13 Things You Might Not Know About High Fidelity
By M. Arbeiter
Do any of these make your list of Top Five Favorite High Fidelity Facts?
1. JOHN CUSACK DIDN’T WANT TO BREAK THE FOURTH WALL.
In order to capture the contemplative persona of the novel’s main character, the film’s writing team suggested modeling its narration after the Michael Caine film Alfie, in which Caine regularly addresses the audience straight on. Cusack was hesitant, telling The New York Times in 2000, “I vetoed that idea. I thought there'd just be too much of me.” It was only after director Stephen Frears joined the team that Cusack regained confidence in the device.
2. AND JACK BLACK DIDN’T WANT TO BE IN THE FILM AT ALL.
Black nails his role as hyperactive and pathologically insensitive record store employee Barry—which, in fact, Cusack and company wrote with him in mind—but the actor initially had no interest in playing the part. Once again, it was director Frears who managed to save the day, pursuing Black until he eventually agreed to join the cast.
3. BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN WAS NOT FIRST CHOICE TO STAR IN ROB’S FANTASY SEQUENCE.
Bob Dylan was actually Cusack’s personal first choice to play Rob’s “imaginary friend” in the fantasy sequence that preempts his decision to contact all his old girlfriends.
4. BUT GETTING THE BOSS WAS EASIER THAN EXPECTED.
Dylan was unavailable to play the part, so Cusack made a last-ditch effort to contact Bruce Springsteen. “I had met him socially, so I thought even though he's going to say no, I may as well call him and throw the Hail Mary pass and get it over with,” Cusack told The New York Times. “And he kind of just laughed at the idea and said, ‘Send me a script.’ So when we finished shooting, we wrapped around 2 a.m., flew to New York, and taped him in his studio for an hour the next morning.”
5. SIXTY-SIX REAL MUSIC ARTISTS ARE NAMED THROUGHOUT THE MOVIE …
In chronological order: Carly Simon, Carole King, James Taylor, Cat Stevens, Elton John, The Smiths, Frank Zappa, Cheryl Ladd, Belle and Sebastian, Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels, The Righteous Brothers, Gene Simmons, Nirvana, Johnny Cash, Stevie Wonder, Sheryl Crow, Susan Dey, Deep Purple, Howlin’ Wolf, Fleetwood Mac, Peter Frampton, The Clash, Marvin Gaye, The Velvet Underground, Massive Attack, The Beatles, Ludwig von Beethoven, Captain Beefheart, Supertramp, Bruce Springsteen, Echo & The Bunnymen, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Green Day, Stiff Little Fingers, The Beta Band, Ryuchi Sakamoto, Sigue Sigue Sputnik, Serge Gainsbourg, Joni Mitchell, Eartha Kitt, Charlie Rich, GBH, Primal Scream, Warp, Pailhead, Chrissy Hynde, Sex Pistols, David Byrne, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Solomon Burke, Memphis Horne, Mick Jagger, Jimi Hendrix, Otis Redding, Father Abraham and the Smurfs (incorrectly referred to as “Papa Abrams and the Smurfs”), Kraftwerk, Falco, David Hasselhoff, Jan and Dean, Madness, Gordon Lightfoot, Jimmy Cliff, Gladys Knight, Art Garfunkel, and Stereolab.
6. … AS WELL AS A FEW FAKE ONES
The script is also peppered with nods to bands and artists invented for the movie, including Licorice Comfit, Marie De Salle, The Kinky Wizards, Sonic Death Monkey, Kathleen Turner Overdrive, and Barry Jive and the Uptown Five. (However, the latter three are all the same band.)
7. THE GORDONS ARE A PRETTY FAMOUS FAMILY.
Cusack’s character is part of a pretty impressive onscreen bloodline. Margaret Travolta, sister of John Travolta, plays Rob’s unsympathetic mother, and Harold Ramis plays his father in a deleted scene. Furthermore, an early flashback in the movie features Drake Bell, who’d later earn notability on children’s programs like The Amanda Show and Drake and Josh, as a junior high school-aged Rob.
8. THE FILM INCLUDES NODS TO ITS ACTORS’ PERSONAL HISTORIES.
A number of in-jokes were peppered throughout High Fidelity in reference to its starring players. For instance, Rob Gordon touts his “little black book” of former lovers’ information as if it were his personal talisman. A keen eye will recognize that the pad is a Chandler’s Assignment Notebook, a required item for all attendants of Evanston’s Township High School in Illinois; Cusack graduated from Evanston’s in 1984.
The cheekiest of the inside jokes: Jack Black’s character’s derisive condemnation of Rob’s choice of autumn-wear as a “Cosby sweater.” The jab is made just a few minutes before Lisa Bonet (who played Denise Huxtable on The Cosby Show) is introduced.
9. THERE ARE FOUR CUSACKS IN THIS MOVIE ...
In addition to star John and his sister Joan, who plays Rob’s occasionally vitriolic friend Liz, High Fidelity features the pair’s younger sister Susie in a minor role as a party guest, as well as their father Dick in a likewise minor role as the minister at Laura’s father’s funeral.
10. ... AND A NUMBER OF MUSICIAN CAMEOS.
Instead of lining Rob’s record store with your standard herd of anonymous extras, the shop’s patrons were played largely by somewhat obscure but accomplished rock musicians. Artists like jazz and rock guitarist Jeff Parker, singer/songwriter Liam “Plush” Hayes, and Alan S. Johnson (founder of the Chicago-based noise rock band U.S. Maple) all browse the aisles at various points in the movie.
11. TIM ROBBINS IS IN THE FILM FOR LESS THAN 3 MINUTES.
Despite playing a pivotal role, Robbins only appears in the movie for approximately 2 minutes and 50 seconds, collectively.
12. TENACIOUS D PERFORMED AT THE POST-PREMIERE PARTY.
Black’s comedy rock duo with Kyle Gass, which had already been the focus of an HBO television series, celebrated the release of High Fidelity by performing at Hollywood’s Sunset Room after the premiere.
13. THE RECORD STORE FEATURED IN THE MOVIE WAS (FINALLY) BOUGHT IN 2014.
After almost a decade and a half of living vacant and boarded up, the Chicago storefront that acts as the exterior of Rob’s record shop was purchased in February of 2014. House Music LLC, a subsidiary of Chicago-based real estate firm Newcastle Limited, purchased the 3,000-square-foot property for $1.4 million. You can see the store at 1514 North Milwaukee Avenue in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood.