10 Killer Facts About So I Married an Axe Murderer

TriStar Pictures
TriStar Pictures

On July 30, 1993, TriStar released Mike Myers's second film, So I Married an Axe Murderer. Myers’s first film was the blockbuster Wayne’s World (its sequel came out on December 10, 1993), but with So I Married an Axe Murderer, Myers took his first foray into leading man territory (opposite Nancy Travis, who he thinks is the titular killer).

Future Emmy-winning West Wing producer/director Thomas Schlamme directed the script, written by Robbie Fox. In the film, Myers portrays Charlie MacKenzie, a commitment-phobic beat poet who lives in San Francisco. (Myers also plays Charlie’s Scottish father, Stuart, based on Myers's own dad.) Charlie meets Harriet (Travis), a butcher, and despite suspecting her of murdering her previous husbands, he marries her. The thriller/rom-com was released a month after Sleepless in Seattle, but didn't make nearly the same impact. Axe Murderer grossed just $11.5 million at the box office (on a $20 million budget). Over the years, however, it’s evolved into a cult classic. Here are 10 thrilling facts about the film on its 25th birthday.

1. THE SCRIPT WAS INSPIRED BY ANNIE HALL.

Screenwriter Robbie Fox told a blog that while he was writing the script he was thinking about, “Annie Hall, but what if Annie just might be a murderer.” He sold the idea to Columbia Pictures, and the film’s producer Robert Fried “told me to write for Woody Allen.” Fox said Allen was interested in directing the film, but it didn’t pan out. “As it was told to me, he asked for $7 million; Columbia offered him $5 [million],” Fox said. “They had a Mexican standoff for about two weeks. Then he did Scenes from a Mall instead.”

2. SHARON STONE ALMOST STARRED IN THE FILM.

During production, the studio was considering casting either Kim Basinger or Sharon Stone for the role of Harriet. During the casting process, however, Travis was dating producer Rob Fried. “How did I get involved with Axe Murderer? I can truthfully say I slept with the producer,” she told the Los Angeles Times. “I made suggestions, but I stayed back,” she said. “After Sharon Stone fell through, Thomas Schlamme, the director, said, ‘Let’s do it.’ I read with Mike Myers. I passed all the tests.” A year after the film came out, Travis and Fried married. They've been married for nearly 25 years now.

3. MIKE MYERS EQUATED HIS CHARACTER'S FEAR OF MARRIAGE WITH DEATH.

In a 1993 appearance on The Arsenio Hall Show, Myers explained how his character felt about marriage. “Charlie’s thing is that he’s so afraid of getting married that he thinks he’s going to die,” he said. “Then he meets the girl of his dreams, and yes, she will kill him.”

4. THOMAS SCHLAMME DIDN’T THINK MYERS TRUSTED HIM.

The director and actor disagreed on set, to the point that Thomas Schlamme told the Television Academy Foundation that working on the film was “the most difficult experience I had professionally.” He explained: “Because I had such good experiences [with comedians], I was amazed that I couldn’t get this guy to trust me. Mike wasn’t completely off base not to trust me, because I had a lot of anger and rage in there because I felt like I wasn’t being listened to.” Schlamme said he could’ve laid out the problems between them better than he did.

5. YOU CAN VISIT THE PLACE WHERE HARRIET AND CHARLIE HONEYMOONED.

The newlyweds spend their wedding night at a secluded hotel. In real life, they filmed it at the 50-acre Dunsmuir House and Gardens in Oakland, California—though production designer John Graysmark built a 16,224-foot replica of the roof, where the film’s thrilling climax takes place, on a sound stage. Many other movies have filmed at the 1899 estate, including Phantasm, Burnt Offerings, A View to a Kill, and True Crime. Visitors can tour the mansion and the grounds.

6. MYERS LOVED THE LA’S SONG “THERE SHE GOES.”

The one-album English group the La’s released the song—from their only album—in 1988 and then reissued it in 1990. ”I think it’s one of the greatest pop tunes ever,” Myers told Entertainment Weekly in 2005. “Paul Shaffer saw me listening and loving the song, so for many years that’s what he would play whenever I came out on Letterman.”

Two versions of the song appear on the film's soundtrack: the La’s version and a cover from another British group, the Boo Radleys. In 1999, Sixpence None the Richer had a hit when they covered it. Leigh Nash, Sixpence’s lead singer, said it was “the perfect pop song.”

7. THE FILM LED TO SCHLAMME’S SUCCESSFUL TELEVISION CAREER.

Schlamme made his feature directorial debut in 1989 with the Holly Hunter flick Miss Firecracker; So I Married an Axe Murderer was his second—and last—theatrical film. In 2015, when asked why he has "stuck to television, Schlamme told IndieWire: “Well, I would say the reason that it first started was I was put a little bit into movie jail after [So I Married an] Axe Murderer, and it was probably the best thing that’s happened because I had loved television, I was doing television ... But what happened after Axe Murderer was that I realized, with some of the work that I had done, television had the ability to do the kinds of stories that I was interested in. And having the ability to at least get those, where in movies I wasn’t [able], I became committed to television.”

Since Axe Murderer, Schlamme has directed episodes of Friends, Mad About You, Spin City, ER, Sports Night, The West Wing, and The Americans.

8. MYERS THINKS OF IT AS A HORROR MOVIE.

“We’re all suffering from cold feet, and what is cold feet but low-grade terror?” he told the Montreal Gazette. “This story just expands on that terror.”

9. SCHLAMME AND MYERS WANTED TO MAKE DIFFERENT MOVIES.

In an interview with the Television Academy Foundation, Schlamme explained that one reason he and Myers clashed was because they had different perspectives. “I thought this movie was for 30-year-old men or older,” he said. “It wasn’t for 12-year-olds. I think once he became the Scottish father and once that process started working and once he became much less secure about the film I was trying to make, the tendency to want to go back to his audience and the tendency to push it to be a more mature film just was in absolute direct conflict with one another.”

10. THE FILM’S SCORE WAS ONLY RECENTLY RELEASED.

According to Art of the Title, the title sequence first used a score composed by Bruce Broughton instead of the Boo Radleys’s cover of “There She Goes.” Broughton’s compositions are peppered in between the movie’s licensed pop songs. Finally in 2013, Intrada Records released all 40 of Broughton’s instrumental songs.

Friday’s Best Amazon Deals Include Digital Projectors, Ugly Christmas Sweaters, and Speakers

Amazon
Amazon
As a recurring feature, our team combs the web and shares some amazing Amazon deals we’ve turned up. Here’s what caught our eye today, December 4. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers, including Amazon, and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Good luck deal hunting!

10 Surprising Facts About Wham!’s 'Last Christmas'

Michael Putland/Getty Images
Michael Putland/Getty Images

Over the course of his illustrious career, George Michael gave the world many gifts. One that keeps on giving is “Last Christmas,” the 1984 holiday classic by Wham!, Michael's pop duo with Andrew Ridgeley. “Last Christmas” is such a uniquely beloved song that it inspired a 2019 film of the same name. That’s just one interesting part of the “Last Christmas” story. Read on for 10 fascinating facts about this seasonal synth-pop favorite.

1. George Michael wrote "Last Christmas" in his childhood bedroom.

“Last Christmas” was born one day in 1984 when George Michael and Wham! bandmate Andrew Ridgeley were visiting Michael’s parents. While they were sitting around watching TV, Michael suddenly dashed upstairs to his childhood bedroom and composed the modern Xmas classic in about an hour. “George had performed musical alchemy, distilling the essence of Christmas into music,” Ridgeley said. “Adding a lyric which told the tale of betrayed love was a masterstroke and, as he did so often, he touched hearts."

2. “Last Christmas” isn’t really a Christmas song.

There’s nothing in “Last Christmas” about Santa, reindeer, trees, snow, or anything we typically associate with the holiday. Rather, the song is about a failed romance that just happens to have begun on December 25, when Michael gave someone his heart, and ended on December 26, when this ungrateful person “gave it away.”

3. George Michael wrote and produced the song—but that’s not all.

Dave Hogan/Getty Images

By the time Wham! recorded “Last Christmas” in August (yes, August) 1984, Michael had taken full control of the group. In addition to writing and producing the song, Michael insisted on playing the Roland Juno-60 synth in the studio. “George wasn’t a musician,” engineer Chris Porter said. “It was a laborious process, because he was literally playing the keyboards with two or three fingers.” Michael even jangled those sweet sleigh bells himself.

4. “Last Christmas” didn’t reach #1 on the UK charts.

As the movie Love Actually reminds us, scoring a Christmas #1 in the UK is a really big deal. Unfortunately, “Last Christmas” didn’t give Wham! that honor. It stalled at #2, and to this day it has the distinction of being the highest-selling UK single of all time to not reach #1.

5. George Michael sang on the song that kept “Last Christmas” at #2.

“Last Christmas” was bested on the UK charts by Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas,” an all-star charity single benefiting Ethiopian famine relief. Michael sang on “Do They Know It’s Christmas,” and was so committed to the cause that he donated his profits from “Last Christmas” to helping the African nation.

6. George Michael was sued for plagiarism over “Last Christmas.”

In the mid-1980s, the publishing company Dick James Music sued George Michael on behalf of the writers of “Can’t Smile Without You,” a schmaltzy love song recorded by The Carpenters and Barry Manilow, among others. According to Chris Porter, the recording engineer on “Last Christmas,” the suit was dismissed after a musicologist presented 60-plus songs that have a similar chord progression and melody.

7. "Last Christmas" has been covered by a lot of other artists.

Michael Putland/Getty Images

Jimmy Eat World, Hilary Duff, Good Charlotte, Ariana Grande, Carly Rae Jepsen, Gwen Stefani, and Taylor Swift are just a few of the artists who’ve covered “Last Christmas” over the years. The strangest rendition may be the 2006 dance version by the Swedish CGI character Crazy Frog, which reached #16 on the UK charts.

8. Some people make a concerted effort to avoid hearing “Last Christmas.”

While millions of people delight in hearing “Last Christmas” every year, an internet game called Whamageddon encourages players to avoid the song from December 1 to 24. The rules are simple: Once you hear the original Wham! version of “Last Christmas” (remixes and covers don’t count), you’re out. You then admit defeat on social media with the hashtag #Whamageddon and wait for your friends to suffer the same fate. Note: The rules prohibit you from “deliberately sending your friends to Whamhalla.”

9. “Last Christmas” finally charted in America following George Michael’s death in 2016.

Back in 1984, “Last Christmas” wasn’t released as a commercial single in the United States, and therefore it wasn’t eligible for the Billboard Hot 100 chart. However, Billboard changed its rules in 1998, and in the wake of George Michael’s unexpected death on Christmas Day 2016, the song finally made its Hot 100 debut. In December 2018, it reentered the charts and peaked at #25.

10. George Michael was involved in 2019's Last Christmas movie.

November 2019 saw the release of Paul Feig's Last Christmas, a romantic comedy inspired by the song starring Game of Thrones's Emilia Clarke. Producer David Livingstone came up with the idea while George Michael was still alive, and when he pitched the pop star on the project, he was given the greenlight—with one condition: Michael stipulated that actress and author Emma Thompson write the movie. Thompson co-authored the story and the screenplay, and she even wound up playing a supporting role.