Holy Schnikes! Not a day goes by that we don’t miss the late Chris Farley and we couldn’t count how many times we’ve quoted Tommy Boy, with David Spade, Brian Dennehy, Rob Lowe, Bo Derek, Dan Akroyd, and of course, Herbie Hancock. Here we’ll take a look at 10 things you never knew about Tommy Boy.
The working titles were awful
Imagine if Tommy Boy had been called Billy the Third: A Midwestern. Thankfully, Saturday Night Live boss Lorne Michaels had Billy Madison happening around the same time, so that title was scrapped. Other near misses included Fat Chance and XL. In a 2015 interview with Consequence of Sound, director Peter Segal said the only scene to survive from the Billy the Third script was the part where Farley changes in the airplane bathroom. Segal had worked with Farley on an HBO special and an episode of The Jackie Thomas Show, where Chris played Tom Arnold’s brother.
The real life friendship
The chemistry between the two stars of Tommy Boy was real. As fellow Saturday Night Live cast member Mike Myers recounted in the I Am Chris Farley documentary, Chris Farley and David Spade were “a fantastic combination of ultimately innocent and ultimately jaded. They are the oil and vinegar of comedy.” Tommy Boy is anchored by the duo’s real life friendship and dynamic. There wasn’t much of a script when they started shooting. SNL writers Jim Downey (no relation to MovieWeb’s Ryan J. Downey, ‘though I’m a huge fan!) and Fred Wolf worked hard with Segal, ‘though the script was credited to Third Rock from the Sun and That ’70s Show creators Bonnie and Terry Turner. Writing continued every night during the frantic and sometimes chaotic production.
In the commentary track recorded for the DVD, the movie’s director says “Holy Schnikes” was one of Farley’s real life sayings. There was almost no improv in Tommy Boy, but there were several moments that came from real conversations Segal overheard between his two stars. Now classic moments like this one: (“Hey does this suit make me look fat?” “No, your face does.”), Farley’s burning car sales pitch, and The Carpenters sing along, among others; those also came from the actors.
“Fat guy in a little coat”
This was another one of those real things. It was something Farley actually did often around the SNL offices, to the chagrin of Spade, Adam Sandler, and Chris Rock. He never used to sing it, ‘though. The song happened because Farley got bored as they did multiple takes. An editor noticed it and showed it to the director during postproduction. Farley wasn’t on camera, unfortunately, but they had reshoots to do anyway, so they ended up adding it. Segal gives all the credit to that editor, Bill Kerr.
“That’s gonna leave a mark!”
Like many great bands, Chris Farley wore his influences on his sleeves, which is one of the things so lovable about him. There’s one scene on the cutting room floor because one of his expressions was too much like John Belushi in Animal House. “That’s Gonna Leave a Mark!” is one of the lines most associated with Tommy Boy, but after the movie was finished filming, Farley confessed to the director that he’d borrowed it from John Candy in Planes, Trains & Automobiles. But who could be mad at Farley? Imitation, after all, is the greatest form of flattery.
Chris and David fought over Rob Lowe
In his memoir, David Spade spoke about how Farley would often become infatuated with cool bad boy actors. He befriended Christian Slater, who played one of the kids during a classic Matt Foley sketch, and started slicking his hair back the day after Slater hosted SNL. Rob Lowe wasn’t credited in the movie, which made his villain’s surprise introduction even more badass. During the making of Tommy Boy, Farley got jealous when Spade hung out with Rob Lowe a couple of times without him. This led to an angry outburst that became physical, with Chris even stepping on David’s hand. The two loved each other like brothers, which means they fought like them, too.
As a new season of SNL loomed and the movie had only 60 pages to work with, Segal called up Fred Wolf to spitball some ideas. They shared stories about some personal mishaps, many of which made it into the movie. Hyperextending the car door at a gas station? That was Segal. The hood flying up because of an empty oilcan? Wolf. Sitting in a sailboat, on a date, with people heckling from the shore? Segal.
The damn deer
Without a doubt, the deer scene was the most difficult one to shoot. As it turns out, deer wranglers can’t train deer to do very much. The production had four Plymouth GTXs and had to donate one to the deer farm to get the only shot with a real deer. Cameras and lights were hidden in the bushes; every day, for a month, a ramp was placed at the back of the far end of the car, so deer could hang out and get comfortable. They surprised the deer with the lights one night, just as the deer was about to poop, which is how they got that classic shot. The rest of the deer scenes were a combination of an animatronic deer and a grip wearing deerskin and antlers.
Farley made the movie sober
Like his hero, the late John Belushi, Chris Farley’s appetite for excess is the stuff of legend. He was sadly taken from us when he was just 33 years old, a result of his over the top substance fueled lifestyle. Segal said Tom and Roseanne actually drove Chris to rehab after his bit on The Jackie Thomas Show. ‘Though he fell off the wagon after Tommy Boy, he was sober during shooting. It’s especially impressive, considering the rigorous schedule demands placed on him and Spade, who flew back and forth from Toronto to New York for SNL. Farley drank a ton of coffee.
The 50 First Dates easter egg
Chris Farley and David Spade were of course very close with Adam Sandler. Farley made Sandler laugh so much as the bus driver in Billy Madison, the movie’s editor had to cut around him. There’s a sweet Tommy Boy reference in 50 First Dates, when Drew Barrymore’s character’s doctor, played by Dan Akroyd, says the brain institute is funded by “T.B. Callahan of Sandusky, Ohio.” (Segal also directed 50 First Dates.)