15 Trivia Tidbits About ‘Kingpin’
Arguably the greatest cinematic work by the filmmaking duo who also gave us “Ben Stiller zippering his scrotum” and “Jeff Daniels violently shitting for two and a half minutes,” 1996’s Kingpin starred Woody Harrelson as washed-up bowler Roy Munson, Randy Quaid as his Amish protégé and Bill Murray as more or less himself. To celebrate this underrated comic gem, we’ve assembled some trivia, guaranteed to be more enjoyable than actual bowling, such as…
The Script Had Been ‘Sitting Around for a While’ Before It Was Sent to the Farrelly Brothers
After directing Dumb & Dumber, the Farrelly Brothers discovered the pre-existing script for Kingpin, by screenwriters Morth Nathan and Barry Fanaro, which had “been sitting around for a while.” The Farrellys loved the story, viewing it as a “comedic take” on movies like The Hustler and The Color of Money.
The Ending Was Originally Way Different
Peter and Bobby Farrelly heavily rewrote the script, which included changing the ending. The movie originally concluded with Roy Munson losing the bowling tournament, then going to a casino where he “puts a quarter in and wins a million bucks,” which, according to Peter, seemed “too easy.” So instead, they came up with the idea of Roy’s Trojan condom endorsement providing his much-needed payday.
It Could Have Started Michael Keaton and Chris Farley
According to the Farrellys, at one point, they had “Michael Keaton attached in Woody's role,” and Farley was interested in playing Quaid’s character Ishmael, but he “couldn’t get out” of making Black Sheep.
Harrelson Was Cast Thanks to a Trick Pool Shot
Harrelson used to be roommates with Peter Farrelly and turned down a role in Dumb & Dumber because it was “too silly.” Farrelly convinced him to be in Kingpin during a game of pool, betting that if he could make an impossible shot, Harrelson would play Roy. Harrelson agreed, and Farrelly succeeded, which he later called a “fluke.”
The Farrellys Randomly Found Big Ern’s Ball While Scouting Locations
Murray’s character Big Ern memorably bowls with an over-the-top ball housing a single rose. The Farrellys randomly happened upon the ball while scouting bowling alleys in Pittsburgh and used it for the shoot.
Murray Bowled a Turkey for Real
When Big Ern gets a Turkey in the film’s final match, Murray actually bowled three strikes in a row. As Bobby Farrelly recalled, “It was not fake at all.” Harrelson, on the other hand, was apparently a “horrible… shockingly bad” bowler.
The Role of ‘Skidmark’ Was Played by Roger Clemens
The role of the violent barfly Skidmark, who beats up Quaid’s character, was played by former MLB pitcher Clemens for some reason.
The Bar Band Singer Was Jonathan Richman
During the same scene, the bar band was made up of drummer Tommy Larkins and The Modern Lovers’ Richman. According to Richman, they were hired because the Farrellys were “fans of our music.” The musical pair was later cast as the narrators of There's Something About Mary.
Real Life Pro Bowlers Have Cameos
Roy’s bowling opponents included real-life pros Parker Bohn III, Randy Pedersen and Mark Roth.
Murray Improvised a Lot
According to Bobby Farrelly, Murray was given little to work with in the script, so he “threw all the pages away and just said, ‘I get it, trust me.’” And “every line he came up with was better than the line that was scripted.”
Roy and Claudia’s Fight Scene was ‘Freezing’ to Film
Roy and Claudia’s big fight scene wasn’t fun to film. According to actress Vanessa Angel, the scene was filmed in "the middle of the night" on location in Pittsburgh in November. Meaning that “it was freezing cold.”
Lin Shaye Worked on Her Character for Six Weeks Before She Even Got an Audition
Shaye had previously appeared in Dumb & Dumber and desperately wanted to play the sketchy/horny landlady character. Even before she secured an audition, Shaye purchased the garish jumpsuit we see in the movie from a vintage store and worked with another actor for six whole weeks to figure out the character.
Siskel and Ebert Loved it
Siskel and Ebert were, surprisingly, huge fans of Kingpin, giving it "Two Thumbs Way Up!" On the other hand, Joe's Apartment with Jerry O'Connell didn’t fare nearly as well…
Their Review Basically Saved the Movie
After a rough opening weekend, Siskel and Ebert’s glowing review rescued the movie from obscurity. “Six months later, it was number one on video four weeks in a row,” thanks largely to the critics’ laudatory quote, which was later plastered on the VHS cover.
There Are Reports That a Sequel Is in Development
In 2021, there were reports that a sequel to Kingpin, produced by the Farrelly brothers, was in "active development." Presumably, the movie would open with a title card explaining that Quaid's character had been eaten by wolves off-screen in the intervening decades.
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