Airheads hit the silver screen in 1994, expecting to be a smash hit with the captivating cast of Brendan Fraser, Steve Buscemi, Adam Sandler, Michael McKean, Joe Mantegna, Ernie Hudson, David Arquette, Michael Richards and Chris Farley. Consumers had a different plan, causing the film to be pulled from theaters two weeks after its opening. How did a film considered to be such a “flop” become a cult favorite? Consequence of Sound spoke with the cast, the crew, and the executives behind the film to find out in Degenerated: An Oral History of Airheads, which was published earlier this week.
On the idea for the film, Director Michael Lehmann shared “I thought, I’m going to get people in this movie that you wouldn’t expect to see in a movie like this and that’s going to make it more like something I want to see.”
Brendan Fraser, Joe Mantegna, Michael McKean, Marshall Bell, Amy Locane, Michelle Hurst, Nina Siemaszko, Screenwriter Rich Wilkes, Director Michael Lehmann, Island Pictures Executive VP Todd Baker, 20th Century Fox Executive Michael London and 20th Century Fox President of Worldwide Production Tom Jacobson all took part in the unique deep dive into the now classic film just over 25 years after its release.
Lehmann continues later in the interview giving insight to some of the then risky casting choices of now legendary comedic actors sharing “[Adam] Sandler hadn’t proven himself in movies at all. I kind of remember that people were divided about him. The funny thing about Sandler’s humor is it’s this weird combination of way off center and way juvenile, and he sort of built that. And when he was building that style, a lot of people in the mainstream didn’t really get it. And so it was a battle. They didn’t say no. But Fox’s attitude was, ‘We need to know that he can do this kind of thing.'” He continued speaking about casting Steve Buscemi sharing that Fox was “kind of afraid of him.”
Fraser spoke about the chemistry between the legendary Chris Farley and Adam Sandler sharing “Sandler and Farley were cut up funny together. I learned a thing about comedy duos and partners in comedy. They’re constantly challenging one another, at least these two guys were, to take bigger risks. To be the one to have the most courage to do something and they’d just try to get the other one to laugh.”
Fans of the film can look back on a time when real life didn’t matter, every challenge was simply an obstacle to overcome in order to have your voice heard, and all that mattered was the music, the look and the great debate of who would win in a fight: Lemmy or God.