Twenty years ago today, on December 13, 1996, Jerry Maguire debuted at the box office. Tom Cruise played the titular sports agent (based on Leigh Steinberg), a loveable loser who has an epiphany and writes a long mission statement, sending himself into a career and personal crisis. The film won Cuba Gooding Jr. an Oscar, and blessed the world with such everlasting catchphrases as “You had me at hello,” “You complete me,” and “Show me the money.” Here are some “Kwan”-tastic facts about the Cameron Crowe dramedy.
1. THE LACKLUSTER SUCCESS OF SINGLES PROMPTED CROWE TO WRITE THE SCRIPT.
Crowe felt his film Singles (1992) hadn’t done as well as he would’ve liked and wanted to write a more personal and emotional movie. “And all of a sudden I just looked around and—it was a good thing—many false friends disappeared,” he told Paste Magazine in 2005. “And the people that sort of stayed behind, who you realize were your true friends and would be your friends for life, were not the people I expected. And that became one of the first ideas that drove Jerry Maguire: what if you lost everything, or lost a lot, and you looked around and all those people that you thought would be there for life are gone. Who’s left?”
2. THE JERRY MAGUIRE ROLE WAS ORIGINALLY WRITTEN FOR TOM HANKS.
Crowe spent almost four years writing the script. “I took so long doing the script that Hanks was no longer a 35-year-old man. By the time he got [the script] he was almost 40 and had two Academy Awards and wanted to direct,” Crowe told Empire Magazine in 1997. Apparently Hanks rejected an earlier version of the script, because he “didn’t buy the marriage part. But without that, it became just a story about a guy sleeping with a girl from his office.”
3. SEVERAL CLASSIC MOVIES—AND MY-SO-CALLED LIFE—INSPIRED JERRY MAGUIRE.
“I wanted to write a movie with a real story, the kind that shows up on TV late at night, usually in black and white,” Crowe told The New York Times. Crowe loved filmmaker Billy Wilder so much, he tried to get him to play the Dicky Fox mentor role to no avail. But Crowe ended up basing the film around Wilder’s classic film The Apartment.
“I had never been that big of a Jack Lemmon fan, but there was something about the biting and yet touchingly hilarious portrait of then-contemporary workingman and his bittersweet love affair with an elevator operator,” Crowe wrote in a Rolling Stone journal. “It is my favorite film, and it was the one that inspired me to begin writing my own portrait of the contemporary man, that faceless guy who puts on a suit and tie every day, Jerry Maguire.” Crowe also said Jean Arthur in The More the Merrier and Shirley MacLaine’s Fran Kubelik in The Apartment influenced the Dorothy Boyd character. “We even watched scenes from My So-Called Life, just because I really liked Claire Danes—her interior passion in that show.”
4. CUBA GOODING JR. GOT NAKED FOR HIS AUDITION WITH CRUISE.
In a 1996 journal for Rolling Stone, Crowe recounted Gooding’s audition. Cruise and Gooding had worked together before in A Few Good Men, so Cruise was excited to reunite with him. Gooding and Cruise read the locker room scene: “Am I naked in this scene?” Gooding asked. “Yes,” Crowe responded. “Gooding snapped down his pants and stood naked,” Crowe writes. “‘Come on, let’s go,’ he said. Stunned and laughing, we watched as Gooding beckoned with his hands, as in, ‘Bring it on.’ ‘Come on, let’s read the scene,’ he shouted joyously. ‘I’m gonna get this part. I ain’t afraid of nothing.’” Gooding won the role, and because Gooding was slightly shorter than an average football player, Crowe rewrote the character description as a football player “who some felt was too short for the NFL."
5. THE ROLLING STONES’ RONNIE WOOD HAD A HAND IN NAMING BOB SUGAR.
A fan wrote into Cameron Crowe’s website The Uncool and asked who was the inspiration behind Jay Mohr’s villainous sports agent, Bob Sugar. Crowe told a story about how he was in Dublin in 1993, with Pearl Jam. He and the band were hanging out in a bar when Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood walked in. Wood yelled to Crowe, “There’s a guy who is stalking me, and he finds me wherever I go. I don’t trust him, and he seems nice, but he scares me. He says his name is … Bob Sugar! Bob Sugar! Can you believe it?” Later on, Crowe realized Wood was probably saying “Brown Sugar,” as in the Stones’ famous song, not Bob Sugar. But the name stuck. “When it came time to name the characters for Jerry Maguire, Sugar was the first one on the page,” Crowe said. “The perfect name for a nemesis—it rolled off your tongue with ease.”
6. RENÉE ZELLWEGER DIDN’T KNOW HOW TO SAY THE “HELLO” LINE.
Newsday asked the actress, who played single mother and Maguire love interest Dorothy Boyd, if it took her several tries to say the now-famous line correctly. “Cameron had me say it a few different ways,” she said. “It’s so funny, because when I read it, I didn’t get it—I thought it was a typo somehow. I kept looking at it. It was the one thing in the script that I was looking at going, ‘Is that right? Can that be right? How is that right?’ I thought, ‘Is there a better way to say that? Am I not getting it?’ I just don't know how to do it.”
7. THE CUTE LITTLE KID IS NOW GROWN UP AND IS A MIXED MARTIAL ARTS FIGHTER.
Jonathan Lipnicki stole the movie as Dorothy’s precocious five-year-old son, Ray. Last year, “JLip” recorded a Father’s Day video thanking Jerry: “You kind of lost me at Kwan, but you had me at hello.” JLip goes on to poke fun at his role—“women would ovulate just looking at me”—and then rants how casting agents still think of him as the cute kid from the movie, even though he’s 26 years old. He also reveals he has a purple belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and that his body is, well, very ripped. So, he has that going for him.
8. CONNIE BRITTON WAS ALMOST CAST AS DOROTHY BOYD.
Britton told The New York Times Magazine that she auditioned for Jerry Maguire and “nailed the audition. Crowe told her she had shown him just what the character should be.” She met with Cruise in New York and did a table read with him and the cast, and it seemed like she had won the coveted role. After doing a screen test with Cruise, she overheard someone say, “They just want to screen-test one other actress.” That actress was Renée Zellweger. Britton was heartbroken, and joked she didn’t get the part because “maybe I was too tall.”
9. CROWE HOPED “THE KWAN” WOULD BECOME A MORE POPULAR CATCHPHRASE THAN “SHOW ME THE MONEY.”
When Rod Tidwell (Gooding Jr.) coerces Jerry to scream “Show me the money” into a phone, a world-famous slogan was born. But, Crowe thought Tidwell’s speech about “the Kwan”—an adage embodying the combination of community, love, respect, and money—would resonate more with audiences. “I like to think that Tidwell had been jealous of Dennis Rodman’s blend of pseudo-French trash-talk ‘inspirato.’ He wanted his own language, too,” Crowe told Premiere magazine in 2000. “So the Kwan was born. But once we began to show the movie, audiences were pleasant, at best, during Rod’s Kwan speeches.” Eventually Kwan found some respect, at the Olympics. “I’ve always held a soft spot for the unnoticed concept of Kwan,” Crowe said. “Some time later, during an Olympic performance by ice-skater Michelle Kwan, a friend called and told me to turn on the television. In the middle of a huge crowd, a lonely fan held up a sign reading, ‘Show me the Kwan.’ Thank you for that.”
10. CUBA GOODING’S DAD WAS BANNED FROM THE MOVIE SET.
During an appearance on Graham Norton’s BBC talk show in 2012, Gooding Jr. talked about how his dad, Cuba Gooding Sr., didn’t hold back on the set. Cuba introduced his dad to Tom Cruise, and his dad gave the actor a hug, then asked Cruise, “But seriously, are you gay or not?” Cuba later scolded his dad: “You can’t keep your lips loose and they move too fast.”
11. JERRY MAGUIRE IS THE FIFTH HIGHEST-GROSSING ROMANTIC DRAMA OF ALL TIME.
The film had a budget of $50 million and grossed $273 million worldwide. Twenty years later, it ranks as number five on the list of blockbuster romantic dramas, just behind Fifty Shades of Grey (Titanic tops the list). Even though Jerry Maguire opened at number one, it ranks as the lowest-grossing number one film, on weekends where the top movie made less than $10 million. This occurred during its fourth weekend, when it grossed only $5 million. After 1997, because of increasing ticket prices, the sub-$10 million trend stopped being tracked.
12. CUBA GOODING DID ALL HIS OWN STUNTS IN THE MOVIE, AND HAS A BACKGROUND IN BREAKDANCING.
On The Graham Norton Show, Gooding Jr. said he was one of the young dancers who performed with Lionel Richie at the 1984 Olympics Closing Ceremonies, in Los Angeles. Gooding proved he still has the talent, when he showed off his windmills and other breakdance moves on the talk show.
13. THE HUMAN HEAD MAY OR MAY NOT WEIGH MORE THAN EIGHT POUNDS.
Ray Boyd tells Jerry while in the backseat of a car, “Did you know the human head weighs eight pounds?” But is he right? According to a textbook and Brain Stuff, the human head actually weighs about 10 to 11 pounds, and the brain weighs about three pounds.