The biggest nerd event of the year is happening in San Diego right now, and while Comic-Con will have its fair share, they’re only a small sliver of the pie that includes Hollywood actors, game developers, and incredibly attractive women in spandex. This week also happens to include the 30th anniversary of Revenge of the Nerds. And man, has the word “nerd” evolved a lot since 1984. Thirty years ago “nerd” was as far away as possible from being the hip pop culture tag it is today. Attractive girls didn’t wear glasses and t-shirts that said things like “I bang mathletes.” The nerds of the 80s were being shoved into lockers for their love of X-Men comics.
The film’s cast was embarrassed to be in the movie, simply because it had the four-letter word in the title. James Cromwell’s admission, “I didn’t want to have to say to someone, ‘I’m in Revenge Of The Nerds‘,” is generally how most of the cast felt at the time. Revenge of the Nerds has stood the test of time and today could practically serve as a historical footnote in the evolution of the nerd. So, to pay tribute to the men of Lambda Lambda Lambda, who persevered in the face of jock persecution, here are 15 things you may not know about the 1980s classic.
1. Booger wasn’t thrilled about picking his nose on camera. Whether he likes it or not, actor Curtis Armstrong will forever be known as Booger in pop culture. Initially, Armstrong read for the part of Gilbert, but producers thought he might better be suited for the role of belching, nose-picking picking Booger Dawson. At the time, Armstrong wasn’t happy about the part and told actor Bronson Pinchot, “I’m not picking my nose on camera for anyone.” When asked by the A.V. Club how he feels about being remembered for the role today, Armstrong says he’s embraced the character.
“I owe a great deal to that movie and I loved making it. But I’ve said this a lot: That character is as far from me as it’s possible to be. People feel like they know who he is, and when they see me they just assume that I’m going to be like that guy. For me, to be that kind of anti-social misfit was something that I found to be a real challenge.”
2. A few of the actors weren’t excited about doing the movie. Robert Carradine and Timothy Busfield revealed on the DVD commentary that at the time, they weren’t really thrilled about the movie because being a nerd was not a good thing and they only took the role for the money. Director Jeff Kanew jokingly said he felt the same way and when asked by producers what kind of movie he could give them with their budget said, “One I would be embarrassed to have my name on.”
3. Robert Carradine dressed in nerd character 24/7 before filming. Carradine relocated to the University of Arizona several weeks before filming to get acquainted with the college and get into character. He said that because his nerd clothes were the only ones he brought he barley left his hotel room for three days.
4. Poindexter needed a guide because his glasses were too thick. Actor Timothy Busfield’s glasses were so thick that he was visually impaired and needed a guide in any shots that had him walking.
5. The movie almost had a remake a few years ago. Just as Hollywood was gearing up for the remake-everything-between-1985-2000 stage that we’re currently in, O.C. actor Adam Brody was trying to launch a Revenge revamp. Brody was set to produce and star in the updated version, but Fox Atomic pulled the plug two weeks into its production, citing issues with Agnes Scott college where it was filming.
6. Filming on the University of Arizona campus had its problems. Just like the failed remake, the first film had college issues as well. The studio had been given permission to film on the campus, but revoked their filming privileges after reading the script. Producers had to convince the school they wouldn’t harm their reputation and eventually the school gave them the “okay,” with the many of the students posing as extras.
7. Some of the nerds played their own instruments. Actors Curtis Armstrong and Michelle Meyrink played their own instruments in the film, it was only Timothy Busfield who had to fake his violin playing. Busfield took violin lessons before the shoot began, but it still sounded terrible and producers dubbed over it with a trained violist.
8. Lambda Lambda Lambda became a real fraternity. In 1984, Tri Lambda was just a fictional frat, but fast forward 22 years and it had its first chapter at the University of Connecticut. According to UCon’s organizations page, the fraternity isn’t affiliated with the Greek system, but is a co-ed organization “dedicated to the enjoyment and enrichment of pop culture and to the brotherhood of our members.” So, there’s likely no panty raids taking place.
9. The cast partied with the University of Arizona students during after hours. The actors described the filming as having a very frat-like atmosphere and Anthony Edwards said it all felt like they were away at camp.
“Everybody just kind of decided to go for it on that film, and it really felt like summer camp, in a way. Tim Busfield, playing that Poindexter character, was great, and so was Ted McGinley. Everybody, really. It was craziness. The weekends on that movie were crazy, with the parties. It was not a restrained time.”
10. Ted McGinley was picking up the female Arizona students on campus. This probably won’t come as any surprise, but Stan Gable was pretty popular with the college’s female student body. McGinley has said that while he was embarrassed about the movie’s title, Stan Gable was one of his favorite characters to play — for obvious reasons:
“I couldn’t even say the name out loud, I was so embarrassed to say Revenge Of The Nerds. [Laughs.] Every day we’d have dailies, and we’d invite all the hot girls from the school to come and watch dailies with us, and they had beer and pizza and sandwiches. I mean, you just don’t do that on movie sets. But we were on a campus, and we created this great buzz out there. It was just so much fun, and I thought, “It can’t be better than this!” It was just really a gas.”
11. Stan Gable was supposed to come out as a closeted nerd. The script called for Ted McGinley’s character to come out as a closeted nerd at the end of the film. The scene was cut, but after the Nerds triumph at the talent competition, Stan Gable is supposed to be sad not because he lost, but because he couldn’t reveal his true nerdom.
12. James’ Cromwell’s ex-wife invented the nerd laugh. James Cromwell played Lewis Skolnick’s father in the movie and deliver’s the famous nerd laugh while dropping the boys off at college. Cromwell credits his then-wife for inspiring his nerd laugh, but didn’t realize where he had picked it up until the screening. Via Toro Magazine:
“It came from my ex-wife, but I didn’t know that at the time. I did the laugh just spontaneously on set and they loved it. I taught the other actors how to do it and it was just the perfect laugh. Then a few months later, I’m sitting in a screening with the cast and crew watching the film and I came on and the minute my wife saw me she did the laugh. I went, “Holy cow! It’s her.”
13. There was no Spanish word for “nerd” at the time of the movie’s screening. At the time of the movie’s release there was supposedly no proper word for “nerd” in the Spanish language. This would explain the movie’s title when it screened in Spain, La Revancha de los Novatos (Revenge of the Freshmans).
14. Robert Carradine and Anthony Edwards tested their nerd attire during Rush Week. The actors wanted to put their nerd outfits to the test and attended several fraternity rush events to see how their pocket protectors went over. According to Carradine, one frat house’s president gave them a single look and said “No way.”
15. A camel was used for Booger’s monster belch. Neither Booger nor Ogre did their actual burps in the film — in fact, those aren’t even normal human belches. Curtis Armstrong revealed that it’s actually a human burp mixed with camel:
“They wound up finding a recording of a camel having an orgasm,” Armstrong insists. “They took this sound and blended it in with a human belch. That’s what you are hearing, a mix of a human belch and a camel orgasming.”