Revelations: Searching for my dad, I found Austin Powers
Tuesday 23 September 1997
The place: Los Angeles
The man: Mike Myers, film star
My parents came to Canada in 1956, from Liverpool, and I grew up in a very English household. I thought I was related to the Beatles growing up, because my mum and dad talked like the Beatles. My parents were kind of famous because they had the British accent.
I took dancing lessons when I was little. There was an English pub show called The Pig And Whistle on Canadian TV, where everyone sang, "Come in/To the Pig and Whistle/Come in/And have a laugh". There was cheeky chappiness and chimney sweep dancers. I remember seeing that as a kid and thinking, "Wow, I wanna be that."
My brothers called me "tippy toes". They used to torture me mercilessly. Do you do "spit suck" here? You get somebody and pin them down and spit...? That's our contribution to culture. Insulin, green ink, the cobalt bomb, and spit-suck. And various strains of rust-resistant wheat. That's Canada.
Ours was a Scouse house. Across the street was my friend and his parents were from Govan - they had Billy Connolly and all that stuff in their house. New Year's Eve it was a lot of I Love U, I Love U, but As soon U take my money I'll kill U. It's the same in Liverpool, they have instincts - fight fight fight, love love love, sing.
I was really close to my dad. Literally my dad would wake us up if Monty Python or an Ealing comedy or something was on, on a school night. I didn't go to first period for the last five years of high school, because we'd all sit down at the television late. Drink tea, and eat toast, and watch whatever.
The other thing about my dad was - like, when you're in a casino, you play with chips, so you don't think it's real money and therefore you don't mind going down $400 in a haul. The things that happened during my week weren't real either until I went home. I did my laundry every Sunday in Toronto, and my dad would say: "What did you do this week?" And I would say "blah blah blah" and it would seem real.
When he got Alzheimer's I started to see his personality leave his body. His personality left his body completely the year before he died. It was an insidiously slow process. And at the same time that's happening I'm on Saturday Night Live and making Wayne's World. My father passed away in '91. My heart was broken. I worked steadily for two years. Then my contract for Saturday Night Live was up - you have a six-year contract. Wayne's World 2 was a Number One movie and it done real well - I had lots of offers. At the same time my wife's brother gets killed in a car accident and both her sets of grandparents die. So all the time it's like Spielberg calls or somebody you love has died. It was all happening together.
I spoke to Bill Murray, who hosted one of the last shows before I left. He said he'd taken two years off. He'd gone to France to the Sorbonne, because his mother had died and he was emotionally incapacitated. He told me about that and I said, "Well, what's my equivalent of studying at the Sorbonne?" And I thought, "Well, I'll take a year off and I'll take ice hockey lessons."
So I took what's known as power skating lessons from nine to five every Wednesday, and played pick-up hockey two times a week with animators and firemen on disability and stuff. That's what I did, and I read books and I went and saw movies. We bought a house, we backed off, we nested. Before then, my wife and I were living in suitcases in hotel rooms in LA and in a tiny apartment in New York - paying lots of money.
During my year off, I looked into the whole deal of my ancestry, part Scottish, part Northern Irish, part Southern Irish, and England. I came to Liverpool and saw where my dad went to school. I saw where he signed on the Territorial Army. A really nice guy from the Royal Engineers sent me my dad's war record. So I went to places he was stationed. I just really came to terms with his death.
I think at a certain point I got so close to him - he was so funny, he was very silly. His two major sayings, that I think are undervalued, were, "Everything is gonna be okay" and "Let's go have some fun." So anything crappy that would happen, he would be like, "You know, everything's gonna be okay, let's go have some fun." And I think those are two really important things, but when that dies out and you're left by yourself, and you're so busy, and then all of a sudden you're a famous person ... well, it's weird.
My dad sold encyclopaedias - the Encyclopaedia Britannica. I wear my dad's encyclopaedia-salesman-of-the-year ring, from 1967, which was my wedding ring, because he couldn't come. He died before my wedding.
A year and a half ago I was driving home from hockey practice and "The Look of Love" by Burt Bacharach came on the radio and that spoke to my heart. I'm a big Burt fan. It just reminded me of Casino Royale and that whole era, and I just started fooling around with English accents: "Yeah, but let's go in the back and shaaag." Pretending I was taking photographs of my wife: "Give it to me, baby, show me shoulder, love it, yeah." I did that for three days to make my wife laugh. My wife's from Queens, she's quite blunt, and she said: "That's really funny, now shaddap." She said I should write it down, so I wrote a script in three weeks, and it became Austin Powers. The movie is a tribute to my dad, and to the whole British pop culture and comedy. If someone said my next 1,000 pictures had to be Austin Powers movies I'd be only too happy - I had a blast doing it.
Taking that year off proved to be the smartest thing I ever did, and in two years I plan to take another five months off.
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