The real reason why Hollywood stopped casting Mike Myers

Mike Myers made the jump from Saturday Night Live to the big screen with two adaptations of his silly SNL skit Wayne's World, and kept hitting paydirt with his James Bond parody character Austin Powers in three wildly successful movies. He also served as the unforgettable voice of the green ogre Shrek for four films and a series of spinoffs — but then, as if Myers himself had received the "happily ever after" promised to his ogre incarnation, he seemed to drop off the face of the earth … or at least the face of Hollywood.

What happened to turn an unstoppable comedy juggernaut into a virtual recluse? Here's why Mike Myers doesn't get many movie offers anymore.

Now is ze time on Sprockets ven ve sue

Myers' blazing hot career hit a cool patch in 2000 when he walked away from Dieter, another SNL sketch-inspired film that would have had him reprise the role of the quirky German host of the fictional show Sprockets who has an unhealthy affinity for monkeys. According to ABC News, Dieter was to be Myers' follow-up to The Spy Who Shagged Me, the second Austin Powers film, but Myers bailed on the production, citing issues with the script. (Interesting side note: He co-wrote it.)

A series of lawsuits followed. Universal sued Myers for $5 million; the production company making the film, Imagine Entertainment, sued Myers for an additional $30 million. Myers then countersued everyone, citing "violations to [his] right of privacy, abuse of process, and fraud on the part of Universal."

Eventually, they all got in a room, dropped their respective lawsuits, and agreed to work together on another project: the live-action adaptation of the Dr. Seuss classic The Cat in the Hat. But that didn't exactly go too well either…  

A bungled childhood classic

Though its abysmal Rotten Tomatoes rating of 10 percent should indicate what a flop The Cat in the Hat was, the devil was in the details of Myers' take on the seminal children's classic. Almost every review cited the filmmakers' bewildering choice to infuse the tale of the mischievous feline houseguest with a bunch of decidedly off-tone and crude humor. But the more particularly scathing criticisms fell directly at Myers' feet, like in The Dallas Observer's takedown, titled "Kitty Litter," which stated, "The producers may as well have skipped the hassle of securing licensing rights and simply called this mess Mike Myers: A**hole in Fur."

And as if being dragged by strangers who didn't even have an emotional attachment to the material wasn't enough, Dr. Seuss' own wife, Audrey Stone Geisel, responded by subsequently forbidding live action adaptations of her husband's work. But wait, there's more! Because on top of churning out a universally panned performance, Myers also allegedly acted like a complete jerk on the set.

Darkness behind the laughter

In an interview with The A.V. Club, Myers' The Cat in the Hat co-star Amy Hill painted a hilariously unflattering portrait of the film's lead, right down to the claim that he had a sycophant trailing behind him all day whose entire job seemed to be feeding Myers chocolates from a Tupperware container. That's the clear highlight from her on-set anecdotes, but she also characterized Myers as a "diva" who constantly made the cast and crew wait while he micromanaged the entire production. And Hill isn't the only former collaborator to rake Myers over the coals.

In a 2008 EW profile of Myers, Wayne's World director Penelope Spheeris got her own digs in, describing him as "emotionally needy" and saying he "got more difficult as the shoot went along." Spheeris even echoed Hill's experience when she recalled having to enlist her own daughter to perform the duties of snack wrangler for Myers. But perhaps her most telling line from the interview was her remark, "Maybe he could open, like, a children's hospital to clean up his rep. He's got to do something pretty quick." EW generously described the quip as a "dark joke," but was it, really?

Yet another scorned cohort, Rob Fried, who produced So I Married an Axe Murderer, put things in even starker terms, telling The Telegraph, "I think Mike's a visionary, but his way of getting what he wants is to remote and threaten and express anger."

All in all, It's a pretty damning list of burned professional bridges, and one that's likely not gone unnoticed by studios and future collaborators alike.

The Love Guru killed more than just his career

For younger audiences who may not necessarily associate Myers with Austin Powers or Shrek, there's another movie that unfortunately comes to mind: The Love Guru. The 2008 comedy presented Myers as, well, a love guru whose dream is to be featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show. He brought his Austin Powers costar Verne Troyer to the film along with several big names, including Justin Timberlake, Jessica Alba, and Ben Kingsley.

Despite all that star power, the movie flopped hard. Against a budget of $62 million (which doesn't count the cost of advertising), the movie only brought in a worldwide gross of $40 million and change. It struggled against fellow funny movie Get Smart as well as The Incredible Hulk, marking a particularly painful failure during an overall bad year for Paramount that possibly contributed to execs John Lesher and Brad Weston losing their jobs. 

As of this writing, It's been roughly a decade since The Love Guru bombed, but he hasn't done much since — and it isn't hard to imagine that studios might still be gunshy about handing Myers the reins to a major movie.

Nobody's calling, but when they do, he's not answering

When it comes to figuring out why a beloved actor is no longer headlining major Hollywood movies, there are typically two possible answers. One is that Hollywood is no longer sending them scripts … a not-so-subtle "thanks, but no thanks" from a movie industry that has no further need for what that actor is selling. The other, more positive-sounding possibility is that the actor has become very picky.

What's interesting about Myers is that both of these are true, and have been for a long time. In a 2014 interview with GQ, Myers alleged that he'd only received 15 scripts since 1991. The incredulous interviewer asked Myers if he would be happy to star in "interesting dramatic parts," to which he replied "Yeah, a hundred percent, yeah, absolutely." What happens to the rest of the roles he's offered? He clarified that "I do turn virtually everything down." Basically, offers for movies he really wants are few and far between, and he tosses everything else — one of the benefits of having the big green monster on your side. No, not just Shrek: piles of profits.

It's a passion, not a paycheck

Myers is a legendary comedian who's shown he's got chops on both the small and big screens, but he's not like some comedic actors who seem to show up in everything, like Matt Wash of Veep fame or Jason Mantzoukas, a.k.a Rafi from The League. For Myers, it's more about passion than just a willingness to show up and play the game, which is why he's turned out some surprising, albeit possibly unnoticed-by-his-regular-fans roles in films like Studio 54 and Inglourious Basterds.

In a rare print interview with GQ, Myers said as much, describing his decision to make the esoteric turn as club owner Steve Rubell in Studio 54 by saying, "I loved that character so much and loved that world." He made a similar statement in a promotional interview for Inglourious Basterds when he basically said he took the unusually serious role just for the chance to work with director Quentin Tarantino.  

As plenty of other comedians have learned, it's difficult to pull off that leap from silly stuff into more serious fare, but Myers doesn't seem to care. The question is: Can he successfully carry an audience over to watch him indulge his every creative whim, if that was actually the goal? The answer is: Not quite.

Speaking of passion projects

Another one of Myers' out-of-the box projects is his 2014 documentary Supermensch, which profiles the life of Shep Gordon, a legendary music manager whose clients ranged from Blondie and Luther Vandross to Alice Cooper. In fact, according to The Guardian, Cooper served as the original connective tissue between Gordon and Myers through his cameo in the first Wayne's World movie. Myers had to meet with Cooper's manager, Gordon, and immediately took a liking to the man.

Gordon ultimately served as a bit of a mentor and father figure to Myers over the years, a friendship that proved especially poignant after the actor's father passed away and Myers helped process his grief by staying with Gordon in Hawaii for about two months.

It's a lovely story of a professional association that turned into a wonderful friendship, but with a domestic box office gross of only $213,064 on an undisclosed budget (which we're sure was easily more than that), it's one that likely didn't make investors any money. This sort of goes without saying, but that's never a great thing to have to report when you've got your hand out for funding the next time around. 

HBO paid him for nothing

In early 2015, HBO announced Myers had signed a two-year deal with the network to make … something. Details were never specified, and the following year, Decider reported that Myers eventually opted out of the contract because his production deal never led to an order of his series. It's unfortunate that this particular deal never panned out, but it's also interesting that Myers is interested in making a return to the small screen. He obviously knows how to make a hit movie, but for fans who remember watching his SNL antics, he'll always have his roots in TV — and once the stars align behind the scenes, he could be ripe for a comeback.

What is going on with The Gong Show?

Since the summer of 2017, Myers has been hosting ABC's reboot of The Gong Show, only in heavy disguise as the older English comedian Tommy Maitland. Donning an intentionally bad toupee, prosthetic jowls, and baby blue contacts, Myers transformed into Maitland with so little fanfare that Myers even did press as the character, refusing to admit the ruse. Except anyone who's ever seen Myers in anything, and who has a working set of eyes and ears, could identify him immediately.

Months later, Myers came out, so to speak, as the show was greenlit for a second season. "It is with great delight that I can finally admit that there is indeed a Tommy Maitland, and that I portray him," Myers told The Wrap, effectively lifting the veil on "the worst-kept secret in Hollywood."

The obvious question here is: Why stage the clearly transparent deception in the first place? We've got two theories — one, it was a promotional stunt, plain and simple, which if that was the case, okay, fine. Or perhaps Myers thought this would be hilarious, and if that was the case, it prompts a whole other series of questions, starting with: Really?   

A great white pause

Myers' recent big-screen absence may not entirely be a case of Hollywood turning its back on him. He's also turned over a new (maple) leaf as the author of Canada, a book focusing on Myers exploring what his beloved country means to him via photographs, anecdotes, and his trademark humor. In addition to the time it took Myers to write and publish the work, he also embarked on a nationwide promotional tour, spurring bestselling sales in the country and inspiring the #MikesCanada Twitter hashtag. 

Myers previously wrote the foreword to Deepak Chopra's 2008 spiritual manual Why Is God Laughing? and Christopher Ward's Canadian rock memoir, Is This Live?: Inside the Wild Early Years of MuchMusic: The Nation's Music Station. It remains to be seen whether these few works mark the limit of Myers' literary ambitions, but he obviously isn't just sitting around waiting for screenplays.

Dad Life > Hollywood Life

A less depressing reason Hollywood is unlikely to cast Myers? The actor has been busy playing a couple of other major roles: husband and father. He and his wife Kelly Tisdale recently welcomed a new addition to their family — a daughter named Paulina Kathleen. She's merely the latest in a line of kids that includes son Spike (born in 2011) and daughter Sunday Molly (born in April 2014).

How important is family life to Myers? In an interview with Deadline, he said, "Anyone who tells you fatherhood is the greatest thing that can happen to you, they are understating it." He went on to gush that he had no idea fatherhood would be so "awesome" and that it has made him "the happiest" that he has "ever been." Given how genuinely excited and happy becoming a father has made Myers, and given how relatively young his children are, it's tough to imagine he's is eager to star in a major Hollywood production that would involve long hours and a disruptive traveling schedule.

Going back to the well

Myers' incredible success with a string of early hits might have established unreasonable expectations for subsequent efforts, but it also gave him the financial freedom to pick his projects carefully — and that's exactly what he's done over the last several years. Fans who just want him go back to doing the things they liked may soon have a reason to rejoice: Shrek 5 is on the horizon, due to arrive in 2019 (although as of this writing, Myers has yet to officially be attached). He's also indicated that he's open to the idea of more Wayne's World and Austin Powers sequels.

But true to form, Myers has also booked some other one-off gigs, like his still-undisclosed role in the "noir thriller" Terminal alongside Margot Robbie and Simon Pegg, as well as the lead role in Del, the biopic about legendary improv comedy teacher Del Close. 

It's pretty clear that Myers charted his own path a long time ago, but it remains to be seen how that path will intersect with Hollywood in the future.