This past February marked the 20th anniversary of the release of Happy Gilmore. Adam Sandler and company probably couldn’t have predicted that the success of this film and Billy Madison would kick off a production company (named after the two films), a series of financially successful (if not critically successful) films, and millions of dollars of box office revenue.
Happy Gilmore has a large, devoted fanbase, and it makes sense. The movie hits a perfect sweet spot of silly and heartful, and it is endlessly quotable. From Chubbs to Ben Stiller’s Hal to Happy himself, this story of a hockey player turned golfer has become a legitimate comedy classic. In honor of the release of Adam Sandler’s latest, The Do-Over, we decided to take a look back at some lesser known facts surrounding the 1996 comedy.
Here are 12 Things You Didn’t Know About Happy Gilmore.
12. Happy Gilmore was Based on a Real Person
Happy Gilmore follows the story of a young hockey player with an anger management problem who turns to golf when he is expelled from the hockey league. The character of Happy is outrageous in a number of ways, so it came as quite a surprise to us to learn that he’s actually based on a real human being.
Adam Sandler based Happy off of his childhood friend, Kyle. Kyle was a hockey player who would get very passionate about the game. He also frequently played golf with Sandler and his dad. Kyle is now a teacher in Sandler’s hometown, where he coaches the high school hockey team. We’re unsure if Kyle has ever whacked a clown’s nose off his face at a mini-golf course, but it’s probably a safe bet that he has.
11. Christopher MacDonald Almost Wasn’t Shooter McGavin
What would Happy Gilmore be without Christopher McDonald as Shooter McGavin? The actor’s smarmy performance as Gilmore’s villainous rival was essential to the film’s success. His chemistry with Sandler is uproarious, and their relationship ranks among the funniest protagonist/antagonist relationships in comedy history.
Surprisingly, we came very close to a version of Happy Gilmore without McDonald. He actually turned down the role twice, saying he was tired of playing villains. It wasn’t until he met with Sandler that he changed his mind. McDonald has since said that taking the role was one of the best moves of his career.
10. Kevin Costner Almost Was Shooter McGavin
It’s hard to imagine now, but there was almost a time when Shooter McGavin would have been played by Dances With Wolves himself, Kevin Costner. The producers reportedly offered the villainous role to Costner, but he turned them down. He chose instead to make another golf comedy, Tin Cup.
Costner wasn’t even the only actor who almost stepped into Shooter’s golf shoes. Bruce Campbell apparently wanted the role, and lobbied hard for it. Eventually though, MacDonald took the role, and the rest is comedic history. While Costner certainly would have lent the film a level of class, and Campbell would have provided some campy fun, we just can’t picture Happy Gilmore without McDonald in the villain’s role. Can you imagine anyone other than McDonald hissing the line “You lay another finger on me, I burn the house down and piss on the ashes!” We certainly can’t.
9. Ben Stiller Was Uncredited
Ben Stiller’s star was on the rise in the early 90s, but he chose to take the role of the nursing home orderly without receiving credit. In fact, if you pay attention, no characters in the film ever even use his character’s name. The only hint of his identity we’re given is the fact that his name tag says “Hal L.”
Credited or not, Ben Stiller is one of the funniest characters in a movie full of them. His character of a cruel orderly at a nursing home seems ripped straight out of an SNL sketch. In fact, we wouldn’t mind seeing an entire spinoff film focusing solely on Hal the orderly, provided he still gets thrown out a window at the end.
8. Bob Barker Did His Own Stunts, Was Generally Awesome
Possibly the most famous scene in Happy Gilmore is the fist fight between Bob Barker and Happy. The scene is as funny now as it was when the movie premiered. You’ll appreciate the scene even more when you learn the insane backstory involved.
Bob Barker had actually studied Tang Soo Do karate for decades under none other than Chuck Norris. That’s right. The Price is Right host could probably break your nose without breaking a sweat. So when the time came to come to fisticuffs with Sandler, Barker insisted on doing his own stunts. In fact, he had refused to do the role until he learned that he wins the fight. If you didn’t love Bob Barker already, that’s more than enough reason to now.
7. That Fist Fight Won the First MTV Movie Award for Best Fight
Not only did that iconic scuffle involve a former karate champion, it also led to an entirely new award at the MTV Movie Awards. The punch-out between Gilmore and the Price is Right host won the very first MTV Movie Award for Best Fight. The award has since been given to such glamorous kerfuffles as Will Smith vs. Edgar the Bug in Men in Black, Yoda vs. Christopher Lee in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, and most recently to Ryan Reynolds vs. Ed Skrein in Deadpool. And it all started on the golf course in 1996.
And, while we certainly enjoyed Deadpool a great deal, we can’t help but feel that the first winner might be the best.
6. Adam Sandler Won a Razzie for His Performance
Best Fight wasn’t the only “honor” awarded to Happy Gilmore that year. Adam Sandler was also nominated for a Razzie for his performance as the titular character. Sandler did not wind up taking the award home, though. That prize was given to Pauly Shore for Bio-Dome and Tom Arnold for three different movies he was in.
Happy Gilmore seems to have enjoyed a better reputation than any of the other films nominated that year. And truthfully, if the Razzie voters had known Jack and Jill was on the horizon, they might not have been so hard on Sandler for Happy Gilmore. Let’s hope they’re a little kinder to The Do-Over next year.
5. Happy Gilmore was a Box Office Smash
Despite receiving some Razzies and some pretty scathing reviews, Happy Gilmore made a huge smash at the box office that year. The movie was made on a $12 million budget, and raked in about $42 million at the box office. The success of this film, combined with the success of Billy Madison, encouraged Sandler to start his own production company, Happy Madison Productions.
This movie also began the trend of Sandler’s movies basically being critic-proof. No matter what the reviews say, audiences tend to flock to his summer comedies in droves, seeing anything from Click to Grown-Ups. With Sandler’s new four-movie Netflix deal, we aren’t able to see the viewership he’s reaching, but it’s safe to say there’s still a large audience indulging in his particular brand of man-child humor.
4. The Price is Right Ratings Increased After Happy Gilmore
We just can’t over-emphasize the cultural impact that that Bob Barker fight had on society. Not only did it imprint itself on the comedy landscape forever, it actually increased viewership for Barker’s game show, The Price is Right.
Nielsen ratings indicated a significant increase in viewership for the daytime game show after Happy Gilmore premiered, particularly in the young viewer demographic. It would seem all the teenagers who loved the movie wanted to see more of that white-haired karate expert. The ratings increase for Price is Right funnily mirrors the plot of the movie itself, with younger viewers tuning into a more traditionally old fashioned event (golf, in the movie’s case) after an outrageous star becomes involved. Sometimes fact follows fiction.
3. The Devo Frontman Did the Movie’s Score
Mark Mothersbaugh, famously known as the frontman of the rock band Devo, actually composed the score for Happy Gilmore. That’s right, the singer behind “Whip It” put together the music for this Adam Sandler comedy.
Mothersbaugh is actually a very prolific composer these days, having done the music for a variety of films, from 21 Jump Street to The Lego Movie to a number of Wes Anderson films. Most recently he has composed the music for the Will Forte show The Last Man on Earth. We’re not saying these scores are as great as the Devo catalogue, but he certainly lends them a certain je ne sais quoi.
2. Adam Sandler is Terrible at Both Hockey and Golf
Sandler has done a number of sports comedies, starting with Happy Gilmore and extending to The Water Boy and The Longest Yard. And while you would expect such a sports fanatic to play characters with similar abilities, Sandler has admitted that the opposite is actually true.
Apparently, the former SNL star can’t play hockey or golf for the life of him. While Sandler may not be gifted on the ice rink or on the green, he does have a talent for playing tantrum-throwing man-children, and that’s really what’s most important to a film like Happy Gilmore. That said, we hear he’s a huge Yankees fan, so much so that he hired people on the set of Grown Ups 2 to bring a big screen TV and a satellite dish along with them so he can always enjoy the game, wherever he is.
1. Chubb’s Lost Arm is an In-Joke
If you thought Carl Weathers looked familiar with his right arm missing, you’d be right. Weathers’ character in Predator famously gets his right arm blown off in a battle. His missing limb in Happy Gilmore is a sly reference to that classic film.
Weathers, who until this point had made a name for himself in action films such as Predator and the Rocky movies, says that his role as Chubbs in Happy Gilmore turned his career around. Weathers claims that it allowed producers to see that he had a knack for comedy as well as drama. Weathers went on to hilariously play a hilariously fictionalized version of himself in Arrested Development.
By Andrew Martin