10 Smart Facts About Idiocracy
Over a decade after its original release, Mike Judge's Idiocracy is still garnering headlines. Judge described the film's accuracy as "scary," and co-writer Etan Cohen said that he "never expected Idiocracy to become a documentary." The movie starred Luke Wilson as Joe Bauers, an Army librarian who takes part in a military hibernation experiment with a prostitute named Rita (Maya Rudolph). They wake up 500 years into the future, where everything is dumbed down and highly commercialized and Joe is now the smartest person in the world. In honor of the film's 10th anniversary, here are some facts about the dystopian comedy.
1. A VISIT TO DISNEYLAND SPARKED THE IDEA.
Though Mike Judge had been jotting down some ideas for a movie about evolution as far back as 1995, the idea that would become Idiocracy all came together in 2001—on a trip to Disneyland, of all places. Judge and his daughters were waiting in line at the Alice In Wonderland ride when, according to Judge, "Somebody behind me had a stroller and two little kids and her and this other woman with two little kids was passing by. I guess they’d had an altercation and they just start getting in this cussing match with each other, just, you know, ‘bitch’ this. But you know, just yelling and like ‘I’ll kick your ass' ... and I was just sitting there thinking wow, the Disneyland of that was envisioned, way back in the ’50s and, to right now.”
Judge asked Etan Cohen (Beavis and Butt-Head, King of the Hill) to work with him on the screenplay. “It was almost like film school, except Mike Judge was teaching the class," Cohen said.
2. TERRY CREWS HAD TO AUDITION FIVE TIMES.
Terry Crews was up against some "big, big names" to land the role of President Camacho, according to the actor. "I met with Mary Vernieu, the casting agent, and it took me five different auditions but I just nailed each one," Crews said in 2010. "I was like, 'I am Camacho.' It got to the point where I was like, 'Dude, if you find somebody better just give it to him.' I literally told them that."
3. THE PRODUCTION DESIGNER HELPED JUDGE AND COHEN PREDICT THE FUTURE. (AND THE FUTURE WAS CROCS.)
"One of the big things was Crocs," Cohen remembered. "Our production designer [Darren Gilford] had everyone wearing Crocs in the movie. We didn't even know what they were. Mike was like, 'You'd have to be an idiot to wear these!' By the time the movie came out, everyone was wearing them."
4. SOME OF THE FUN GRAPHIC ELEMENTS WEREN'T SCRIPTED.
Some of the logos, like Brawndo and Carl's Jr.'s new aggrieved look, were from Cohen and Judge's script, but graphic designer Ellen Lampl—working with Darren Gilford and the other designer—came up with the rest, like Nastea and FedExx. Lampl described the logos seen within the film as "A visual vernacular fusion of NASCAR, candy packaging, Mexico hand-painted signs and Japanese pop culture."
5. JUDGE WAS SURPRISED THAT SO MANY COMPANIES ALLOWED THEIR NAMES TO BE USED IN THE FILM.
Carlton Cigarettes and Wal-Mart didn't allow for their logos to be mocked, but everyone else did. Judge thought there was "no way" they were going to be allowed to lampoon most of the other companies mentioned in the script, until the studio's lawyers helped him. Judge recalled that when he talked to them about Starbucks clearance issues, the lawyers said, "Well, it would help if you didn’t pick on just one company and if you did more than one." Based on that advice, Judge and Cohen added the red light district which included Starbucks with the likes of H&R Block's Tax Return and Relief. "I couldn’t believe it all cleared," Judge admitted.
6. IT TOOK A WHILE FOR THE STUDIO TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO MARKET THE MOVIE.
Once principal photography on the film was finished, Judge and 20th Century Fox had some disagreements on a few key points, including how to best market the movie. "They're just overthinking it, which is what they always do," Judge told Esquire of the studio's issues with determining just the right way to market the film, including its trailers. "It's just dragged on way too long—a good seven months longer than Office Space (1999). I could have made another movie after I locked the picture before this one comes out."
7. IN THE END, THE STUDIO ESSENTIALLY BURIED THE FILM.
In the end, the studio's marketing team didn't create much fanfare around the release of Idiocracy. They didn't send out any press kits, and Wilson and Rudolph didn't do any press for it. After sitting on the shelf for a year, Idiocracy was finally released on September 1, 2006—but only to 130 theaters, none of which were located in big markets like New York or San Francisco. It made $177,559 during its opening weekend, and just $444,093 throughout its brief theatrical run. The New York Times published some theories as to why the film didn't have a wider release, with one blogger positing that, “some of the sponsors may well have been unhappy with the way their products are placed, and made some phone calls to higher-ups.” A Fox spokesman said the decision came down to an executive decision from the chairman of the studio. Some believed the studio did the bare minimum required to fulfill a contractual obligation with Judge requiring his movie to have any sort of theatrical release before being sold to DVD. In 2009, Judge himself told the Los Angeles Times that he thinks the studio learned from Office Space and simply opted to not waste their money marketing it.
8. AN ERROR WITH THE MOVIE'S TITLE MAY HAVE LED TO EVEN FEWER AUDIENCE MEMBERS.
According to Dax Shepard, who played Frito Pendejo, even moviegoers who wanted to see the film might have had trouble finding it. "Even in the theaters it did come out in, they didn’t list it correctly with Moviefone," Shepard told The A.V. Club. "I remember that was a big issue. They had listed it as 'Untitled Mike Judge Comedy' with Fandango, so even people who wanted to go see Idiocracy couldn’t find it."
9. FOR A TIME, YOU COULD HAVE BOUGHT SOME BRAWNDO!
In 2007, about a year after the movie's release, graphic designer/Omni Consumer Products founder Pete Hottelet—whose company turns pop culture products into realities—teamed up with Redux Beverages, creators of Cocaine energy drink, to produce 10,000-plus cases of Brawndo energy drink. Hottelet's key mandate was that the beverage needed to contain electrolytes and had to be "alarmingly bright green."
10. THEY WERE GOING TO MAKE ANTI-TRUMP ADS.
, Terry Crews resumed the role of President Camacho to make some fun election ads. Crews, Judge, and Cohen had planned to do the same again this year, with a series of Camacho-starring, anti-Donald Trump ads—but 20th Century Fox would not allow them to proceed. "It kind of fell apart,” Judge told The Daily Beast. "It was announced that they were anti-Trump, and I would’ve preferred to make them and then have the people decide. Terry Crews had wanted to just make some funny Camacho ads, and Etan [Cohen] and I had written a few that I thought were pretty funny, and it just fell apart. I wanted to put them out a little more quietly and let them go viral, rather than people announcing we’re making anti-Trump ads. Just let them be funny first. Doing something satirical like that is better if you just don’t say, ‘Here we come with the anti-Trump ads!'"