Welcome to WeeklyWilson.com, where author/film critic Connie (Corcoran) Wilson avoids totally losing her marbles in semi-retirement by writing about film (see the Chicago Film Festival reviews and SXSW), politics and books----her own books and those of other people. You'll also find her diverging frequently to share humorous (or not-so-humorous) anecdotes and concerns. Try it! You'll like it!

Tag: Gary Cole

What Does the Cast of “Office Space” Look Like 20 Years Later?

“Office Space” is that rare film that grew from a less-than-stellar opening to become one of the most loved (and rented) films in history. It has gained fans around the world, its popularity spreading via word-of-mouth, since the unfortunate “Big Bird” poster advertising the film was considered a major faux pas at the time. (It depicted the character Milton with yellow post-it notes all over his body.)


Ron Livingston (Photo by Connie Wilson) at Office Space reunion.

On the occasion of “Office Space’s” twentieth anniversary and also in conjunction with inducting Director Mike Judge (“Beavis & Butthead” creator) into the Texas Hall of Film Fame, the main cast assembled in Austin, Texas, at the Paramount Theater on Wednesday, March 6th, to screen the film to a devoted audience and reminisce about the film’s history.


Although the press was told not to ask questions, I couldn’t help but tell star Ron Livingston that my sister taught in Marion, Iowa, his home town, at Lin-Mar High School. He was very gracious and immediately introduced me to his father, pictured with him below.

[Ron Livingston and his father at the Paramount Theater in Austin, Texas on March 6, 2019 for the Office Space reunion. (Photo by Connie Wilson.)]

Livingston also had a number of appearances on episodes of “Sex and the City” and now appears as the pivotal character in the television drama “One Million Little Things.” My last time seeing him “live” was stumping for John Kerry in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in 2004.

Ron Livingston (Photo by Connie Wilson). Shown at the Office Space 20th anniversary reunion showing in Austin, Texas on March 6, 2019.

One of the humorous stories involving Livingston’s involvement in “Office Space” was the phone call he got on the Friday before they were to start filming. The studio asked him if he could fast until Tuesday, when he would report to the set. As he said, “I think I jumped rope all day on Saturday and then quit.”

Producers wanted “name” stars like Matt Damon or Ben Affleck for “Office Space” but Judge did not agree. Since Ben Affleck demanded $5 million in salary and the entire budget was only $2 million, Judge got his way and knew, instantly, from his audition, that Livingston was perfect for the lead role of Peter.


Gary Cole (Photo by Connie Wilson). Office Space’s

Ron Livingston (L) and Gary Cole chat at the Paramount Theater before a showing of “Office Space” on March 6, 2019. (Photo by Connie Wilson).

Gary Cole’s Bill Lumbergh is a boss in “Office Space” whose constant request for TPS Reports and his smarmy mannerisms have been immortalized, Much of Lumbergh’s casual insouciance was Cole’s improvising.

Cole has a new series, “Fam,” as the lead, Freddy, and has had multiple appearances in “Veep” and “The Good Wife.” I met him first in Chicago at an Opening Night of the Chicago Film Festival, playingthe second lead in “The Last Rites of Joe May,”  with the late Dennis Farina in the lead role of a convict released from prison and trying to re-adjust to society’s changes. Farina was rather dismissive of all print and digital press people and streaked past us, headed for the TV cameras, but Gary Cole was very kind and gentlemanly and chatted with all of us. He seemed to enjoy chatting with Ron Livingston this night.


David Herman of “Office Space.” (Photo by Connie Wilson). 


David Herman played the unfortunately named Michael Bolton. Years later, the real Michael Bolton commented on the film in a bemused fashion, and, as one of the cast members explained his choice for the same-named singer in the film, it was felt that, at the time Michael Bolton was “taking himself very seriously.” He has lightened up in subsequent years. [Bolton has actually commented on the film in a positive way in interviews.]

David Herman was someone that Director/Writer Mike Judge wanted for his role from the beginning.  Herman was one of the 8 original cast members of Fox’s late night MadTV. He still does voice-over work for “King of the Hill” and other films and has worked with Judge since 1999.  He was the loosest of the bunch and, also, the most changed in appearance.


Missing this night were Jennifer Aniston (Joanna) and Stephen Root (Milton), the stapler guy.

Although Judge was very specific that he wanted a red stapler for Milton’s scenes, at the time Swingline did not make a red stapler, so several staplers were painted red for the scenes. Now, if you begin a career with the stapler company, a new employee is given a red stapler—  a result of the popularity of “Office Space.”


Ajay Naidu of “Office Space.” (Photo by Connie Wilson).

Ajay Naidu’s impromptu break-dance move when the trio is trashing the hated copy machine in a field is now the stuff of legend. If you watch closely, you will see that Ajay almost got hurt in the “Office Space” scene, when he broke free and tried to run back to stomp on the copy machine some more. (Livingston and Herman, fortunately, had Ajay’s arms and pulled him from the wreckage). Thirteen copy machines were taken apart and loosely glued back together, so that the trashing scene in “Office Space” would go smoothly.

Filmed in Austin, one critical event that took place during filming was the (temporary) loss of Jennifer Anniston’s dog. She was, at the time, dating Brad Pitt, and he flew in to visit her about the time the dog went slipped away and went missing. Radio stations all over town were asking people to try to find the dog and the dog was, indeed, found, by a hotel concierge, who, many years later, introduced himself to Mike Judge saying, “You won’t remember me, but I’m the guy who found Jennifer Anniston’s dog.”


Stephen Root (IMDB photo).

Stephen Root’s myopically thick glasses did not fail to make an impression on anyone who saw the film. Actually, his eyes were not bad and the glasses were so thick that he could barely see. He had to wear contact lenses to correct the distortion of the coke bottle thick lenses. Root has gone on to become “the man in the High Castle” in Amazon’s series as well as many other character actor parts, including one in Jordan Peele’s “Get Out.”

He will always be Milton, the stapler guy from “Office Space”, to most of us.


Chicago 47th Film Festival Showcases “The Last Rites of Joe May” on Opening Night

Dennis Farina arriving at the 47th Chicago International Film Festival.

“The Last Rites of Joe May,” starring Dennis Farina opened the 47th Chicago International Film Festival, with most stars walking the red carpet for the accolades they and the film justly deserve. “The Last Days of Joe May” chronicles the final days of an aging con man, clinging to the perennial belief that he’s just one scam away from the big score. Gary Cole plays Lenny, his fence, a man Joe asks to hook him up in jump-starting his life of petty crime, talking to Lenny about “the old days,” when he was best friends with Lenny’s dad. (Cole’s characteristic cool serves his role well.)

It Came from the ‘70s

Of significance to me is the concept that the film reflects a yearning on the part of audiences for a return to character-driven films like those excellent films of the seventies, something I articulated in an entire book (It Came from the 70s: From The Godfather to Apocalypse Now). “Moneyball’s” movers and shakers (Brad Pitt, et. al.) recently echoed that thought (Sports Illustrated, Sept. 26, 2011).

Seventies films often depicted a man clinging to a code of conduct, but facing a world that had changed around him. The anti-hero arose then:  one man defying the establishment.  [Writer/Director Joe Maggio admits to being a fan of the films of Vittorio DeSica (“The Bicycle Thief,” “Two Women”) and of “The Friends of Eddie Coyle,” a Robert Mitchum movie.] The films of the seventies, when compared to CG-dominated fare of today, make you long for a return to telling a human story that touches the audience’s heart and doesn’t have to depend on an encroaching ice age, toys come to life, or asteroids destroying the earth (not to mention the “end of days” scenario of “2012.”)

Todd Brown of www.Twitchfilm.com reviewed “The Last Rites of Joe May” this way: “I’m just happy that someone out there still wants to make movies like this while there are still stars like Farina to feature within them.  This man is a true American icon who deserves far more recognition than he gets, and this is the sort of role that fits him like a glove.” That opinion was shared by the enthusiastic Chicago audience Thursday night, who gave a round of applause to a controversial line in the film (Farino and Writer/Director Maggio debated it). Joe May calls the police station to give Jenny’s abusive policeman boyfriend, Stan Butchkowski (Steppenwolf Theater regular Ian Barford), this message after he puts Jenny in the hospital :  “If I ever see his ugly, greasy, wife-beating face, I’m gonna’ rip his balls right out of their sacs and stuff them down his c********** throat.” The audience openly cheered, much as they cheered Eastwood in 1971’s “Dirty Harry” (“Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya’, punk?”).

The Plot

As the story of Joe May opens, he is being released from the hospital after several weeks of treatment for pneumonia. He’s still not really a well man. Everyone thinks Joe’s dead. The apartment he lived in for 40 years has been rented to a young mother (Jamie Anne Allman) with a 7-year-old daughter; his belongings have been thrown out or given away, with the exception of his collection of vinyl opera records (Verdi, in particular); and his 1989 Cutlass has been sold for $75. (When Joe protests the sale of his car, the civil servant on duty says, “I’d say you got off easy. You had $250 of unpaid tickets and a $1,000 storage fee,” noting that the car was officially declared “abandoned” when Joe lingered in the hospital for weeks.)  Joe’s net worth is exactly $443.56. He is irrevocably estranged from his only child, a son (Scotty) who screams at him to get out of his house saying, “There’s nothing to talk about. We don’t even know each other.”

When the young mother (Jenny, well played by Jamie Anne Allman), who works as a nurse, sees Joe homeless in the streets outside his old apartment and sleeping on a city bus and a public bench, she asks him if he would like to rent his old room for $100 a week. He agrees and moves back into his old place, but in a platonic fashion. His relationship with Jenny in the film is that of a father figure, not a lover. Farina said, “I think, for him, not becoming involved with Jenny represented a noble gesture.” Farina described discussions with Writer/Director Joe Maggio where they agreed that Farina’s old-world code wouldn’t find it acceptable for him to sleep with the young woman while her 7-year-old daughter was under the same roof.

Joe May’s Pigeons

Joe’s relationship with Jenny’s daughter, young Angelina (Meredith Droeger) develops around the pigeons Joe houses on the roof (a throwback to Marlon Brando in “On the Waterfront.”) The pigeons are symbolic of many things and their fate is pivotal in the movie’s plot. (Joe tells Angelina, “I’ll always come back,” much as the pigeons do.) The pigeons were also one of the sticking points in relocating the film from Maggio’s original New York setting to Chicago. Said Farina, “My biggest concern, believe it or not, it’s a small thing, but I wasn’t aware of how many pigeon coops were in Chicago, because pigeon coops are normally associated with the East coast.  That the only thing I’m concerned about…do we have pigeon coops?  Though it’s illegal to have pigeon coops in Chicago, there are, indeed, a lot of them.” As a resident of Chicago, Farino said, “It’s the best big city in the world.  Of course, I’m a little prejudiced, but I love it.”

Farina is the perfect choice to play Joe May.  This film—after a lengthy career as a reliable character actor—fits him like “Rocky” fit Sylvester Stallone. As Farina admitted in an interview, “I can tell you, I’m 68, yeah—there are a lot of things going on that I just don’t understand.  And it’s funny, I think maybe when you’re Joe May, your world just gets smaller and smaller and you keep gravitating to people who think like you, or are like you, because you don’t understand or can’t accept what else is going on in the world.” It’s the universal truth: “It’s hell to get old.” Or, as Bette Davis once put it, “Old age is not for sissies.” [Farino’s scenes with old friend Bill (Chelcie Ross) are great, especially one where he drops Angelina off with Bill at the assisted living facility and Bill gets the line, “Hurry up and say good-bye. Uncle Billy is freezing his nuts off.”]

Writer/Director Joe Maggio based Joe May’s character on his maternal grandfather, a short money hustler, and said, “Joe’s trouble isn’t that he fails to live up to his code; it’s that the world has changed to such a degree that, in obeying these rules, Joe is, in a sense, holding devalued currency.”

What code would that be?

Writer/Director Maggio:  “You always pay your debts. You never let anyone know when you’re down and out and no matter how bad things get, you keep your shoes shined, your pants pressed and your hair trimmed.  If you can’t afford to leave a tip, don’t go into the bar.  You wait your turn, with patience and fortitude, because better days will come, eventually.”  Joe’s character, in the film, tells his estranged son, who scoffs, “I just always felt there was something great waiting for me.”

At this point in his life, despite being down and out (“One day you’re on top of the world, and the next day you’re floating in the crapper.”) Joe is not ready to go gently into that good night. He plans to rage against the dying of the light, saying, “I still feel I have something to offer.” This is a universal theme that anyone over 50 can relate to.

After an altercation between Jenny and her violent boyfriend frightens Angelina, Joe reassures Angelina telling Angelina if her mother’s abusive cop boyfriend returns, “I’ve still got a few good moves left in me.” A scene on a city bus where Joe gets up to give his seat to a woman and is soon pushed into the senior seats by a young woman is telling.

The Verdict

Any number of Hollywood icons would have been good in this role in their day. Paul Newman comes to mind. Clint Eastwood a few roles back. But there are no actors working today who would have done the part more justice than Dennis Farina, and certainly none who could locate it as well in authentic Chicago neighborhoods in the dead of winter.

Farina’s convincing portrait of a man whose best friend Billy (excellently played by veteran character actor Chelcie Ross, co-star of “Hoosiers” with Gene Hackman) has hung it up and retired to an assisted living facility, is tinged with the sense of doom that Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman brought to their roles in “Midnight Cowboy.” Joe’s sense of being out-of-the-loop reminded me of the “Wall Street” sequel (“Money Never Sleeps”), when Michael Douglas’ character has lost touch with the present-day while in prison.  The sub-plot where Angelina is temporarily MIA reminded me of Jeff Bridges’ Oscar-winning role as Otis “Bad” Blake in 2009’s “Crazy Heart,” when he (temporarily) lost girlfriend Maggie Gyllenhaal’s child.

“The Last Rites of Joe May” opens on video-on-demand on October 28, 2011 and will open November 4, 2011 at Quad Cinema in New York City and at the Gene Siskel Film Center November 24, 2011. It’s a heart-warming, satisfying film experience with a message that resonates.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén