15 Trivia Tidbits About ‘Mr. Mom’

There was a real Mr. Mom: Its screenwriter, John Hughes
15 Trivia Tidbits About ‘Mr. Mom’

Before he was Batman or Beetlejuice, Michael Keaton was the charming stay-at-home dad in Mr. Mom. The 1983 comedy was written by John Hughes and focused on Jack Butler, a father who gets laid off and becomes the primary caretaker of his three kids. Mr. Mom was surprisingly one of the top movies of 1983, and even today, it remains among the most beloved entries in Keaton’s diverse filmography

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To celebrate the film’s 40th anniversary this month, we’ve collected some trivia tidbits about the movie that mixed poker and extreme couponing…

You Can Thank Tori Spelling for ‘Mr. Mom’

In his memoir, producer Aaron Spelling wrote of the genesis of Mr. Mom, “I couldn’t find a film that was suitable to take my kids to, so we made one.”

The Script Was Autobiographical

In an interview, Hughes said the film was “based on me leaving advertising and staying home with the kids and thinking that it would be easy to take care of kids because I would apply my normal, rational male logic to what has traditionally been a female occupation, and I realized it was an incredibly difficult thing and everything went wrong.”

Hughes Was Actually Booted from the Film

After Hughes’ script was picked up by 20th Century Fox, he was fired in favor of more experienced writers as he’d only written National Lampoon’s Class Reunion previously. “I thought it was kind of strange; how can I get fired?” Hughes recalled in 1993. “I went into it thinking that the most important element in this element will be the writer because I’d come out of magazines where that’s the key thing. I discovered in a very harsh, quick way that this isn’t a writer’s medium.” 

He’d previously said he felt “raped” by the experience but later admitted that was too harsh.

Hughes Had Mixed Feelings About the Final Product

“I was real happy with Michael Keaton and Teri Garr,” Hughes recalled. But he still had complicated emotions regarding the film overall, stating, “There were things that me, the novice, would have done differently, but it worked.”

‘Night Shift’ Got Michael Keaton the Role of Jack Butler

Mr. Mom was one of producer Lauren Shuler Donner’s earliest works, and Keaton’s agent, Laurie Perlman, recommended that she see Night Shift and consider Keaton for the lead. As Shuler Donner recalled decades later, “I went to see Night Shift, and midway through, I couldn’t wait to get out of that theater to give Mr. Mom to Michael Keaton.”

The ‘Splash’ Connection

Keaton turned down Splash for Mr. Mom. Coincidentally, Ron Howard declined the offer to direct Mr. Mom in favor of Splash. Hughes was also given a chance to direct Mr. Mom, but he declined, preferring to work in Chicago over Hollywood. Stan Dragoti, director of Love at First Bite, was hired to helm Mr. Mom instead.

The Poker Scene was from Hughes’ Real Life

A beloved scene sees Jack playing poker with the neighborhood housewives and betting with coupons. This was something Hughes actually did while he was taking care of his kids at home.

Every Contractor’s Favorite Line

In a scene with Martin Mull — who plays Teri Garr’s boss — Keaton’s character is holding a chainsaw, boasting about work he’s going to do on the house. Mull’s character asks, “You gonna make it all 220?” referring to the voltage in the new room. Keaton’s character has no idea what he’s talking about and replies, “Yeah. 220, 221, whatever it takes.” The line became a favorite among contractors — shorthand for someone clueless about what they’re doing. 

The ‘220, 221’ Scene Was Largely Improvised by Keaton and Mull

Remembering the “220, 221” scene in 2014, Keaton shared, “We’re getting ready to do the scene where Martin Mull comes over in the morning to pick up Teri Garr, who’s gone back to work, to take her on a business trip. My guy’s been fired, he’s staying at home, he’s really emasculated. I mean, I’m worried about how to make money for my family. We’re doing the scene, and it was okay. And I remember saying to the prop guy, ‘Go find me a chainsaw.’ When he comes back with it, he says, ‘You wanna wear these?’ And he holds up some goggles. I go, ‘Yeah.’ You know, they make me look crazy. And when Martin shows up, I know I should look under control; I’m not sweating it. I’m a dude. So we’re standing there; Martin pulls me aside and says, ‘You know what you ought to say? When I ask about the wiring, you oughta just deadpan: '220, 221.’ I died. It was perfect. I may have added ‘whatever it takes.’ But it was his.”

It Showcased a Lot of Rising Stars

In addition to Keaton and Garr, Mr. Mom featured Mull, Christopher Lloyd and Jeffrey Tambor. 

20th Century Fox Promoted the Film with Aprons

In a rather inspired bit of advertising, Fox made official Mr. Mom aprons to help market the film.

It Mirrored the Real-Life Struggles of 1983

In the film, Keaton plays an autoworker who is laid off. This was based in reality, as the country was in a deep recession, making the film especially timely.

It Catapulted Hughes’ Career

Mr. Mom was a huge hit, making nearly $65 million off a mere $5 million budget. Hughes was recognized as much of the reason for the film’s success, and Universal signed him to a three-picture deal after its release. The three films Hughes would go on to write and direct were future classic Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club and Weird Science.

It Cast a Shadow over ‘Batman’

Fans were outraged when Keaton was cast as Batman in Tim Burton’s 1989 film. One of the frequent objections was, “Mr. Mom plays Batman?,” which would be continuously regurgitated until the first picture of Keaton as Batman was released, silencing the critics.

Talk of a ‘Mr. Mom’ TV Show Began in 1983

Producer Lynn Loring said in 1983, “Aaron (Sorkin) and I, when we saw the first cut of the film, looked at each other and said, ‘We’ve got a series here.’... If the film is a hit, and people see it, and they like it, I think we’ve got an 8 p.m. ABC hit.” 

A TV movie was made as a pilot in 1984 but failed to take off. A series did finally come to fruition — and Vudu — in 2019. But it’s only dropped one season to date, with a future that remains uncertain. Again, though, the film still endures four decades after its release.

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