Mike Myers: Is There Life After Wayne's World?
Mike Myers certainly hopes so. While waiting for his new movie to come out, the self-professed comedic actor and "Saturday Night Live" star explains why he'd hate to be a dog, reveals what it's like being a "low-grade psychic," and tells how marriage can be viewed as "the waiting room for death."
When I was in college, I took a job selling encyclopedias door-to-door. We had a 10-day training period (which, as it turned out, was eight more than the job would last, but I didn't know that at the time), during which we were supposed to memorize a five-page spiel about how these books could change your life and transform your idiot child into a prodigy.
Every morning, each of the 12 trainees would have to stand in front of the class and recite all that we had committed to memory. Hambone that I was, I had the whole thing down pat by day four, and would recite it from beginning to end as if it were my Oscar acceptance speech. My favorite part was on page two, where we'd have to clap, loudly, and say, "Let me make this crystal clear..."
The thing was, I only knew the spiel in its entirety... if you stopped me in the middle, I had to go back to the beginning and start again. None of it had really penetrated, so I would have to spew it back whole.
I hadn't thought about that job in years, until I sat down to interview Mike Myers.
Myers, whose characters on "Saturday Night Live" had already made him into a cult hero when one of them, Wayne, became a movie icon that made him, overnight, into a household name, is hard to get a handle on. At 29, he's funny and glib and willing to talk about almost anything. But it's as if an inner tape is playing, and if you derail him, he has to start from the beginning. It's not that I couldn't get a word in edgewise, it's that when I would talk, Myers would sort of disengage until it was his turn. Which often makes conversation kind of stilted. You'll see.
The plan was that I'd leave New York, fly to L.A., change my clothes, and go ice-skating with Myers somewhere in the San Fernando Valley. I'd heard that Myers, a rabid hockey fanatic, would rather walk on ice than water.
But when I get to L.A., Myers tells me he is suffering from a cold, that he can't quite figure out when he could possibly find the time to go skating, and asks whether I'd mind coming to an office on Wilshire to talk. Hey, he's the star, so off I go.
When I arrive in front of the building, I see Myers walking down the street towards me. That I recognize him at all makes me pretty damned pleased with myself, because his face sometimes gets lost amongst all his characters. He's in black jeans, a black T-shirt and sneakers. He's tapping on his legs like the kid who sat behind you all through grade school. When we stand next to each other, I can look down into his scalp. We find an unoccupied office and get comfortable.
"I saw Wayne's World," I tell Myers, in that way I have of breaking the ice right away, "and I just loved the part where you pulled your underwear up your butt."
"It's a living," he says with a smile.
"When I told all my teenage friends that I was interviewing you, they were apoplectic. They think you're God. I bet in the future, books are going to be written about Wayne and Garth, about how they were these world-class nerds who got a cable-access show, became famous, and even got the girl. It's a real phenomenon. You've given dorkiness a certain cachet. I can understand why all those young boys went crazy over you ..."
"I don't," he says, "but thanks. Why are you looking at me like that?"
"I don't know," he says, "you're squinting ..."
"I was just thinking. I asked a lot of people about you these last few weeks, and one of my girlfriends said, 'Oh, Mike Myers--I'm going to marry him.'"
Myers is blushing.
"And I asked if she had ever met you, and she said no, but she said she could tell from seeing you on television that you were the perfect man for her."
"Uh-oh," says Myers, imagining the worst.
"Don't worry, she's not a psychopath. She's just attracted to very talented, successful men. She works at Barneys ..."
"Oh, that might come in handy, because I always want to go in there and buy a suit. I tend to only like--"
"She'd probably give you--" I start to say.
"... I tend to only like vintage clothing," Myers continues. "Because the '50s were scaled down and I'm only 5'8"."
"To paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen," I want to say, "I have seen 5'8", sir, and you are not him." But what I say aloud is, "She wants to marry you, so she'd probably give you a great deal."
"She may be disappointed, because I'm getting married."
"Isn't your new film, So I Married an Axe Murderer, about marriage?"
"I just want to say," he remarks, "that I think Fear of Marriage is a much better title."
"Was that the working title?"
"No. That was just the title I prefer. Anyway, I was offered the script, and I said I wouldn't do it unless I could rewrite it, because it had seeds of promise, but it needed more work. What I like about it was that it talked about the rite of passage of marriage. I thought it was interesting because the only other people we know really, really intimately for a long time who are married are our parents, and they're that much closer to death than you are."
"Marriage can be viewed as the waiting room for death," Myers continues. "The rite of passage after marriage is retirement, and then death. So you're two rites of passage away from death. Marriage, retirement, death. I always thought that was an interesting rite of passage, and one that contained a lot of sense of comedy. The only way I could do this movie is if I could totally rewrite it... not just my part, but the whole thing."
"Did you rewrite the--"
Myers hasn't even heard me. "A lot of people don't understand why I want to write. They say, 'You're an actor. You get to be in the movie, so why would you have to write it, too?' I had already written Wayne's World, and I'm one of those terrible hyphenates that has a hard time having his role defined."
"Are you an actor or comedian first?" I get in quick, before the door closes.
"I'm a comedic actor, not to mix words, but it's something I think about. A comedic actor. I like to think that Christopher Guest, Phil Hartman, Peter Sellers and Alec Guinness are comedic actors. And Dan Aykroyd, too. Those are my heroes."
"Okay, where were we?"
"Okay, Axe Murderer," says Myers. "I called Neil Mullarkey, my writing partner from England--"
"When were you in England?"
". . . and I said, 'Come on over, the water's fine,' and we rewrote the whole thing."
(In a later conversation on the telephone, Myers will tell me dejectedly that the Writers Guild didn't agree: they decided that the original writer, Robbie Fox, should retain sole screenwriting credit. "I'm a big supporter of the Guild because I come from a union background," Myers will explain, "but I thought that the rules were ill-employed in this instance. People who know my work will see how much of it is in the film. And we were never seeking sole screenwriting credit. We wanted to say that it was based on Robbie Fox's story. But I feel that Neil Mullarkey got totally ripped off. All the dialogue is me and Neil, and he deserves to get his credit.")