Five Fun Facts About Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Frank Oz’s lovely 1988 comedy starring Steve Martin and Sir Michael Caine, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, is a con-man classic in our opinion. The film absolutely bulldozes the viewer with wit, class, and big belly laughs, but the its really the performances that give it such nice definition. Martin’s eccentric comedy stylings mesh perfectly with Caine’s sophisticated straight man, and the pair share insane chemistry, which is only further enhanced when Glenne Headly enters the picture, offering an effervescent warmth.
Without further delay, here’s five fun facts (you probably don’t know) about the film and its productions!
The film was initially intended to be a David Bowie and Mick Jagger vehicle.
Believe it or not, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels was designed with rockstars David Bowie and Mick Jagger in mind. After the pair made a splash with their collaboration with “Dancing in the Street,” the begin talking about starring in a film together. Jagger approached screenwriter Dale Launer because he thought his script for Ruthless People was brilliant and suggested he write a script for them. Launer agreed, but during the development phase, Jagger and Bowie dropped out, allegedly because they were looking for a "more serious” project. After a serious of considerations and changes with the case (including Eddie Murphy, and John Cleese), Steve Martin and Sir Michael Caine were brought in as replacements. In 1992, Bowie expressed displeasure at not getting to do the film. He told Movieline, "How 'bout them apples! Mick and I were a bit tweezed that we lost out on a script that could have been reasonably good.”
It’s the first Frank Oz film that didn’t feature a puppet.
In addition to being a film director, Oz achieved notoriety a puppeteer, performing Muppet characters Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Animal, and Sam Eagle in The Muppet Show, as well as Sesame Street favorites Cookie Monster, Bert, and Grover. You’ll also know Oz as Yoda in the Star Wars, in which he has performed and provided the voice for the character in several films and television series.
In many ways, Oz was synonymous with puppets, so it should come as no surprise that he naturally incorporated them into a lot of his films. His earlier The Dark Crystal (1982), Little Shop of Horrors (1986), and The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984), and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels marked a turning point in Oz’s career where he began to shy away from puppets. Though, his work with involving the puppets may remain some of his most beloved endeavors, his work using actors as a puppet are just enjoyable.
In fact, Oz frequently used Steve Martin to this end, and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels marks the second of five collaborations between them — the others being Bowfinger (1999), HouseSitter (1992), Little Shop of Horrors (1986), and The Muppet Movie (1979).
The film is actually a remake.
The film is a remake of the 1964 film Bedtime Story, which starred Marlon Brando, Davide Niven, and Shirley Jones. Martin takes on the crass American role played by Brando with Caine paying homage to Niven by sporting a thin mustache, slicked-back hair, and a double-breasted blue blazer, in the style of the 1930s British yachtsman look. The movie's storyline follows closely that of the original, and it features only a handful of minor script changes. For instance, the names of some of the characters are altered slightly. For instance, the lead characters in Bedtime Story were Freddy Benson and Lawrence Jameson, while in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, they were changed to Freddie Benson and Lawrence Jamieson.
Bonus fun fact that ties the two films together: Fanny Eubank, in the original, is Fanny Eubank from Omaha in the remake.
There’s some subtle allusion to the film’s twist with “The Jackal.”
In the film, there’s a con artist that is rumored to be working in the same region of France as Freddie and Lawrence, known only as the "The Jackal". Glenne Headly played the role of "Janet Colgate,” and there’s some subtle allusion to the film’s big reveal slyly hidden in her character’s name. When you put together the first letters of the first and last names you get "Ja-Col,” which phonetically creates “Jackal.” How bout dat.
Much of the film was improvised.
According to the DVD special features, many of the scenes in the film were ad-libbed and improvised by the multi-talented pairing of Caine and Martin, who would make up entire scenes on the spot. A notable example of this is when Freddie is jail.
According to the DVD commentary, the entire scene where Freddy is trying to remember Lawrence's name in the jail cell was improvised by Martin. Oz was crouched out of camera range and tapped Anton Rodgers (who plays Inspector Andre) on the foot to interrupt Martin when he felt that Martin had gone as far as he could with the improv. Apparently, the film was shot without a definitive ending — it’s rumored to not even been scripted — so Martin and Caine even impressively improvised that as well.
While you may think that the constant improv would prove to be a bit of challenge for editor Stephen Rotter in the cutting room, he claims it wasn’t so. He said to Manhattan Edit Workshop, “For whatever reason, the stuff went together really easily because, I suppose, you can’t really screw something like this up.” He went on further: “The only thing about the editing that you had to do was to figure out how long you should hold each moment and get out while you should… You don’t overplay your hand, you don’t want to stay to long, but you want to give a portion of what’s funny to let the audience digest it.”
Welp, that’s our list! Did you learn anything new? Was your favorite fun fact left on the cutting room floor? We want to know. Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section below, and as always, remember to viddy well!