Fat Bastard and Mini-Me turn 20: Mike Myers on creating the memorable Austin Powers characters
Twenty years, baby!
As has been recently well-discussed, 1999 was a landmark year in film, with the release of game-changing cinema like The Matrix, Fight Club, The Sixth Sense, and The Blair Witch Project. And among the group of memorable releases was Mike Myers’ second go-around as his groovy British super agent in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.
Two years earlier, the Saturday Night Live alum scored surprise success with Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, starring as both the titular ’60s spy and his nemesis, Dr. Evil. For his sequel, Myers would put even more on his plate by creating his latest character: the morbidly obese Scottish henchman, Fat Bastard. Also added to the mix was Dr. Evil’s miniature clone, appropriately-named Mini-Me, who was portrayed by Verne Troyer. The film would go on to gross over $300 million at the box office (compared to the original’s $67 million) and lead to a third film, 2002’s Goldmember, which would further cement Fat Bastard and Mini-Me’s place in pop culture.
To celebrate The Spy Who Shagged Me‘s 20th anniversary, EW chatted with Myers about creating the memorable ncharacters, working with the late Troyer, and his hopes for a fourth Austin Powers.
After scoring a surprise hit, Myers, director Jay Roach, and co-writer Michael McCullers begin planning the expansion of their shagadelic world.
“The joy of doing the second one was just getting evermore specific to the world,” says Myers. “And we were so much more allowed to explore the essence of it. I always use the example of Jay just forcing Michael McCullers and myself to describe almost everything, specifically Austin’s mojo. When we were sort of formulating everything, we did a lot of things that were for our own amusement that ended up being useful, but who knew? We had decided in our own mind that we were making a movie that was based on a very popular English comic book that no one knew about called Austin Powers. And at the same time, we were giant James Bond fans, so we wanted to live in that world too.”
With Myers already playing Austin Powers and Dr. Evil, his own struggles with weight served as the inspiration for his latest character, Fat Bastard.
“I love making comedy characters and playing them, and one of the things you have to do when designing them is you have to think of your own face as a Mr. Potato Head,” explains Myers. “So if Austin has bushy ‘60s hair then maybe Dr. Evil should have no hair. Because I have this giant mole, then Austin has a mole and Dr. Evil will have a scar that is covering that mole. And in that same Mr. Potato Head vein, with Mini-Me, it was he’s going to be a smaller version of him, so the name was easy. Even the name Dr. Evil was he’s an evil doctor, so I thought his name should be Dr. Evil. So then when it came to Fat Bastard, if you have a small guy then we should have a big guy. And then the deconstruction of it is in that way of, ‘Okay, if you have an evil doctor, he’s Dr. Evil, so if you have a bad guy who is big, he’s Fat Bastard.'”
“What I really wanted to explore was in my adult years I’ve always struggled with my weight,” reveals Myers. “When I turned 25, I was on SNL and I was like, ‘Jesus, I have a weight problem.’ And with James Bond characters, they give them some sort of affliction, like the bad guy’s monster. And I thought what if there is a sensitivity around his weight. I really didn’t have a character that was fully formed for Fat Bastard until I came up with the line of ‘I eat because I’m unhappy and I’m unhappy because I eat,’ which is something that I had come to the conclusion of about my own life. If you’re going to put on weight, Saturday Night Live is the breeding ground, because you’re trapped in a studio all day and you don’t get out and you’re just trying to get that energy out. And so that is where Fat Bastard came from. And then I have Scottish in my ancestry and being able to do a Scottish accent is something that you are issued by the Canadian government if you want to be in comedy, so it just seemed logical that way. And then I thought by the end of it he should lose the weight because it’s been such a source of pain for him. I’m told the ‘I eat because I’m unhappy and I’m unhappy because I eat’ has been used in text books as part of trying to break out of the shame spiral that happens in dealing with one’s weight loss.”
Marlon Brando helped give birth to Mini-Me.
“I had just got a DVD player and I was watching The Island of Dr. Moreau,” recalls Myers. “In this scene, there’s Marlon Brando and this little person [Nelson de la Rosa], and Marlon Brando is playing the piano and on top of the piano is a little miniature version of himself playing a piano. So we applied the dynamic of a family onto an evil family, and what if there is a new baby and it’s upsetting Scott [Seth Green]? Having seen this actor in The Island of Dr. Moreau playing against Marlon Brando, I was like, that would be the one-eighth replica, and I just thought, what if his name was Mini-Me? And instantly I said that to Jay and he said, ‘I love this more than anything in life. You’ve just got to give me a week, I’m on a mission to find a guy who can do this!’”
Roach and Myers find their Mini-Me in Verne Troyer, who had made brief appearances in Jingle All the Way and My Giant.
“The casting of Verne is entirely the genius of Mr. Jay Roach,” shares Myers. “Jay calls me, ‘Drop everything and come see this tape right now!’ So I zip across Los Angeles to his office and he shows me the tape of Verne. And I’m like, ‘Oh my god, this guy is perfect.’ And Jay said, ‘We have to offer it to him now.’ So we didn’t even think of another person. We met Verne and he agreed to be in it. I said this around the time of his passing, just when you thought Verne was small, he was smaller than that. But within 25 minutes, he was such a sweet, lovely man that you didn’t even see his size — it’s just Verne. And he just so got it immediately and was just so game. We would give Verne more and more stuff to do and he would knock it out of the park. Verne was a great physical comedian for a human being of any size. But then when you think of the challenges of being that small, it’s almost even more extraordinary. We just kept being so surprised that we scrambled and cut scenes and put in new scenes. It’s always a joy when you have somebody that makes what you’ve written funnier than written. Another person that I had that with was Phil Hartman. Whenever Phil interpreted your material, he always made it funnier when written, and that’s part of the joy with Verne.”
In April 2018, Troyer dies at the age of 49.
“His passing was very, very sad for Jay and I,” says Myers. “We were so connected to Verne. He was such a lovely human being and we just had an amazing exploration together of this thing, and then this thing was a thing in the world. And it’s magical. All of a sudden there was this thing in the world where people are calling their kids their “Mini-Me,” it’s just weird, because we were all in the room when we were jamming that together. Verne was such a huge part because he was able to offer more and more, which allowed us to create more and more.”
More Austin Powers, baby? Seventeen years after the release of the third film, Goldmember, Myers has plans to don the glasses and bad teeth again.
“We are hoping to do it and we are working on making it a reality,” teases Myers.