler on their first day.
The Real Inspiration Behind Milton
Milton was based on an employee in the logistics department of an engineering firm where Judge used to work. When Judge decided to talk to the man one day, he was met with an angry rant. According to Judge, the man told him, “If they move my desk one more time, I’m quittin’!” Apparently, the employee was livid over the fact that his fish tank was being robbed of some quality sunlight. Judge said he remembered thinking that the guy was never going to quit, no matter how many times they moved his desk.
Fox Wanted Ben Affleck and Matt Damon
Casting director Nancy Klopper told Entertainment Weekly that Fox was adamant about getting the Good Will Hunting duo to star in the movie. Judge had to convince them that Peter didn’t have “star energy” like Affleck.
The Behind-the-Scenes Drama of Filming the Traffic Jam Scene
Tim Suhrstedt, the movie’s cinematographer, said that the opening scene, where Peter, Samir and Michael are stuck in traffic, had to be postponed multiple times thanks to an extreme heat wave in Texas and a huge fire in Mexico that smoked up the sky over Austin.
Ron Livingston Was Asked to Fast for His Audition
Apparently, studios back then thought that anyone could drop seven pounds overnight. “My reps called on a Friday and said the studio wanted me to screen-test on Tuesday,” Livingston told Entertainment Weekly, adding that they wanted to know if he could fast until then. “I laughed — ‘Good one.’ It was silent… I was like, ‘I can try?’ I didn’t think I needed to be chiseled for this role. So I jumped rope all weekend. Actually, I think I only made it to Saturday.”
It Was a Home Video Hit
About Those Glasses
20th Century Fox
Root told Entertainment Weekly that he had to wear contact lenses just to see through those terrible coke-bottle-thick glasses of Milton. “I had zero depth perception,” he explained. “I had to practice reaching for the stapler. Thankfully, we’d painted it red.”
Diedrich Bader Got to Pitch a Lot of His Character
20th Century Fox
The actor (who played Peter’s neighbor, Lawrence) told The A.V. Club that he got to pitch some of his lines to Judge, including the one where he says, “You should see my cousin; he doesn’t do shit.” He also insisted on having that hair, and he based his character on “somebody who loves the Allman Brothers.”
The Film Influenced TGI Fridays
Judge told Deadline that one of his assistant directors once asked a TGI Fridays restaurant why they got rid of their flair (all those buttons), and they reportedly said it was “because of that movie, Office Space.” Apparently, people couldn’t stop bugging the chain about it after seeing Jennifer Aniston’s character being harassed over her lack of 37 flairs.
The Insufferable Waiter Guy Sued the Studio
Actor Todd Duffey sued 20th Century Fox over lack of compensation for his face being plastered all over their promotional flair buttons (as well as a book with his chops on the cover that accompanied the special edition DVD set called The Office Space Box of Flair). The case was ultimately dismissed.
It Coined the Term ’Ass Clown’
A running gag in the movie sees David Herman play a character who, to everyone’s wild surprise, shares a name with singer Michael Bolton. Movie Michael Bolton has no love for real-life Michael Bolton, referring to the musician as an “ass clown.” Herman himself came up with the line that has since been added to the dictionary — or at least the Urban Dictionary.
Michael Bolton Spoofed the Movie
The “Michael Bolton” joke was riffed on so many times following the movie that Funny or Die eventually roped in the real Bolton to play Office Space Bolton, who has no relation to Michael Bolton — ending the joke once and for all.
The Studio Didn’t Want Any Gangster Rap in the Movie
Judge said during a Q&A with Richard Linklater that the big battle with the studio was around the music. “The Geto Boys song — ‘Damn It Feels Good to Be a Gangsta’ — and the Ice Cube song, all of that, the studio was like, ‘You can’t,’" Judge remembered. “Tom Rothman (former chairman of Fox) kept saying, ‘I just want it to be fun.’ And I said, ‘Well, that is fun to me.’” Judge kept pushing for the songs’ inclusion, and a focus group of twentysomethings ended up agreeing with him in the end.
The PR Stunt Almost Gone Wrong
Livingston told Today that someone came up with a PR stunt that involved ordinary people on the streets of New York getting in on the “printer smash” action — with a sledgehammer. “I swear to God, it almost turned into a riot,” Livingston remembers. “By the end, it was like Beirut.”
Samir’s Breakdancing Scene Was Improvised
Actor Ajay Naidu said that Judge allowed a lot of freedom for them to mess around and improvise and that the scene where they’re celebrating their installed virus was one of them. “I breakdance in that scene, and that just happened because Mike said, ‘Guys, you have the space,’” Naidu remembers. “And I did it. It stayed in the movie.” You can see Herman looking pretty impressed in the background.
The Printer Scene Has Been Parodied to Death
From Family Guy having Stewie and Brian trash a vinyl record like it could ever be as insufferable as an office printer…
…to Ted Cruz showing off his lack of humor by parodying the Hillary Clinton email saga…
…to folks destroying their Xboxes and HALO helmets because they can — it really has been done to death. Probably the biggest disservice this movie has wrought was making everyone believe they, too, were totally “gangsta’.”