This Oral History of Austin Powers Is the Best Thing I've Ever Read

Image via New Line Cinema.
Image via New Line Cinema.

For decades, I have been saying that Austin Powers is one of the greatest films of all time. Now, as we approach its 20th anniversary, the world is finally beginning to agree.

The first Austin Powers was released on May 2, 1997 (prepare for, baby, yeah) and, according to an oral history of the comedy published by the Hollywood Reporter today, no one involved in production thought it would amount to much.

“At that time, we thought it was just going to be some kind of cool cult film,” director Jay Roach told THR. “So to stay pure to the idea, I suggested we not use Steadicams, not use digital opticals, just use standard, old-fashioned film opticals and old-fashioned stunt tricks. No-money fun, as Mike calls it.”


That said, everyone who read the script thought it was special, even Quincy Jones and Carrie Fisher:

Quincy Jones, musician, composer I wrote “Soul Bossa Nova” in 20 minutes 55 years ago, and it just keeps resurrecting itself. I worked with Mike when I hosted SNL in 1990. We became friends, so when they reached out to ask for permission to use the song, I happily agreed.

[Mike] Myers I knew Carrie Fisher a little bit. I sent the script to her in the hopes that she would play the therapist. And she wrote a very lovely, supportive letter saying how much she loved the movie. She was so supportive during the shoot. She just kept giving me a hug and telling me, “I just love this scene and how weird the choices are.”

Hugh Grant was thrilled about it and he wasn’t even asked to be in the movie:

Elizabeth Hurley, “Vanessa Kensington” My agent called and said Mike Myers wanted me to star with him in a new movie. I was with my then-boyfriend Hugh Grant, who punched the air with excitement. He said Mike was one of the funniest comedians on the planet.


Do you know what joke Michael York—a.k.a Basil Exposition—loved the most?

The mother being punched was one of my favorites, but that scene was shot at four in the morning when nothing is funny.



Also this is one of the craziest movie facts I’ve ever learned!!!

Roach That nudity-blocking scene with Mike and Elizabeth — I shot 25 takes of that. We kept thinking it had to play out continuously, so I just kept shooting until there was a take that every single thing lined up perfectly. It was a hilarious scene, but it was actually really stressful because we were starting to feel like we may never get it.

Myers It took a lot of rehearsal. All I had to do was follow a pattern on a rug. It was Elizabeth who was going off of a reverse-polarity screen camera, left to camera right.

Hurley Bizarrely, we shot it in the Scientology Celebrity Centre in L.A. It took a whole day, as it was one continuous take. Mike and I were nude but covered with little bits of red sticky tape. We all knew each other so well by then, so we weren’t self-conscious.


They shot at the Scientology Celebrity Centre! Help! My eyes just popped out of my head!

You can—and should—read the entire oral history here.

Managing Editor, Jezebel

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Only semi-relevant, but: “So I Married An Ax Murderer” is the most underrated comedy of all time.