It’s the 20th anniversary of “Office Space,” Mike Judge’s cult ode to the frustrations of cube-farm workers. Starring Ron Livingston, Jennifer Aniston and what became a who’s who of amazing character actors, the film was not a box office success but found a cult following over the next 20 years for two reasons: DVDs and the rise of the Internet. Here are 20 things you might not have known about the greatest workplace comedy of the past, well, 20 years.
1. “Office Space” has its roots in a desk job that creator and Austinite Mike Judge (engineer by trade, talented blues bassist by hobby) had for a spell in the 1980s, where a guy at the firm would complain constantly about his desk being moved and how he would quit if it was moved one more time.
2. This anonymous fellow became the “Milton” character in a series of cartoon shorts Judge made, which aired in the early 1990s on "Saturday Night Live" and MTV. Milton was memorably portrayed by Stephen Root in “Office Space.”
3. After turning in a treatment to Fox in 1996, around the time that the “Beavis and Butthead” movie was hitting theaters, Judge began working on the script in earnest in 1997, right as “King of the Hill” was debuting on Fox.
4. “Office Space” had a budget of $10 million — not a lot of money, even by 1990s movie standards, but enough for Fox to take a very active interest in how the first-time feature director was going to pull this all off.
5. Two voice actors on “King of the Hill” — Root and David Herman — would play crucial roles in “Office Space”: Root as the aforementioned, red-stapler-obsessed Milton and Herman as Michael Bolton, who hates his name and his job in equal measure. Judge wrote the role for Herman.
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6. The studio wanted as many stars as possible. For the lead, a frustrated office worker named Peter Gibbons, they wanted Matt Damon or Ben Affleck, then two of the hottest talents around. They looked at Noah Wylie. They looked at other famous folks. The budget could afford none of them. They ended up with Ron Livingston, who was absolutely brilliant.
7. According to Brian Raftery’s upcoming book, “Best. Movie. Year. Ever.,” about the films of 1999, Fox wanted Johnny Depp or Billy Bob Thornton to play Lawrence, Peter’s redneck next-door neighbor. They got Diedrich Bader.
8. Bader was going to base Lawrence on Owen Wilson’s Dignan from Wes Anderson’s “Bottle Rocket.” As Bader has noted in several interviews, he had to adjust his audition on the fly when it turned out Wilson was also in the mix for the movie. Bader was also brilliant.
9. Ajay Naidu, who played the engineer Samir Nagheenanajar, was an actual breakdancer, which is why his breakdance scene ruled so hard.
10. One actor who seemed to turn up everywhere both slightly before and for a long time after “Office Space” was character/voice actor Gary Cole, who embodied Peter’s boss, Lumbergh, such that he became an icon. Cole was perhaps best known in the 1990s as Mike Brady in the "Brady Bunch" movies, as Vice President Bob Russell on “The West Wing” and from 2013 to now as Kenny Davidson in “Veep.” As of 2019, his Internet Movie Database page lists 172 credits.
11. “Office Space” ended up with one bonafide star among its alums: "Friends" actress Jennifer Aniston as the minimally-flair-covered waitress Joanna.
12. Most of the movie was, indeed, shot in Austin.
13. Austin locations included 4120 Freidrich Lane, a building in an office park that was used as the exterior of Initech, the firm the engineers work for. The inside of the Alligator Grill (which is now a Baker Street Pub) at 3003 South Lamar Blvd. stood in for Chotchkie’s, while the Chotchkie’s exterior is now a Chase Bank.
14. Peter’s apartment can be found at 11511 Metric Blvd., aka the Trails of Walnut Creek, which sounds like a movie title in and of itself.
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15. And then there’s the printer scene. As noted in Raftery’s book, the much-hated printer that is beaten to death by the three leads while the Geto Boys’ amazing “Still” plays is based on an actual printer Judge had to deal with while writing “Beavis and Butthead Do America.” Yes, the "PC LOAD LETTER" thing actually happened.
16. Most of the printer destruction was improvised.
17. “Still” can be found on the 1996 Geto Boys album “The Resurrection,” which is a stone classic. (Willie D apparently loved the printer scene.)
18. Speaking of improvisation, Greg Pitts played Drew, the annoying, chatty guy. He improvised an unprintable line about a certain facial expression and the subsequent gestures.
19. The movie was an atomic bomb at the box office, grossing only $10.8 million, barely making back its production budget.
20. Judge has proven himself a pretty visionary guy, even when his work doesn’t seem to hit right out of the gate. (The current political climate has made the use of available “Idiocracy” references downright exhausting.) “Office Space” became legendary in another format: By 2003, Fox had sold more than 2.5 million “Office Space” DVDs, a staggering number. It didn’t hurt that the movie arrived just as massive numbers of college grads were taking jobs in the booming tech sector. As Raferty notes, folks in their mid-20s were in cube farms with annoying bosses and terrible printers in massive numbers, except now, the internet enabled them to think about work 24 hours a day. We are never not in “Office Space.”