13 Naked Truths About The Full Monty
From Gypsy to Showgirls to Magic Mike, the silver screen has seen its fair share of strippers. Then came the guys from The Full Monty. In 1997, Peter Cattaneo's dramedy about a group of unemployed (and mostly out-of-shape) steel workers who decide their best chance at a big pay day is to take it all off for an audience of local ladies became a surprise hit around the world. It was a surprise to the cast and crew, too, who faced a number of hurdles in getting the movie made. On the 20th anniversary of its release, we're taking a look at the naked truth behind the film that brought "The Full Monty" into the general lexicon.
1. IT GOT OFF TO A ROUGH START.
Though The Full Monty eventually became a massive hit, you wouldn’t have known it from the many roadblocks the film’s producers faced when attempting to get the project off the ground. Channel 4 Films initially showed interest in the film and invested in the script’s development. But once completed, they believed the final draft was too close to Brassed Off, another project they were interested in developing. According to then-chief executive Paul Webster, the company’s executives eventually decided to go with Brassed Off after a “beauty contest” between the two films.
“We felt that the two films served the same community and had the same concerns about unemployment and dignity,” Webster said. From a bottom-line standpoint, The Full Monty—which made about 10 times what Brassed Off did at the box office—clearly would have been the better bet. “You can only hope that you don’t make that mistake again,” Webster said.
2. THE MOVIE’S TITLE CONFUSED HOLLYWOOD EXECUTIVES.
After getting a pass from Channel 4, the film’s makers attempted to pitch The Full Monty to a number of Hollywood studios—many of whom were totally perplexed by the title. Though the movie popularized the phrase around the world, few people knew what it meant before 1997. According to the film’s screenwriter, Simon Beaufoy, several American studio executives were confused by the movie’s title and wondered why there was no character named “Monty” in the film.
3. SOME AMERICAN MOVIEGOERS HAD TROUBLE WITH THE BRITISH SLANG, TOO.
Though Beaufoy knew that The Full Monty had universal appeal, he heard from more than one American moviegoer that they couldn’t understand a lot of what was being said. “When we first showed it at the Sundance Film Festival,” Beaufoy told Metro, “there were people coming out going: ‘God, I loved that. I didn’t understand a word they were saying but I loved it!’ We scratched our heads over that but there is something about the characters and the story that is universally understood. It’s about human nature and loss: loss of job, of pride, of dignity. It did fantastically in Brazil.”
Some U.S. theaters reportedly took to distributing pamphlets before the movie that broke down some of the more confusing slang within the film.
4. NICHOLAS LYNDHURST WAS THE FIRST CHOICE TO PLAY “GAZ.”
Nicholas Lyndhurst, who is perhaps best known for his work in Going Straight, Only Fools and Horses, and Goodnight Sweetheart, was the first choice for the role of Gaz, which eventually went to Robert Carlyle. For Lyndhurst, passing on The Full Monty was a no-brainer: "I was in rehearsal in Northampton, on a bleak day, and my agent phoned,” Lyndhurst explained. “‘Darling—availability check: British film, not much money, set in Sheffield, about male strippers…’ I said I'd pass. I don't regret it."
5. ROBERT CARLYLE HATED MAKING THE MOVIE.
Eventually, Robert Carlyle—fresh off a starring part in Trainspotting—took on the role of Gaz, though he wasn’t thrilled about it. In the 20 years since the film’s release, Carlyle has shared that he did not enjoy making the film, and was pretty certain that it was going to bomb at the box office.
“I thought it was a load of f***ing pish,” Carlyle told Graham Norton earlier this year. Needless to say, he was shocked when it went on to make more than $250 million worldwide—especially considering that it was shot on a $3.5 million budget.
6. IT ALMOST WENT STRAIGHT TO VIDEO.
With so little confidence in the project coming from various angles, and a first cut that was reportedly pretty unimpressive, 20th Century Fox thought that cutting their losses and releasing the film straight to video might be the best option. “It was a tough shoot,” Carlyle said. “It was so horrible that when the people [at] Fox Searchlight, who'd commissioned it, saw the first cut they said ‘straight to video.'" But thanks to the persistence of producer Uberto Pasolini, who pleaded for the chance to let the team take one more pass at an edit, they were able to recut the film. In 1998, The Full Monty earned four Oscar nominations, including a Best Picture nod for Pasolini. (Anne Dudley took home the Academy Award for Best Music.)
7. THE “HOT STUFF” SCENE WAS ALMOST CUT.
One of the film’s most memorable scenes is when the guys are in line and Donna Summer’s “Hot Stuff” comes on the radio overhead. Without even thinking about it, they all quietly break into their choreographed moves to the song. According to a variety of sources, this scene came very close to ending up on the cutting room floor for being “too unrealistic."
8. YES, THE ACTORS REALLY DID TAKE IT ALL OFF.
Reluctant to put his cast through the torture of stripping down to nothing for take after take to shoot the film’s climactic striptease scene, Cattaneo promised his actors that it would be a one-take deal—an assurance that was ultimately what persuaded many of them to sign on for the film in the first place. And he delivered.
"We took two days to do the final scene with 50 extras," Cattaneo told the Chicago Tribune. "We rehearsed and rehearsed the last shot, but there was only one take. The cast agreed on that."
9. ALCOHOL PLAYED A ROLE.
In order to help calm pre-stripping nerves on the set, Cattaneo decided that a little liquid courage might help in eliciting the most natural performances from his actors—so he made sure there was plenty of booze lying around. “They were half full of whiskey at that point [of shooting the final scene],” Cattaneo told the Chicago Tribune. “That was the only way to get through it."
10. THE FILM ENDED UP BEING TOO SHORT.
After all the nips and tucks that were made to the earlier versions of the film, by the time the filmmakers had a cut that was working it ended up being too short. So, several months after filming had wrapped, the cast had to reassemble to shoot some additional footage. There was just one problem: Carlyle was already working on another movie and couldn’t make it back for the shoot, which is why you don't see him taking part in the above exercise montage.
11. IT WAS ADAPTED INTO A TONY AWARD-NOMINATED BROADWAY SHOW.
Like so many other successful films, The Full Monty made the jump from screen to stage in 2000. The play, which co-starred Patrick Wilson, opened at New York City’s Eugene O’Neill Theater on October 26, 2000, where it ran for 770 performances. In 2001, it received 10 Tony Award nominations.
12. MANY PEOPLE BELIEVE THAT PRINCESS DIANA’S DEATH CONTRIBUTED TO THE MOVIE’S SUCCESS.
The Full Monty hit UK theaters on August 29, 1997, just two days before Princess Diana’s death. While the nation mourned the untimely passing of The People’s Princess, some box office analysts believed that the need to escape the sadness that engulfed the country actually contributed to the film’s success.
On September 16, The Los Angeles Times reported on the film’s unexpected global success, writing that, “In Britain it has already taken in about $13 million, topping the box office for three straight weeks, including the weekend of Princess Diana's funeral.” When writing about the stage version of the show in 2015, The Reviews Hub wrote that, “When the movie The Full Monty opened in 1997 on the same weekend as the death of Princess Diana, it was suggested that its success was down to the public needing something to cheer them up at such a tragic time.”
In what might be considered a sort of bookend to that belief, director Peter Cattaneo’s newest project—which will debut later this year—is a television movie called Diana and I, which examines the lives of four individuals in the week following the Princess’s death.
13. PRINCE CHARLES WAS A FAN, TOO.
In November 1998, on the eve of his 50th birthday, Prince Charles attended a Full Monty party where he and Hugo Speer, who starred in the original film, reenacted the "Hot Stuff" dance routine. Onlookers were impressed with the Prince's moves. "I've even been given a bit of choreography on how to do things in the queue," Charles admitted. "I liked the film so much, I've seen it twice."