‘Dazed and Confused’ 20th Anniversary: 20 Craziest Facts About the Cult Classic
The paddles, the lawsuit, the fake weed, and more great trivia about the stoner favorite. By Marlow Stern.
All right, all right, all right.
Twenty years ago today, the ensemble coming-of-age film Dazed and Confused was released in theaters.
Written and directed by Richard Linklater, the movie is set on May 28, 1976, during the last day of high school in the suburbs of Austin, Texas. Randall “Pink” Floyd (Jason London) and his football teammates Don Dawson (Sasha Jenson) and Benny O’Donnell (Cole Hauser) are asked to sign a pledge to not drink or do drugs all summer—much to Floyd’s chagrin. Meanwhile, the freshman boys, including Mitch Kramer (Wiley Wiggins), are worried about being chased down and paddled by the rising seniors, including notorious a-hole Fred O’Bannion (Ben Affleck), while the freshman girls are busy being hazed with ketchup and whipped cream by the cheerleading squad, led by Darla Marks (Parker Posey) and pals Simone Kerr (Joey Lauren Adams) and Jodi Kramer (Michelle Burke).
There’s also Wooderson (Matthew McConaughey), a post-grad who still loves them high school girls; Slater (Rory Cochrane), the school’s biggest weed lover; Kevin (Shawn Pickford) and Michelle (Milla Jovovich), a pair of stoner space cadets, and more. The entire group eventually congregates at the Moon Tower for an epic keg party.
Though the movie wasn’t a huge financial success upon its release, grossing just $8 million against a $6.9 million budget, it’s now considered a cult classic.
In honor of Dazed and Confused’s 20th anniversary, here are the 20 craziest facts about the film.
1. The Wooden Paddles
All the wooden paddles were custom-designed by the stars themselves. The most notorious paddle, of course, was that of Fred O’Bannion, played by Ben Affleck. His paddle had “FAH-Q” painted on one side, and “O.B./Badass” painted on the other.
2. Vince Vaughn: Denied!
At a Dazed and Confused reunion in Texas in March, director Richard Linklater revealed that a then 22-year-old Vince Vaughn had auditioned for the role of the notorious Fred O’Bannion, which was eventually played by Ben Affleck. “Vince hasn’t spoken to me since,” joked Linklater. Vaughn also auditioned for the role of Benny O’Donnell (played by Cole Hauser) in the film, but was rejected because Linklater felt Vaughn too closely resembled Affleck. See the resemblance?
3. Stoner Repetition
The word “Man” is said a total of 203 times in the film, and freshman Mitch Kramer, played by Wiley Wiggins, touches the bridge of his nose a total of 42 times.
4. The Lawsuit
In October 2004, three former classmates of Linklater’s at Huntsville High School in Texas filed a defamation suit against Linklater, claiming that they were the basis of three central characters in the film, and that the filmmaker didn’t get their permission to use their likenesses/names. The men--Bobby Wooderson, Andy Slater, and Richard Floyd--filed their lawsuit in New Mexico, since that state has a longer statute of limitations than Texas—where all three men still reside—but it was eventually dismissed.
5. The Underage Marriage
During the filming of Dazed and Confused in Texas, actress Milla Jovovich (Michelle) and actor Shawn Andrews (Kevin Pickford) eloped to Las Vegas and tied the knot. Pickford was 21 at the time, but since Jovovich was only 16, her mother had the marriage annulled.
6. Clash of the Stoners
It wasn’t all good vibes on set. Apparently stars Jason London (Floyd) and Shawn Andrews (Pickford) did not get along at all during the shooting of the film, and at one point director Richard Linklater had to break up a fight between them. Thus, the ending of the film was eventually changed, as it was meant to feature Pickford instead of Wooderson (McConaughey) smoking weed with the fellas on the 50-yard-line. It’s also why there is very little dialogue between the characters of Floyd and Pickford in the film.
7. The KISS Statues
The soldier memorial statues that Michelle (Milla Jovovich) paints over with KISS makeup were originally supposed to play a bigger role in the film. The statues were to be stolen, before eventually being confiscated by the cops. Some of these scenes are included on Dazed and Confused’s DVD bonus features. KISS frontman Gene Simmons reportedly purchased the statues to add to his collection, and later sold them at Butterfield’s KISS auction in 2000 for $6,000.
8. Renee Zellweger
Blink and you’ll miss her, but Texas native Renee Zellweger appears in the film Dazed and Confused. She auditioned for the role of Darla, which eventually went to Parker Posey, but had to settle for the uncredited non-speaking role of Nesi White, a girl who briefly pops up in the back of a pickup holding a beer funnel. Zellweger would later appear in the seminal 90s films Reality Bites and Empire Records, before winning an Oscar for Cold Mountain.
9. Slater’s Locks
…Are fake! Slater, the stoner-among-stoners played by Rory Cochrane, wore a long-hair wig in the film. He later said that, despite the “cosmopolitan” atmosphere of Austin, Texas, where the film was shot, he still got a lot of strange looks from locals. Cochrane would later rock another outstanding 70s-era wig in Argo, which was directed by his Dazed co-star Ben Affleck, a.k.a. O’Bannion.
10. McConaughey’s Epic Casting Story
Texas native Matthew McConaughey was hanging out at a hotel bar in Austin, Texas, when he ran into Don Phillips, the casting director for Dazed and Confused. “Top of the Hyatt, Thursday night!” McConaughey told me when I interviewed him for Newsweek. “I went there because the bartender there gave me free drinks because he was in my film-school class [at the University of Texas at Austin]. We got kicked out! We were really drunk. We were talking about a golf hole that we had both played and we were just so loud that management told us to leave.” But Phillips and McConaughey got along so famously that he told him to stop by the casting office the next day … and the rest is history.
11. “All right, all right, all right…”
Matthew McConaughey’s first scene as Wooderson, the fun-lovin’, lovable stoner in Dazed, was filmed late one night at the Top Notch, a drive-in burger joint in Austin. He recounted the scene to Newsweek: Linklater pulled McConaughey aside and said, “It’s the last day of school and Wooderson’s already probably been with the cheerleader or the popular girl. Do you think he’d go for the redheaded intellectual?” “Sure,” McConaughey replied. “And what if he tried to pick up on her?” asked Linklater. “Give me 30 minutes,” said McConaughey.
“I came back and he said, ‘Want to shoot it?’” recalls McConaughey, who had simply spent the 30 minutes meditating. “So I was sitting in the car, nervous because I was about to have my first acting scene and I was improvising it. I thought, Who’s my man? Who’s my man? I’d been listening to this live Doors album where Jim Morrison barks out between two of the songs, ‘All right, all right, all right, all right!’ I didn’t know what it meant. So I was like, OK, Wooderson: I’m about rock ’n’ roll, weed, cars, and women. I’m in my car, I’m listening to Nugent’s ‘Stranglehold,’ and I’m high. And there’s the woman. I got three out of four. ‘All right, all right, all right!’ I figured I was batting .750, so that’s what the three ‘All right’s’ were about.”
12. The Redhead
That redhead that McConaughey’s Wooderson is hooked on? The character’s name is Cynthia Dunn, and she’s played by Marissa Ribisi, twin sister of actor Giovanni Ribisi. She is also currently married to the singer Beck, and the couple have two children. She, like her twin brother and Beck, is a Scientologist.
13. A Death in the Family
Early on in the filming of Dazed and Confused, Matthew McConaughey (Wooderson) lost his father, James McConaughey—a former NFL player for the Green Bay Packers-cum-oil businessman. Filming on the movie was temporarily halted while McConaughey helped arrange and attend his father’s funeral.
14. Wooderson Lives!
Matthew McConaughey reprised his role as Wooderson in Butch Walker and The Black Widows’ music video for their song “Synthesizers.” It is glorious.
Marijuana, of course, plays a big role in Dazed and Confused. The characters spend the bulk of the film getting high … but were the actors really stoned while filming? “It wasn't real marijuana, although the cast does admit to being stoned in several scenes, particularly at the very end,” Linklater told Esquire.
While the weed was mostly fake, the beer drunk by the actors in the film—excluding minors—was sometimes real. The cast snuck in real booze during the making of the film except Jason London (Floyd), who reportedly refused.
17. Led Zeppelin
The film, of course, is named after the Led Zeppelin song “Dazed and Confused.” There’s even a reference to the tune in the film by Slater, played by Rory Cochrane: “Man, I ain’t believin’ that shit about Bonham’s one-hour drum solo … I mean, one hour on drums … you couldn’t handle that shit on strong acid, man.” “Dazed and Confused” is supposedly a song about a bad acid trip but is really about a girl deciding to stay with a guy or not, according to the song’s original writer/performer, Jake Holmes. Linklater approached the surviving members of Led Zeppelin for permission to use their tune “Rock and Roll” in Dazed and Confused and, while Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones agreed, Robert Plant refused, so the idea was scrapped.
18. Those Sweet ‘70s Jams
Approximately 1/6 of the film’s $6.9 million budget was used just to acquire the rights to many of the 70s hits used in the film, which included Bob Dylan’s “Hurricane,” Foghat’s “Slow Ride,” Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid,” Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Tuesday’s Gone,” Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion,” and more.
The song “Sweet Emotion” by Aerosmith is now inextricably linked to Dazed and Confused, since it plays during the movie’s slo-mo opening scene. While the song doesn’t appear on the film’s bestselling soundtrack, it’s presence in Dazed, as well as the film’s ending—where the boys drive off to get tickets to an Aerosmith concert—helped revive Aerosmith’s career. The band performed the song during its 2001 induction to The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
20. High Praise
Quentin Tarantino included Dazed and Confused on his list of the 10 greatest films of all-time in a 2002 Sight and Sound poll. Author Chuck Klosterman confessed to watching the film 65 times in an essay for the film’s Criterion DVD. And it’s one of the films that Pam (Jenna Fischer) chooses as one of her “desert island films” on the NBC series The Office. It’s now regarded as a cult classic.