BowfingerAugust 13, 1999
When a desperate movie producer fails to get a major star for his bargain basement film, he decides to shoot the film secretly around him.
Release Year: 1999
Rating: 6.4/10 (38,846 voted)
Critic's Score: 71/100
Stars: Steve Martin, Eddie Murphy, Heather Graham
Hollywood, today: Bobby Bowfinger, a run-down actor-producer-director, is reading a script which a friend has written. Completely convinced of its quality, he decides to take a last shot at fame and fortune. But the script is not that easy to sell, and a famous producer promises him to do it, but there is one condition: Kit Ramsey, Hollywood's number one star, has to be in it. So, Bobby tries his luck with Kit – who says no – and then decides to shoot the film himself. Together with the cheapest team available in Southern California, an aspiring beauty from Ohio, a diva who is just a little over the hill, a key-holding gofer from a major studio and a goon hired away from burger-flipping, Bobby sets out to shoot the science-fiction-film starring Kit Ramsey – who does not even know he's being filmed.
Robert K. Bowfinger
Jefferson 'Jiff' Ramsey
Hal, Kit's Agent
Robert Downey Jr.
Alfred De Contreras
Devious, ruthless, shameless
Release Date: 13 August 1999
Filming Locations: 1621 Vista Del Mar Avenue, Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, USA
Box Office Details
Opening Weekend: $18,062,550
(15 August 1999)
(28 November 1999)
Did You Know?
Gary Coleman worked on the set as a security guard.
Bowfinger takes off his fake pony tail and puts it in his left coat pocket before going into the restaurant. When he pulls out his business card and gives it to Jerry Renfro, he puts his hand in his right pocket, and the fake pony tail is attached to his card.
Robert K. Bowfinger:
Wow. Great script. Great script!
[to his dog]
Robert K. Bowfinger:
Betsy? It's now or never. We are gonna make a movie.
An Under-appreciated Satire
Given Tom Cruise's recent unstable behavior, it might be the right time
to revisit 'Bowfinger,' Steve Martin and Frank Oz's highly
under-appreciated satire of the side of Hollywood we mere mortals
aren't supposed to see.
In Hollywood, there are no secrets–everyone knows who's secretly gay
or insane, and who's slept with who, when, where, and what they got out
of it. But no one wants powerful enemies, and in the quickly shifting
landscape of stardom, where one can transform almost overnight and with
no apparent or predictable logic from b-list character actor or teen
idol into a-list mega-star and Oscar-caliber actor who can open
hundred-million dollar movies and make or break the careers of his/her
friends and acquaintances, no one wants to be the one who spills the
For this reason, 'Bowfinger'–the 'Spinal Tap' of contemporary
Hollywood–was barely made, and upon its release was greeted with a
politely, barely restrained gasp of horror from everyone on the inside
who recognized Martin's unusually liberal borrowings from the gossip
files to construct this smart, dry, tastefully executed comedy about a
has-been-before-he-ever-was actor/director who concocts a scheme to
sell his hopelessly bad sci-fi action film project to a major studio by
surreptitiously following and filming a major action film star,
manipulating his behavior when able, and then later patching a film
together with the clandestine footage and a few shots with a
body-double. Little does Bowfinger (the loser, played with typical
charm and intelligence by the great Steve Martin) know that the film
star he means to exploit–Kit Ramsey (Eddie Murphy)–is a paranoid,
delusional basket case of psychological problems barely being held
together (though, one suspects, also being held at the edge of sanity)
by his mentors at MindHead, a bizarre, cultish, mind-controlling
religion obviously meant to stand in for the Church of Scientology, the
increasingly infamous faith/life method of numerous Hollywood stars,
most notoriously Tom Cruise and John Travolta (musician Beck has
allegedly also recently joined the ranks of Scientology, at the behest
of his father and his girlfriend, the sister of actor Giovanni Ribisi,
also a Scientologist).
Bowfinger assembles a motley crew of Hollywood wannabes, which include
the fabulous Christine Baranski as Carol, an aging stage actress who
drives around town listening to old recordings of herself singing show
tunes; Heather Graham as Daisy, a presumably naive young beauty who
steps off the bus in L.A. and immediately sets about trying to sleep
her way to the top (Daisy is based on nutso actress Anne Heche, who
exploited Martin before moving up the food chain to a public lesbian
affair with Ellen Degeneres, whose sit-com was then at peak
popularity); Adam Alexi-Malle as Afrim, Bowfinger's corpulent Pakistani
accountant and the author of 'Chubby Rain,' the ludicrous alien
invasion script which Bowfinger believes will catapult him to fame and
respectability; Jamie Kennedy as Bowfinger's camera operator, who
smuggles equipment out of the studio lot where he works as a low-level
crew man; and Kohl Sudduth as Bowfinger's sweet but vapid excuse for a
heart-throb. This gang of misfits works well together in various gags
lampooning the film industry.
But the film is stolen entirely by Eddie Murphy, first as Kit Ramsey,
whose paranoid rants include the observation that a script his agent
has offered him must be racist because the letter 'k' appears in it a
number of times divisible by three ('KKK' appears in this script 111
times!) and the twisting of a remark made by the agent about a
script–'it's not Shakespeare'–into a racist slur ('Shakespeare?!?
Shake-a-Spear! You callin' me a spear-chucker!?!), and later as Jiff,
Kit's nerdy and socially inept twin brother, who unwittingly stumbles
into Bowfinger's scheme and agrees both to serve as a stunt/body double
and errand boy for the film ('Running errands would be a real boost for
me!' he gleefully remarks).
One of the great things about 'Bowfinger' is the opportunity to see
Eddie Murphy create two ridiculous characters the way he once did so
frequently on Saturday Night Live, before 'Bevery Hills Cop' send his
ego to Mars. He looks like he's having the time of his life, and the
fabulous talent he has wasted so frequently on mediocre to painfully
bad star vehicles like 'Coming to America,' 'Harlem Nights,' or
'Vampire in Brooklyn' is once again apparent, and triumphant. Together,
Martin and Murphy remind us how comedy should be made: with
intelligence, humility, generosity–and, most importantly, scathing
Scientology gets fairly merciless treatment in the form of MindHead, a
cult-like corporate religion led by Terry Stricter (Terence Stamp), who
soothes the paranoiac Kit with new-agey acronym lessons (K.I.T=Keep It
Together) and chastens him not to 'show it to the Laker Girls' when he
hears the voice of Teddy Kennedy instructing him to 'bring the Laker
Girls down a peg or two.' Given Tom Cruise's recent weirdness and the
fact that he openly travels with a cadre of Scientologists who function
like a Secret Service detail, it's not hard to suspect that Kit Ramsey
was written with Tom Cruise in mind (the role was originally written
for Keanu Reeves but was ultimately changed and offered to Murphy).
Murphy's presence, ironically, may have undermined this film in its
initial release, as audiences many audiences left theaters
disappointed, having expected more of a traditional slapstick comedy
with Murphy in a larger role (his scenes are easily the funniest, but
Kit and Jiff or secondary characters). But it's well worth revisiting
for its quality and its scathing critique of the business of Hollywood.