15 Things You Didn't Know About 'Meet the Parents'

It's been 15 years! See who was originally going to play Gaylord Focker, and which cast member died far too young.

15 Things You Didn't Know About 'Meet the Parents'

Ben Stiller led a semi-charmed comedic life up until 1998 when he suddenly became a household name after the release of There's Something About Mary. That movie was a huge hit and Stiller's star was born, but things were about to get much huger. On October 6, 2000, Stiller's next film, Meet the Parents, was released in theaters and it soon became the year's biggest comedy. Taking in more than $330 million worldwide, the film was one of the smash hits of 2000.

Fifteen years (and two sequels) later, Meet the Parents remains a favorite comedy for adults everywhere. The story, about a insecure guy who goes to meet his fiance's family for the first time, is something everyone can relate to. But did you know Meet the Parents is actually based on another film, made eight years previously? Did you know Steven Spielberg originally planned to direct? There are many stories behind every movie's production. Here's the rest of the things you didn't know about Meet the Parents.

1. The script for Meet the Parents, written by Jim Herzfeld and John Hamburg, is based on the 1992 film of the same name by Greg Glienna and Mary Ruth Clarke. The plot is essentially the same: A young man meets his girlfriend's parents for the first time and the father doesn't like him. Glienna also directed and starred in the original and the Stiller movie keeps the main character's name, Greg, as an homage. The 1992 version is a bit riskier with the comedic scenarios: the family dog is drowned and the father chases Greg out of the house with a shotgun.

15 Things You Didn't Know About 'Meet the Parents'

2. Director Jay Roach was initially rejected by Universal Studios for the director's job. Steven Soderbergh had expressed interest, but Steven Spielberg was the front-runner. He planned to do the movie with Jim Carrey as the lead.

3. Carrey was the one who came up with the name "Gaylord Focker," during early creative meetings. After he dropped out of the project, along with Spielberg, the name was kept. 

4. Naomi Watts was originally cast as Pam, but the studio didn't think she was "sexy" enough. Teri Polo was given the role instead. Julia Stiles also auditioned.

5. According to Polo, during the scene where she and Stiller are making out on her bed and he fondles her breast, she stuffed cookies into her bra as a joke.

6. Robert De Niro, who plays Jack, may have seemed a strange choice for the comedy, but the renowned actor was just coming off Analyze This and was open to comedic work. Christopher Walken was the second choice and Anthony Hopkins was considered for the role as well.

7. De Niro fell in love with the Focker family cat, "Mr. Jinx," on set and wanted him to appear in more scenes than originally written. In-between takes, the seven-time Oscar nominee would play with the kitties (two Himalayans named Bailey and Misha played the role of Jinxy).

8. Roach cast Stiller as Greg thanks to the actor's skill at playing anxiety-laden characters. The director also loved Stiller's improv ability, stating, "He has lots of great ideas and he's very skilled at loose improvisation." 

9. According to the DVD commentary, the car chase scene was originally meant to be a spoof of De Niro's action film, Ronin. Likewise, Jack's admission that he became a "patient man" when he spent 19 months in a Vietnamese prison is a reference to The Deer Hunter.

10. Jack's attempt at speaking Thai is far from accurate as he constantly repeats the word "What?" making it seem like it's a longer conversation than it is. 

11. This is the only film in the series in which Pam's sister, Deborah Byrnes, appears onscreen, although she's frequently mentioned in all of the films. Nicole DeHuff, the actress who plays her, died suddenly in 2005 of sepsis complicated by pneumonia, asthma, and a staph infection. Doctors misdiagnosed her twice.

12. Election and Sideways director Alexander Payne did a final edit of the script before shooting and wasn't credited.

13. Pam calls Greg's parents in Detroit. However, in the sequel, they live in Florida. When the Byrnes' first arrive to the Fockers' house in Meet the Fockers, Greg's dad says they moved from Detroit.

14. The success of Meet the Parents was responsible for a 2002 NBC reality TV show called Meet My Folks in which a young woman's love interest, vying for her family's approval, is interrogated by the woman's overprotective father with the help of a lie detector machine.

15. On July 18, 2005, an American Airlines flight from Fort Lauderdale, FL to San Juan, Puerto Rico had to be diverted back to Fort Lauderdale due to a bomb threat. A flight attendant found a crumpled napkin that read "Bomb, bomb, bomb ... meet the parents," a clear reference to the scene in which Ben Stiller's character repeatedly shouts the word "bomb" while being detained by airport security. The airplane was met by a local bomb squad as well as the FBI who questioned everyone onboard.

15 Things You Didn't Know About 'Meet the Parents'
Managing Editor, Zimbio — entertainment writer, critic, and reporter since 2011. Bay Area. Origin: Shark City.