12 Scholarly Facts About PCU
The 1994 comedy PCU told the tale of an incoming freshman touring his future college campus and making enemies out of all of the school's divided cliques, with the exception of the party-loving Jeremy Piven and his underlings at "The Pit." The film starred Piven, David Spade, and Jon Favreau, plus Jessica Walter as President Garcia-Thompson, the woman leading the charge to make Port Chester University as politically correct as possible. The film was dismissed at the time as an Animal House knockoff, but has become a cult classic over the years.
1. IT WAS BASED ON THE WRITERS' EXPERIENCES AT WESLEYAN UNIVERSITY.
Zak Penn was visiting the Wesleyan campus as a "pre-frosh," just like Tom Lawrence (Chris Young) in PCU, when he witnessed a campus-wide campaign formed by the frat the Eclectic Society. The Society was fighting against the Office of Admission, who tried to turn Eclectic into their office building. The Pit was based on the Eclectic Society. Penn and co-writer Adam Leff—whose first sold script was Last Action Hero (1993)—got acquainted in a film appreciation course there. Penn was also influenced by his psychoanalysis class there; on the first day, his professor announced, "I'm a black lesbian trapped in the body of a white male oppressor." Penn thought he was kidding. Everyone else in the class, which Penn said was full of "ardent feminists," took him seriously.
2. IT WAS THE DIRECTOR'S FIRST FEATURE. HE LATER CLAIMED THAT IT, AND 1996'S HIGH SCHOOL HIGH, ENDED HIS CAREER BEHIND THE CAMERA.
At the time he was hired to direct PCU, Hart Bochner was better known as an actor (he played Harry Ellis in Die Hard). "I had written and directed a black comedy that was a short with Jon Lovitz and the studio saw it and they hired me to do PCU," Bochner recalled. "I was over the moon about that job, because I couldn’t believe I was doing a feature. My second film was a movie called High School High with the Zucker brothers for Sony, and then I found myself in movie jail. When you’re directing studio programmers and you don’t hit a certain box office number, you’re not advancing your career."
3. BOCHNER FOUGHT TO CAST JEREMY PIVEN.
Though it would be another decade before Jeremy Piven found mega-stardom with Entourage, Bochner knew he was the right actor for the lead role of James "Droz" Andrews. "I fought for him over people like Adam Sandler, because I thought he had the kind of energy that was rare and kinetic and infectious," Bochner said.
4. BUT PIVEN WAS CRITICAL OF BOCHNER.
On the film's DVD commentary, Piven complained that Bochner did not let him improvise; the actor felt the movie would have been funnier had he been allowed to do so.
5. PIVEN DID COME UP WITH THE MOVIE'S MOST FAMOUS LINE.
Bochner apparently allowed Piven to warn Jon Favreau's character, Gutter, about being "that guy" at the concert wearing the band's T-shirt.
6. IT WAS MOSTLY FILMED IN CANADA.
Though some footage was shot on the Wesleyan campus, for the most part, the University of Toronto portrayed the fictitious Port Chester University. When Gutter goes into Port Chester, he really goes to the village of Unionville.
7. THEY PLAYED SOFTBALL AGAINST THE CAST AND CREW OF TED DEMME'S THE REF.
Team PCU defeated the cast and crew of the Denis Leary black comedy, which was also filming in Toronto at the time. Upon being reminded of the softball loss by Ted Demme, Leary replied, "Yeah, but we have a better script.”
8. JON FAVREAU WAS HAPPY TO LOSE HIS DREADLOCKS.
While, in 2014, Favreau called working on the movie an "amazing experience," he also revealed in a Reddit AMA his most vivid memory was spending nine hours in a chair getting dreadlocks woven into his hair to play Gutter. "My happiest moment is when we finished filming, and they pulled all the dreadlocks out, and I got to wash my hair and run a comb through it," he recalled. "It was like being reborn."
9. 20TH CENTURY FOX INSISTED IT BE RATED PG-13, TO THE FILM'S DETRIMENT.
"One thing they did do that I wasn’t thrilled about was that they required me to deliver a PG-13 movie, that was contractual, but I felt like they made me cut out the edgier, funnier, aspects of the whole PCU thing," Bochner said. "We had to soften some of that stuff, which worked against the movie."
10. SOME WESLEYAN STUDENTS DIDN'T LIKE IT.
Leff, Penn, and producer Paul Schiff (another Wesleyan alum) attended two screenings of their movie. While most of the audience seemed receptive, the Hartford Courant reported that there was "some hissing, a few isolated shouts, some paper airplanes aloft, and several walkouts." When one woman said "this sucks" as she walked up the aisle, Schiff retorted with a sarcastic, "Thank you." In a mock ceremony later that night, Wesleyan President William M. Chace rescinded Schiff, Leff and Penn's diplomas.
11. ZAK PENN WAS "HEARTBROKEN" WHEN THE FILM DIDN'T DO WELL.
"PCU, which at the time was dismissed ... is now, in the States at least, a cult comedy," Penn said in an interview with Den of Geek. "To talk to a classroom full of students, and hear that they all love this movie, which didn't get the time of day, is pretty satisfying—because at the time it was heartbreaking."
12. PENN HAS GIVEN UP ON WRITING COMEDIES ENTIRELY.
"I don't even try to write comedies for Hollywood anymore," Penn told Moviefone in 2007. "I've written a couple, and I don't like the way they come out. PCU was the last comedy I wrote, and that was the last one I wanted anything to do with."