It’s been 25 years and it’s still clear: We’re not worthy of Wayne’s World.
Upon its release in 1992, the film was a commercial and critical hit, and it remains a cult classic to this day. While bringing Saturday Night Live characters to the big screen has often been a struggle (sorry, It’s Pat), Mike Myers and Dana Carvey’s rock-obsessed public access hosts Wayne and Garth have proved to be the exception.
We spoke to director Penelope Spheeris for a previously published story on the movie’s 25th anniversary and a second time to go behind the scenes of all the comedy’s most memorable moments, ranging from the iconic “Bohemian Rhapsody” scene to the rocking cameos. Party on below.
It was producer Lorne Michaels’ idea to capitalize on Rob Lowe’s recent scandal in the film’s opening shot.
“I think Lorne wanted to see Rob Lowe right up front in bed with a girl because he had just had some bad publicity about being in bed with a girl… or two [laughs]. And so, I think it was Lorne’s idea to add that scene on the front where you start out with the gorgeous Rob Lowe in bed watching Wayne and Garth on their cable show. Actually, I recently saw a couple pictures of myself lying on that bed there with Rob and it was such a joke back then, ‘Oh, I’m in a bed with Rob Lowe.'”
The actors had some headbanging-related complaints filming the “Bohemian Rhapsody” scene.
“I think it’s so memorable because it’s sort of like the epitome of joyous youth. The song itself builds so well in that operatic way that Freddie Mercury had of writing. The guys, when we shot it, were really complaining because they didn’t like having to bang their heads so much. I did so many different shots and we mounted the cameras different ways and Mike was complaining that his head hurt and he needed Advil and they were both saying that the scene wasn’t funny and why are we doing this. But it’s the scene people remember. I saw how the audiences reacted in the test screenings and they would cheer when that song kicks in and start banging their heads really hard. I knew that it worked then. But it was a group effort; everyone pitched in their ideas. ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ the song itself, was a choice of Mike’s. It was in the script from the very beginning.”
That was genuine laughter in the movie’s final moments when the boys bond on the hood of their car by talking about women and a possible attraction to Bugs Bunny.
“The final scene we shot was them lying on the hood of the car, supposedly at the airport, but it was a soundstage. I had to get them out the door to get them into the limo to drive them to the airport to go back to write on SNL, so that’s how tight the schedule was. And that’s why that scene is so funny: because I just let the cameras roll. I didn’t cut. I knew if I cut, I wasn’t going to get the scene. I just let it roll and they kept improvising and I think that’s why everybody loves that scene so much. They knew the movie was over and the reason they were laughing so hard is it was a way to experience a relief and release of having just done 32 days and then the other two days we went to Aurora and Chicago.”
Spheeris wasn’t completely sold on the hockey scene.
“It was a little bit hard to orchestrate because you’ve got all the crew around and you’ve got the players in the street with the gear on and the hockey net and the cops shutting the street down. As a director, I have to keep an eye on everything and make sure that the stunt driver in the car isn’t going to run over anybody. It was a big wrangle. The other thing I remember about it is, not being from Canada, not being a hockey fan — I really had to wrap my brain around, ‘Why is this funny?’ And I guess what finally got me into it was the fact that the boys were so excited about playing that they would go and reset everything each time a car came by. So I thought that was funny, but I didn’t think it was one of the funniest scenes in the movie. It’s kind of like a smile scene and not a laugh scene.”
Rob Lowe says he “learned his comedy chops” on the Wayne’s World set.
“Rob Lowe admits that he really learned his comedy chops on Wayne’s World and what he said was that he learned how to not break during that scene with Dana and the hand. He said because he wanted to laugh so hard, but kept it in and didn’t, and for him, that was a great accomplishment as an actor that he didn’t bust up laughing.”
“Stairway to Heaven” barely made it in.
“I think anybody who’s ever been in any music store, that’s what everybody plays or tries to play. The difficult part is that I was told that we can’t use more than two notes. Actually, it was three notes to start with and then I was told the day of the shoot we could only do two notes. It was a legal issue because if we were going to actually license it, it would be $100,000, which we couldn’t afford. So from what I heard, and I’m not sure about this, but after the film was released there was still a complaint from Led Zeppelin’s people and they had to cut it down to like one note. It still works though because you see the sign there, you know he’s going to start to play it. The laugh still works.”
The product placement gag was all in the acting — and the commercial-inspired camerawork.
“I didn’t think it was going to be as funny as it was, but those guys really did knock it out of the ballpark on that one. Plus, I tried to use the camera to make the joke work. Like I start on the shoes and pan up to Garth. For example, I know for the shoes, we were trying at the last minute to get permission from the products to shoot the sequence and were trying to get Nike. They tried and tried and tried, it didn’t work and so at the last moment they were like, ‘We’ve got to have Reebok.’ I’m like, ‘Okay, Reebok it is. I don’t care, a shoe is a shoe.'”
Alice Cooper turned out to be a great replacement for Aerosmith.
“When Alice got to the set, we handed him the pages, and it was like two pages of dialogue, a long speech. I was astounded he memorized it on the spot and got it. I had just worked with Alice on The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years. He was my choice to put in the film because he’s just an awesome dude, so business-like, so funny, so amazing as a performer, and so original. Mike wanted to have Aerosmith because [they] had been involved on Saturday Night Live. Aerosmith didn’t want to do it, so I got Alice to do it. Then, Aerosmith did Wayne’s World 2, so there were two mistakes [laughs]. Just kidding.”
Those three endings are the result of indecision.
“When we did the table read, Bernie Brillstein, probably the most famous comedy manager ever, who passed away a few years ago, was there. Afterward, I went to get a cup of coffee and Bernie comes in and goes, ‘I’m going to tell you something: The movie is funny as hell, but those three endings are never going to stay there.’ And I said, ‘You wanna bet?’ He goes, ‘Yeah, I’ll bet you $100.’ I won and I never got my $100. But I think it was just trying to surprise the audience and stay ahead of things… and we couldn’t decide on an ending. Do you just make it a happy ending? A sad ending? A funny ending? So we did them all. You get your choice — pick an ending.”