What the Hell Happened to Mike Myers?
Mike Myers successfully made the transition from Not Ready for Prime Time Player to movie star. His characters and catch-phrases were inescapable. Myers wasn’t just a comedian, he was shaping pop culture. And then, he stopped. What the hell happened?
Myers’ first acting job was on a TV commercial when he was 10 years old. The commercial co-starred Gilda Radner, who was about to become a star on Saturday Night Live. In 1989, Myers would follow in Radner’s footsteps as a cast member of SNL.
Myers spent six seasons on Saturday Night Live developing popular characters like Wayne Campbell, Linda Richman and Dieter.
In 1992, Myers and Dana Carvey were tapped to bring the Wayne’s World sketch to the big screen. Trouble began immediately when Myers wanted to have Carvey’s character, Garth, written out of the movie.
Myers had originally developed the Wayne character as a solo character while performing with Second City. The character of Garth was added for Saturday Night Live. When it came time to take the act to the big screen, Myers wasn’t interested in sharing the spotlight with Carvey, who was arguably the bigger star at the time.
Myers has developed a reputation for being, well, a demaning control freak. He started earning that reputation with his very first movie. Reportedly, Myers once stormed off the Wayne’s World set due to a lack of margarine for his bagel.
Director, Penelope Spheeris recounted to Entertainment Weekly, ”He (Myers) was emotionally needy and got more difficult as the shoot went along. ‘You should have heard him bitching when I was trying to do that ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ scene: ‘I can’t move my neck like that! Why do we have to do this so many times? No one is going to laugh at that!”’
Eventually, the director assigned her daughter to babysit Myers and fetch his snacks.
”To this day, I have this image of her sitting on this little cooler, looking at me, like, ‘Mom, I f—ing hate you,” said Spheeris.
In spite of the trouble behind the scenes, Wayne’s World was an unqualified hit.
Myers followed up Wayne’s World with the romantic comedy, So I Married an Axe Murderer in 1993.
Other actors who had been considered for Axe Murderer included Woody Allen, Chevy Chase, Albert Brooks, and Martin Short. When Myers agreed to star, he insisted on re-writing the script to better suit his sensibilities.
This resulted in a law suit with the original screen writer, Robbie Fox which eventually resulted in Fox getting sole writing credit.
Myers also clashed with director, Thomas Schlamme. When Myers was unhappy, he locked himself in his trailer and refused to work. As a result, the film went over budget.
So I Married an Axe Murderer opened to mixed reviews and flopped at the box office. But it has accrued a cult following over the years.
Later that year, Myers and Carvey returned for a Wayne’s World sequel. But Wayne’s World 2 couldn’t duplicate the success of the original. It got mixed reviews and disappointed at the box office.
The director of the original WW, Penelope Spheeris, has said she believes Myers prevented Paramount from hiring her for the sequel.
Myers reportedly retreated from Hollywood waiting for inspiration to hit. And eventually, it did.
In 1997, Myers returned with the James Bond spoof, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.
When most people think of Austin Powers, they think of the catch phrases that dominated pop culture in the late 90′s. They assume that the first Austin Powers movie was a smash hit. But in reality, it opened at #2 at the box office and only grossed about 50 million dollars in the US.
That was enough to make International Man of Mystery a hit. But in spite of mostly positive reviews, it wasn’t the box office smash most people remember. Audiences didn’t really find the first Austin Powers until it was released on video.
”I hated that bastard for years,” said Penelope Spheeris. ”But when I saw Austin Powers, I went, ‘I forgive you, Mike. You can be moody, you can be a jerk, you can be things that others of us can’t be — because you are profoundly talented. And I forgive you.”’
In 1998, Myers made a dramatic turn in the disco drama, 54, loosely based on the 70′s nighclub, Studio 54.
Myers played Steve Rubell, one of the two co-founders of Studio 54. How historically accurate was 54? The other partner was never mentioned.
54 ran into problems when test audiences found the characters unsympathetic. With only two months before its release, Miramax demanded reshoots. Entire sub-plots including a romantic triangle were scuttled.
The final version of the movie got poor reviews and bombed at the box office.
The next year, Myers returned to Austin Powers for the sequel, The Spy Who Shagged Me. The sequel traded in co-star Elizabeth Hurley for 90′s it-girl, Heather Graham.
Whereas the first Austin Powers was a modest hit with a devoted cult following, the sequel was a box office smash. The reviews were still mostly positive, but noted that Spy was basically a retread. Audiences who saw the first film on video came out to the theaters for the sequel.
In 2000, Myers made an announcement that he was haulting production on his next movie.
The movie in question was to have been another adaptation of one of his popular SNL sketches. This time featuring the German impressionist, Dieter. Just weeks before shooting was scheduled to start, Myers announced that he could not ”cheat moviegoers who pay their hard-earned money for my work by making a movie with an unacceptable script.”
The script which was so unacceptable to Myers was written by a scribe named… Mike Myers.
Confused? Just to clarify, Myers claimed he could not in good conscience make the Sprockets film he was contractually obligated to make because the script he had written wasn’t good enough.
Instead of earning a $20 million pay day, Myers got slapped with a $30 million dollar law suit for breach of contract. Imagine Entertainment, which was founded by well-known Hollywood hot-head Ron Howard (aka OpieTaylor aka Richie Cunningham) called Myers ”egomaniacal,” ”irresponsible,” and ”selfish.”
Myers countersued for his $20 million for fraud and defamation of character. Myers claimed he had been ”emotionally traumatized” by the studio’s ”thug-like, outrageous, and reckless conduct.”
The two parties settled out of court. The terms of the agreement specified that Myers would make another film for Universal and Imagine at a later date. But by then, the public battle had cemented Myers’ reputation for being “difficult”.
In 2001, Myers voiced the title character in Dreamwork’s Animation’s Shrek.
Usually, I don’t say a lot about voice work. It rarely has a tremendous impact on an actor’s career one way or another. But Shrek is a special case.
Originally, Chris Farley was cast in the role. Unfortunately, he died before the film was completed. Dreamworks turned to Myers who insisted on a complete re-write to remove any trace of Farley’s take on the character. After Myers had completed his voice work, the animators went to work.
Well into the animation process, Myers changed his mind about his performance. He decided Shrek should speak with a Scottish accent. Dreamworks chair Jeffrey Katzenberg agreed to spend an additional $4 million dollars to reanimate sequences which were already synched with Myers’ original voice work.
As it turns out, the gamble paid off. Shrek was a huge hit with critics and audiences. I’m still not sure the accent was worth $4 million though.
In 2002, Myers starred in the third Austin Powers film, Goldmember.
By Goldmember, Myers was milking the last laughs out of the concept and it showed. Reviews were mixed. But the movie still managed to be a hit. Over a decade later, there are still rumors Myers may return for a fouth Powers movie.
In 2003, Myers took a supporting role in the Gweneth Paltrow stewardess comedy, A View From the Top.
View was originally scheduled to be released in 2001, but following in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, it was shelved. It should have stayed on the shelf because it is a truly bad movie. Myers’ role is essentially an extended cameo. He manages to be funny in spite of a lame running gag involving an eye disorder.
The reviews were very negative and the movie bombed.
Later that year, Myers starred in the big screen adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ Cat in the Hat.
Tim Allen was originally cast as the Cat. But when he had to drop out due to schedule conflicts with The Santa Clause 2, Myers stepped into the role as part of his settlement with Universal and Imagine.
In this court case, everyone lost. Cat in the Hat got terrible reviews and flopped at the box office.
In 2004, Myers returned to the Shrek franchise for Shrek 2.
Like the Austin Powers movies, the second film was a bigger hit than the first despite a substantial drop in quality.
When So I Married an Axe Murderer and Wayne’s World 2 flopped, Myers retreated from Hollywood. With the Austin Powers movies played out and everything else he touched failing, Myers retreated again. He would return for Shrek 3 in 2007, but his next live performance wouldn’t be until 2008.
For 2008′s The Love Guru, Myers followed the same formula that led to the creation of Austin Powers and Dr. Evil. Only this time, instead of launching a comedy trilogy that would dominate pop culture for years, Myers released The Love Guru.
By this point, many in Hollywood were secretly hoping Myers would fail. Their hopes would be realized. Myers’ poured his heart into The Love Guru only to see it rejected by critics and audiences alike.
Myers’ many, many enemies read the tagline about karma and laughed their asses off.
Since The Love Guru, Myers has more or less retreated from Hollywood once again. He had a cameo appearance in Inglorious Basterds which is barely worth mentioning except for the fact that Inglorious Basterds is awesome! And in 2010, Myers cashed his final (for now) Shrek paycheck with Shrek 4.
So, what the hell happened? This is an easy one. Myers pissed off pretty much everyone who ever worked with him. Some put up with his bullshit because he was a comic genius who made them rich. But even they admit the guy is “difficult”.
Then, when Myers stopped hitting home runs, his shit started to stink a lot worse.
Odds are good that Myers will eventually come back with another hit. A comeback isn’t just possible, it’s likely. But if it never happens, many in Hollywood will smile broadly that Myers reaped what he sowed.
Kim Basinger Thora Birch Matthew Broderick Nicolas Cage Chevy Chase Kevin Costner Geena Davis Bridget Fonda Brendan Fraser Mel Gibson Cuba Gooding Jr. Heather Graham Melanie Griffith Steve Guttenberg Daryl Hannah Helen Hunt Michael Keaton Nicole Kidman Val Kilmer Jude Law Jennifer Jason Leigh Penelope Ann Miller Demi Moore Rick Moranis Eddie Murphy Mike Myers Michelle Pfeiffer Molly Ringwald Meg Ryan Winona Ryder Arnold Schwarzenegger Steven Seagal Elisabeth Shue Alicia Silverstone Christian Slater Mira Sorvino Wesley Snipes Sharon Stone Mena Suvari Uma Thurman John Travolta Kathleen Turner Robin Williams Debra Winger Sean Young Renee Zellweger
Posted on October 3, 2012, in Movies, What the Hell Happened? and tagged austin powers, entertainment, Mike Myers, movies, Saturday Night Live, shrek, Wayne's World. Bookmark the permalink. 63 Comments.