It’s been three years since we’ve seen Jon Favreau in the director’s chair (Cowboys & Aliens) and five years since he’s penned a produced script (Couples Retreat). He’s back in command of both roles with Chef, which has already seen successful premieres at both SXSW and the Tribeca Film Festival with the phrase “a return to his roots” being tossed around with regularity.
Where Chef boasts a powerhouse cast of Robert Downey Jr., Sofia Vergara, Dustin Hoffman, and Scarlett Johansson, Favreau’s supporting swingers in his 1996 indie comedy were complete unknowns. At the time of Swinger’s release, indie films were riding a wave of Hollywood buzz and Favreau’s comedy vehicle — loosely based on his own experience — provided bromance for twentysomething men before “bromance” was even a thing.
Favreau’s Hollywood story about leaning on your friends after a breakup almost didn’t happen though. There were funding and casting issues aplenty, and when he finally did get it made, it was snubbed by indie-loving Sundance.
With Chef opening tomorrow, it only seems appropriate that we take a look back at Favreau’s roots in the indie flick that pulled him out of his Tinseltown slump.
1. Jon Favreau used his own apartment for the film. Presumably in an effort to cut down on costs, Jon Favreau filmed all of Mikey’s apartment scenes in the apartment on Franklin Avenue in L.A. that he was living in at the time. The director recalled that part of the appeal for him living there was the apartment’s proximity to the Hollywood sign:
“There was the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, a little place where you could get a drink, another where you could get a cup of coffee. But the neighborhood was right under the Hollywood sign, and my friends and I dug that because we were all wanna-be actors.”
*Adam Scott was Favreau’s downstairs neighbor at the time. Scott isn’t listed in Swingers, but was an uncredited extra in one of the party scenes. He also lived below Favreau at the time of filming and was the recipient of some advice on clean living:
“One time Jon came by my apartment and was just like, Jeeeesus Christ. My apartment was disgusting. I remember him talking about how when you live in a place like this, you really need to keep it clean, otherwise you’re just gonna feel disgusting about yourself.”
2. Jon Favreau’s grandmother and Vince Vaughn’s father make appearances in the film. The grandmother at the $5 minimum blackjack table is Favreau’s grandmother, Joan Favreau. The high-roller at the $100 minimum blackjack table is Vince Vaughn’s father, Vernon Vaughn, who would go on to appear in three more of his son’s films.
3. Trent’s convertible Mercury Comet was Jon Favreau’s car. The 1964 Convertible Mercury Comet Caliente that Trent drives in the film actually belonged to Jon Favreau at the time. He had bought the car with the insurance money after his Honda was stolen. As Favreau told LA Mag, it didn’t take long for misfortune to strike again:
“I parked in front of the Actors’ Gang theater on Santa Monica Boulevard because I was doing a show at the time. There was a screech and a slam. The car that ran into the Comet was a stolen one—I think it was a Caprice—and it was totaled. The people inside it ran away from the accident. The whole back left rear of my Comet was completely accordioned. It took forever to find a replacement piece, and they ended up taking it off of a four-door. You can see in the movie it’s missing the trim in the back because my car was a two-door, and the trim didn’t fit.”
4. He wrote both the script for Swingers and Chef in under a month. At a SXSW Q&A for his new film, Favreau explained that the inspiration for Chef just hit him and he churned out the script in a short amount of time.
“A script hit me, and I wrote it in like two weeks. That was the first time that had happened to me since Swingers. And I’ve been around long enough to know that if you’re lucky enough for the inspiration to hit you, you’ve got to get out of the way and welcome it. It’s a gift. I’m not the type that can just write something from nothing once a year. It has to land on me fully formed. It all clicked.”
5. It was suggested that he change the character of Trent to a girl. Next to making The Walking Dead without zombies, this has to be one of the more idiotic script suggestions I’ve heard a screenwriter receiving. Favreau told Grantland that in addition to Trent’s sex, studios also had a problem with the dialogue:
“People were interested in optioning it, but they had a lot of notes. They wanted to change Vince’s character to a girl and have them not go to Vegas and said the dialogue was too repetitive, and it had to be darker and more violent. I was really trying to embrace the notes. I tried to change the script, but I just couldn’t.”
6. The trailer scene was inspired by a scene from The Odd Couple. Favreau based the scene where Mikey and Trent find themselves in the cocktail waitresses’ trailer on an equally pathetic scene with Oscar and Felix from The Odd Couple. The scene involves Oscar and Felix hanging out with the Pigeon sisters in their apartment. After Oscar returns from making a round of drinks he finds Felix lamenting about his divorce.