It’s a little jarring that it’s already been 10 years since Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story came out. It seems like just yesterday I was listening to my college roommate rattle off Vince Vaughn quotes. It may not have been the strongest offering from the “Frat Pack’s” golden era, but the ragtag team of gym misfits and a spandex-clad Ben stiller delivered a decent chunk of solid laughs about a middle school P.E. activity on steroids. Not to mention memorable scenes from Jason Bateman and cameos from William Shatner, Chuck Norris, and Norm MacDonald (he’s un-credited but if you look hard enough you can spot him in some of the Globo Gym scenes).
In honor of Rip Torn’s greatest role — at least among roles concerning wheelchair-bound psychos — here are 10 facts behind the creation of Stiller/Vaughn comedy.
1. Rip Torn’s wrench-throwing is not to be underestimated. The prop wrenches that Rip Torn hurled at Justin Long’s head were made of rubber, but that didn’t stop one from cutting open Long’s eyebrow.
2. The DVD’s commentary is a joke. It’s customary for many DVDs to have commentary with the director, screenwriters and cast — in fact, it’s where most of these obscure facts originate from — Dodgeball’s commentary is one of the more entertaining ones out there and basically involves Vince Vaughn and writer/director Rawson Marshall Thurber drinking beer and ragging on Ben Stiller for being late. When Ben finally does show up they all get into an argument, storm out, and the audio commentary for There’s Something About Mary begins.
3. Hollywood was doubtful of a movie about a misfit dodgeball team. Dodgeball was Rawson Marshall Thurber’s first feature-length screenplay and most of the major studios weren’t interested in the idea. Ben Stiller’s Red Hour productions was going to produce the film, but getting financial backing from a studio proved difficult. Dreamworks and MGM passed on the project, and Fox didn’t finally sign on until after Stiller agreed to numerous pay cuts. The film cost only $23 million to make, but went on to pull $124 million at the box office.
4. Nobody enjoyed the dodgeball scenes. Before filming began the cast had a one month dodgeball refresher course, at which point they all remembered how much they hated dodgeball. Stiller told IGN that the actual dodgeball scenes were exhausting to shoot, but nobody wanted to look bad in front of the 500 extras and gave it their all. The low-point of the shoot came when Stiller accidentally beamed his wife in the face with one of the rubber balls.
“I hit her in the face a couple of times, which was not good. Not helpful. That actually affected our relationship for like a week. There’s just no way not to get upset with somebody after you’ve done that. It just sent us both back to eighth grade.”
5. Patches O’Houlihan took his insults from the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team. Rip Torn’s character Patches O’Houlihan had a lot of great lines and one that was particularly popular was his comparison of the team’s performance to watching “a bunch of retards hump a doorknob.” This not-so politically correct metaphor was a reference to 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Coach Herb Brooks, who compared his team’s training efforts to a bunch of monkeys trying to hump a football.
6. It was the director’s idea to bring Christine Taylor on board. It was actually Rawson Marshall Thurber’s idea, to bring Ben Stiller’s wife Christine on board with the cast. Taylor had taken a few years off from acting at the time to be a mother and Thurber suggested the idea to her, feeling that she would play well off of Ben in the villain role.
7. Ben Stiller channeled Tony Perkins for White Goodman. Stiller has played a number of fitness and self-help gurus over the years from Tony Bobbins on The Ben Stiller Show to his character Tony Perkins in Heavyweights. The fat camp comedy did poorly at the box office which is probably one reason Stiller chose to resurrect aspects of that character.
“And then I always thought, ‘Well, nobody ever saw Heavyweights, so I can do this.’ But a lot of people saw Heavyweights apparently. Apparently it shows on the Disney channel a lot or something. So yeah, there are definitely correlations between them. But you know, it’s like, how often do you get the chance to do a guy like that? It was really fun for me.”
8. Director Rawson Marshall Thurber created White Goodman and Peter La Fleur for Ben and Vince. Writing for an actor is one thing if you’re Adam McKay and have already worked with Will Ferrell for over a decade. It’s another thing entirely if you’re the new guy in town and don’t have a relationship with the A-listers you’re aiming for. Rawson Marshall Thurber wrote the characters White Goodman and Peter La Fleur with Stiller and Vaughn specifically in mind and described getting them for the film as a miracle.
“I’m a big Ben Stiller fan and a big, big Vince Vaughn fan and I wrote both roles for these guys. To get them in my first film is nothing short of a miracle. It was a thrill. They were really, really generous and game for anything. I mean you write it with someone in mind, someone you hope to have, never truly dreaming you’re going to get them. Then when you get them, you just kind of sit back and try not to screw it up.”
9. Marshall wrote the movie as an homage to 80s comedies. Marshall is a self-proclaimed sports geek and wrote Dodgeball as a tribute to the slapstick sports comedies of his youth.
“This movie is sort of an homage to movies that I loved when I was growing up: Bad News Bears, Stripes, Caddyshack, [and] Revenge of the Nerds. And then sports movies that I loved growing up like Hoosiers, Bull Durham – my favorite film. Ghostbusters – it’s a comedy, not a sports film, but I’m kind of a comedy geek and a sports nerd and I wanted to put those two things together and pay homage to them.”
10. We can hopefully look forward to more wrench dodging with a sequel. Talks about a Dodgeball sequel have been floating around since the movie’s release and it was revealed last year that Stiller’s production company signed Clay Tarver (Silicon Valley) to write a script. Vince Vaughn confirmed this last year with his Reddit AMA, but when second round of ball hurling actually hits the screen is anyone’s guess.