15 Trivia Tidbits About ‘Tommy Boy’
The only movie in history to wring both slapstick humor and heartwarming family drama out of a narrative about selling brake pads, Tommy Boy is among the most beloved comedies of the 1990s, thanks in large part to the charms of Chris Farley and David Spade (and to the fact that it isn’t Black Sheep). As a salute to this blockbuster, we present to you some behind-the-scenes trivia guaranteed to leave a mark, such as…
The Idea for ‘Tommy Boy’ Began with Lorne Michaels
The project started with producer/stealth supervillain Michaels who originally envisioned a movie focusing on “two brothers” played by Chris Farley and Rob Lowe. But director Peter Segal thought it should be more about Farley’s friendship with David Spade’s character.
It Had a Terrible Title, That Only Changed Thanks to Adam Sandler
The original title for Tommy Boy was, oddly enough, Billy the Third: A Midwestern — it was changed, not because it sounded like a story of an Iowa couple having a threesome with a guy named Billy, but because it was deemed to be too similar to Adam Sandler’s Billy Madison.
The Script Was Based on Several Real-Life Incidents
Segal and Saturday Night Live writer Fred Wolf significantly rewrote the first draft by Bonnie and Terry Turner, the former SNL writers who penned Wayne’s World and Coneheads. To flesh out the story, they just started jotting down real-life anecdotes on index cards, such as when Wolf’s hood flew off the front of his car or the time Segal was heckled by some kids on a beach while on a date.
‘Fat Guy in a Little Coat’ Had to Be Reshot
The famous “Fat Guy in a Little Coat” scene originated with a bit that Farley would routinely do at the SNL offices — but there was no musical component. When Farley randomly improvised the song during Spade’s coverage of the scene, they decided to go back and reshoot Farley’s part so it could be included.
It Was Probably Responsible for People Misquoting ‘The Empire Strikes Back’
A generation of people grew up misquoting Vader’s big line in The Empire Strikes Back, very possibly because of the scene in Tommy Boy where Farley says, “Luke, I am your father” instead of “No, I am your father.” Which, admittedly, would have been way more confusing.
The Deer Scene Was Based on a Famous Crank Call
Further proving that the Tommy Boy script was a patchwork of half-remembered oddities, the scene where the “dead” deer wakes up in the back of the car was based on a famous prank phone call in which a guy rang up 9-1-1 complaining about how he hit a deer, put it in the backseat and the “motherfucker” woke up and “bit me in the back of my goddamn neck.”
It Takes Place in the Same Universe as ‘50 First Dates’
In 50 First Dates, we briefly see the “Callahan Institute,” which we learn was funded by Tommy’s dad: “T.B. Callahan,” the “automotive parts tycoon” from Sandusky, Ohio. It’s unclear why this doctor in Hawaii looks exactly like his competitor Ray Zalinsky.
Nobody’s Sure Why Rob Lowe Was Uncredited
Despite clearly being Rob Lowe and not some random actor who had a Rob Lowe-themed cosmetic procedure, the St. Elmo’s Fire star was not credited for his work in Tommy Boy. Some people think this was because of a contractual dispute involving his work in the miniseries adaptation of Stephen King’s The Stand, but the filmmakers have speculated that it was due to Lowe’s fears that the movie was “gonna tank.” And according to a surprisingly cagey Lowe, the real answer is a “long story.”
Rob Lowe Did All His Own Stunts
Even though his name appears nowhere in the credits, Lowe was committed to his role and reportedly performed all of his own stunts (except for one involving falling from a water tower, but it was deleted from the movie anyway).
The Director Tried to Quit and Was Threatened With a Lawsuit
At one point, Segal tried to quit the apparent disaster that was Tommy Boy, claiming, “I felt like I was in Saigon, and I just wanted to get out.” He only ended up staying because he “was threatened with a lawsuit.”
Brian Dennehy Was Recognized a Lot for Playing Big Tom
According to an interview with the late Dennehy, Big Tom Callahan was the role that most fans on the street recognized him for — suck it, Cocoon!
’Tommy Boy’ Footage Was Used in a Controversial DirectTV Commercial
A clip of the late Farley doing the “Fat guy in a little coat” was intercut with new footage of the not-late David Spade schilling for Direct TV for a 2009 commercial — and a lot of fans were pissed.
A Lot of Critics Hated It
Many critics had a severe allergic reaction to Tommy Boy. The New York Times called it “the very poor cousin of a dopey Jim Carrey movie,” Entertainment Weekly said it was “stupid, disreputable junk,” and the great Roger Ebert wrote that it “plays like an explosion down at the screenplay factory.”
It Was a Massive Hit on Home Video
According to Segal, Tommy Boy was one of Paramount’s top 10 best-selling VHS tapes — not of the year, but of all-time, right along with classics like Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Godfather.
The Director Is Working to Restore Richard’s GTX
As Segal previously told us, he’s been working to raise funds to restore Richard’s cursed GTX, then have it sent to the Petersen Automotive Museum in L.A., which is also the home of the Back to the Future DeLorean and the embalmed corpse of Lightning McQueen.
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