Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery: About The Production

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"I've always wanted to play a swinging character who wears sideburns and skin-tight crushed velvet bell-bottoms," says Mike Myers, who plays the chronically confused main character in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.

A world-class playboy and part-time special agent, Powers is defrosted after 30 years in a cryogenic freeze to match wits with his nemesis, Dr. Evil (also played by Myers). Possessing antiquated spy skills and mod mannerisms from the `60s, Austin must confront a villain like no other while making peace with his own out-of-date, swinging sexuality.

"Austin Powers grew out of my fascination with the `60s secret agent genre and the free-love swingers from that era," Myers explains.

Perhaps best known as the brainchild behind Wayne's World I and II, Myers used some of the same comic principles that made Wayne Campbell a pop icon, and put them to use in his retro character Austin Powers.

"Austin is a Carnaby Street refugee who has his own style, vocabulary and view of life that resonates from Britain in the `60s," Myers adds.

Born to British parents who eventually moved to Canada, Myers has always been intrigued and fascinated by the mannerisms of the British. From their smooth and confident accent to their brash yet cunningly clever sense of humor, they have been a favorite target for the young comedian since family gatherings where he would mimic his cousins in displays that had relatives in stitches.

Those early experiences proved to be a ripe foundation for Myers, who quickly developed an unforgettable, dental-impaired look worthy of the greatest swinger to hit the screen since ... Tom Jones. "Britain is interesting from a dental standpoint. They won the war, but lost their teeth," Myers said. But the look is nothing without the lingo. Austin uses words like "shag," and Powers himself is perhaps the only authority who can describe what it means.

"Shag is a many-splendored word," Austin explains. "Many times, when I'm at a loss on how to express a difficult sentiment, I just slip in the word 'shag,' and it all falls into place. Noun, verb, adjective -- it doesn't matter, baby! Because when you're talking Shag, you're speaking the language of love. If you're at a party, and it's particularly groovy, I mean, it's really happening, you might say it's shagadelic or perhaps, shagerrific." Get the point?

Just as Wayne Campbell made "party on," and "shwing" household catch phrases, Austin's dialect is peppered with hip euphemisms like:
    Oh, Behave!     An  admonition to cease sexual innuendo
                         or activity
            Fab     Great, in-style                              
          Randy     Horny, excited, blood-engorged               
       Choppers     Teeth                                        
            Cat     Chap, fellow, man, especially a popular one  
          Saucy     Cheeky                                       
         Cheeky     Saucy                                        
     Shagadelic     Amazing, the highest pinnacle of any endeavor

While shooting principal photography in Los Angeles, cast and filmmakers alike were overheard adapting "Austin-isms" into their everyday language. Phrases like "Don't get heavy" rolled off the tongue as frequently as "Shags like a minx" and "Groovy, baby."

"Mike has a unique sense of humor that is both intelligent and silly," says producer Jennifer Todd. "He swings unpredictably between sophisticated and juvenile, and brings a charming naiveté to the part that makes Austin utterly irresistible. From the moment we meet him on Carnaby Street, we know we're in for a retro ride back to the future."

In the tradition of comic greats like Peter Sellers, Myers plays two characters in the film: Austin Powers and Dr. Evil. "As soon as Mike brought us the script, we knew it was something special," proclaims producer Suzanne Todd. "Mike blends high-energy physical comedy with hysterical character work, and he's talented enough to pull off the demands of two comically complicated roles."

More than a comedy, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery is also a modern spy-versus-spy love story reminiscent of films like Casino Royal and Our Man Flint. For his on-screen romance, Myers created straight-laced Vanessa Kensington with actress Elizabeth Hurley in mind.

"She is the embodiment of English sophistication, combining high style with wicked wit," Myers explains. "Audiences will really enjoy her flair for comedy -- a side of her they haven't seen before. Also, Elizabeth wears some really short skirts in the film, which can't be a bad thing."

Hurley welcomed the chance to play the rigid agent who gradually warms to Austin's charms. States Hurley, "I was over the moon when Mike offered me this part because he always makes me cry with laughter in his movies, and I enjoyed this script very much. The story is fun, and the humor stays fresh throughout the film. I think this is important because sometimes joke after joke with no backbone can be stale and very tiring! And Mike wears some really short skirts in the film, which can't be a bad thing."

With Kensington at his side, Austin responds to an earth-threatening international crisis. Dr. Evil is holding the world hostage, and he has assembled a motley crew of international criminals, who represent a broad range of character types culled from 30 years of comfortingly familiar secret agent movies.

A tremendously talented ensemble brings these characters to life. Number Two, Dr. Evil's second in command, is portrayed by Robert Wagner. Number Two presides over a corrupt cabal consisting of Will Farrell as Mustafa, Mindy Sterling as Frau Farbissina, Paul Dillon as Patty O'Brien, Fabiana Udenio as Alotta Fagina and Joe Son as Random Task. In a scene-stealing role, Seth Green plays Scott Evil, Dr. Evil's Generation X test-tube son. Dr. Evil is also aided by an elite and alluring team of robotic terminators known as Fembots (female robots).

Austin's partners in defending the planet are Vanessa's mother, Mrs. Kensington, portrayed by Mimi Rogers, and the Head of British Intelligence, Basil Exposition, played by the inimitable Michael York. The film also features unexpected and hilarious turns by Tom Arnold, Carrie Fisher, Larry Thomas (the "Soup Nazi" from Seinfeld) and musicians Susanna Hoffs and Matthew Sweet, who are members of Austin's audacious band, Ming Tea.

Director Jay Roach and his production team worked to infuse Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery with the visual energy that is the hallmark of the great `60s films. "The first time I read the script, I knew that the style could be entertainment in itself, besides it providing a backdrop for Mike's unique sense of humor," says Roach. "We've emphasized color, graphic patterns and design to create an immaculate universe -- one that is unmistakably Austin's."

Production designer Cynthia Charette and costume designer Deena Appel researched 1960s London through period magazines and films and found that images in art, music, fashion and architecture mirrored one another. "In that period, all forms of culture intertwined and influenced one another intensely, which made the `60s a time with a very self-aware and unforgettable style," says Charette. "Our challenge was to go beyond simply recreating that period, but to intensify it so Austin had a style all his own."

To accomplish that goal, the Paramount backlot was transformed using actual photos from LIFE magazine to mirror Carnaby Street, London in the mid-sixties. Complete with a vintage boutique, a fish and chips restaurant, a record store and more than 100 extras decked out in `60s attire, the colorful set made it easy for everyone to feel the unrestrained spirit that has become synonymous with that era.

While shooting the Carnaby Street scene which opens the film, choreographer Marguerite Derricks (Batman) and her dance troupe rehearsed and grooved to the `60s beat with Austin leading their moves. Mike Myers was a natural student, mastering the dance routine and adding his own comedic touches that went as far as to involve a 70-piece high school marching band. Marguerite also fine-tuned the scenes in the Fembot lair, where the irresistible robots try to destroy Austin Powers.

Visual style is only one component of the film's swinging experience. Sound is another ingredient in the psychedelic mix. Music supervisor John Houlihan and music consultant Chris Douridas (host of KCRW's influential "Morning Becomes Eclectic") use a combination of `60s songs and modern music influenced by the British Invasion in order to propel the on-screen action. With selections ranging from Quincy Jones' lively instrumental Soul Bossa Nova, to classic love songs by Burt Bacharach and his Posies, the Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery soundtrack promises to be an exciting synthesis of rediscovered gems and radio-friendly British pop. Tracks include "Female of the Species," performed by Space; Susanna Hoffs singing the classic "The Look of Love;" Strawberry Alarm Clock's 1967 #1 hit "Incense and Peppermints;" "Mas Que Nada," by Sergio Mendes & Brasil `66; "Austin's Theme," by the James Taylor Quartet; The Cardigans' "Carnival;" and "BBC" by Ming Tea.

Says Houlihan, "We fully expect this to be one of the season's most desirable soundtracks."

While designers worked diligently to recreate the past, the scientific advances of cryogenic freezing also required the same attention to detail. Filmmakers turned to Rockwell Corporation in Seal Beach, Calif., where they filmed alongside $7,000,000 worth of modern-day preservation equipment to give an authentic laboratory feel to their own freezing facility.

To illustrate the side effects of long-term freezing, the producers cleverly cast Ted, a rare breed of cat intentionally bred with a mutated gene that renders all offspring entirely hairless, in the role of Dr. Evil's beloved pet, Mr. Bigglesworth.

A once purr-fect feline with a silky coat of fur, Mr. Bigglesworth is left uncomfortably bald and clawing for a new coat by the cryogenic process. According to Dr. Evil, "We tried to put a full-body toupee on Mr. Bigglesworth, but he complained of chaffing. We also found him to be allergic to Rogaine."

Before wrapping production, the crew ventured to the capitol of kitsch, Las Vegas, where they shot interiors in the famed Riviera and Stardust casinos. For exteriors, Austin and Vanessa found themselves cruising the town in a traditional English double-decker bus while being serenaded by Burt Bacharach himself.

It's quite a challenge to be a swinging international man of mystery, and few are prepared for the rigors of the role. To learn more about how you too can become a shag-loving bon vivant with really bad teeth, please read Austin Powers: How To Be an International Man of Mystery by Mike Myers and Michael McCullers from Boulevard Books.

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