In the wake of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and sequel Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, Hollywood and the world at large woke up to a whole new category of comedy: movies starring dim-witted young men who speak in California surfer-inspired slang. The Wayne’s World movies soon followed, and the likes of Keanu Reeves and Mike Myers became some of the biggest stars around.
However, there was another early 90s comedy in that same category that doesn’t seem to get the same level of love today: Encino Man, otherwise known as California Man, which sees two high school losers stumble on the discovery of a lifetime when they accidentally uncover and revive a perfectly preserved caveman. The film introduced the world to future Mummy series hero Brendan Fraser, and re-introduced audiences to The Goonies star Sean Astin – but Encino Man is equally beloved (and reviled) for launching an actor who briefly became one of the biggest comedy stars around: Pauly Shore.
Here are some facts about this deliriously outlandish comedy that you might not have known.
20. Brendan Fraser chewed on real bath beads for the scene where Stoney and Dave give Link a bath
After Stoney and Dave find Link wreaking havoc in Dave’s house, they decide to help him assimilate into 20th-century life.
The first step they take before giving him a haircut and dressing him in 90s clothes is giving him a bath.
What follows is a montage set to Right Said Fred’s I’m Too Sexy, featuring Stoney and Dave giving Link a good wash.
One shot in the scene sees Link munching on a handful of bath oil beads.
Disgustingly, Brendan Fraser was actually chewing on real bath beads during the scene – which explains the slightly pained look on his face as he pops them into his mouth.
While Link swallows the chewed-up beads, in real life the crew had a bucket on hand for Fraser to spit the beads into after each take.
19. A made-for-TV sequel aired in 1996
Who knew that Disney produced a made for television sequel that was released in 1996?
Encino Woman was distributed by ABC four years after the release of the original film.
It charts the journey of Lucy, a prehistoric woman frozen in ice who is unearthed during an earthquake.
She ends up befriending a man called David Horsenfelt who works at an ad agency.
David helps Lucy adapt as best he can and she ultimately ends up becoming the face of a cosmetics company that David is working with.
The film ends with David and Lucy embarking on a romantic relationship and David telling the audience: “and that’s how I fell in love with a cavewoman – I highly suggest you try it some time.”
18. Shore, Fraser and Astin are all keen to make a proper sequel soon
While Encino Woman was released in 1996, this was a far cry from Encino Man and featured none of the original cast.
Pauly Shore, however, has frequently expressed his desire to make a proper sequel with his original co-stars.
Speaking to Variety in 2014, Shore said simply: “Encino Man 2’ – let’s do it. My agent and I are talking about it.”
While that was six years ago now, Shore is still very enthusiastic about the project.
He shared a photo of himself and co-stars Sean Astin and Brendan Fraser on his Instagram page in November 2020, captioned “How many people want to see Encino Man 2?”
He went on: “Hit up Disney+ on social media and let them know Brendan, Sean, and myself are ready to go! Let’s do this 2021.”
17. Sean Astin only accepted the role of Dave to fund a film he wanted to direct
Sean Astin, who plays Dave in the film, was actually incredibly reluctant to sign up for the role.
Astin was actually looking to pivot from acting to directing at the time, and only accepted the role because it allowed him to direct a short film.
Speaking to AV Club in 2017, Astin said: “I did not want to do that movie. I thought it was stupid.”
“But I was wrong. I was wrong for not wanting to do it. It was stupid, but it was stupid in a wonderful way, and I was too self-important at the time to really appreciate what it was.”
“I only agreed to be in the movie if they would let me direct a short film. So I directed the short film Kangaroo Court,” he said.
Kangaroo Court went on to bag an Oscar nomination for Best Short Film. “The real reason that I did [Encino Man] was for the short film, not for the movie,” Astin concluded.
16. Brendan Fraser wrestled a plant in his audition
Brendan Fraser’s breakthrough role was undoubtedly Link in Encino Man, in which he dazzles as a caveman who wakes up in 20th-century California after being frozen in ice.
As Fraser was relatively unknown back in 1992, you’d be forgiven for assuming that he must have done something unorthodox to make himself stand out at his audition.
You’d be exactly right to think so, as Fraser actually wrestled a plant when he tried out for the role.
“I didn’t want to do Encino Man, about a caveman who wrestles with plants,” Fraser said in a 2018 interview.
“At least that’s what got me the job in the audition,” he went on to quip.
The producers also believed that the actor possessed an innate innocence which made him seem as though he was truly perceiving the 20th-century world for the first time.
15. Nicolas Cage and Jim Carrey were considered for Link before Brendan Fraser was cast
Encino Man first hit screens in May 1992, and it was the first big break of a number of the key figures involved.
First off, it was the first feature film from director Les Mayfield, who had previously shot behind-the-scenes documentaries on Back to the Future, 2010 and Empire of the Sun.
Encino Man was also a major career turning point for much of the cast – most notably Brendan Fraser, who only had one minor screen credit to his name when he was cast in the key role of Link, the caveman reborn into the 1990s.
Cage was already an established film actor thanks to roles in the likes of Raising Arizona and Peggy Sue Got Married, whilst Carrey (who also appeared in Peggy Sue Got Married) was best known at the time for TV comedy series In Living Color.
While either of those actors could have handled Encino Man’s physical comedy, it was decided that Fraser’s combination of comedic skills and rugged good looks made him a better fit for the role.
14. The character of Stoney was created specifically for Pauly Shore
Encino Man also represented a significant break for Pauly Shore, who gives an outlandish, scene-stealing performance in the film.
Shore had enjoyed small screen success in the late 80s as a comedian and host on MTV.
However, he hadn’t yet landed a major leading role in a movie (although he was among the actors considered for one of the lead roles in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure).
When it came to Encino Man, Shore initially auditioned for the part of Link – but even though felt he wasn’t the best fit for that character, they really liked him and wanted him in the movie.
At that time, the character of Stoney didn’t exist, so they decided to add the role specifically for Shore to play.
Naturally this required some hasty last-minute rewrites to the script – and this in part explains why Shore was encouraged to ad-lib heavily.
13. The film is a Goonies reunion between Sean Astin and Jonathan Ke Quan
Encino Man launched Brendan Fraser and Pauly Shore, but the most well-established of the three lead actors at the time was Sean Astin.
Astin (who gets top billing as Dave) was only 21 at the time, but was already a very familiar face thanks to his appearance in the beloved 1985 classic The Goonies.
You might not have been aware, but Astin isn’t the only Goonies actor to make an appearance in Encino Man.
The film also co-stars Jonathan Ke Quan, best known for playing Data in The Goonies, and Short Round in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
This makes Encino Man the only film to date to reunite actors from The Goonies.
Encino Man was Quan’s last acting role in an American movie; he has since worked more extensively as a stunt choreographer.
12. It’s the film debut of Rose McGowan
As well as boosting the careers of its three male stars, Encino Man also launched a notable new female face: Rose McGowan.
Aged 18 at the time, McGowan made her film debut in Encino Man, taking the supporting role of Nora.
She became a Generation X icon in the years that followed, thanks to her appearance in several edgy indie films and her high-profile relationship with shock rocker Marilyn Manson.
McGowan also ascended to mainstream fame by the late 90s with roles in Scream and TV’s Charmed.
McGowan would also reunite with Pauly Shore in Bio-Dome and with Brendan Fraser in Monkeybone.
Today, McGowan is most outspoken as an activist, having played a key role in the Me Too movement by speaking out on being assaulted by Harvey Weinstein.
11. Brendan Fraser’s clothes had to be custom-made because of his size
Brendan Fraser’s muscular build and 6’3″ frame were considered an asset for his casting as caveman Link.
However, having such a big leading man also presented some challenges for the Encino Man crew.
In advance of his arrival on set, the wardrobe department had purchased clothing specifically for him.
However, when Fraser showed up for fittings, they quickly found none of it was big enough.
Because of this, costume designer Marie France decided it would be more convenient for her to instead make all Fraser’s outfits herself.
Encino Man has long been notorious for the garish early 90s fashions on display throughout.
10. The whole film was shot in barely a month
Some movies endure a long and difficult development process before reaching screens.
This was most emphatically not the case when it came to Encino Man, however.
Producer George Zaloom pitched the story to studio Hollywood Pictures (a live-action wing of Disney) and got a green light almost immediately.
Zaloom and first-time director Les Mayfield were given a very tight shooting schedule of only 33 days.
Mayfield said at the time, “It was ridiculously fast… They just threw us out and said ‘sink or swim.’”
Just as the schedule was tight, so was the budget: the filmmakers had $7 million to work with, pretty small fry by industry standards.
9. Future Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo makes a cameo
The prom scene in Encino Man features a performance by 90s funk-metal group Infectious Grooves. Most viewers are of course too caught up in those eye-catching dance moves to pay much attention to the band.
Infectious Grooves was a side project of a number of notable musicians of the era, among them bass player Robert Trujillo.
At the time, Trujillo was otherwise best known for playing bass in hardcore punk band Suicidal Tendencies.
However, 11 years after Encino Man was released, Trujillo became the bass player in Metallica.
Trujillo joined Metallica in 2003 and he remains in the band today, making him the legendary heavy metal band’s longest-serving bass player.
We couldn’t say for sure whether or not Trujillo’s appearance in Encino Man had a part to play in him landing the job.
8. It was a critical failure, but a commercial success
When Encino Man reached cinemas, Disney’s confidence in the project was quickly proved to have been well-founded.
The film was a big hit with audiences on release, coming in fourth on the box office charts (with Basic Instinct at number one).
After costing only $7 million to make, it wound up making $9.8 million in its opening weekend.
By the end of its run, Encino Man had taken $40 million at the US box office alone, resulting in a substantial profit.
The film didn’t go over nearly so well with the critics, though, and received almost universally negative reviews.
Today, Encino Man’s score at reviews aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes is a very low 15%.
7. Pauly Shore ‘won’ Worst Newcomer at the Golden Raspberry Awards
Encino Man announced Pauly Shore as a new movie star, and not everyone was thrilled about that.
Shore wound up ‘winning’ the Worst Newcomer award at the Golden Raspberry Awards, the infamous anti-Oscars dedicated to shaming Hollywood at its worst.
Given how critically lambasted Encino Man was, it’s perhaps surprising that this was its only Razzie nomination.
This didn’t stop Shore from going on to be one of the biggest comedy stars around in the 90s.
He continued to enjoy success on MTV and in a number of major big-screen comedies.
However, by the end of the 90s, Shore’s career had fizzled out, and today he’s usually mentioned as a cautionary tale of the fleeting nature of fame.
6. Brendan Fraser reprised the role of Link in two more movies
In the years after Encino Man, Brendan Fraser rose through the ranks to become one of the biggest Hollywood stars around.
However, he didn’t forget where his career began, and the role Pauly Shore had to play in it.
Fraser would unofficially play the role of Link again in two unrelated movies headlined by Shore.
Firstly, Fraser made a cameo appearance as Link in Shore’s 1993 comedy Son-in-Law.
Later, Fraser would make a cameo appearance in another Shore movie, In the Army Now, in which he played a soldier named Link.
5. ‘Link’ was frozen in genuine ice
Encino Man’s plot hinges on Dave’s discovery of caveman Link frozen in a block of ice in his backyard.
Most special effects teams would have opted to enclose a dummy in plastic or resin to make it look as though Link was frozen in ice.
But special effects coordinator Dennis Dion was determined to enclose the dummy in real ice.
There was one snag: real ice isn’t usually crystal clear and can appear pretty fogged up.
Dion’s first ice block was so cloudy that it was impossible to even make out the dummy of Link concealed within.
It took weeks of experimentation from Dion to find a way to ensure that the ice didn’t fog up, but he eventually found that it could be achieved by using ionised water and freezing it very slowly.
4. Pauly Shore actually hates rollercoasters, struggled to film the Mega Mountain scenes
One famous scene from the movie sees Link and Stoney hit up the Mega Mountain theme park.
Stoney seems pretty excited to introduce Link to riding the ‘Vapor’ ride in reverse – but Pauly Shore is not a fan of rollercoasters.
Speaking to Entertainment Weekly in 2012, he revealed: “I don’t like roller coasters. They give me a headache.”
He went on to say: “We had to do that scene a couple of times, and I was always kinda p***ed off.”
“Like, we’d finish, and I’m like ‘Okay, we got it,’ and they’re like, ‘We gotta move the camera,’ and I’m like, ‘You son of a b*tch.’”
“It’s not one of those scenes you want to keep doing over and over,” he said.
3. There’s a South Park episode that pays homage to the film
The season finale of South Park’s second season was a not-so-subtle tribute to Encino Man.
The episode, titled Prehistoric Ice Man, aired in 1999 and is essentially a parody of the film.
The episode sees Stan, Kyle, Cartman, and Kenny go crocodile hunting after watching a Steve Irwin program.
Kyle then falls into a cave. Stan jumps in to retrieve him, and shortly thereafter the pair discover a man frozen in ice.
It’s not hard to spot the obvious parallels between the South Park episode and Encino Man.
One major difference is that while Link is a genuine caveman, Larry – the frozen man in South Park – has only been frozen for three years. Despite this, everyone Larry encounters treats him as though he’s a prehistoric man.
2. There’s an Easter egg reference to the music label that released the movie’s soundtrack
In one of the movie’s early scenes, Link wanders into Dave’s living room and accidentally turns the TV on.
Link stumbles across a music channel which is playing The American Way by thrash metal band Sacred Reich.
Sacred Reich were once signed to Hollywood Records, the same record label that released the Encino Man soundtrack.
The soundtrack, released the same year as the film, featured music from artists such as Cheap Trick and Queen.
The little Easter egg is only brief, as the video soon turns over to show Yothu Yindi’s music video for Treaty.
The video features dancing Aboriginal people who Link watches and imitates before Dave comes in and finds him.
1. In the scene where Link eats out of a dog bowl, Fraser is actually eating Cookie Crisp
Whether he was wrestling a plant in an audition or eating bath beads, it’s clear that Brendan Fraser was always willing to go the extra mile.
However, it seems the crew gave him a bit of respite when it came to shooting the scene which sees Link eat out of a dog bowl.
Thankfully, Fraser is not actually wolfing down real dog food in this scene. In fact, he’s eating a bowl of popular breakfast cereal.
Instead of using dog food, the production team filled the Morgan family dog bowl with Cookie Crisp.
Ironically, Cookie Crisp was actually first manufactured by Ralston Purina – a pet food company.
Much more at home eating out of a dog bowl on the floor, Link struggles when first introduced to eating dinner at a table, squirting mustard everywhere before eating a fly.