So I Married an Axe Murderer is a 1993 American romantic black comedy film, directed by Thomas Schlamme and starring Mike Myers and Nancy Travis. Myers plays Charlie MacKenzie, a man afraid of commitment, until he meets Harriet (Travis), who works at a butcher shop and may be a serial killer. Myers also plays his own character's father, Stuart.
The film was Myers' first film after achieving success with Wayne's World, and was not well received by most mainstream critics or at the box office, grossing a total of USD $11 million in North America, below its $20 million budget.
Charlie MacKenzie (Myers) is a beat poet living in San Francisco, after having broken up with yet another woman based on paranoid perception. His friend Tony, a policeman, points out that Charlie simply is afraid of commitment and tries to think of or invent any reason to break up with someone.
Charlie encounters a butcher named Harriet, and the two quickly find common bonds between them. They start to date, and Charlie learns she used to live in Atlantic City, had been involved with a trainer in Russian martial arts, and screams for someone named Ralph in her sleep. After staying at her place one night, Charlie meets Harriet's eccentric sister, Rose, who warns Charlie to be careful. As they continue to see each other, Charlie and Harriet fall in love. He arranges a dinner with her to meet his parents, Stuart and May, who both believe in conspiracy theories and get their news from the Weekly World News tabloid. While there, Charlie spots one paper that describes a story about a "Mrs. X", a bride who kills her husbands on their honeymoons using an axe and matches all the mannerism that Harriet has thus far shown.
Charlie becomes paranoid and asks Tony to investigate Harriet and the Mrs. X story. Tony reveals that the husbands of Mrs. X were all reported missing alongside their wives, assuring that Harriet is unlikely to be Mrs. X. Charlie remains on edge, and after a few more troubled dates, decides to break up with her. Tony later reports that a killer in the Mrs. X story has confessed. Relieved, Charlie apologizes to Harriet by reciting one of his beat poems to her from his rooftop. They make up, and Harriet explains away some of the confusion Charlie had from her history, such as Ralph being the name of a woman she knew.
Some time later, Charlie proposes to Harriet, which she reluctantly accepts after some hesitation. Following the wedding ceremony, they embark on a honeymoon to a secluded mountain hotel. After they depart, Tony learns that the confessed killer is actually a compulsive liar. He sends a photo of Harriet to the known associates of the missing husbands, and all report back that she was their friends' wife. With phone lines to the hotel down due to a storm, Tony charters a plane. Once he lands, he is able to call Charlie locally and warn him that Harriet is really Mrs. X, but the hotel phone line is knocked out and power is lost.
Charlie is panicked and tries to stay away from Harriet without letting her know what he knows, but the hotel staff force him into the honeymoon suite for their first night together. Charlie finds himself alone and discovers a "Dear Jane" letter, purportedly written by him, explaining his absence to Harriet. Suddenly, Rose appears wielding an axe. Rose tells Charlie he was not supposed to find the letter, and reveals herself as the Mrs. X killer - she feels that Harriet's husbands are taking her sister from her, and so killed them on their honeymoon night, leading Harriet to believe that each husband simply left her. Charlie is then trapped in a game of cat-and-mouse, staying away from Rose while waiting for the police to arrive.
Tony leads the police into the hotel but arrests Harriet, still believing her to be the murderer. Having chased Charlie to the hotel roof, Rose swings the axe at Charlie and is thrown off the building, with only Charlie holding her up from falling to her death. Tony comes to catch her fall, where she is arrested and taken away. Charlie and Harriet resume their lives afterward as a happy couple.
The genesis of the film originated in 1987, when producer Robert N. Fried met with writer Robbie Fox to discuss story ideas. They ended up talking about the problems they had with women and agreed that "most women appeared to be out to destroy us!" Fried and co-producer Cary Woods formed their own production company in 1992. So I Married An Axe Murderer was their first film, for which they were given a $20 million budget. Fox wrote the screenplay in 1987. In the original version, Charlie was Jewish and, according to Fried, it was "initially conceived as being more about paranoia than commitment". Myers wanted changes to the script that would allow him to perform both serious acting and Saturday Night Live-style comedy.
He extensively rewrote the script with writer Neil Mullarkey, an old friend from Britain. According to Myers, they changed the story and many of the comedic moments. Fox was asked to consider a new set of credits that gave him a "story by" and co-screenplay credit. He rejected the proposal and in arbitration, the Writers Guild of America decided that Fox would receive sole screenwriting credit. Fried and Myers were upset that Mullarkey, who had put much work into the script, did not receive any credit.
Fried and co-producer Cary Woods asked Mike Myers to play Charlie MacKenzie because of the success he had with the film Wayne's World. He agreed because he liked the script, as many of his friends also had a fear of commitment, and "were all suffering from cold feet and what is cold feet but a low-grade terror? This story just expands on that terror." Before he was approached, Woody Allen considered playing Charlie. Chevy Chase, Albert Brooks, and Martin Short also considered the role but did not like the character. Sharon Stone was initially set to play Harriet Michaels, the supposed axe murderer of the film's title.
Like Myers, who has two roles in the film, Stone wanted to play Harriet and the role of Rose, Harriet's sister, the latter portrayed in the film by Amanda Plummer. Studio executives at Sony did not like the idea of Stone playing both roles, and she therefore refused to accept the part. Nancy Travis was then cast in the role instead. Travis was drawn to her character's "qualities of danger and compassion mixed with humor [which] make her an intriguing character."
Anthony LaPaglia said that his character "has grand illusions of being Serpico, you know he's ready to fight crime like his hero did. But he's just not competent." When the actors attended the first cast read-through of the script, Charlie's father, Stuart, had not yet been cast. Myers read the character's lines and the filmmakers so enjoyed his interpretation that they realized he could play that role as well. The film also features cameos by Charles Grodin, Phil Hartman, Michael Richards, Mike Hagerty, Debi Mazar, Steven Wright, and Alan Arkin, the latter appearing uncredited as Tony's sensitive boss. They all agreed to be in the film for the opportunity of working with Myers.
To fit both Charlie and his father in the same scene together, the filmmakers used a split-screen process. To look the role of Stuart, Myers spent over three-and-a-half hours having special prosthetic make-up applied. While filming scenes in the butcher shop, Nancy Travis was distracted by Myers' antics and accidentally took off the tip of her middle finger on her left hand while chopping vegetables with a kitchen knife. A local doctor sewed her finger back together. Travis said that she and Myers frequently improvised together, and he taught her more about comedy and showed her "how to be relaxed and spontaneous on the set."
There were stories in the press that Myers' over-inflated ego forced extensive re-shoots on the film, and that he tried to deny Robbie Fox credit for writing the film. On the set, director Thomas Schlamme said that he had his differences with Myers over how the film should be shaped. He said that Myers was "taking a stretch beyond his usual self and was playing outside himself. Personality clashes were bound to happen. We struggled." However, the director denied that Myers was a control freak, and praised the "total commitment to his work. (But) yes, it was difficult." In addition, several major newspapers and magazines claimed that the film went over budget, with in-fighting among the principal actors and lengthy release delays, and that it was unfunny. Despite these early reports, So I Married an Axe Murderer scored high at test screenings.
Set in San Francisco, California, the film features many famous sights and neighborhoods of the Golden State metropolis, including the Golden Gate Bridge, the Palace of Fine Arts and Alcatraz. One scene on Alcatraz was filmed in "A" block, an area that is still in its original state from 1912 and is not open to the public. The tiny Cloverdale Municipal Airport is also in the film. The space for actors, crew and equipment is narrow, a challenge also faced by the makers of The Rock, which features Nicolas Cage and Sean Connery as characters breaking in to the prison complex.
The restaurant where Myers and Travis' characters double date with LaPaglia and Debi Mazar's is the Fog City Diner. The butcher shop used for "Meats of the World" was Prudente Meats on Grant Ave, in the North Beach Section of San Francisco.
The scene where Charlie breaks up with Harriet was set in Alamo Square, the background showing the skyline of the city.
The final scenes are set at Dunsmuir House in the East Oakland foothills. Additional special effects and matte paintings created the illusion that the location was secluded among mountains. The exterior shot for the café, Cafe Roads, where Myers recites his beat poetry, is the bar Vesuvio, at Columbus Avenue and Jack Kerouac Alley. The filmmakers picked San Francisco as the film's setting because it was an ideal place for a poet like Charlie to live.
Myers has said that he was attracted to its "coffeehouse culture, with its clothes and music and its whole sensibility ... people aren't going to bars as much. They tend to go out and have coffee." Several sets were built in warehouses near Candlestick Park, and these soundstages were used for many weeks.
|So I Married an Axe Murderer (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)|
|Soundtrack album by Various artists|
|Released||July 27, 1993|
The film's original score was composed and conducted by Bruce Broughton. Due to the film's having a heavy emphasis on popular music, several of Broughton's cues were replaced with songs (such as his main title music being supplanted by The Boo Radleys' version of "There She Goes," and "Butcher Shop Montage" having Big Audio Dynamite's "Rush" substituted).
However, Broughton was appreciative of the support music supervisor Danny Bramson and director Thomas Schlamme gave him, stating "I was given the opportunity to make my case, and I didn't get slighted... But the way it ended up was the way it ended up. It was done with a lot of creative latitude, and creative permission and confidence. I can't complain about the way it came out."
Intrada Records released an album of his music on November 25, 2013, featuring the complete score, plus alternates and original versions of cues.
Total Time: 52:56
So I Married an Axe Murderer was first shown at a screening to benefit the local San Francisco film office, on July 27, 1993, at the Palace of Fine Arts Theater. It had its official world premiere at the Galaxy Theater in Hollywood on July 28, with Myers, Travis, and LaPaglia in attendance. The film did not perform well at the box office. It was released on July 30 in 1,349 theaters, and grossed $3.4 million USD during its opening weekend, and a total of $11.5 million in North America, well below its $20 million budget.
The film had a mixed critical reception. It carries a 55% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 33 reviews. Roger Ebert, in his review for the Chicago Sun-Times, described the film as "a mediocre movie with a good one trapped inside, wildly signaling to be set free." He rated it two and a half stars out of four. Rolling Stone magazine's Peter Travers felt that "Juggling mirth, romance and murder requires a deft touch - think of Hitchcock's Trouble with Harry. Axe is a blunt instrument." Entertainment Weekly's reviewer gave the film a "C-" and said, "In some perverse way, So I Married an Axe Murderer seems to be asking us to laugh at how not-funny it is."
In his review for the Washington Post, Hal Hinson had a mixed reaction to Myers' performance, writing "Everything he does is charmingly lightweight and disposable and reasonably impossible to resist. And in the end, because the character is so easily within reach for him, you may come away feeling a little cheated, as if you hadn't quite seen a movie at all." However, Janet Maslin's review in the New York Times said that it came as "a welcome surprise that So I Married an Axe Murderer, which might have been nothing more than a by-the-numbers star vehicle, surrounds Mr. Myers with amusing cameos and gives him a chance to do more than just coast."
In his review for the San Francisco Chronicle, Edward Guthmann called the film a "trifle, at best - but it's so full of good spirits, and so rich with talented actors having a marvelous time, that its flaws tend to wash away."
A DVD of the film was first released in June 1999. The artwork for the DVD was different than the original film poster, which had Harriet holding an axe behind her back. A "Deluxe Edition" DVD and Blu-ray edition were released in June 2008.
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