Mike Judge ‘Had to Fight’ Not to Cast Matt Damon and Ben Affleck in ‘Office Space’

Sounds like Damon and Affleck got a case of the Mondays!
Mike Judge ‘Had to Fight’ Not to Cast Matt Damon and Ben Affleck in ‘Office Space’

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Twenty-five years after the fact, the comedy Office Space has taken on cult classic status — but not because of its reliance on big movie stars. Director Mike Judge made sure of that. “He really had to fight for the unknown actors he used,” actor David (Michael Bolton) Herman told Hollywood Reporter on the movie’s quarter-century anniversary. “These are all stories I heard about secondhand, but I think Fox was hoping to get Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.” 

Fox didn’t get its wish, but Judge was an astute judge of acting talent, casting up-and-coming comedy stars like Jennifer Aniston, Gary Cole, and Stephen Root before they got too big to overwhelm the story. Perhaps because the movie studio didn’t get its wish on big-name casting, it “was not happy with the dailies as the movie was being made,” Herman said. “They were hoping that people would smile more during the movie or get kicked in the balls more.” 

The studio got sidestepped again in its desire for a PG-13 rating. Herman did his part to make sure that didn’t happen. “I took it upon myself to curse a blue streak. I just felt like, this movie is not for kids, and not because it’s dirty, but it’s for people who have lived this passive-aggressive workspace. It got an R-rating, and when you look at why on Common Sense Media, it’s due to language.” 

Profanity wasn’t the only thing that was improvised. Richard Riehle, who played engineer liaison Tom Smykowski, confessed that he had to take extreme measures to keep from laughing. “In my scene with the Bobs, I was biting the inside of my cheeks a lot because the two of them were hilarious, both in the improv leading up to it and in shooting the actual scene,” he says. “Mike allowed them to go far afield in finding out their relationship and how they were going to interrogate people, but then it would always work its way back to the script.”

Other deviations from the script were done for legal reasons. The screenplay originally called for Herman to call Michael Bolton a “a no-singing asshole,” but it became “no-talent ass clown.” You can’t accuse Bolton of not singing, apparently, but “ass clown” passed muster. In fact, “‘Ass clown’ really entered the vernacular because of the movie,” says Herman.

Willson also got in on the improv action. “I’m particularly happy to have then improvised ‘Not gonna work here anymore, anyway,’” he says proudly. “I felt like the second-stringer who actually scores a touchdown.”

With a killer cast and hilarious improvisations, why didn’t Office Space make a bigger splash at the box office 25 years ago? “Apparently, Fox did not believe in the film,” says Willson. “They pretty much only promoted it on Fox outlets.”

But Herman argues that there was no easy way to market the movie. How do you sell corporate drones stuck in cubicles as a laugh riot? “You go, ‘Here’s this dreary life. Come watch it on the big screen,’” he says, illustrating the challenge.

Luckily, word of mouth did the job that TV commercials and billboards couldn’t. “People would watch it and then tell each other, and it really was offices,” says Riehle. “People who worked in offices would quote something in it, and when somebody didn’t respond, they’d say, ‘Oh, you gotta watch this movie.’ That’s how it evolved, and it’s continued. It’s really remarkable.” 


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