In 1996, The Cable Guy was known as a critically panned movie that marked a major career misstep for cinematic supernova Jim Carrey. Today, The Cable Guy is better known as the cult black comedy that grossed over $100 million and showed off Jim Carrey's acting range. The film, which was directed by Ben Stiller and produced/unofficially co-written by Judd Apatow, starred Carrey as Chip Douglas, a sociopath masquerading as a cable repairman who will do anything to maintain a friendship. Matthew Broderick played Steven M. Kovacs, Douglas's "best friend." On the 20th anniversary of its release, here are some facts about The Cable Guy to read before you conclude your broadcast day.
1. IT WAS WRITTEN BY A LOS ANGELES PROSECUTOR.
Lou Holtz Jr. (no relation to the legendary football coach) told Entertainment Weekly how he got the idea for The Cable Guy: ”A few years ago I was in my mother’s apartment building one night and I saw a cable guy walking down the hall. I remember thinking 'What’s he doing here so late?'" Columbia Pictures ended up buying the script for a total of $1 million. Holtz would ultimately end up writing five drafts.
2. CHRIS FARLEY WAS ORIGINALLY GOING TO STAR.
Talent manager Bernie Brillstein believed his client Chris Farley would be ideal for the lead. Holtz took a leave of absence from his day job to fly to New York and meet with Farley to talk about the movie. Farley officially dropped out because of a scheduling conflict, but executives told The New York Times that Farley's involvement ended as soon as Jim Carrey expressed interest. Holtz said Carrey never wanted to meet with him.
3. JIM CARREY WAS PAID A RECORD-BREAKING $20 MILLION.
4. JUDD APATOW LOST A BATTLE TO GET OFFICIAL CREDIT FOR WRITING.
Judd Apatow lost an "intense" Writers Guild arbitration battle with Lou Holtz Jr. over credit for writing the script. Holtz's version was, according to director Ben Stiller, "basically a silly buddy comedy." Apatow revised the script to make it bleaker, per Carrey's request, going for a "funny version of the classic stalker films." Apatow claimed there was no physical humor for Carrey in Holtz's version of the script. Carrey described the finished product as "Hitchcock meets Jerry Lewis," and "Rosemary's Baby meets The Odd Couple."
5. CARREY WANTED TO DIE AT THE END OF THE MOVIE.
In one Apatow draft, Chip gets impaled on a cable dish. Apatow later admitted, "Jim was very intent on dying at the end of the movie. That was something we couldn’t get past everybody. He thought he should sacrifice and die at the end."
6. CARREY CAME UP WITH THE MIDNIGHT EXPRESS PARODY.
Apatow and Stiller went to South Carolina to meet Carrey while he was shooting Ace Ventura 2: When Nature Calls (1995) for a few days of creative discussion on the script. At a bar, Carrey came up with the idea of having his character push his chest up against the glass like in Midnight Express (1978), writing "T*ts on glass" on a bar napkin.
7. LESLIE MANN AND APATOW MET AT HER AUDITION.
Leslie Mann, who played Robin Harris in the film, read with Apatow for her audition. Apatow read Carrey's part. They got married in 1997.
8. BEN STILLER CONSIDERED IT A MUCH BIGGER-BUDGETED VERSION OF HIS CANCELED TV SHOW.
Stiller told Joel Murray ("Basketball Player" in The Cable Guy), “It’s like doing a $40 million Ben Stiller Show sketch!” Stiller had all of his co-stars from the Emmy-winning-but-quickly-canceled sketch series in the movie: Andy Dick, Janeane Garofalo, Bob Odenkirk, and even writer David Cross. Murray's response was a dubious, "Yeah, okay."
9. THE STUNT COORDINATOR GOT FIRED.
When the stunt double dunked, the backboard shattered on his face and chest. The backboard glass was supposed to fall backwards. "The pyrotechnics didn’t work the right way and pushed all the glass the wrong way, so the guy got fired on the spot," Keith Gibbs, the basketball coordinator remembered. "I think, in the actual scene, they ended up using it."
10. CARREY WAS HOPELESS WHEN IT CAME TO BASKETBALL.
Gibbs went to Carrey's house for "three or four hours" to teach him some fundamentals. The first thing Carrey told Gibbs was, “I’m a Canadian. I don’t know anything about basketball.” An hour alone was spent on right-hand layups. "At one point, he goes into character, and throws a baby hook from 35 feet, and it goes over the hoop, over the backboard, over his fence, and hits the guest house. And he starts running around the backyard like he just won the NCAA championship."
11. MATTHEW BRODERICK HAD AN ISSUE WITH THE MEDIEVAL TIMES SCENE.
Carrey couldn't believe that nobody had thought to set a comedic piece at Medieval Times before. The Buena Park, California venue closed its doors for the first time ever to accommodate filming. But there was one problem: Broderick is allergic to horses. "I had to really concentrate not to sneeze all the time," he said. "I like fight scenes and physical comedy. But we were doing it in a string of 16-hour days and that can be quite draining."
12. ONE SCENE WAS TAKEN OUT BECAUSE CARREY'S EVIL EYES WERE TOO REALISTIC.
Apatow gave The Los Angeles Times a list of excised scenes, including one where Carrey shoots Broderick's character with a staple gun and stitches his butt in the shape of a television, another where Carrey pretends to be a volunteer firefighter and hurls a fireman's ax at Broderick, and one scene shot in 40-degree rain in Griffith Park, where Carrey rides up on a horse resembling the headless horseman and leaps at Broderick, who puts a rock to Carrey's head and threatens him until Carrey implores him to "go to the dark side of the force!" The latter was cut because "the evil in Carrey's eyes look too realistic." Another scene that was cut out because it didn't get big laughs and scared test audiences had Carrey on top of Broderick's car acting like The Terminator.
13. LARRY THE CABLE GUY'S MANAGER WAS UPSET.
"Before we started shooting, I got a call from this friend of mine who managed Larry the Cable Guy," Apatow recalled. "He said, 'Judd, what are you doing? You can’t call this movie The Cable Guy—this guy has been working so hard developing this character. You’re going to destroy his career!' There was nothing I could do to change it. But clearly, Larry the Cable Guy has done way better than the movie The Cable Guy. If you had to compare the career of Larry the Cable Guy and the movie The Cable Guy, Larry wins, hands down."