They Live deserves to be celebrated, especially on its 27th anniversary this week. With the previous year’s Prince of Darkness, the film was part of a return to low-budget filmmaking for director John Carpenter after helming projects like Escape from New York, Big Trouble in Little China, and The Thing. It remains one of Carpenter’s most enjoyable works, partly because of its pulp-political material (inspired by Carpenter’s hatred of Reaganomics), and an excellent turn for pro wrestler “Rowdy” Roddy Piper.
Piper did more than just look the part of drifter John Nada — he took on the role with a reserved grit, and seemed every bit the Hollywood star when the film debuted in 1988. In remembrance of the 27th anniversary of the film’s release, here are four things you may not have known about They Live.
WrestleMania III Brought John Carpenter And Roddy Piper Together
The third-annual WrestleMania event is fondly remembered for packing more than 90,000 fans into the Pontiac Silverdome to see Andre the Giant and Hulk Hogan finally slug it out over the WWF Championship. But, many people forget that the event also hosted what was to be “Rowdy” Roddy Piper’s final match. (Retirements in wrestling are a fickle thing, and usually do not stick.) Piper had a back-up plan, though. Shortly after the event, Piper’s manager asked him to have a meeting with a director he was not familiar with: John Carpenter.
The guy who was managing me at the time, Dave Wolfe, said, ‘I want you have dinner with this guy.’ I never heard of him, but that’s my bad, you know? ’Cause I had been fighting pro since I was 15, I was rolling pretty hard. And he said, ‘Okay, after [WrestleMania is] over, after it’s over.’ So we sat down and, I’m trying not to be too facetious, but it was pretty close to this – ‘Could you pass me the butter? You want a roll? Yeah. Want to star in my next movie? Sure. Can I have some more champagne? Sure.’ It wasn’t much more than that, really.
Carpenter used to be a huge wrestling fan, but decided it wasn’t for him anymore when Vince McMahon told the world that wrestling was just a show.