After two Wayne’s World movies and a six-season run on Saturday Night Live, Mike Myers took a break from show business. Almost two years after he left SNL, Myers reemerged on May 2, 1997—20 years ago today—with a feature comedy he had conceived of and written about a time-traveling secret agent with terrible teeth titled Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.
Its positive reviews and robust home video sales led to the popular sequel Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, which made more than $312 million worldwide at the box office, making more money in its opening weekend than the original film did throughout its entire theatrical run. 2002’s Austin Powers in Goldmember received weaker reviews, but was nearly as huge a moneymaker.
1. MIKE MYERS STARTED THINKING UP THE AUSTIN POWERS CHARACTER DRIVING HOME ONE DAY.
Burt Bacharach’s “The Look of Love” was playing on the car radio, leading Mike Myers to think about where the “swingers” of the world went off to. This inevitably led to the comedian asking his then-wife Robin Ruzan if she “swung” and if he was "making her horny." Told to stop and to just write this new character down somewhere, Myers wrote the first draft of Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery in three weeks.
2. IT’S WIDELY BELIEVED THAT DR. EVIL IS BASED ON LORNE MICHAELS.
Anonymous former writers and actors from the legendary sketch show claimed that Dr. Evil did an excellent job of mimicking SNL's head honcho, from his overall control-freak behavior to the physical mannerisms, including the famous upturned pinkie. It was even rumored that Dana Carvey was angry with Myers for more than a decade because he felt that Myers stole his Lorne Michaels impression for Dr. Evil. A few months after The Spy Who Shagged Me came out, Myers appeared in an SNL sketch insisting to Michaels that Dr. Evil was not based on him.
3. MICHAEL CAINE BELIEVES THAT AUSTIN POWERS IS BASED ON A 1965 CHARACTER OF HIS.
Caine portrayed bespectacled government agent Harry Palmer in the British espionage movie The Ipcress File. When he first saw Austin Powers, the actor thought that he was Palmer—but with poor teeth (of which Caine was not a fan). Years later, Caine would play Austin’s father, Nigel, in Goldmember.
4. ELIZABETH HURLEY BELIEVES THAT AUSTIN POWERS IS BASED ON A 1960s BRITISH TALK SHOW HOST.
Simon Dee was the host of the hip and popular BBC celebrity chat show called Dee Time that ran in the late 1960s. It aired twice a week and episodes concluded with Dee driving off in a Jaguar with a blonde model. When he passed away in 2009 of bone cancer, obituaries quoted Hurley—who played International Man of Mystery’s Vanessa Kensington—as saying that Dee’s “sixties grooviness” made him the inspiration for the Powers character. One international news service even used the headline “Original Austin Powers Simon Dee Dies.”
5. OTHERS BELIEVE THE PLOT WAS INFLUENCED BY ANOTHER ENGLISH '60s SHOW.
6. COLIN QUINN WAS OFFERED THE ROLE OF SCOTT EVIL, BUT TURNED IT DOWN.
The former SNL cast member has said he regrets the decision, but doesn’t begrudge the movie franchise’s success.
7. A ONE-HOUR MTV SPECIAL STARRING AUSTIN POWERS AIRED BEFORE THE MOVIE PREMIERED.
Austin Powers' Electric Pussycat Swingers Club was a Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In-inspired extravaganza which featured some clips from the movie, a Powers-curated “Fab Birds of the ‘90’s” list, and cameos from Julianna Margulies, Bill Bellamy, Kurt Loder, Rosie O’Donnell, Robert Wagner, Steven Weber, and Michael York, who were credited collectively in the closing credits as part of “The Swingers Club.”
8. MUCH OF THE FIRST FILM WAS IMPROVISED.
According to Myers' estimation, "about 30 to 40 percent" of the first movie was improvised. But there are examples of non-scripted scenes running throughout the series, including Basil telling the audience to not think so hard about all of the time travel logistics; Austin pointing out the differences between the English countryside and Southern California; and the shushing scene.
9. A REFERENCE TO PRINCESS DIANA WAS EDITED OUT OF THE THEATRICAL RELEASE IN THE UNITED KINGDOM.
One of Dr. Evil’s nefarious plans was to make it look like Prince Charles was having an affair to create a shocking royal divorce, without knowing that Charles and Di were no longer married. International Man of Mystery was released in the U.K. on September 5, 1997, five days after Princess Diana’s death, so that part was taken out. It was restored by the time it came out on home video.
10. DR. EVIL’S LINE ABOUT HIPSTERS IS A LENNY BRUCE QUOTE.
The famous comic once said: “There is nothing sadder than an aging hipster.” Dr. Evil attempted to insult Austin with saying, “Really, there's nothing more pathetic than an aging hipster.” Myers has referenced Bruce in various interviews over the years.
11. MR. BIGGLESWORTH’S REAL NAME IS TED NUDE-GENT.
Thanks to Ted, the popularity of sphinx cats skyrocketed after International Man of Mystery came out.
12. IN THE ORIGINAL SCRIPT, AUSTIN DRINKS A ZIMA, NOT A TAB.
Either way, Powers looked out of touch in the scene at the Las Vegas bar when he got laughed at for flashing a peace sign.
13. STARBUCKS PAID NOTHING FOR BEING IN THE SPY WHO SHAGGED ME.
The company agreed to take part after producers showed them the script and storyboards.
14. THE WORD "SHAG" IN THE SEQUEL'S SUBTITLE MADE SOME COUNTRIES UNCOMFORTABLE.
Singapore came up with The Spy Who Shioked Me; in English, “shiok” means “treat nicely.” Malaysian censors changed it to The Spy Who Dot-Dot-Dot Me. Some British theater owners simply put Austin Powers II on their marquees.
15. ROB LOWE GOT THE ROLE OF YOUNG NUMBER TWO BY DOING A SPOT-ON ROBERT WAGNER IMPRESSION.
He did the impersonation for Myers one day while the two were golfing. A couple of months later, he was presented with a script with him already cast in the role. Lowe actually appeared in, but was cut out of, the first movie; he played a friend of John Smith, one of Dr. Evil's henchman, who gets "decapitated by an ill-tempered mutated sea bass." Lowe is forced to deliver that news at Smith's bachelor party.
16. 1970s DANCE MUSIC PLAYED BETWEEN TAKES ON THE SPY WHO SHAGGED ME SET.
Rob Lowe wrote that to this day, the opening claps of Rose Royce's “Car Wash” remind him of the shoot. He also wrote that he in fact did the Wagner voice, and there were no overdubs by Wagner involved.
17. IT TOOK MYERS SEVEN HOURS TO PUT ON THE FAT BASTARD SUIT.
According to Myers, it smelled like a “sewer filtration plant.”
18. HIS CHAIR ON SET HAD A STRANGE NAME WRITTEN ON IT.
It said: "Sir Stinky Bottom, Viscount of Stinkvania in the Bottom-ic Empire."
19. A BONUS TRACK ON A 1999 ALAN PARSONS SOLO ALBUM FEATURES DR. EVIL.
20. THE ORIGINAL SCRIPT FOR THE SPY WHO SHAGGED ME FEATURED ALTERNATE SUBTITLES THAT PURPOSELY COMMITTED COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT.
Co-written by Myers and former SNL writer Michael McCullers (who collaborated again on Goldmember), the first draft began with a joke that the film was titled Austin Powers 2: The Wrath of Khan, before pressure from lawyers forced them to change it to Austinpussy.
21. MGM ALMOST FORCED THE THIRD MOVIE TO BE TITLED SOMETHING ELSE.
In January 2002, New Line began recalling all promotional materials for Goldmember after MGM sent a cease-and-desist order stating that New Line was attempting to make money off of their James Bond franchise. The lawsuit was settled in April, just three months ahead of the film’s release, with New Line telling CNN that “as part of the agreement to allow use of the ‘Goldmember’ title, all future titles that may be construed as parodies of James Bond will be subject to MGM's approval.”
22. THE FIRST CUT OF GOLDMEMBER CLOCKED IN AT OVER THREE HOURS.
It was actually three-and-a-half hours. In order to trim the running time down to a more manageable 95 minutes, several scenes were left on the cutting room floor, including the return of both Heather Graham’s Felicity Shagwell and Will Ferrell’s Mustafa.
23. NIGEL POWERS’ RANDOM HATRED OF THE DUTCH WAS INSPIRED BY MYERS’ FATHER.
"That idea came from my actual father, who was English, and who had an ax to grind with the Hawaiians because 'they bloody murdered Captain Cook in his sleep,'" Myers told USA Today in 2002. "We couldn't even have a pineapple in the house. So I thought it would be funny if Austin's father, Nigel, had a problem with the Dutch—who nobody has a grudge with."
24. THE GOLDMEMBER CHARACTER CAME ABOUT THANKS TO HBO’S REAL SEX.
A gentleman with a Dutch accent appeared on the late-night program Myers was watching while writing one night, talking about his sex farm near Rotterdam.