15 Things You Might Not Know About Tommy Boy
1. TOMMY BOY WAS WRITTEN BY THE CREATORS OF TWO VERY SUCCESSFUL SITCOMS.
Tommy Boy was the final film penned by married screenwriting team Terry and Bonnie Turner, who had previously collaborated on Wayne’s World and its sequel, Coneheads, and The Brady Bunch Movie. After the Farley/Spade movie, the Turners set their sights on the small screen, going on to create 3rd Rock from the Sun and That ’70s Show.
2. ROB LOWE ORIGINALLY HAD THE DAVID SPADE ROLE.
It’s tough to imagine a Tommy Boy that doesn’t feature the diminutive, uptight Spade as foil to the larger-than-life Farley. However, the original story envisioned by Lorne Michaels would have featured Rob Lowe as Farley’s character’s brother and primary screen partner. After Spade was brought on board as second billing, Lowe was demoted to a villainous role as Farley’s criminal (and accident-prone) stepbrother.
3. LOWE WAS NOT EVEN CREDITED FOR HIS APPEARANCE IN THE MOVIE.
Although Lowe stayed in the picture after Spade’s hire, he never actually got screen credit for his work. Due to a concurrent role on ABC’s miniseries adaptation of The Stand by Stephen King, Lowe was forced by contract to keep his name off the Farley movie entirely. Lowe now jokes that it took about 15 years for the public to notice this oddity.
4. FRED WOLF ALSO WORKED ON THE FILM WITHOUT ATTRIBUTION.
Following completion of the Turners’ Tommy Boy script, Saturday Night Live writer Fred Wolf was brought in for touch-ups. Like Lowe, however, Wolf was never credited for his work on the movie. One year later, Wolf wrote the screenplay for Farley and Spade’s second starring vehicle, Black Sheep.
5. DAVID SPADE REFUSED TO LET THE FILM’S STYLISTS WORK ON HIS HAIR.
Spade wanted to maintain a naturally unkempt hairdo in keeping with the nature of his character, the perpetually flustered Richard Hayden.
6. FARLEY AND SPADE GOT INTO A SPAT DURING FILMING.
An infamous incident from the set of Tommy Boy involved Farley becoming angry and violent with his costar and close friend after finding out that Spade had gone out with Lowe the night before without inviting him. Farley reportedly taunted Spade about the hangout and stomped on his hand, prompting Spade to leave set for the day.
7. FARLEY’S TWO BROTHERS BOTH APPEAR IN THE MOVIE.
Kevin and John, the middle and youngest of the three Farley brothers respectively, both appear in Tommy Boy during the wedding reception of Brian Dennehy and Bo Derek’s characters.
8. TOMMY’S CATCHPHRASE WAS A YOUNG FARLEY’S OWN INVENTION.
At several points in the movie, Farley shouts the nonsense phrase, “Holy schnikes!” According to director Peter Segal, Farley created this saying in childhood in light of his parents’ strict rule against using obscenities.
9. THE CHARACTER’S ALMA MATER WAS ALSO BORROWED FROM FARLEY.
Like Tommy Callahan, Chris Farley graduated from Marquette University. (He likely didn’t squeak by with a D+ in History 201 after attributing the signing of the Declaration of Independence to Herbie Hancock.)
10. TOMMY CALLAHAN HAD SOME WELL KNOWN CLASSMATES.
Early on in the film, viewers catch a couple of quick glimpses of Farley’s character’s History 201 class roster. Among the names listed are “Helen Keller” and “Debbie Little,” printed last name first so as to read “Little, Debbie,” as in Little Debbie brand desserts and snacks.
11. TOMMY BOY HOLDS HIGH ESTEEM ON A CERTAIN RADIO SHOW.
Host Mike Golic of ESPN’s popular sports-talk program Mike & Mike makes occasional reference to Tommy Boy, even playing a clip from the film in one instance. Additionally, regular contributor Mark Schlereth used a 2013 episode of Mike & Mike as an opportunity to proclaim Tommy Boy as one of his five favorite films of the past 25 years.
12. BUT ONE MAJOR FILM CRITIC FELT DIFFERENTLY ABOUT THE MOVIE.
Roger Ebert had nothing but disdain for Tommy Boy and went so far as to place the movie on his notorious “Ebert’s Most Hated” list, compiled in 2005. How negative was Ebert’s review? Here’s a taste: “No one is funny in Tommy Boy. There are no memorable lines. None of the characters is interesting, except for the enigmatic figure played by Rob Lowe, who seems to have wandered over from Hamlet.”
13. BO DEREK DIDN’T HAVE A VERY HARD GIG.
Despite being one of the film’s two central antagonists, Derek only speaks 13 lines in the entire film.
14. THE MOST FAMOUS BIT IN THE FILM CAME STRAIGHT FROM FARLEY AND SPADE’S OFF SCREEN ANTICS.
Just as Tommy Callahan uses the “Fat Guy in a Little Coat” routine to amuse a downtrodden Richard in the film, Farley used to employ the antic to entertain his Saturday Night Live costar and officemate on set at Studio 8H. As Spade told Rolling Stone in April 2014, “We shared an office, and … he would come in bored … and he would say, 'Davey. . . Turn around,' and I said, 'If this is "Fat Guy in a Little Coat," I'm not turning around. It's not funny anymore.' And he would say, 'No, I've got a whole new thing I'm doing.' And then I'd turn around, and it would be him in my Levi jacket, and he would say, 'Fat guy in little coat! Don't you give up on it!'”
15. TOMMY BOY SHARES A FEW MINOR (BUT MEMORABLE) CAST MEMBERS WITH ANOTHER 1995 COMEDY.
Released less than two months before to Tommy Boy, Adam Sandler’s slacker comedy Billy Madison featured a number of bit players who also had roles in the Farley vehicle…including Chris Farley, who played a school bus driver in the Sandler picture. Helen Hughes, who played Sandler’s second grade teacher in Billy Madison (notable for a scene in which she conducts a class spelling bee), appears in Tommy Boy as a board member of Callahan Auto who launches into a memorable tirade about prostitution. Child actor Austin Pool, likely remembered in Billy Madison as a stuttering third grade student who is mocked by Sandler, shows up early on in Tommy Boy as a Greyhound Bus passenger making faces at Rob Lowe.