20 Things You Never Knew About Revenge of the Nerds
In the early 80s, comedies geared toward adolescent audiences took a turn for the raunchier. Hit movies like National Lampoon’s Animal House and Porky’s blazed the trail for a slew of low-brow, low-budget yuck-fests. Chief among them was Revenge of the Nerds, which shook up the frat comedy formula by having the social outcast underdogs emerge as the heroes. Let’s reminisce with some facts about this 1984 comedy hit.
20. Robert Carradine stole his distinctive nerd laugh from his on-screen dad
Robert Carradine was already a seasoned actor when he landed Revenge of the Nerds, as well as being part of notable acting family (as the son of John and brother of David).
One of the most memorable aspects of Robert Carradine’s performance as central nerd Lewis is his distinctive laugh.
Reportedly, the Revenge of the Nerds script described the character’s laugh as being like the honk of a goose.
The young actor couldn’t quite nail this – but James Cromwell, who plays his father, did it just right.
Subsequently, Carradine just imitated Cromwell’s laugh, and it went down so well that he kept using it throughout the film.
Amusingly, Cromwell says he didn’t realise until later that he himself had modelled the laugh on that of his ex-wife.
19. Booger’s belch was actually a recording of a camel enjoying a moment of ‘ecstasy’
Outside of lead duo Anthony Edwards and Robert Carradine, probably the most scene-stealing performance in Revenge of the Nerds comes from Curtis Armstrong.
As the boorish, hygiene-averse Booger, Armstrong gives us some of the film’s most memorable lines (none of which are fit to repeat here).
Armstrong also brings us another of the more memorable noises in Revenge of the Nerds, when Booger enters a belching contest.
However, when the scene was shot, the actor found himself unable to burp on command.
Armstrong has claimed that the sound they wound up using was a modulated recording of a camel.
Moreover, if Armstrong is to be believed, the noise was recorded when the camel in question was experiencing a moment of ‘ecstasy’.
18. Fraternity officials at the University of Arizona tried to stop the movie being filmed there
There are those within the academic world who are rather precious about the Greek fraternity/sorority system that Revenge of the Nerds makes fun of.
Some such figures were based at the University of Arizona, where Revenge of the Nerds was shot.
The university’s officials were anxious about the film, and tried to stop it from being filmed on their campus.
Revenge of the Nerds director Jeff Kanew recalls having particular trouble with the sororities, which he acknowledges was a problem as “this is a fairly sexist movie.”
Ultimately, Kanew was able to win the sororities over by arguing that the film was about “about the triumph of the underdog, not judging a book by its cover.”
Even so, Revenge of the Nerds hasn’t proven popular with feminists in the years since, for reasons we’ll get into.
17. Child actor Andrew Cassese wasn’t allowed near the shooting of the more R-rated scenes
The main plot of Revenge of the Nerds centres on the formation of a new nerd-friendly fraternity, Lambda Lambda Lambda.
The frat is specifically established to take in all the outcasts who have been rejected by the other fraternities.
One among these outcasts accepted into Lambda Lambda Lambda is child prodigy Wormser, played by Andrew Cassese.
Much like his character, Cassese was far younger than the average college student, with the young actor aged just 12 at the time.
As you might expect, having a child actor on set posed problems given the distinctly non-family friendly nature of Revenge of the Nerds.
As such, special care had to be taken to ensure that Cassese was not present during the filming of the movie’s more risque moments.
16. 20th Century Fox reduced the film’s release after it tested badly with a nerd-hating Texas crowd
Revenge of the Nerds wound up a decent-sized hit, but there were fears early on that this would not be the case.
When an early test screening of the film scored badly in Dallas, Texas, executives at studio 20th Century Fox got very nervous.
They decided to cut back on the film’s marketing and reduced the number of screens it was opening on, afraid they had a bomb on their hands.
Director Jeff Kanew blamed this on the nature of the Dallas audience, who were more in line with the macho Jocks the film makes fun of.
Ultimately, Revenge of the Nerds reached a wider audience thanks to positive word of mouth.
Its theatrical run saw box office receipts of $60.4 million, a considerable return on the film’s low budget (said to be between $6-8 million).
15. A remake started production in 2006 but was abandoned two weeks into shooting
With its toilet humour and voyeurism, Revenge of the Nerds proved influential in the post-American Pie era of teen sex comedies.
Considering this, it’s not too surprising that a remake of the 1984 original was planned for release in 2007.
Kyle Newman (Fanboys) was hired as director, McG was to serve as executive producer, while a script was co-written by Adam F. Goldberg (The Goldbergs), and the cast included Adam Brody (The O.C.) and Katie Cassidy (Arrow).
However, two weeks into the film’s winter 2006 production, studio 20th Century Fox pulled the plug on the project.
It seems there were multiple reasons for this; first, the university where they had been shooting kicked the production out over objections to the script.
On top of this, the studio executives had not been impressed with the work done up to that point and decided to cut their losses.
14. Most of the cast didn’t want to do the film
From the title alone, the bulk of the actors who wound up starring in Revenge of the Nerds had serious doubts going in.
Booger actor Curtis Armstrong came straight to the role after appearing alongside Tom Cruise in Risky Business, and it felt to him like a big step down.
Armstrong reflects, “You can’t imagine the difference between being sent a script of Risky Business, then being sent, for your next film, Revenge of the Nerds, particularly when it was in the condition that it was in at the time, which was not great.”
Director Jeff Kanew recalls Robert Carradine expressing similar uncertainties: “Bobby Carradine said, ‘Look, I don’t know what I’m doing here – I’m not a nerd, I’m probably a guy who would beat up a nerd.'”
Meanwhile, Stan actor Ted McGinley admits, “When I first got it, I was almost embarrassed to say the title.”
Ultimately, as all the actors were young up-and-comers in need of work, they just had to put those anxieties to one side.
13. The film launched the careers of John Goodman and Anthony Edwards
Revenge of the Nerds had a role to play in launching a couple of notable Hollywood acting careers.
In the immediate aftermath of the film’s box office success, the biggest star among the ensemble was Gilbert actor Anthony Edwards.
Edwards would star as Goose alongside Tom Cruise’s Maverick in blockbuster Top Gun two years later, before landing a starring role in TV’s ER in the 90s.
However, 35 years on, the real legend among the Revenge of the Nerds ensemble is John Goodman, who plays the boisterous Coach Harris in the film.
Within a few years Goodman would find fame via TV’s Roseanne and his work with the Coen brothers, appearing in several of their films including Raising Arizona, Barton Fink and The Big Lebowski.
12. Robert Carradine tried going method as a nerd, but was too embarrassed
Robert Carradine wasn’t massively confident about being able to make a convincing nerd.
Because of this, the actor tried to go method, and “asked the studio if they would send me to the location two weeks early just so I could get into the zone.”
Carradine says he left all his usual clothes and brought nothing to the set to wear except his “nerd wardrobe.”
As a result, the actor says he “didn’t leave my hotel room for three days – I was just too embarrassed.”
Ultimately, Carradine had to venture outside as he required a part for the remote-control aeroplane he was building (also part of his getting into the nerd zone).
Carradine recalls, “I had to dress up as Lewis and step out of the door. To my astonishment, no one reacted. They just thought I was an engineering student.”
11. Anthony Edwards and Robert Carradine tried to join a fraternity for real
In the days leading up to the start of production, Robert Carradine engaged in another method acting experiment.
This time, he roped in his co-star Anthony Edwards, and the two of them went out in costume and character to a real frat house party.
Carradine recalls, “By that time, everybody on campus knew the nerds were coming, except this one fraternity.”
Because of this, Carradine and Edwards visited this fraternity in full-on nerd mode to ask about joining.
Carradine recalls the frat boy in question “turned around and looked at Anthony and me and just said, ‘No way,’ and went back to the party.”
Carradine says that he and Edwards “knew we had (their roles) figured out” on the strength of this incident.
10. They partied hard on-set, until a crew member was arrested for dealing drugs
Revenge of the Nerds is known for being a bit of a party movie, and there was even more of that going on off-camera.
Poindexter actor Timothy Busfield recalls, “at 6:00 in the morning, we would go to somebody’s room and order 38 orders of bacon and eggs and two cases of beer.”
Takashi actor Brian Tochi says, “In the morning, because we were so beat, many of us would stand in line waiting for the on-set doctor to inject us with (Vitamin) B12 to get us going the next day.”
As well as drinking, the actors have admitted there was also some drug use going on, much of this thanks to a member of the crew who was dealing drugs.
Accounts vary as to what happened to this unnamed crew member; actor Andrew Cassese recalls seeing the person “taken out in cuffs.”
However, co-writer Jeff Buhai says the person was simply “taken out of town, away from the police” by the line producer.
9. A cut scene would have revealed Stan to be a ‘closet nerd’
For a film that’s meant to be about accepting diversity, Revenge of the Nerds does have a fairly rigid morality, in which the jocks are inherently bad guys.
However, one moment that was shot but didn’t make the final cut could have shown things in a different light.
Ted McGinley’s Stan – the muscular, handsome jock who becomes the nemesis of Robert Carradine’s Lewis – is secretly a nerd himself.
The deleted scene shows Stan leaving a frat party, putting on glasses and sitting down to study.
However, when his frat buddies come get him, Stan quickly hides his glasses and book for fear of ridicule.
This aspect of Stan’s character was revisited years later in sequel Revenge of the Nerds III.
8. The screenwriters based the film on their own college experiences
While it’s fair to say that what ended up on the screen is somewhat heightened, the story of Revenge of the Nerds is actually inspired by true events.
In its initial incarnation, the script (not yet entitled Revenge of the Nerds) was based on the real-life experiences of the father of co-writer Miguel Tejada-Flores.
Tejada-Flores, who co-wrote the original script with Tim Metcalfe, says his father was a “brilliant nerd” who found a “paradise for nerds” at the California Institute of Technology.
However, once the project was developed further, it was radically rewritten by Steve Zacharias and Jeff Buhai – although they, too, had real life inspiration.
Zacharias explains, “Our next-door neighbor didn’t get into any of the fraternities, so he started his own fraternity.”
The writer continues, “They’d lose 80-to-nothing in football, and their parties were nerdy, but they had fun” – which was just what they wanted for their characters.
7. The actors ad-libbed a lot of the movie
Weaknesses in the Revenge of the Nerds script were a concern for most of the actors, as a lot of the characters were not particularly fleshed out.
Curtis Armstrong recalls, “the character of Booger in the original script was non-existent almost… I was looking at it and thinking, ‘How do I take this and even begin to make it likeable or accessible?'”
As a result, Armstrong and the other actors did a lot of ad-libbing, and many of these ad-libs made the final film.
One such moment comes when Armstrong’s Booger and Brian Tochi’s Takashi play cards, and Booger cheats him.
This scene was entirely made up by the actors, with the director having asked them to “come up with something.”
Armstrong says, “they liked it so much that, every time Takashi and I were in the room together, we would have to come up with something else.”
6. It’s become controversial because of a date rape scene
As much as it may be a time-honoured example of 80s comedy, there’s plenty in Revenge of the Nerds that hasn’t aged well.
It’s one among a number of 80s comedies which have been re-appraised in recent years due to clear overtones of misogyny.
For one, we have the scenes of the nerds breaking into the sorority house on a ‘panty raid,’ and later spying on the girls with hidden cameras; such scenes of voyeurism were typical in 80s frat comedies, but that doesn’t make them any less troubling today.
Worse yet is the scene where Robert Carradine’s Lewis disguises himself as the boyfriend of Julia Montgomery’s Betty and has sex with her.
This scene, and a similar moment in John Hughes’ Sixteen Candles, have been widely condemned for normalising rape by deception.
Revenge of the Nerds director Jeff Kanew and writer Steve Zacharias have both expressed regret over this scene in recent years, admitting “it’s not excusable.”
5. There were three sequels
Revenge of the Nerds was such a surprise hit with audiences, it proved popular enough to launch a franchise.
Most of the core cast returned in 1987’s theatrically released follow-up Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise, which moved the action to sunny Florida.
However, Anthony Edwards only made a brief cameo as Gilbert, as he was by then the most in-demand cast member in the wake of Top Gun.
Two further films in the series were made for TV: 1992’s Revenge of the Nerds III: The Next Generation, which saw Robert Carradine, Curtis Armstrong, Julia Montgomery and Ted McGinley return, now as university faculty.
Finally came 1994’s Revenge of the Nerds IV: Nerds in Love, which centred on Armstrong’s Booger getting married, and featured an audience participation element with scratch and sniff cards.
Then there’s the matter of the aborted Revenge of the Nerds remake, partially shot but never completed.
4. A pilot for a TV spin-off was filmed but it never went to series
Not long before the last two Revenge of the Nerds movies went straight to TV, the franchise almost moved to the small screen in a slightly altered form.
In 1991, a pilot episode was shot for a proposed Revenge of the Nerds TV sitcom that would never be.
The set-up was essentially identical to the original film, centred on the outcast nerds seeking out a new home on campus.
The show kept the core characters of Lewis, Gilbert, Booger and Wormser, but otherwise introduced new supporting characters.
However, the Revenge of the Nerds pilot failed to impress any TV network executives, and did not get picked up for a series.
The episode has since been made available as an extra on a Revenge of the Nerds DVD release, and can also be found on YouTube.
3. Two actors from the movie hosted a Nerds-themed reality TV show from 2013 to 2015
The Revenge of the Nerds film franchise may have ended in 1994, but the spirit of the series has endured.
From 2013 to 2015, Lewis actor Robert Carradine and Booger actor Curtis Armstrong were the hosts and executive producers of King of the Nerds.
This reality show was devised by the actors themselves, who had first pitched it to networks in the early 2000s.
However, it wasn’t until the success of nerd-tastic sitcom The Big Bang Theory that network TBS gave the show the go-ahead.
King of the Nerds pitted nerd-against-nerd in a battle for the crown of nerddom, and a $100,000 cash prize.
King of the Nerds ran for three seasons before network TBS dropped the axe, following mediocre ratings and lukewarm reviews.
2. The movies inspired a real-life fraternity
Lambda Lambda Lambda, the fictitious fraternity which accepts the nerds in the movie, has inspired a real-life fraternity of the same name.
It was founded in the University of Connecticut in 2006, with further chapters since opened around the US.
Connecticut’s Lambda Lambda Lambda is said to be an inclusive co-ed fraternity which does not discriminate.
The founders say the fraternity is primarily “dedicated to the enjoyment and enrichment of pop culture.”
In starting the new fraternity, the founders say “The hardest part is getting people to take [Lambda Lambda Lambda] seriously, especially when it’s a joke to begin with.”
Further chapters of Lambda Lambda Lambda have since opened in Buffalo, New York; Baltimore County; Washington University; and Bowie State University.
1. The jocks trashing the nerd frat house was originally shown in much more detail
Towards the end of the film, Revenge of the Nerds takes a slightly more serious tack as Lambda Lambda Lambda’s house is destroyed.
Director Jeff Kanew recalls that this sequence was originally going to show a lot more of the damage being done.
“I filmed that in great detail – there’s a lot of smashing and crashing and there’s a confrontation. Ogre throws Anthony Edwards off the porch and it’s bullying.”
As for why this didn’t make the final cut, the director explains, “(it) was an important moment in the movie, but that had to go.”
The tone was all wrong: “The audience is having a good time and (suddenly) they’re horrified by what’s happening. Now you watch the movie, the jocks kick the fence and go inside the house and it’s cut – and the nerds are picking up the aftermath.”