This year marks the 20th anniversary of the cult favorite comedy Office Space. The movie bombed spectacularly at the box office with just under $11 million made in its entire domestic run. That was barely enough to cover the film’s budget. But against all odds, the movie found a big audience on home video and cable and has since become one of the most quoted and beloved comedies of the ’90s.
Since this year is a milestone anniversary for Office Space, writer/director Mike Judge, cast members Ron Livingston, David Herman, Ajay Naidu, Jennifer Aniston, Gary Cole and some key crew members sat down for an oral history of the film to discuss how it came together, who nearly starred in the movie, why Madonna finds Michael Bolton sexy and much more. Find out everything we learned from the Office Space oral history below.
Entertainment Weekly put together a fantastic Office Space oral history, which you can read in full by clicking that link, but these are some of the most interesting tidbits we pulled from their interviews.
Fox Wanted Matt Damon and Ben Affleck to Star
While Mike Judge notes that at first there wasn’t any pressure to get big names to star in the movie, casting director Nancy Klopper said 20th Century Fox changed their tune a bit and were interested in having Matt Damon and Ben Affleck starring in the movie. They were coming off the fame and success of Good Will Hunting, so of course any studio would want them in their movie.
The problem was that Mike Judge knew that Peter wasn’t a character who had “star energy,” so Matt Damon didn’t seem right for the lead role of Peter. But Judge agreed to go to New York to meet with Matt Damon, especially since the actor was a fan of Judge’s work. Thankfully, Ron Livingston’s agent asked for an audition and the rest is history.
Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn Auditioned to Play Peter’s Neighbor
Long before they were Wedding Crashers, Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn auditioned to play Peter’s neighbor Lawrence. Both were still up and coming talents at the time and not anywhere near being household names, so it’s not surprising that they lost out to Diedrich Bader for the role, who was hired simply because he “brought something special to it.” And I think we can all agree with that. Fuckin’ A, man.
Jennifer Aniston’s Character Originally Slept with the Real Lumbergh
The casting of Jennifer Aniston is what allowed Mike Judge to cast a lot of unknowns in the lead roles of Office Space. But originally, they were going to make her character Joanna a little less likeable by having her character actually have slept with Gary Cole‘s repulsive character Lumbergh. This is something that is brought up in Office Space, but it turns out it was a different Lumbergh and not Peter’s awful boss. Mike Judge said the studio simply wouldn’t allow it, “The studio said ‘No. Please make it a different Lumbergh. Jennifer can’t be in that sex-dream sequence.’”
Boston and Bostitch-Brand Staplers Didn’t Want to Be Involved
Thanks to Stephen Root’s outstanding comedic performance as the mumbling, frustrated Milton, a simple red stapler has become one of the most iconic props in film history. It’s a Swingline stapler, and the reason that’s the brand that came out on top is because stapler manufacturerers Boston and Bostitch didn’t want anything to do with the movie.
Also, fun fact: Swingline did not have a red stapler in their line-up before Office Space was made, but due to demand, they created one. It’s now their most popular item.
Marketing the Movie Was a Nightmare
Since Office Space made just under $11 million at the box office, it should come as no surprise that marketing the movie to audiences did not go very well. Mike Judge certainly wasn’t a fan of how the movie was sold:
“I wasn’t a fan of the marketing. We were polar opposite on everything. They sent me eight different cuts of the trailer. There were only two versions I absolutely hated, and those were their favorites. It was a very difficult movie to market.”
Even actor John C. McGinley, one of the Bobs, thought the marketing was bad, “The poster for Office Space was a guy covered in Post-its. He looked like Big Bird. People were like, I’m not f—ing going to a Big Bird movie!”
Executives like Sanford Panitch, then executive vice-president at Fox and current President of Columbia Pictures, noted that the trailers and commercials couldn’t easily feature the funniest stuff. Meanwhile, Tom Rothman, then President of Twentieth Century Fox Film Group and current chairman of Sony Pictures Motion Picture Group, thinks that it might have helped to have Jennifer Aniston featured more prominently, but the movie wasn’t about her.
The movie just couldn’t easily be sold.
Madonna Thinks Michael Bolton is Sexy
Even though the movie didn’t do well at the box office, Mike Judge still received plenty of praise from people you’d love to get compliments from. Judge recalls getting an invite from Jim Carrey over to his house and an amazing voicemail from Chris Rock, but a dinner he had from Madonna brought the oddest reaction.
Judge recalls, “I had dinner with Madonna. She said “That Michael Bolton guy is my favorite character. There’s something sexy about how angry he is.” That’s right, Madonna thinks Michael Bolton is sexy, and David Herman couldn’t have been more thrilled, “I thought: How am I ever going to tell people, “You know who’s into me? Madonna.”
NBC Wanted Mike Judge to Remake The Office
After Office Space found a much larger audience once the movie hit home video and cable, NBC wanted Mike Judge to be in charge of their American remake of The Office. Judge recalls:
“They sent over the British version with a letter and some reviews. The first said, ‘The Office succeeds where movies like Office Space failed.’ I passed. (Laughs).”
The prospect of Judge behind an American remake of The Office is an enticing one, and it seems like a no-brainer, but his comedic sensibilities certainly went in a different direction from what that show became, and I think it’s for the best that Judge didn’t try to replicate what he did with Office Space.
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