“If You Don’t Change the Movie, You Won’t Direct ‘Wayne’s World 2′”: How Mike Myers and Lorne Michaels Faced Off With Director Penelope Spheeris
Wayne’s World director Penelope Spheeris is setting the record straight about rumored clashes with star Mike Myers on the set of 1992’s Wayne’s World — the first scripted feature for both of them.
“It was not an uncomfortable set,” Spheeris, 77, tells THR‘s It Happened in Hollywood podcast. “Mike is hypoglycemic, so if he got low blood sugar he could get grumpy. So, big deal. I worked with Richard Pryor and Albert Brooks. They’ll cause you a heart attack.”
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Spheeris says the discord began after filming had wrapped and the finished film was screened for test audiences. Myers’ father died at that time, so he returned to Canada for the funeral and missed those early screenings.
“I got great audience reaction in the testing setting. That’s when the crap hit the fan,” Spheeris recalls. “He wasn’t there to witness the incredible audience reaction and look at the test cards and realize that we had something on our hands.”
Instead, Myers watched the film alone and wrote 11 pages of notes — many of them suggestions for cuts — single-spaced on a legal pad.
“Most of them sucked,” says Spheeris.
Among the cuts Myers’ wanted was a scene in which Lara Flynn Boyle, who plays an ex-girlfriend still pining for Wayne, crashes her bike into a car. “Mike didn’t want it in there because she was getting the laugh, not him,” Spheeris explains. “That’s the way Lorne teaches his players — to always one-up one another.”
Myers also had his doubts about one of the most iconic sequences in the film: when Wayne, Garth (Dana Carvey) and pals lip-sync to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” in the 1976 AMC Pacer referred to as the Mirthmobile.
“They hated doing it. They hated banging their head in the car. It hurt. [Metallica’s] James Hetfield, all those headbangers, they’re used to it. These guys weren’t used to doing that. They didn’t have the muscles in their neck and it started hurting real bad. They started asking for Advil on the set,” Spheeris recalls. “The worst part is Mike said not only does it hurt, it’s not funny.”
Spheeris strongly opposed Myers’ suggestions and told producer Lorne Michaels and Paramount executives the film would suffer creatively — and comedically — were she to execute them.
“Lorne took me aside and said, ‘Penelope, if you don’t change the movie, you won’t be able to direct Wayne’s World 2. Mike’s not going to approve you,'” she recalls.
Paramount execs told her: “We really want to do Wayne’s World 2 with Mike. We’re not going to tell him you won’t change it — you have to tell him. And Lorne said, ‘I’m not telling him, you tell him.'”
“So I told him,” Spheeris says. “And I got canned.”
While Spheeris agreed to a handful of Myers’ changes, it’s mostly her vision audiences saw on screens. And see it they did: The film grossed $183 million worldwide, or $400 million in 2023 dollars.
When a sequel was immediately put into production later that year, Spheeris was replaced by Stephen Surjik, a Canadian director who had worked with Michaels on sketch show The Kids in the Hall.
When she received the news, Spheeris pulled her phone out of the wall and “cried for two weeks. And then I got over it,” she says. Wayne’s World 2 grossed $48 million worldwide, or $102 million today.
After Spheeris turned down directing 2000’s The Ladies Man, she and Michaels never spoke again, despite having known each other and collaborated together since 1976 on the first season of SNL, where she worked on short films.
Myers did not immediately respond to THR’s request for comment.
Listen to the entire Penelope Spheeris episode of It Happened to Hollywood below and be sure to subscribe.
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