Because I live in Los Angeles, I got to the theater for the 4 p.m. screening of the original, 1985 Teen Wolf on Sunday afternoon about 10 minutes late. It was playing at the Aero, a one-screen theater in Santa Monica, and all the website had said was that the movie would be followed by a panel featuring members of the cast and crew. I figured I could walk in, slide into a seat near the back and go relatively unnoticed. When I pulled open the theater door, Scott Howard was already stumbling on Mr. Lolley’s stage with the wrong color paint, and the place was packed.
Surprised, I quickly scanned the audience. There were exceptions, such as the middle-aged woman behind me who somehow knew every word, but much of the crowd looked to be in their 20s. I had a very specific way of coming to love the movie when I was a kid — my father was a fan of Michael J. Fox, and among the '80s hits, Teen Wolf, not Back to the Future, was easily the one I’ve seen the most — but I wondered how so many others born years after its release could care enough to spend a Sunday afternoon here.
As for the movie itself, the same parts I had always enjoyed were the ones that brought the most laughs. When Scott, fully wolfed, walks out of the bathroom to see his father “dressed as a Care Bear,” as one of the movie’s screenwriters would describe the scene later, I laughed as hard as everyone else. Coach Bobby Finstock’s locker room wisdom is still one of my favorite movie quotes ever. The basketball scenes are still as hilariously bad as I remember them, and a day and a half later, “Win in the End” is still stuck in my head.
When the movie ended, a dozen or so chairs were lined up on the stage, and a man in a leather jacket and an “ARMY” hat grabbed the mic and got on stage. This was Teen Wolf director Rod Daniel; after thanking everyone for coming, he raised the same question I had upon arriving.
“Somehow, it found another audience along the way,” Daniel said. “That’s a lot of what we talk about, is why that happened. I’m not quite sure why it happened. But we all seemed to understand then that we were making something special then, and as I look at it all these years later, it’s still something special.”
Daniel introduced the crowd to those who had joined him on stage, many of whom were recognizable enough to not need the introduction: Susan “Boof” Ursitti (who looks just about the same), Jerry “Stiles” Levine, Jim “Vice Principal Thorne” McKrell, Matt “Lewis” Adler, Mark “Chubby” Holton (who now rocks an amazing mustache), Scott “Mr. Lolley” Paulin, and Jay “Coach Finstock” Tarses. Jeph Loeb, who was one of the cowriters of the movie, served as the moderator, and before anything got started, he answered the question everyone had:
“Michael could not be here today, but we got a little gathering together beforehand, and just as sweet as can be, he took time off from being with his family and Skyped with us. Everybody got a chance to sit down and talk with him, and I just can’t tell you, from the time he started on this movie to the gigantic star he went on to become and still is, he just could not have been nicer not just to all of us, but he wanted to share with all of you, a big, big ‘thank you.’”
Loeb then told a quick version of a story I’m sure he’s told hundreds of times. He had just moved to Los Angeles with writing partner Matthew Weisman. Loeb was bartending at a TGI Friday’s and Weisman was making change for people at arcades, and on the heels of the relatively successful, cheaply made Valley Girl, starring Nic Cage, they were offered a chance to write a script for a movie that could be made for next to nothing. The script came together in about three weeks, and after Michael J. Fox agreed to do the movie, the studio gave it the green light. Thankfully, Family Ties costar Meredith Baxter-Birney got pregnant, and Fox had a window away from the show just big enough to squeeze in the filming.
On the night it opened, Loeb, Weisman, and Daniel accompanied their wives to a 5 p.m. showing at Grauman's Chinese Theatre, where they were joined by approximately four other people. Thinking they’d have to move to Bolivia, they went out and had a few drinks before deciding to check out the 7:30 showing in Westwood. When they got to the ticket booth, they learned the show was sold out. “I don’t know if they still do this,” Loeb said, “but we said, ‘We made the movie,’ and they said, ‘Well, come on in.” Eventually James “The Care Bear” Hampton showed up, and they knew they had something.
“The film was made for about $1 million,” Loeb said. “After it was all said and done around the world, it made about $70 million. None of which we saw.”
The cast went down the row and each told the stories of how they came to the film, and what it’s done for them since. Jerry Levine says that although no one knows his real name, just about everywhere he goes — including the Western Wall in Jerusalem — everyone still knows Stiles. “Everywhere I’ve gone in my life, for the past 28 years, people will say, ‘Hey, Coach!’” agreed Tarses. “I’ve done other stuff! It doesn’t make any difference. This will be the legacy, and I thank Rod for letting me have it.”
At one point, Loeb fielded a question about whether Mick, the Neanderthal boyfriend of hottie Pamela Wells, actually killed Scott Howard’s mom in the movie. As they were writing it, he told Weisman, "People are going to think that Mick actually killed his mom," to which Weisman responded, "That's ridiculous. He's a kid." Still, the confusion lingers, inspiring some of the folks at Funny or Die to put together a parody that Loeb appreciates.
“If you have nothing to do, which obviously you don’t because you’re here, go check it out.”