15 Facts About Teen Wolf On Its 35th Anniversary

Michael J. Fox stars in Teen Wolf (1985).
Michael J. Fox stars in Teen Wolf (1985). / 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Teen Wolf is turning 35! Here are some hirsute bits of knowledge about the Michael J. Fox cult classic that never goes away.

1. Teen Wolf was given the greenlight because of Valley Girl.

Atlantic Entertainment Group wanted a small, high school movie of their own once they noticed that Valley Girl was an inexpensively produced movie that made a big profit. Recent Columbia film school grads Jeph Loeb and Matthew Weisman successfully pitched Teen Wolf in 10 to 15 minutes. They had to write the script in three weeks in order Michael J. Fox—who was busy with both Family Ties and Back to the Future, which had premiered approximately six weeks earlier—to approve it.

2. Teen Wolf wasn't the first high school teenage werewolf movie.

Susan Ursitti and Michael J. Fox in Teen Wolf (1985).
Susan Ursitti and Michael J. Fox in Teen Wolf (1985). / 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Both 1957’s I Was a Teenage Werewolf and 1981’s Full Moon High beat Teen Wolf to the punch.

3. Michael J. Fox became famous during production on Teen Wolf.

It was over the course of the shooting of the movie that NBC moved Family Ties to a new Thursday night time slot, launching it from the 17th most watched show in America to the second. After Fox became a superstar, a scene took longer to shoot than normal because female extras joyously screamed when the star walked out of the school.

4. Rod Daniel was hired as the director of Teen Wolf because he understood that it was about more than a teenage werewolf.

While other directorial candidates told Fox that the movie was about a werewolf, Rod Daniel said it was about a father and son. Rod’s son Lucas later said he had a great childhood because his father worked out his issues with his own dad by directing Teen Wolf.

5. James Hampton initially auditioned to play Coach Finstock in Teen Wolf.

James Hampton in Teen Wolf (1985).
James Hampton in Teen Wolf (1985). / 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

After reading for the role of Coach Finstock, Fox asked James Hampton to read for the part of his father, too. Hampton might have regretted doing that; the werewolf makeup made him feel claustrophobic, and it took four hours to apply.

6. Some moviegoers were a little too familiar with the actress who played Rhonda.

Lynda Wiesmeier was Playboy’s “Playmate of the Month” in July 1982. She also appeared in Real Genius, which was released just a few weeks before Teen Wolf.

7. Teen Wolf's famous van surfing scene was based on something one of the writers actually did in college.

But it was called “urban surfing.” Jerry Levine (who played Fox's best friend, Stiles) was actually on top of the van, secured with a wire.

8. An NFL player legally changed his name to Stylez after Teen Wolf's release.

In 2008, Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Greg White changed his name to Stylez White because he loved the Teen Wolf character so much.

9. Mark Arnold was killed off his soap opera in order to promote Teen Wolf.

Mark Arnold, who played Mick, played Joe Perkins on Santa Barbara after shooting Teen Wolf. Since his contract on the series was expiring, and he wanted to be available to promote the movie when it was released, the show’s producers decided to have his character get shot and fall out of a window.

10. Michael J. Fox wasn't a very good basketball player.

Yes, even with two weeks of basketball coaching, Michael J. Fox wasn't a gifted athlete. Loyola Marymount sophomore basketball player Jeff Glosser was much better, so he was hired as Fox's hoops double. He sometimes wore the werewolf makeup for 12 hours, and could only eat milkshakes or soup. When they initially misspelled his name in the credits, it was Fox who made sure that the error was corrected.

11. The studio wanted Michael J. Fox's charactre to dress like Jeff Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

Fox was satisfied with the clothes Scott Howard was working with, and shut down any further talk of changing his style.

12. Scott Howard was supposed to appear on The Tonight Show.

The only scene in the script that wasn’t shot was one in which the teen wolf would have a sit-down with Johnny Carson. Daniel decided to keep the movie exclusively set in Nebraska (even though all scenes were shot in California.)

13. Nobody noticed the naughty extra who infamously exposed himself until years later.

Nobody involved with production noticed the basketball game attendee who briefly exposed himself until it was mentioned on VH1 several decades later.

14. Italy and Brazil shamelessly tried to capitalize on Michael J. Fox's Back to the Future success when promoting Teen Wolf.

In Italy, Scott was renamed Martyyou know, like Marty McFly, Fox’s Back to the Future character. In Brazil, the movie was titled O Garoto do Futuro, which translates to The Boy of the Future (there is no time travel in Teen Wolf). In the United States, Teen Wolf came in second on its opening weekend; only Back to the Future made more money (even though Back to the Future was in its eighth week of release).

15. The writers and director of Teen Wolf were pretty sure the movie was going to bomb at the box office.

The cheaply made movie ended up grossing an impressive $33 million (in 1985 dollars). But when Loeb, Weisman, and Daniel went to an afternoon screening on opening day, only four people showed up. After a depressing dinner they went to Westwood, a “college town,” for a 7:30 p.m. showing, and discovered it was sold out. That audience—and the filmmakers—had a great time.

This story has been updated for 2020.