Tommy Boy's Ties To SNL May Have Hurt The Movie More Than They Helped

In show business, sometimes Hollywood giveth, and Hollywood taketh away. All Bible quotes aside, the idiom almost applied to the 1995 comedy "Tommy Boy." After having them on "Saturday Night Live" together, executive producer Lorne Michaels recognized the chemistry between best friends Chris Farley and David Spade and pitched the idea for a movie featuring the two comedians.

The original draft of "Tommy Boy" focused more on the relationship between Tommy (Farley) and his stepbrother Paul (Rob Lowe). But the concept wasn't working for director Peter Segal. "I felt that was the B story," Segal told Deadline on the film's 25th anniversary. "The A story was these two guys who didn't get along, forced to work together to save this company, and the town."

That required a comprehensive rewrite of the script. There was just one problem: Farley and Spade were due back in New York for the new season of "Saturday Night Live." Even though Farley and Spade's fame from "SNL" led to the movie, it now threatened to sabotage the project. With a tight production schedule and tensions running high between the co-stars, the crew was up against the clock to finish the film.

The director thought the film would tank

According to Film School Rejects, "Tommy Boy" was slated to film during the summer hiatus of "SNL." But when Peter Segal and "SNL" writer Fred Wolf re-wrote the script with more of a focus on Farley and Spade, it pushed the production past summer and well into the "Saturday Night Live" season.

Without a finished script and the stars of the movie back in New York, it looked like "Tommy Boy" would be scrapped. Segal remembered:

"At one point, even I thought it got so out of control, the fact that Fred [Wolf] had to go back to SNL and the script really wasn't there, that I didn't think the movie would be possible. So, I even tried to leave. I tried to quit the movie. And you know, I was threatened with a lawsuit, so I had to stay."

To make both productions work, Farley and Spade had to fly between New York and Toronto every few days. They were figuratively, and literally, flying by the seats of their pants with a partially finished script and two production schedules. "We all thought it was gonna tank," Segal admitted. "We thought this movie was barely gonna get there because literally we had no script and we were making it up."

To the credit of Farley and Spade's friendship and on-screen chemistry, not only did the film make it, but it became one of Paramount's top-selling VHS titles of all time.

Much of the movie was made up on the fly

Peter Segal had a vision of a buddy road trip film and boldly threw out all but 66 pages of the original script. During the downtime with Farley and Spade away shooting "SNL," he and Wolf worked fervently to bring the concept to fruition. Segal recalled:

"The first thing I said was, 'Well the other day I was trying to get gas at my local gas station, and I parked a little too far away from the pump, so I backed my car up and I hyperextended my door. Ok, that's one little piece, let's write that down.' And [Wolf] said, 'Well one time I, you know, put some oil in the car and I forgot to take the can out and the hood flew up in my face on the freeway.' And it went from there."

The scenes are priceless, with Spade as the straight man and Farley as the goof. The eleventh-hour additions also created plenty of memorable one-liners. To this day, I still shout out, "What'd you do!?" whenever I accidentally break something, especially when trying to blame it on someone else. Sue me, I learned it from Farley.

It wasn't just the writers contributing to the film. On a 2013 appearance on "The Howard Stern Show," Spade discussed how his friendship with Farley bled into the film organically.

Thanks to Segal's vision and Farley and Spade's friendship, "Tommy Boy" is arguably the best of a string of mid-1990s SNL-inspired films. And, holy schnikes, would you believe there's an entire musical album dedicated to the movie? In 2018 musician Dave Paulson released a nine-track rock tribute to the film, titled "Sandusky, Ohio." Have a listen and trust me, it will make you feel all warm and toasty inside.