LOS ANGELES — It’s party time. “Wayne’s World” turns 25 next month, and with it come a number of excellent celebrations. In addition to a return to the big screen in 600 nationwide cinemas Feb. 8, the western suburb of Aurora will be headquarters for a six-month-long birthday bash.
Beginning Feb. 3, the local festivities will include a poster contest, a look-alike competition, an attempt to break the world record for head-banging (to “Bohemian Rhapsody” of course), an air guitar showdown and a few special screenings, all of which are detailed at auroradowntown.org.
Aurora, you may recall, is the unabashed home base for the cult classic, based on the popular “Saturday Night Live” sketches, in which slacker pals and music disciples Wayne Campbell (Mike Myers) and Garth Algar (Dana Carvey) broadcast a public access show from Campbell’s parents’ basement.
In one scene the duo are wearing Blackhawks jerseys while playing a game of street hockey; in another, they carouse around Chicagoland in the famous AMC Pacer mobile passing by the Payless ShoeSource at Milwaukee and Diversey, the “Eye Care” Indian statue at 63rd and Pulaski and the spindle of cars (later demolished) on Cermak Road in Berwyn. (You can check out more Chicago-area filming sites or their L.A. stand-ins here.)
Though the movie was largely filmed in California over the course of 34 days (just two were reserved for the Chicago area), “I still have people e-mailing and calling me arguing about the movie being shot there. Everyone is convinced,” said director Penelope Spheeris during a special “Wayne’s World” anniversary event Monday night at the Pacific Theatre at The Grove in Los Angeles. The program included a live Q&A with her and cast members Tia Carrere, Robert Patrick and Colleen Camp (as well as a prerecorded segment with Myers, Carvey, Rob Lowe and “SNL” creator/”Wayne’s World” producer Lorne Michaels), which will accompany the cinema relaunch.
Much of the talk focused on trivia and memories of filming the highest-grossing film of 1992. Such as the fact that “Wayne’s World” was just the second feature-length film to focus on an “SNL” sketch, trailing behind another Chicago tribute, “The Blues Brothers.” Or that the iconic scene where Wayne and Garth had a long-winded conversation while sprawled out on top of the car hood was complete improv — a nod to the gifted comedic cast and the Second City style of comedy. Myers had been working on developing Wayne Campbell while still a teenager in Canada; he later brought the character with him to “SNL,” where he debuted in 1989. For his part, Carvey based the character of Garth on his older brother Brad, a software developer.
“I had never been in a movie before or understood how it all worked,” Myers admitted in his video segment. As one of the writers, Myers also divulged that there were two scenes he resisted early on — one with Robert Patrick re-creating his “Terminator” character as a town cop and the other with confused ex-girlfriend Lara Flynn Boyle slamming into a car while on her bike. “I just didn’t think they were funny, but what do I know?”
There was discussion of a young Chicago actor, Chris Farley, making his big-screen debut in “Wayne’s World” as door security for an Alice Cooper concert in Milwaukee, and young soap star Carrere saying she was “finally in the game” as an actress because of her role as Wayne Campbell’s love interest, Cassandra, which she turned down “Baywatch” to take. Carrere also recalled how the film became such an international hit because of the “genius marketing move” by Paramount executives to put together glossaries that translated all the film’s buzzwords, like “schwing,” into various languages.
The night’s discussion also focused on music, of course, such as the rebirth of ’70s rock band Queen thanks to the film’s prominent placement of operatic track “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and the denial by Led Zeppelin to use “Stairway to Heaven” (hence the famous “Stairway Denied” catchphrase). As well, for anyone who may have thought Carvey was working with a prerecorded track on that drum solo — it was all him.
Spheeris, a prolific music documentarian whose punk study “The Decline of Western Civilization” was recently selected by the Library of Congress to be in the National Film Registry, was also a favorite topic of the cast.
“I didn’t know anything about being a rocker chick so I modeled Cassandra after you,” admitted Carrere. Colleen Camp, who played latent rock convert Mrs. Vanderhoff, also credits Spheeris for her part in making sure the movie “still holds up.” (Not the same can be said of the “Wayne’s World 2” sequel, for which she was not asked back.)
As Rolling Stone film critic Peter Travers said in a recorded segment for part of the anniversary package, “I often wondered if ‘Wayne’s World’ would be an artifact of its time or something we could still relate to … and it’s definitely a movie we’ll still be watching in another 25 years.”
Selena Fragassi is a freelance writer.