‘You’re So Money, Baby’: 27 Trivia Tidbits About ‘Swingers’ on Its 27th Anniversary
Before young women would sip on Manhattans and contemplate whether they’re Carries or Samanthas from Sex and the City fame, guys were wondering whether they were Mikeys or Trents or Robs. The 1996 comedy Swingers just felt that relatable and refreshing at the time, giving audiences one of the most iconic ’90s on-screen bromances in the form of Mike (Jon Favreau) and Trent (Vince Vaughn) while also showcasing the awkwardness of attempting to be cool. Truly, what’s more relatable than that?
It’s the movie’s 27th anniversary, so button down that shirt, pump up some swing tunes and read about the one that Favreau (who also wrote Swingers) refers to as Goodfellas but with geeks...
Friends Fooling Around
“It was just to make my friends laugh and submit something to my agent,” Favreau told Entertainment Weekly about writing Swingers. He based much of it on his own adventures with his pals at the time, including Vaughn. “We weren’t getting acting jobs, so our focus became being funny at the bars for the girls. That was, like, our job,” Vaughn explained.
It Was Vaughn’s Breakout Role
While Vaughn would make his feature film debut with a cameo in For the Boys (1991) and play his first character, Jamie O’Hara, in Rudy (1993), he’d finally get recognition and wider acclaim playing the womanizer Trent Walker.
‘Swingers’ Led to Vaughn Being Cast in ‘The Lost World: Jurassic Park’
Steven Spielberg took notice of Vaughn after seeing Swingers, subsequently offering him a meaty supporting role in the first Jurassic Park sequel. “I knew nothing of Vince,” Spielberg told Rolling Stone, “until I saw Swingers. That made me interested in meeting him for Lost World. I found him to be so different from Trent that immediately I was struck by his ability to play character parts. And what about that name? Tell me that isn’t the name of a ’40s movie star. One would think he made it up to get into the business, but they tell me it’s for real.”
Churning Out a Screenplay
Favreau wrote the script at lightning speed, finishing it in 10 days. “I was just entertaining myself and really enjoying it, sort of giggling at it as I was writing it,” Favreau told Grantland. “I couldn’t wait to share it with my friends more as, like, doodles in the notebook than saying, ‘Hey, here’s my big movie.’”
“I had been broken up with by my old girlfriend from Chicago, who I’d lived with,” he continued, ”and I was taking it pretty hard, and I was feeling pretty lonely. And then I was realizing that even though I had been in movies already, the work was not going to come easy — that frustration brought on the writing. I was taking things into my own hands.”
The Spike Lee Effect
“The first time I heard ‘money’ used, Spike Lee was saying it. He was calling Michael Jordan ‘money’ in this Nike commercial,” Favreau explained to Entertainment Weekly. “But it wasn’t until I met Vince (on the set of 1993’s Rudy) that somebody else was using it.”
Studios Had Some Interesting Choices for the Lead Roles
“I started taking meetings with Jon and (producer) Victor (Simpkins),” Nicole LaLoggia, the movie’s line producer, told Grantland. “Crazy meetings. They (studios like New Line Cinema) would come to the table and say, ‘We love it, we wanna make it, we wanna give you $8 million, but you’ve gotta cast Johnny Depp as Trent, and we need Chris O’Donnell to be so and so.’ Jon and I would look at them cross-eyed and say, ‘No. Thank you very much. Here’s your suitcase full of money back, we’re leaving.’”
Favreau Wanted to Cast His Friends
“I said, ‘Look, before I change anything, why don’t we do a staged reading?’” Favreu further explained. “Let me bring in the friends of mine that these characters are based on. And that way, we could really hear the script as I intended it so you understand the dialogue, and then you can also maybe be open-minded and maybe cast one of these people? I figured it’s a shot to put my friends in front of whatever guy who was going to direct this thing.”
So Vaughn, Ron Livingston, Alex Désert, Ahmed Ahmed and others gathered to rehearse a staged reading every few months to sell the movie. At one point, they were pretty sure they were pitching to an arms dealer. “The cash was real, but we were really freaked out,” LaLoggia said about a bizarre meeting. “It was just bad money somehow — or at least to us — it smelled like bad money.”
The Film’s Linguistic Impact
The movie’s line, “Vegas, baby, Vegas,” instantly became part of colloquial language.
It Was a ‘Fly By Night’ Affair
Due to the independent film’s low budget, the production team had to make do with what they could get their hands on. Their office was the line producer’s home, and their lighting consisted of regular home light bulbs. They didn’t have a coffee budget — a must in the film business, thanks to the long hours — and had to rely on donations. They hustled local restaurants and made deals to organize their catering, and they miraculously got their entire post-production done for free. Most of their money went toward buying film and paying for the music rights.
Director Doug Liman told Vanity Fair that to film Swingers, he “violated everything I had ever been taught in film school.” He explained that filming in a bar typically requires shutting it down and hiring extras to fill it up. Since they couldn’t afford that, they shot with real bar patrons. Which makes sense since the movie’s entire extras budget was a mere $50.
They Filmed in Favreau’s Apartment
The writer/star’s apartment doubled for Mikey’s place. As Favreau said of the Franklin Avenue apartment: “There was the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, a little place where you could get a drink, another where you could get a cup of coffee. But the neighborhood was right under the Hollywood sign, and my friends and I dug that because we were all wanna-be actors.”
Following the movie’s release, he had to leave North Hollywood. “With Swingers, the level of attention became overwhelming — it’s debilitating,” he wrote in Los Angeles Magazine. “I’ve grown very Zen about (success) as I’ve gotten older. People aren’t really equipped to handle it, and when it happens to you, what you really want to do is hide. So I sublet an apartment in Santa Monica and just sort of hung out away from the scene.”
No, Vaughn Did Not Improvise
“Literally every single word that comes out of Vince’s mouth is on the page,” production manager Eden Wurmfeld told Grantland. “That’s what totally blows me away about Jon’s writing — his ability to get someone’s voice because I think that’s not an easy task. One might think that Vince is improvising, and certainly he can, but I just was amazed that all those jokes and stuff were actually on the page.”
Inspired by ‘The Odd Couple’
The trailer scene where Mike and Trent try to hook up with two women drew inspiration from The Odd Couple and the classic Pigeon Sisters.
The Big Difference Between Studio Comedy and Independent Comedies
“Not every beat is being sold for laughs,” Favreau explained, referring to his independent movies. “The beats are about character and emotion — I never have to push anything further than I want to. When you’re going for a big studio comedy, the joke tally better be pretty high, and you better have some big comedy set pieces. That was one of the issues when I was trying to get Swingers made for the first time, which is that there weren’t any broad comedy set pieces. It’s more comedy that comes out of being emotionally attached to the characters.”
Why the Women Are Referred to as ‘Honeys’ and ‘Babies’
“Totally, straight up Sinatra,” Favreau told Entertainment Weekly, referring to the film’s swing theme.
Vegas, Grandma, Vegas
The old lady at the $5 minimum buy-in blackjack table is Favreau’s grandmother, Joan Favreau. Vaughn’s dad, Vernon Vaughn, is the high-roller at the $100 table.
The Jeff Garlin Bit
Favreau admitted that he based the answering machine sequence on a Garlin bit he saw years ago. “I couldn’t believe he admitted it,” Garlin said. “I have to confess, when I first saw Swingers I thought a lot of it was influenced by my show. But I’m influenced by the people and shows I see. When you see my (new) movie, no way you won’t think of Woody Allen, Albert Brooks and Wes Anderson,” he added, referring to his 2006 indie comedy, I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With.
“For about a month before the shooting, Jon Favreau and I rehearsed swing dancing together,” Heather Graham told Yahoo!. “He used to take me to the Derby, and we would swing dance, and he’s a really good swing dancer. And it was really fun. I really learned how to swing dance well, and that movie was made very low-budget. All the locations that they shot at, we — pretty much, the locations were not shut down for the shooting.”
Getting Awkward with the Locals
“I remember doing this scene where Jon meets me at the bar,” Graham added, “and this guy sat down next to me and started chatting me up. And then Jon was just like, ‘Hey, you can’t sit there,’ because they didn’t have the money to shut down the bar. So, we just were trying to be inconspicuous, with just a very small camera crew.”
Almost Starring a Live Rabbit
The Derby let them film at the bar with their patrons as unpaid extras but drew a line when a live rabbit was brought in and placed atop the bar for a key scene. “It’s like a Board of Health thing,” Favreau told the L.A. Times. “You can’t have a live animal in an eating establishment. After that, they threw us out.”
Shoutout to George Lucas
Trent a Girl?
At one point, it was suggested to Favreau that the character of Trent be changed to a young woman instead. Studios also didn’t care much for the dialogue. “People were interested in optioning it, but they had a lot of notes,” he told Grantland. “They wanted to change Vince’s character to a girl and have them not go to Vegas and said the dialogue was too repetitive, and it had to be darker and more violent. I was really trying to embrace the notes. I tried to change the script, but I just couldn’t.”
Starring Favreau, and His Car
Favreau’s 1964 Mercury Comet Caliente convertible doubled as Trent’s car in the movie.
From ‘Swingers’ to Marvel
“There would be no Marvel without Swingers,” Liman told Vanity Fair on the movie’s 20th anniversary. “There would be no Jon Favreau directing Iron Man, no Robert Downey Jr. playing Iron Man, no Avengers. The ripple effect from this teeny little movie, when you look back 20 years, is profound.”
Favreau Was Cast in ‘Friends’ Because of ‘Swingers’
“I got a phone call saying they saw Swingers, and they liked it,” Favreau once shared. “I wasn’t really getting a lot of offers for anything but writing assignments from Swingers. I thought I’d launch an acting career or something; I didn’t know what to expect. But they said, ‘It’s time for Monica to have a nice boyfriend. Would you like to do it?’ I signed on for, I think, two episodes at first, then they kept me around.”
“I think the one thing about it,” Vaughn told CinemaBlend 25 years after the movie came out, “was, I remember saying to (Favreau), you know, ‘Why are we auditioning for stuff that’s not really about what’s going on?’ I love when I see people who are younger giving themselves permission to write movies or make movies because you’re sort of in a unique moment where you’re a part of it. And so for us, it was really like, we really wanted to be uncompromising.”
Vaughn said that “part of what makes Swingers work is there’s an honesty and a vulnerability. They’re helping a friend through a breakup. Everyone has different ideas of what the right way is to meet people. Swingers captures that moment where you’re either out of high school or out of college, (and) you don’t really share anything in common with the girl, or you are in class with her. How do I go up to someone that I don’t know at all and be able to make an introduction, and see if there’s any chemistry there, when they don’t know who I am.”
The Real Love Story
It was never a movie about the main guy finding the woman of his dreams. It was always about the bromance at the core of the movie. “The love story in Swingers was between Patrick Van Horn, Vince, and Jon,” Liman explained to Vanity Fair. “It was a lover’s triangle. Favreau is the new guy, and Patrick’s getting jealous of him because Vince is spending a lot of time with Jon. And we re-wrote the film toward that.”