Kids In The Hall ‘Brain Candy’: The Untold Story
Kids In The Hall ‘Brain Candy’: The Untold Story
Originally posted Posted 6/17/11 4:00 pm ET by Nick Zaino in Celebs, Movies, News at MTV.com
It’s a good time to be a “Kids In The Hall” fan. Last month, almost everything the sketch comedy troupe made was re-released in one big push of “Kids In The Hall: The Complete Series DVD Megaset” and their miniseries, “Death Comes To Town.” Scott Thompson and Kevin MacDonald are playing a few shows together, and the Kids are figuring out their schedules for a full tour later this year.
There’s just one thing missing: “Brain Candy.” The Kids’ first full-length movie and cult classic celebrated its 15th anniversary in April to little fanfare. There was no special edition DVD with all of the deleted scenes– which are hilarious–and even the original bare-bones DVD is rare.
“We’ve been told a lot that people loved that film,” Bruce McCulloch tells Clutch. “Because it’s a weird, special, different kind of film. But I thought it was quite good. It’s kind of messy, but I think there’s nothing like it.”
When the film was being made between 1995 and 1996, the Kids had just come off their TV series and were about to implode. Dave Foley wasn’t even officially a member of the group anymore. He’d quit after about eight months of working on the script and moved to L.A. to pursue other projects, and worked on the film as an actor only. “We always fought about everything,” Foley recalls. “That’s sort of how we worked together. At that point, we’d been together more than 10 years. The stresses were getting to us.”
McCulloch acknowledges the fatigue. It was expected the troupe would move on to film, but the Kids didn’t really have something they were dying to make and had no experience with making a full-length film. “It felt like we had to kind of go off to war and make a movie,” McCulloch says. “I also think it was a bit of a learning curve for us. We’d been quite protected in our television world, and we hadn’t worked with a studio and with other production companies that were putting in money, and just different things. We’re very slow learners. As I’ve said, we’re all smart guys, but together we’re one dumb guy.”
There was a bit of a tug-of-war between the Kids and Paramount over the film’s name and content. It was originally called “The Drug.” Foley played a fry cook/poet/resistance fighter that was cut from the movie. In the alternate ending, instead of leading the charge to rid the world of the anti-depression pill he’d created, MacDonald’s scientist character winds up taking the drug himself and becomes a vegetable.
The original ending didn’t test well, and the Kids had to rewrite and reshoot, a process unfamiliar to them in their sketch comedy but that McCulloch has now been through a few times as a director. He thinks the reshoots actually helped “Brain Candy.”
“I think moment to moment there’s a lot of great stuff in that film, but I don’t think people are obsessed with what’s going to happen next,” McCulloch says.
The pivotal fight between the Kids and the studio was over McCulloch’s Cancer Boy character, a dying kid who said the drug helped his parents to not be so sad about his illness. “Everybody was united in wanting to keep Cancer Boy,” Foley says. “We won that, but to our own detriment, really. Because Paramount gutted the budget on it after that, the advertising budget. They cut the advertising to the minimum and they cut the number of screens to the minimum of the contract. I think we lost like a thousand screens.”
What saddens McCulloch most is that he and the other Kids have lost track of that original footage, which circulates in bootlegs among fans. Foley has only seen the theatrical release. “I know there was the story behind the fry cook that I played, I’ve never actually seen any of that stuff,” he says.
“Brain Candy” was a bitter close to the first act of the troupe’s history, but they have come to view it more fondly now. “Even when I first saw it, I thought it turned out much better than I thought it was going to,” Foley says. “I think we’re all happy with it now. Whereas, I think at the time I don’t think we were in a position to be happy about anything.”
They applied their lessons to “Death Comes To Town,” doing fewer characters per person and streamlining the writing process. “‘Death Comes To Town’ was I think much more enjoyable for us to do,” McCulloch says. “We loved doing that, even though we’re old now. Because we did learn stuff from ‘Brain Candy.’”
Ending with an experience like making “Brain Candy” and coming back to tour in 2000 and 2008 also made the troupe realize what they had in one another, which is part of why you’re likely to see them continue to work together. “We’d all had a kind of a slow flip on it, which is, you think you’re going to go off and do all this great stuff and you don’t value the people you’re with as much,” McCulloch says. “And then we all kind of went out into the world and went, ‘Oh, these are the guys I communicate the best with.’”