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.

Hee-Haw: The Wild Ride of "Dominick the Donkey"—the Holiday Earworm You Love to Hate

Delpixart/iStock via Getty Images
Delpixart/iStock via Getty Images

Everyone loves Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. He’s got the whole underdog thing going for him, and when the fog is thick on Christmas Eve, he’s definitely the creature you want guiding Santa’s sleigh. But what happens when Saint Nick reaches Italy, and he’s faced with steep hills that no reindeer—magical or otherwise—can climb?

That’s when Santa apparently calls upon Dominick the Donkey, the holiday hero immortalized in the 1960 song of the same name. Recorded by Lou Monte, “Dominick The Donkey” is a novelty song even by Christmas music standards. The opening line finds Monte—or someone else, or heck, maybe a real donkey—singing “hee-haw, hee-haw” as sleigh bells jingle in the background. A mere 12 seconds into the tune, it’s clear you’re in for a wild ride.

 

Over the next two minutes and 30 seconds, Monte shares some fun facts about Dominick: He’s a nice donkey who never kicks but loves to dance. When ol’ Dom starts shaking his tail, the old folks—cummares and cumpares, or godmothers and godfathers—join the fun and "dance a tarentell," an abbreviation of la tarantella, a traditional Italian folk dance. Most importantly, Dominick negotiates Italy’s hills on Christmas Eve, helping Santa distribute presents to boys and girls across the country.

And not just any presents: Dominick delivers shoes and dresses “made in Brook-a-lyn,” which Monte somehow rhymes with “Josephine.” Oh yeah, and while the donkey’s doing all this, he’s wearing the mayor’s derby hat, because you’ve got to look sharp. It’s a silly story made even sillier by that incessant “hee-haw, hee-haw,” which cuts in every 30 seconds like a squeaky door hinge.

There may have actually been some historical basis for “Dominick.”

“Travelling by donkey was universal in southern Italy, as it was in Greece,” Dominic DiFrisco, president emeritus of the joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans, said in a 2012 interview with the Chicago Sun-Times. “[Monte’s] playing easy with history, but it’s a cute song, and Monte was at that time one of the hottest singers in America.”

Rumored to have been financed by the Gambino crime family, “Dominick the Donkey” somehow failed to make the Billboard Hot 100 in 1960. But it’s become a cult classic in the nearly 70 years since, especially in Italian American households. In 2014, the song reached #69 on Billboard’s Holiday 100 and #23 on the Holiday Digital Song Sales chart. In 2018, “Dominick” hit #1 on the Comedy Digital Track Sales tally. As of December 2019, the Christmas curio had surpassed 21 million Spotify streams.

“Dominick the Donkey” made international headlines in 2011, when popular BBC DJ Chris Moyles launched a campaign to push the song onto the UK singles chart. “If we leave Britain one thing, it would be that each Christmas kids would listen to 'Dominick the Donkey,’” Moyles said. While his noble efforts didn’t yield a coveted Christmas #1, “Dominick” peaked at a very respectable #3.

 

As with a lot of Christmas songs, there’s a certain kitschy, ironic appeal to “Dominick the Donkey.” Many listeners enjoy the song because, on some level, they’re amazed it exists. But there’s a deeper meaning that becomes apparent the more you know about Lou Monte.

Born Luigi Scaglione in New York City, Monte began his career as a singer and comedian shortly before he served in World War II. Based in New Jersey, Monte subsequently became known as “The Godfather of Italian Humor” and “The King of Italian-American Music.” His specialty was Italian-themed novelty songs like “Pepino the Italian Mouse,” his first and only Top 10 hit. “Pepino” reached #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1963, the year before The Beatles broke America.

“Pepino” was penned by Ray Allen and Wandra Merrell, the duo that teamed up with Sam Saltzberg to write “Dominick the Donkey.” That same trio of songwriters was also responsible for “What Did Washington Say (When He Crossed the Delaware),” the B-side of “Pepino.” In that song, George Washington declares, “Fa un’fridd,” or ‘It’s cold!” while making his famous 1776 boat ride.

With his mix of English and Italian dialect, Monte made inside jokes for Italian Americans while sharing their culture with the rest of the country. His riffs on American history (“What Did Washington Say,” “Paul Revere’s Horse (Ba-cha-ca-loop),” “Please, Mr. Columbus”) gave the nation’s foundational stories a dash of Italian flavor. This was important at a time when Italians were still considered outsiders.

According to the 1993 book Italian Americans and Their Public and Private Life, Monte’s songs appealed to “a broad spectrum ranging from working class to professional middle-class Italian Americans.” Monte sold millions of records, played nightclubs across America, and appeared on TV programs like The Perry Como Show and The Ernie Kovacs Show. He died in Pompano Beach, Florida, in 1989. He was 72.

Monte lives on thanks to Dominick—a character too iconic to die. In 2016, author Shirley Alarie released A New Home for Dominick and A New Family for Dominick, a two-part children’s book series about the beloved jackass. In 2018, Jersey native Joe Baccan dropped “Dominooch,” a sequel to “Dominick.” The song tells the tale of how Dominick’s son takes over for his aging padre. Fittingly, “Dominooch” was written by composer Nancy Triggiani, who worked with Monte’s son, Ray, at her recording studio.

Speaking with NorthJersey.com in 2016, Ray Monte had a simple explanation for why Dominick’s hee-haw has echoed through the generations. “It was a funny novelty song,” he said, noting that his father “had a niche for novelty.”

The 11 Best Movies on Netflix Right Now

Laura Dern and Scarlett Johansson in Marriage Story (2019).
Laura Dern and Scarlett Johansson in Marriage Story (2019).
Wilson Webb/Netflix

With thousands of titles available, browsing your Netflix menu can feel like a full-time job. If you're feeling a little overwhelmed, take a look at our picks for the 11 best movies on Netflix right now.

1. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Spider-Man may be in the middle of a Disney and Sony power struggle, but that didn't stop this ambitious animated film from winning the Oscar for Best Animated Feature at the 2019 Academy Awards. Using a variety of visual style choices, the film tracks the adventures of Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), who discovers he's not the only Spider-Man in town.

2. Hell or High Water (2016)

Taylor Sheridan's Oscar-nominated Hell or High Water follows two brothers (Chris Pine and Ben Foster) who take to bank robberies in an effort to save their family ranch from foreclosure; Jeff Bridges is the drawling, laconic lawman on their tail.

3. Raging Bull (1980)

Robert De Niro takes on the life of pugilist Jake LaMotta in a landmark and Oscar-winning film from Martin Scorsese that frames LaMotta's violent career in stark black and white. Joe Pesci co-stars.

4. Marriage Story (2019)

Director Noah Bambauch drew raves for this deeply emotional drama about a couple (Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson) whose uncoupling takes a heavy emotional and psychological toll on their family.

5. Dolemite Is My Name (2019)

Eddie Murphy ended a brief sabbatical from filmmaking following a mixed reception to 2016's Mr. Church with this winning biopic about Rudy Ray Moore, a flailing comedian who finds success when he reinvents himself as Dolemite, a wisecracking pimp. When the character takes off, Moore produces a big-screen feature with a crew of inept collaborators.

6. The Lobster (2015)

Colin Farrell stars in this black comedy that feels reminiscent of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman's work: A slump-shouldered loner (Farrell) has just 45 days to find a life partner before he's turned into an animal. Can he make it work with Rachel Weisz, or is he doomed to a life on all fours? By turns absurd and provocative, The Lobster isn't a conventional date movie, but it might have more to say about relationships than a pile of Nicholas Sparks paperbacks.

7. Flash of Genius (2008)

Greg Kinnear stars in this drama based on a true story about inventor Robert Kearns, who revolutionized automobiles with his intermittent windshield wiper. Instead of getting rich, Kearns is ripped off by the automotive industry and engages in a years-long battle for recognition.

8. Locke (2013)

The camera rarely wavers from Tom Hardy in this existential thriller, which takes place entirely in Hardy's vehicle. A construction foreman trying to make sure an important job is executed well, Hardy's Ivan Locke grapples with some surprising news from a mistress and the demands of his family. It's a one-act, one-man play, with Hardy making the repeated act of conversing on his cell phone as tense and compelling as if he were driving with a bomb in the trunk.

9. Cop Car (2015)

When two kids decide to take a police cruiser for a joyride, the driver (Kevin Bacon) begins a dogged pursuit. No good cop, he's got plenty to hide.

10. Taxi Driver (1976)

Another De Niro and Scorsese collaboration hits the mark, as Taxi Driver is regularly cited as one of the greatest American films ever made. De Niro is a potently single-minded Travis Bickle, a cabbie in a seedy '70s New York who wants to be an avenging angel for victims of crime. The mercurial Bickle, however, is just as unhinged as those he targets.

11. Sweet Virginia (2017)

Jon Bernthal lumbers through this thriller as a former rodeo star whose career has left him physically broken. Now managing a hotel in small-town Alaska, he stumbles onto a plot involving a murderer-for-hire (Christopher Abbott), upending his quiet existence and forcing him to take action.

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