It’s hard to believe or even remember that at one time, Canadian funnyman Tom Green was once considered the next big thing. The comedian managed to take his cult cable access show, launch it on The Comedy Network where he gained a broader audience, and soon was treating viewers on MTV with his unique brand of shock, absurdist behaviour and gross-out humor. And because Hollywood always wants a taste of whatever is hot and current, they came for Green and offered him a movie deal. He took the opportunity and made “Freddy Got Fingered,” a movie designed to be everything that a star showcasing vehicle usually isn’t. It bombed and was savaged by critics on release, but in the years since, has earned a cult following. But was it really the disaster it was presented as in 2001? Not according to Green.
He recently chatted with Vice about the making of the project, and how he went out to defy every convention of working in Hollywood, starting with telling executives something they never hear from talent: “no.” Green fought for his vision of “Freddy Got Fingered,” and for the director’s chair too, and while the common narrative is that it was a shipwreck, the writer/director/actor insists it actually made back a pretty healthy profit.
“The movie came out and it cost $14 million. It made $14 million. Everyone considered that to be a failure. The critical onslaught was immense. Everyone said it was the most puerile, offensive, grossest, worst movie ever made. It was very extreme,” he said. “The weekend the movie came out. It’s not the blockbuster people had wanted it to be, but if you do the math, not as big of a failure as it seems. If a movie cost $80 million and make $14 million, that’s a failure. When a movie costs $14 million and it makes $14 million at the box office, then $30 million on DVD, which has not been reported by anyone. I have talked to the studio. The movie has actually profited. It’s not a financial failure. Nobody ever says that.”
As for the movie itself, Green posits that it was meant to be offputting and he fully expected a chunk of the audience to react negatively, but perhaps not as badly as many did. But more crucially, following a test screening, Green reveals that a good chunk of the movie was axed. “The cut of the movie was about half an hour longer. It had a very dark soundtrack throughout. Some of the songs were the same, some different. There were scenes that were removed. A lot of it wasn’t just scenes; it was the length of scenes, the amount of time we held on certain shot. The tone was completely different. The movie’s choppy now. It was smooth all the way through. Important scenes were removed. Things were made shorter to make them less gross, less shocking, less strange—to keep it moving,” he explained.
So what was cut? “Well, the uncle owned the cheese sandwich factory. When I originally got to Los Angeles, there’s a scene with my uncle played by Stephen Tobolowsky, who’s hilarious. He introduced me to the cheese sandwich factory. Then we did the ‘I Love Lucy‘ machine sandwiches thing. But they didn’t like that scene. So we get to the factory and I’m just putting cheese on my head,” Green reveals. “…There’s a much better movie in there that I actually made.”
And as for the ending with the kid who got hit by the propeller? “He wasn’t fine. He was dead. He ran into an airplane propeller. He was dead. There was an arm that flew into the shot. His arm got chopped off. His father was screaming, then an arm lands. It was more over-the-top crazy stuff.”
In the end, Green got what he wanted and made the movie he set out to make, but looking back on it over a decade later, he might’ve done things differently. “In hindsight, would I have done everything the same? I probably wouldn’t have, because I would have known the effect it would have on me and my ability to make another movie,” he reveals. “I certainly wouldn’t have been as cutthroat in my firmness when it came to creative decisions—like walking away from a studio because they wanted to take a couple of scenes out of it.”
But he can rest happy that few have ever made anything as gonzo insane as “Freddy Got Fingered.” Did you like the movie? Is it underrated? Let us know below.
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