This weekend thirty years ago, the world was introduced to Police Academy, a monster of a movie that would spawn a franchise destined to haunt audiences for the next decade. (I don’t have the facts, but I’d be willing to bet TBS showed a Police Academy movie every weekend between 1987 and 1996.) No other comedy franchise is more guilty of beating a dead horse than the Police Academy films. And as shamelessly bad as some of the later films were, the original Police Academy (and to some degree its first sequel) was a solid slapstick comedy with a cast of incredibly eccentric characters. Oh, and Steve Guttenberg, too.
To commemorate Police Academy’s 30th birthday, here are 10 facts about the movie that would give us a full decade of Michael Winslow.
1. Hooks’ voice was inspired by Michael Jackson. Actress Marion Ramsey developed Hooks’ unique voice after meeting the king of pop. In the movie’s DVD commentary she described the moment where her character stands up for herself yelling, “don’t move, dirtbag!” as catching the sound tech off-guard who was accustomed to Hooks’ much meeker voice.
2. Michael Winslow IS Police Academy. Having a Police Academy movie without the machine gun mouth of Larvell Jones would be sacrilegious. Winslow is the only actor from the movie to appear in each film of the series as well as the live action Police Academy: The Series. Oddly enough, Winslow bowed out of playing Larvell for the 1988 cartoon series, but later revisited the character for episodes of Tosh.0 and Robot Chicken.
3. Steve Guttenberg beat out some of Hollywood’s biggest future stars for the part of Mahoney. In the Lost Roles Of Bruce Wills we found out that Willis auditioned for Mahoney, but he’s not the only big name celeb who tried out for the role. Michael Keaton, Tom Hanks and Judge Reinhold were also considered for the role before losing out to Guttenberg. And damn if Guttenberg didn’t rock the hell out of that bun in the oven t-shirt.
4. Spain has a Police Academy stunt show. Next time you’re vacationing in Madrid you could go to the Prado Museum, OR you could do the most ‘murica thing possible and check out “Loca Academia de Policia” at Warner Bros’ Movie World. Since 2002, audiences have been lining up to watch a stunt show that for whatever reason only features the recurring characters Commandant Lassard and Captain Harris, but does have bmx and car stunts.
5. The film achieved massive commercial success, despite poor reviews. The movie was shot over 45 days on a budget of $4.5 million and pulled in $81 million domestically, making it the sixth highest grossing film of 1984. That’s a pretty impressive feat for a movie that Roger Ebert loathed so much he gave it zero stars. Ouch.
6. The character Larvell Jones wasn’t in the first draft of the script. It’s difficult to imagine Police Academy without Michael Winslow, but his character wasn’t even in the first version of the script. Casting directors insisted that his character be written in after seeing him open for Count Basie.
7. You won’t find the Blue Oyster bar in California. The actual bar used is The Silver Dollar Room, a music venue located in Toronto.
8. Actors Scott Thompson and Brant von Hoffman had to wear wigs during filming. The head shaving scene of characters Chad Copeland and Kyle Blankes caused problems as it was filmed too early in production. To work around this issue, producers had Thompson and von Hoffman wear wigs for all the scenes in the movie before their haircut.
9. Sgt. Callahan’s firearm enthusiasm wasn’t faked. Leslie Easterbrook didn’t have to pretend to know how to use Callahan’s hand cannon, the actress was an avid gun enthusiast prior to the movie. The NRA member and accomplished sports shooter even released her own shooting video, Real Beginner’s Guide To The Shotgun Sports.
10. The megaphone shoe polish gag came from a prank played on the director of Death Wish. Mahonney’s shoe polish prank on Lt. Harris’ megaphone was inspired by a prank played on British director Michael Winner. A crew member told Police Academy director Hugh Wilson about the joke who thought the gag would fit perfect with Mahonney’s jokester persona.