Twenty-five years ago today, the most infamous Fred Savage movie ever made hit screens. Widely mocked as a ninety-minute Nintendo commercial, and tepidly received at the box office, The Wizard would still go on to become a cult classic, Power Glove and all. So, to celebrate, here are some fascinating facts about the movie.
Nintendo Was Not As Heavily Involved As You Might Think…
Aside from providing props and, of course, Super Mario Bros. 3, by all accounts, Nintendo stepped aside and let the filmmakers produce the movie they wanted to make. None of the endorsements, including the single most famous line in the movie, were required by the company. In fact, some references are even removed: For example, a character is reading what’s clearly a Nintendo Power magazine, but the title has been changed to just “Power.”
…But Maybe They Should Have Been.
The movie has a litany of technical errors about video games that gamers find oddly endearing, not least because the movie’s quite consistent in getting almost everything wrong.
And They Weren’t The Only Promotional Partner, Either
Ever wonder why there’s a Tom Petty poster on the side of an arcade game cabinet? Or why our heroes escape in a Hostess truck at one point? There’s a reason: Everything from the eyewear to the shots of Cosmopolitan magazine were paid promotional plugs. Universal was convinced that Savage and Nintendo would pack kids into the theater, and weren’t shy about using that to sell lots of product placement.
Yes, That Really Is Rilo Kiley Frontwoman Jenny Lewis
Despite rumors to the contrary, Lewis actually doesn’t mind people remembering her role in The Wizard. Although, for obvious reasons, she prefers to talk about her musical career.
Director Todd Holland Got Hired In A Weekend
Holland admits he hates video games, but that didn’t stop him from being hired to direct. He notes he was put in charge of the movie within two days of interviewing for it, thanks in part to Fred Savage’s schedule with The Wonder Years making a quick pre-production a necessity.
Tobey Maguire Has His First Role In This Movie, And A Mullet
He’s one of Lucas’ hangers-on:
It’s probably a good thing he lost the mullet.
Almost Every Game You See Is A NES Game
Part of the reason Nintendo fans love this movie is that it takes place in a bizarre alternate reality where every single video game, it seems like, is from Nintendo. Even many of the arcade games featured in the movie are NES games, which was… unrealistic, to say the least. Although it should be noted, playing NES games in the arcade was in fact possible.
The Original Cut Of The Wizard Was Better Suited To A Hollywood Epic
Holland was told he had to shoot every last piece of the script, so he did. The cut of the movie, featuring the full script, was two and a half hours long. The movie that came to theaters, it should be noted, was 96 minutes long.
The Ending Was Written At The Last Minute
Infamously, the movie has a rather dark plot arc where we discover Jimmy, the video games savant, is running away not to visit Video Armageddon but to bury the remains of his dead sister. If that seems a little forced, there’s a reason: It was put in as the movie was shooting so that Jimmy had a character arc at all. He originally had no lines and just sort of wandered around making the plot happen. Holland wrote the ending of the movie the night before it was shot, and only managed to keep it in the cut because the studio didn’t have time to chop it out.
It Inadvertently Helped Create eSports
As bizarre as this might sound, the huge video game tournament much of the plot hinges around didn’t actually exist at the time. The Nintendo World Championships, arguably the first major organized video game tournament, were spun directly out of the movie in 1990 and followed up in 1991 and 1992 with college tournaments, and with a second tournament in 1994 to promote the SNES. It largely set the tone for the tournaments to come, and helped create the idea of eSports.
Want to celebrate the 25th anniversary? It’s sadly no longer streaming on Netflix, but if you can part with ten bucks, it’s available to buy online. And you should watch it. It’s so bad.