20 Things You Never Knew About So I Married An Axe Murderer
While those born in the 21st century will most likely know Mike Myers primarily as the voice of Shrek, those of us who are a little older will remember him as one of the key comedy stars of the 1990s. However, landing in between those comedy franchises, 1993 also saw Myers play the male lead (and his father) opposite Nancy Travis in dark romantic comedy So I Married an Axe Murderer. Here are some interesting pointers about So I Married an Axe Murderer which you might not have known.
20. It was originally a Woody Allen-esque comedy called The Man Who Cried Wife
The script that became So I Married an Axe Murderer was originally entitled The Man Who Cried Wife.
Screenwriter Robbie Fox sold it to Columbia Pictures in 1988, and his vision was heavily inspired by Woody Allen.
Fox has described it as “Woody Allen in Hitchcock’s Suspicion, or like Annie Hall, if Annie was a serial killer.”
Spoiler coming up now: one key difference which viewers of the film may have picked up on is that, in the original script, Charlie’s beloved Harriet was indeed the killer, and not her sister as in the final film.
Reportedly, Allen also considered directing the film, but only under the condition he would be paid $7 million. The studio declined, stating that they could only (!) stretch to $5 million.
19. Woody Allen was considered for the lead before Mike Myers
As might be apparent from the Woody Allen influence, The Man Who Cried Wife had a heavy New York Jewish sensibility.
It’s hardly surprising, then, that Allen was one of the first actors approached to play the lead.
Garry Shandling, Albert Brooks, Chevy Chase and Martin Short were also reportedly considered.
However, the project took a radical shift in direction and was soon refashioned for a younger, hipper audience.
At this point it was offered to Mike Myers, then red-hot from the success of 1992’s Wayne’s World.
18. Mike Myers heavily rewrote the script to suit his own comedic sensibilities
Whilst The Man Who Cried Wife centred on a Jewish New Yorker named Charlie Byers, Myers and his writing partner Neil Mullarkey moved the action to San Francisco, renaming the leading man Charlie MacKenzie.
As well as altering the story, Myers also changed key comedic elements in the script.
He also added new characters in Charlie’s Scottish parents, primarily to add a further comedic element to the story.
As we’ve seen in years since, Myers very much enjoys putting on a Scottish accent, and was happy to take on the role of Stuart, Charlie’s father.
Myers would adopt the Scottish accent again for the Austin Powers character Fat B**tard, and most famously for Shrek.
17. Sharon Stone was the first choice for Harriet before Nancy Travis was cast
As Harriet is a dream woman who might in fact be a homicidal maniac, it’s entirely logical that the first actress offered the role would be Sharon Stone.
Like Myers, Stone had also ascended to superstardom in 1992, in her case thanks to playing Catherine Tramell in Basic Instinct.
However, just as Myers was playing dual roles, Stone wanted to do likewise and play both Harriet and her sister Rose (ultimately portrayed by Amanda Plummer).
This wouldn’t be the first time she had undertaken the task, having played identical twins in Magnum of the Mind.
When her request was denied, Stone passed, and Kim Basinger was briefly considered before Nancy Travis was cast.
16. The ‘Woman!’ poem took 14 hours to film because Myers kept blowing his lines
Some of the most memorable scenes in So I Married an Axe Murderer feature Mike Myers’s Charlie performing jazzy beat poems, in which he details the anxieties of his previous romances.
Reportedly the first of these (“WOMAN! Woah-man!”) wound up taking around 14 hours to shoot as Myers just couldn’t get it right.
Myers is famous for improvising heavily in his comedies, and there was a lot of this going on in So I Married an Axe Murderer.
Supporting actress Cintra Wilson recalls huge amounts of ad-libs being shot which didn’t make the final film.
Myers was also keen to help the other cast members learn the art of improvisation, with Nancy Travis recalling that he taught her a lot about comedy and “how to be relaxed and spontaneous on the set”.
15. Nancy Travis accidentally chopped her fingertip off during a butcher scene
As Harriet is a butcher, Nancy Travis took instruction from real butchers to help her prepare for the role.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t enough to keep Travis from getting a little distracted by the comedic flourishes of Mike Myers during one scene in which she was required to chop meat with a real knife.
Unfortunately, this led to the actress accidentally chopping the tip of her finger off.
Reportedly Travis repeatedly cried “cut,” meaning it quite literally rather than just telling the crew to stop filming.
Happily, the fingertip was successfully re-attached, and at points in the film a bandage is visible on Travis’s finger.
14. Anthony LaPaglia blew a lot of takes by cracking up
Anthony LaPaglia, who plays Charlie’s cop friend Tony, frequently had to be the straight man alongside Myers on the Axe Murderer shoot, and often struggled not to burst out laughing.
Indeed, some of LaPaglia’s guffaws made it into the final film, notably when he’s sitting alongside Myers as Charlie’s father Stuart, watching a football match on TV.
The scene were Tony laughs at Stuart’s Colonel Sanders impression was also unscripted, with Anthony LaPaglia genuinely losing control and breaking into uncontrollable laughter.
Myers wasn’t the only one to catch LaPaglia off guard with an ad-lib, as Brenda Fricker (who plays Charlie’s mother May) also surprised the actor while shooting the scene in which she comes on to him.
LaPaglia recalls: “In the rehearsal, she gave me a kiss on the cheek, and in the take, she just smacked one big one right on my lips.”
13. Mike Myers fought with both the screenwriter and the director behind the scenes
As Myers and Neil Mullarkey had so heavily rewritten Robbie Fox’s original script, they sought to be credited as the screenwriters on the film, with Fox instead given a ‘story by’ credit.
Fox disagreed, and the case went to arbitration with the Writers Guild of America, who ruled in favour of Fox retaining sole screenwriter credit.
Producer Fried and Myers were upset that Mullarkey had put much work into the script and yet did ultimately not receive any credit.
Naturally, this caused some tension behind the scenes, and things were only made worse as Myers and director Thomas Schlamme were frequently at odds over how the film should be shot.
However, Schlamme has since defended Myers against accusations of being a control freak on set.
12. It was a critical and commercial flop on release
Although it would ultimately find a cult following, So I Married an Axe Murderer was met with a tepid reaction from critics and audiences on its release in July 1993.
The film made only $11.5 million at the box office, barely half of its production budget, and the reviews were mostly middling.
Critic Robert Ebert, in his infinite wisdom, described the film as “a mediocre movie with a good one trapped inside, wildly signalling to be set free.”
This reaction is thought to have deterred Myers from pursuing more semi-dramatic characters like Charlie.
After making Wayne’s World 2 that same year, Myers took a four-year big screen hiatus before returning with Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery in 1997.
11. It was almost revived as a TV series
In recent years, there had been talk of turning So I Married an Axe Murderer into a TV series.
Original writer Robbie Fox pitched a take far closer to his original vision, in which Harriet most definitely is the killer.
Fox envisaged the Axe Murderer series as “Dexter, but a romantic comedy” or Mad About You but with a killer in Helen Hunt’s role.
Fox explained that the plot would unfold slowly, and that Charlie would not discover Harriet’s homicidal streak until the second or third season.
However, in the wake of the high-profile difficulties for Sony following the email hack of 2014, the project is thought to have fallen through the cracks and died out.
10. The director was put in ‘director jail’ after the film flopped
So I Married an Axe Murderer was Schlamme’s second theatrical film project – and would prove to be his last.
In a 2015 interview with IndieWire, Schlamme explained how after the flop of So I Married an Axe Murderer, he was put into ‘movie jail’.
This led to him pursuing a career in television, a move which he described as ‘probably the best thing that could have happened to me’.
He realised that working in television would allow him the freedom to do the kinds of stories that simply wouldn’t work in movies.
Since So I Married an Axe Murderer, Schlamme has directed episodes of Friends, Spin City and ER, to name just a few.
9. The director didn’t like that Myers made a movie for “12-year-olds”
We’ve already established that Myers had somewhat of a tunnel vision in relation to So I Married an Axe Murderer – but unfortunately for him, so did Schlamme.
As previously mentioned, this led to some tension behind the scenes, although to what extent is unclear.
In an interview with the Television Academy Foundation, Schlamme explained how the pair clashed over their differing perspectives.
“I thought this movie was for 30-year-old men or older,” stated Schlamme. “It wasn’t for 12-year-olds.”
“I think once he became the Scottish father and once that process started working and once he became much less secure about the film I was trying to make, the tendency to want to go back to his audience and the tendency to push it to be a more mature film just was in absolute direct conflict with one another.”
8. Mike Myers loved the song ‘There She Goes’
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly in 2005, Myers described the song as “one of the greatest pop tunes ever”.
The track was originally released by The La’s in 1988, on their first – and last – album.
According to Myers, “Paul Shaffer saw me listening and loving the song, so for many years that’s what he would play whenever I came out on Letterman.”
There are two versions of the song featured on the film’s soundtrack, one of which was the original version.
The other was a cover of the song by British band The Boo Radleys.
7. You can visit the hotel where Charlie and Harriet honeymoon
Midway through the film, the newlyweds spend their first night as man and wife at The Poets Corner Hotel.
In real life, this scene was filmed at the Dunsmuir Estate in Oakland, California.
This is a different location than the one depicted in the movie (north of San Francisco, in the mountains).
The hotel isn’t exactly as it appears in the movie, however. Production designer John Graysmark built a 16,224-foot replica of the roof on which the film’s biggest moment takes place.
This estate is featured in many high profile films, including playing host to Stacey Sutton’s mansion in James Bond movie A View to a Kill.
6. The butcher shop was a real butcher’s
The butcher’s shop was an important part of the film, and Nancy Travis went to great lengths to prepare for playing the role of a butcher.
Travis interviewed a real butcher to better understand the traits required to be one, and the tasks a butcher would typically have to undertake.
The fact that the butcher’s shop, Meats of the World, actually existed may have helped her ease into character.
In real life, the shop was called Prudente Meats, located on Grant Street in the North Beach area of San Francisco.
Sadly for Axe Murderer fans, the butcher shop no longer exists, and has instead been replaced by a pizzeria.
5. The story came from the producer and writer’s problems with women
The general idea for So I Married an Axe Murderer originated in 1987, six years before the film’s eventual release.
It started with producer Robert N Fried and writer Robbie Fox meeting to develop story ideas.
The pair soon got distracted and began discussing the problems they had had with women.
Fried and Fox soon let their inner misogynist get the better of them, mutually agreeing that “most women appeared to be out to destroy us!”.
Fried and his co-producer Cary Woods went on to form their own production company in 1992, and So I Married an Axe Murderer was their first release.
4. Myers took the part because many of his friends had a fear of commitment
There’s a stereotype that many men in their twenties and thirties are afraid of commitment, with marriage considered the ultimate form of commitment.
And it seems Myers had plenty of experience in this area, in that he admitted that many of his friends had issues with commitment.
“They were all suffering from cold feet and what is cold feet but a low-grade terror? This story just expands on that terror,” explained Myers.
It was this, along with the fact that he genuinely enjoyed the script, that Myers agreed to take the role.
Myers was first approached by co-producer Woods, who was friends with Myers prior to filming.
3. It took a lot of work to film the split-screen scenes
Myers plays the parts of both Charlie and his father in Axe Murderer, which led to some difficulty whilst filming.
At the time of filming, it wasn’t as easy to feature the same actor in two different roles as it is today.
The technology had not yet been developed, and the scenes required a lot more thought and effort behind them.
In order to achieve the effect, the production team used a split-screen process.
For Myers to get into the role of Stuart, he was required to undergo three and a half hours of prosthetic makeup application.
2. The filmmakers set the film in San Francisco because it was an ideal place for a poet to live
So I Married an Axe Murderer was set in San Fransisco, and many of the filming locations were actually in the city itself.
Apparently, the main reason the filmmakers picked San Francisco as the film’s setting was because it was an ideal place for a poet like Charlie to live.
According to Myers, he was attracted to its “coffeehouse culture, with its clothes and music and its whole sensibility … people aren’t going to bars as much. They tend to go out and have coffee.”
Candlestick Park, located in San Fransisco, was also featured in the film, with several sets built in warehouses in the park.
Many of the film’s settings, including the butcher and diner, were real places located in San Francisco.
1. The role of Stuart was not cast until after the first read-through
Stuart, Charlie’s dad, was loud, headstrong and fiercely Scottish, with Myers playing the role to perfection.
However, it was not until after the first read-through had taken place that he was cast as Stuart.
There was no one in line to play the role when the actors showed up for the first read-through, and so Myers agreed to read the lines.
In typical Myers fashion, he did not hold back, and soon put his own spin on the character.
The producers were impressed with his interpretation of the part, and agreed to let him play both Charlie and Stuart.