A star on Saturday Night Live, Will Ferrell was just starting to take the big screen by storm as well in 1997, with a memorable supporting turn as Dr. Evil’s henchman Mustafa in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.
Ferrell almost appeared in another beloved 1997 comedy, too.
In a 2017 Facebook Live interview with Yahoo Entertainment, Romy and Michele’s High School Reuniondirector David Mirkin revealed that Ferrell shot a scene for the movie that memorably paired Mira Sorvino and Lisa Kudrow as clueless twentysomethings determined to fake their success at their 10-year reunion in Tucson, Ariz. It just never made it into the movie, which hit theaters 25 years ago Monday.
“Right when Romy is found out that she didn’t invent Post-It notes and the girls are humiliating her about that, she gets a call from her cellphone that she set up with a waiter,” Mirkin explains (watch above). The idea being that, with mobile phones being an “important” status symbol when they initially hit the market in the 1990s, Romy would seem like a big deal by taking the call in front of her former classmates. The waiter she recruited to make the call was played by Ferrell.
“He was becoming a huge star, but he agreed to do this cameo for me. Flew out from Saturday Night Live. He was hilarious as this waiter who was calling her right at this moment.”
The scene was cut after test screenings.
“It was so upsetting and humiliating for the audience to watch Romy get completely destroyed,” says Mirkin, who was also a key architect on The Simpsons. “The audience couldn’t recover from it. We had about five minutes of people still sniffling.”
It made Mirkin realize these characters, whose Dumb and Dumber-esque naïveté drew big laughs, were also tugging at heartstrings of test audiences. “They fell for them much harder than I thought,” he says. “So we had to lose the sequence.”
The deleted scene was not included in the film’s 15th anniversary Blu-ray release from 2012, so it has never been seen by the public.
Some other highlights from the interview:
Toni Collette could have played Romy. The Australian actress was fresh off her breakout role in the sleeper hit Muriel’s Wedding when she met with Mirkin to discuss the role of the flighty Jaguar dealership cashier. “Toni was really interesting and terrific,” he says. “I think she was a little worried about nailing what we wanted to do with the [L.A.’s San Fernando] Valley accent and energy. So I don’t think she was completely comfortable.”
Speaking of Romy’s accent, here’s where that deep voice came from: “It’s a combination of Valley and a certain amount of Philadelphia, which is so bizarre, because [Sorvino] isn’t from Philadelphia, I’m from Philadelphia,” Mirkin explains. “I have no idea why she channeled that, but you can hear it, and when we were working on it, you knew it was right. It was part of what was wrong with the character. The way that she talked. So it was good, it was perfect.”
Kudrow improvised much of the scene where she’s hit by a limo, and also did some of her own stunts. “It’s Lisa that’s rolling across the roof,” Mirkin reveaels of the film’s famous dream sequence. “And Lisa completely improvised ‘Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow.’ And then when she comes off the back of the car, she also improvises, ‘Oh, come on.’ That’s pure Lisa Kudrow. She tells me to this day that’s the favorite scene that she’s ever shot in her entire career.”
Quentin Tarantino played a vital role in the film. The Pulp Fiction director was dating Sorvino, and according to Mirkin, “I should’ve put him in the movie, because he was around a lot… He was such a supportive force. He was so positive about this movie. He was the one that loved the script and told Mira to look at it.” As a nod to Q.T,, Mirkin placed a couple Easter eggs from Pulp Fiction — a Big Kahuna Burger bag and an ad for Red Apple cigarettes — in the background of the film.
Not so fast on that sequel talk. Despite reports over the years that Sorvino and Kudrow would be game for another go at Romy and Michele, Mirkin stresses there’s nothing concrete yet. “There are no plans for a sequel,” he clarifies, before leaving open the possibility. “If we had the right idea… I would never turn down working with those amazing actors again and revisiting it again. But we’re all incredibly quality conscious… It’s all a matter of whether something would hold up. You don’t want to ruin something that’s hung around like this.”