FiveThirtyEight Guest Post: Let It Snow?

Well, They Couldn’t All Have Him

So Money

An oral history of Swingers

Suddenly, heartbreak fed the need to wear ribbed tank undershirts. You got crushed? You hid under a fedora. She left? You bought vintage bowling shoes, threw on some Sinatra, and pretended to understand the virtues of single-malt scotch. Any Glen. You’d start introducing your best friends as “the Guy Behind the Guy” while secretly praying somebody would see something redeeming in you. They could only properly confirm it with one phrase: “You’re so money, and you don’t even know it.”

Hearing that helped. Even if all you were going home to was Dean Martin crooning “you’re nobody till somebody loves you” on repeat.

Breakups lead to delusional behavior, and recovery often begins with role-playing — pretending you’re confident when your skin barely feels thick enough to hold in your own bones. That’s normal. Less normal was what happened in 1996, when Swingers — a low-budget, independent film written by an unknown named Jon Favreau — slowly found its way into the hands of forlorn twentysomethings looking for a new way to party.

It was a movie about feelings for guys learning to be men, predating the modern Apatovian bromance by years. Swingers had its own restorative slang and presented a world — or a part of Los Angeles, anyway — with a version of cool that seemed both exotic and utterly attainable. It introduced characters so instantly loved and relatable that guys began assigning those parts to their own friends. Trents dancing on tables, saving vulnerable Mikeys from their own doldrums, were everywhere. We got in touch with our inner Robs, placing value on patience and listening.

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy earned its slot in the six-disc changer. Wayne Gretzky’s head bled over and over. Vince Vaughn became every dude’s man crush years before that term even became a meme. Swingers transcended moviedom. It became both a security blanket and a lifestyle.

But it almost didn’t happen. The funding was meager. The film supply, short. The camera, crap. Distribution seemed like a pipe dream and then it bombed at the box office. But like the characters onscreen, the men and women behind the scenes were full of pluck, resolve, and youthful vigor. They learned as they went and came out of it all growns up … and all growns up … and all growns up.

After watching Swingers until the tape, on permanent loan from Blockbuster, wore out, we felt securely all growns up, too.

“That Mid-Twenties Thing When You’re Trying to Pull Your Shit Together”

Jon Favreau (Mike): When I set out to write Swingers, I didn’t know I was even writing a movie. My dad had given me a screenwriting program and I started the script just as an exercise to see if I could write a screenplay. Swingers is what came out.
Ron Livingston (Rob): Jon was really busted up over his breakup. That’s right about the age when your first long-term thing comes apart. Having your heart ripped out like that — that’s a lot different than the cheerleader who doesn’t like you back.
Favreau: I started writing, just drawing from the environment I was living in. I had characters loosely based on people I knew. None of the events were real; it was all a story that came out of my head without an outline.
Alex Désert (Charles): I like to say Swingers was us times 10. I wish I could be that cool.
Favreau: I had been broken up with by my old girlfriend from Chicago who I’d lived with, and I was taking it pretty hard and I was feeling pretty lonely. And then I was realizing that even though I had been in movies already, the work was not going to come easy — that frustration brought on the writing. I was taking things into my own hands.
Livingston: Jon and I met in Chicago before either of us moved to L.A. I was 25 and living with roommates, just that mid-twenties thing when you’re trying to pull your shit together. I was doing theater and a bunch of my buddies were doing improv comedy. Jon was on one of the house teams at Improv Olympic.
Vince Vaughn (Trent): When I was in high school, I actually performed at some classes at the Improv Olympic. Jon and I had that in common, so we hit it off on the set of Rudy, just joking around with each other.
Favreau: I wrote the screenplay in about a week and a half. The writing process wasn’t filled with any sort of turmoil. If you really do the math, it’s 10 days, 10 pages a day. It’s not like you’re chained to the computer. I was just entertaining myself and really enjoying it, sort of giggling at it as I was writing it. I couldn’t wait to share it with my friends more as, like, doodles in the notebook than saying, “Hey, here’s my big movie.”

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Vaughn: It was a typical actor’s life: auditioning and hoping to get parts. I didn’t have an agent. I had gotten parts on and off after high school. I would work, but not steadily.

Favreau: Vince came out here as a teenager, so he was doing after-school specials; I came out after Rudy so I was more of a grown-up. He kind of grew up out here. You know, those college years he spent here getting into the acting game, whereas I was sort of in Chicago and then at college. I didn’t get here until I was much older.1

1. Favreau, who grew up in Queens, New York, and moved to Chicago to pursue a comedy career, headed to L.A. in 1993, in his mid-twenties.
Livingston: We got to L.A. at around the same time, and it was that thing where you become friends with the only guy in town that you know; with me, it was Favs. Of course, he knew Vince, and as soon as he hit town, Vince took him under his wing.
Adam Scott (Favreau’s then-neighbor): I wasn’t involved with Swingers at all, I just lived downstairs from Jon and we were kinda friendly because we’d see each other at auditions and in the hallway. The building was a reasonably comfortable shithole in Hollywood right next to the Scientology Celebrity Centre and a pet toy store. One time Jon came by my apartment and was just like, Jeeeesus Christ. My apartment was disgusting. I remember him talking about how when you live in a place like this, you really need to keep it clean, otherwise you’re just gonna feel disgusting about yourself.
Vaughn: I remember saying to Jon after auditioning for a lot of stuff that we weren’t seeing the best material. Even the movies that were getting made, I thought, were not dialed into the time period, not really capturing real life. I said to him, “Ya know, it would be great if you didn’t have to audition for this stuff,” and then Jon went and wrote Swingers.
Nicole LaLoggia (line producer): I was at a very small development company in Los Angeles and we made Doug Liman’s first film, Getting In. We filmed in North Carolina. Doug and I became very close friends and housemates for almost 10 years. On that first movie, one of the people that read for a particular part was Jon Favreau. We called him back twice, but, ultimately, he didn’t get it.
Favreau: That role actually ended up going to Dave Chappelle, believe it or not.
Doug Liman (director): I knew Jon had a script he’d written that he was trying to raise money for. I had made it my policy at the time to never read a friend’s screenplay in the interest of preserving that friendship, you know, because inevitably your friend’s screenplays were not good.
Favreau: I sent the script to my agent. She sent it out and there were some nibbles. People were interested in optioning it, but they had a lot of notes. They wanted to change Vince’s character to a girl and have them not go to Vegas and said the dialogue was too repetitive, and it had to be darker and more violent. I was really trying to embrace the notes. I tried to change the script, but I just couldn’t.

“I Went to One Meeting With an Arms Dealer From, I Think, Iran”

Livingston: At that point, Jon didn’t really have any aspirations to star in it or direct it or produce it or be a part of it or any of those things. He was just trying to sell it.

LaLoggia: I started taking meetings with Jon and Victor.2 Crazy meetings. They would come to the table and say, “We love it, we wanna make it, we wanna give you $8 million, but you’ve gotta cast Johnny Depp as Trent and we need Chris O’Donnell to be so and so.3 Jon and I would look at them cross-eyed and say, “No. Thank you very much, here’s your suitcase full of money back, we’re leaving.”

2. Victor Simpkins, who produced Liman’s first movie, would sign on as a producer for Swingers as well. 3. The meetings were typically with the indie-focused subsidiaries or larger studios like New Line Cinema’s Fine Line Features, which had produced My Own Private Idaho and Hoop Dreams.
Favreau: I said, “Look, before I change anything, why don’t we do a staged reading? Let me bring in the friends of mine that these characters are based on. And that way we could really hear the script as I intended it so you understand the dialogue, and then you can also maybe be open-minded, and maybe cast one of these people?” I figured it’s a shot to put my friends in front of whatever guy who was going to direct this thing.
Livingston: Vince and I, and a couple of other people — Alex Désert, Ahmed Ahmed, who’s in the movie — we started doing all of these staged readings for potential buyers of this script. They came in all shapes and sizes. Every three months or so, we’d get together in somebody’s living room and rehearse for a while and then go to some empty theater space and do it for some guy who had Saudi parking lot money.
LaLoggia: I went to one meeting, with an arms dealer from, I think, Iran. The craziest meeting I have ever been in. We had to figure out how to get out of the meeting ’cause it was scary.
Favreau: He wasn’t Iranian; I think he was Pakistani. He wasn’t Iranian.
LaLoggia: The cash was real, but we were really freaked out. It was just bad money somehow — or at least to us — it smelled like bad money.
Livingston: This was really right before the whole independent film wave in the late ’90s took off. So it was really only crazy people, oddballs, and weirdos that would even sit down and entertain the idea of buying this movie. Nobody really wanted it.
Vaughn: The reading would always play phenomenally. We did this for over a year and would get huge laughs, great responses. But the business model was always a problem. You have a bunch of guys that don’t really mean anything to Hollywood. Jon had done more than the rest of us, but wasn’t a big enough name to open a movie. And they always felt the movie was funny but also very specific to out-of-work actors in Los Angeles. I think they all totally missed the universality of it: a guy dealing with a breakup and coming of age, taking a journey with a group of friends, and wanting to meet somebody to love. Everyone goes through it. And they wanted to replace me, Trent, with a woman.
Favreau: From that point on, we set out to try and really make the thing on our own with me attached as director.

“It Was an Insane Proposal”

Liman: My roommate, Nicole, had signed on to become Jon’s producer. It was literally all around me when Jon and I traveled to Sundance together. He was trying to raise money and I had my own thing. Neither one of us had read the other one’s project.
LaLoggia: Jon was crazed. We gotta do this right now. It was urgent. I mean he would not leave me alone.
Liman: Jon had been at Sundance, and there was a brief moment in time when Jason Priestley was flirting with the idea of playing the character that ultimately went to Vince. There was this [idea] that if Jason Priestley signed on, they could have raised a million and a half dollars, and they could’ve gotten the movie made.
LaLoggia: I started running numbers to figure out how little could we do it for — what does it look like if his friends are in it? All those crazy scenarios.
Liman: Jon started asking me a bunch of questions, because I had been to film school and I had made a bunch of short films and this straight-to-home-video movie. I still didn’t have any real experience, but compared to somebody with none, I had answers. Finally, I was like “You know what? I should just read your screenplay. I can’t answer these questions without reading it, so how about I just read it?” So I read the script and loved it.
LaLoggia: Ultimately, we knew Jon had to relinquish directing. And Doug came to the table and said, “Look, I love the script, I get what you wanna do, Jon. We can make it ourselves and sell it, and you’re gonna have to trust me, and we can do this together.” And they looked at me and said, “How low can you do this for?” And I went back to the drawing board for 12 hours and I came up with a budget of $279,000.
Eden Wurmfeld (production manager): The deal Doug made with Jon was, “If I get the money, I get to direct it.”
Favreau: There was a whole discussion about how to proceed. Doug agreed to let me have a say in all the creative aspects, and for me to get a cut in the editing room, and to be involved with the music and the costumes.
Liman: I actually had 20 days of shooting budgeted. Four five-day weeks. But I scheduled the movie to shoot in 18 days with the thinking that I was going to be taking so many chances to get this movie done, I couldn’t really be sure any one thing we did would actually come off. I had a mind that we were going to shoot 12 pages a day. A studio film might shoot two pages in a day and an independent film might shoot four or five pages in a day and some TV show might get up to eight pages a day, but we were going to shoot 12-page days. It was an insane proposal.
Livingston: When we were doing the readings, I don’t think we ever entertained the idea that we were actually going to get to be a part of it.

Liman: I was able to raise $200,000 from a business associate of my father’s.4

4. From his New York Times obituary: “Arthur L. Liman, a masterly legal strategist who made his living representing both corporate tycoons and scalawags but made his public mark investigating pivotal events like the Iran-contra affair and the Attica prison uprising, died yesterday in his Manhattan apartment.”

He wasn’t the first person I approached. There were probably 100 people before him. The only one I had to answer to was my dad — he made sure I didn’t lose his friend’s money.

Favreau: I thought we needed north of a million bucks.
Livingston: Jon said if the budget is that small, then I want to be in it. It’s my movie.
Vaughn: Doug made me audition for the part. I think they offered the part to a couple other actors. Nobody I remember. Guys who were popular on TV at the time.
Livingston: Vince was the last person that got the OK to be in the movie. Even though so much of the heart and the soul of that movie is the back-and-forth between Jon and Vince, they were still holding out that they could get somebody that they could stick on a poster.
Liman: At first, Vince wouldn’t audition. He didn’t want to come in because anyone who had ever talked about making the film knew that that character, that particular part, was the one that would get given to a name, and Vince hadn’t been in anything. He had a small part in Rudy where he was cut out. So Vince was sure that it was just going to lead to heartbreak, that he would never get the part.
Livingston: When I got cast? It’s not the thing we imagine when you get the phone call. It’s not the moment when Rudy gets the envelope and jumps up and down. I’d been working on it for a long time, you know? It was a slow process. Directors always get nervous when somebody says, “Yeah, I got this friend.” So I went in and I read the pep-talk scene. And I could see that Doug was like, “Oh yeah, OK. This is going to work, this will be fine.”
Liman: None of us were counting on this movie for anything. I didn’t even tell my agent I was making Swingers until I was done shooting it because I didn’t want him to stop looking for a real job.
LaLoggia: At that time, Brothers McMullen had just happened, Sundance was all the rage. All these young actors were kind of clambering to get a part in all these independent films. And we had a casting director for only three weeks, that’s all I could afford.
Favreau: There weren’t a lot of roles left over. You know, they’d come over, they’d go for an audition in Doug’s living room. It didn’t feel like a real production.
Katherine Kendall (Lisa): I got it because my next-door neighbor had a house guest and her name was Eden Wurmfeld. And Eden was one of the assistant producers. My neighbor knew I could dance, and they were doing a movie with swing dance, and so she was like, “Oh, cool, maybe you can be one of the dancers and we’ll have you come in.”
Blake Lindsley (Girl With Cigar): My brother Brad worked on Getting In with Doug and was one of the producers of Swingers. So I knew I was going to get an audition.
LaLoggia: Brad put in a little bit of money at the end and we cast his sister Blake. That was kind of the deal. She was terrific, but it was definitely a point of contention.
Brooke Langton (Nikki): My audition was in the backyard at Doug and Nicole’s house. We sat on the porch and Jon just kind of riffed with me. He had a script and I had lines, but I think he wanted somebody to play with at a bar, and I was pretty playful.
Caitlyn Cole (Girl at Party): I was really new to L.A.; I was working in New York and Miami. And my roommate at the time was like, “Oh, let’s go to a barbecue.” I met Jon there, and his friends, and we just all really hit it off. Jon and I became friends and he called and asked me to do the part.
LaLoggia: Back then Caitlyn Cole was known as Jan Dykstra. She was Jon’s girlfriend. Not the girlfriend that inspired the movie, but they dated and he put her in. I don’t wanna make us sound dumb — we were all very smart about this — but ignorance is bliss and Jon was like “I really want this girl, you’re going to have to trust me, she’s great.”

“Who Do I Have to Fuck to Get Off This Job?”

Favreau: It was a fly-by-night operation. It didn’t look or seem real.
LaLoggia: We couldn’t afford office space, so the production headquarters was in our house.
Wurmfeld: 6440 Drexel.
Favreau: Nicole’s office was in an unfinished garage in the backyard with dogs running around and stuff.
LaLoggia: The door to the outside garage was through my bedroom and it was like people would come walking through at all hours. Jon, Vince — who’s a huge personality — they’d come in the office, they’d put their feet up, they’d wanna talk. I’m like, “I can’t talk about this shit right now. I’ve got shit to do. Get out of here.”
Liman: Our entire lighting package was gonna consist of 100-, 150-watt light bulbs.
Wurmfeld: Our coffee budget was zero. We had it donated.
Liman: Saving on shooting time and movie lights is a big factor, but you still need locations. And Nicole used to cry in front of people, literally. No technique was beneath us to get people to give us things for free or cheap.
LaLoggia: Instead of getting a traditional caterer, we made deals with restaurants in the neighborhood for next to nothing.
Avram Ludwig (associate producer): We spent more money on music in that movie than on the movie. We paid the most for the Dean Martin stuff. I don’t know. I think we paid half a million dollars in music licensing and the movie cost a quarter of a million dollars to make.
LaLoggia: The entire post-production — all the development, all the processing, all the coloring — was free. That would have been our budget alone. So if it weren’t for that, we couldn’t have done it.
Liman: Every day I was telling Jon something else that was un-kosher and he was getting more and more alarmed. Not hiring a DP, a director of photography, seemed to be the thing that particularly [troubled him]. And then one day — a few weeks before we started shooting — he caught me reading a book on basic movie lighting.
Ludwig: Our biggest cost was getting film. Film comes in 1,000-foot loads and 400-foot loads. On a big movie, they’ll throw away the end of the film, like the last hundred feet or so.
Liman: We shot most of the movie with these 100-foot short ends. It’s a minute of film. Which also meant the actors could get through 60 seconds of a scene and I’d have to call reload.
Wurmfeld: I cultivated a lot of relationships with the people around town selling short ends.

LaLoggia: I called this place in L.A. that does recycled, re-canned short ends and I just begged for the cheapest price we could get.5

5. Many of the short ends came from the movie Twister.
Liman: The problem with shooting on short ends, though, is that it takes four minutes to reload a conventional camera. I thought to myself: We’ll never get through the movie if we shoot a minute, spend four minutes reloading, shoot a minute, spend four minutes reloading. You’ll never get any kind of rhythm going. So I decided I would shoot the movie with this documentary 35-millimeter film camera that was not designed to shoot dialogue because it sounds like a sewing machine.
Ludwig: The camera was much louder than a regular camera that you’d use for a feature film. But it’s easy to load and very compact. I think it was developed so Godard could have a camera that would fit into his bicycle basket.
Liman: To absorb the sound, I would take my down jacket and put it over the camera and then take the two arms and tie them together underneath the lens. And then my comforter would just get wrapped around the whole thing once. Jon would describe it like he was acting in front of a big, fluffy snowball. But I really think that as insane as that setup was, it created a really safe environment for the actors. Vince really did some extraordinary things, like the scene where he’s supposed to be drunk and he jumps up on the table. You know, he had to do that in front of a lot of people and I feel like they looked at me and they were like, Doug is clearly not being self-conscious.
Favreau: There was never enough time and never enough film.
Liman: Every day we’d panic because I was shooting more film than I thought I was gonna shoot and we didn’t have enough film and we didn’t have any money.
LaLoggia: I used to hide film in the trunk of my car because Doug could not help himself. He just wanted to shoot, shoot, shoot, so we would lie to him and say that we were out of film.
Favreau: We already knew our characters. It was as though we had been in a stage production of it. I often think of it like Play It Again, Sam, which was onstage before it was ever filmed.
Wurmfeld: Literally every single word that comes out of Vince’s mouth is on the page. That’s what totally blows me away about Jon’s writing — his ability to get someone’s voice, because I think that’s not an easy task. One might think that Vince is improvising, and certainly he can, but I just was amazed that all those jokes and stuff were actually on the page.
Livingston: He grabbed “You’re so money” from the Spike Lee–Michael Jordan commercials, where Spike Lee called Michael Jordan “Money,” you know, “Like the shoes, Money.” Nobody was really doing that, I think, other than just Spike Lee and Michael Jordan. So when the movie came out, that was still kind of a new thing.
Liman: The very first day of shooting we started at the golf course. One of the first shots we did, Ron Livingston was supposed to chip the golf ball by me.
Ludwig: I stood next to the lens and if I thought the golf ball was gonna hit, I’d stick my hand out and try to catch the golf ball before it smashed the front element. So I stood there and the ball came really close, and I moved my hand in front of the lens and I heard crunch. But it wasn’t the lens. I looked back, and the golf ball had pegged Doug’s chest and destroyed the light meter. We didn’t have another one. And this is our first day of the shoot, our first location, and we’re outside. We’d paid for this location, probably $500 or $1,000. We can’t afford to not shoot.
Liman: I just had to guess at the exposures.
Ludwig: So we shoot for about four hours, and then we move over to Jon’s apartment building.
Scotty Morris (band leader, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy): The scene where he’s in the apartment and he opens the fridge for no reason and there’s a light in there? I’ll never forget Jon pointing that out to me. He whispered to me at the premiere — he was laughing — he was like, “You see when I open the fridge for no reason? That’s because Doug said the scene was too dark and we needed to light it, we needed more light.”
Liman: A few hours into shooting in the apartment, the sound guy, Al, said, “Uh, we need to stop for a second, I have to go to the bathroom. You’ve been shooting for three hours straight and you haven’t stopped for more than five seconds.” Those were our only breaks from shooting — to let people go to the bathroom.
Ludwig: Al was a porn sound man. Four hundred fifty pounds.
Wurmfeld: Al used to fall asleep during the shoot. But that’s who we could afford, and he also had all his own sound equipment.
Liman: He would say to us on a daily basis, “This movie is pretty cute, but let’s face it, nobody’s gonna see this but your friends.”
Favreau: In the first two days, I had one-quarter of all of my dialogue. I don’t know how that happened. I had to memorize everything, because it was my scene on the golf course, it was everything I had in my apartment, all my phone calls, the end of the movie. Everything was in the first couple days.
Livingston: That accounted for probably twenty-five to thirty pages of the movie.
Ludwig: We worked 14- and 15-hour days.
Wurmfeld: I remember driving home in the morning after a night shoot and falling asleep at every red light.
Livingston: Doug wasn’t messing around.
Liman: There wasn’t time for that. I put actors through pretty intense experiences — this was definitely the most intense.
LaLoggia: The Reservoir Dogs rip-off shot — I actually went and shot that, just me and Doug — in the alley out of a flatbed truck behind a 7-Eleven. We did it in the middle of the night and just ran and hauled the boys out of bed at two in the morning and shot it three times and packed it up, and said, “Let’s go.” It was the only way to do it.
Wurmfeld: There were a lot of crazy politics.
LaLoggia: Doug’s one rule was “I’m directing, but we can do this together.” But he didn’t wanna give up control.
Wurmfeld: Jon was always kind of resentful that Doug got to direct the movie. Jon obviously went on to have a very illustrious directing career in his own right, but I think there was always tension there. It came out more in post-production than during production, because during production, Jon could really focus on acting.

LaLoggia: There was always a little bit of friction. And that seems fair and obvious. It never works out perfectly. But I think Jon can speak to that.6

6. As LaLoggia predicted, Favreau was more than diplomatic on the subject of tension between Liman and him. He wouldn’t confirm any existed at all.

They’re both pretty forthright about that stuff. It did not make my job necessarily uncomfortable. It was a little harder here and there when things would arise, but it seemed par for the course.

Kendall: It didn’t feel like there was two guys muscling for control. Doug was more like a DP, but he was still smart and firm. But all the sort of communication on set seemed to go through Jon.
Wurmfeld: Nicole and I used to joke, “Who do I have to fuck to get off this job? Oh, myself.” We had a great time, but it was definitely harrowing.

“There Is No Aspect of This That Looks Professional”

LaLoggia: Every time I’d go talk to somebody about a location it was always like, “Listen, here’s the script, take a look, this is what we want to do, and without your help we can’t do it. We’re gonna be in and out, I don’t have to put lights on stands.”
Liman: Part of my thing was “Why pay to shut down a bar, which is incredibly expensive because they lose all that business, and then hire a bunch of extras to then repopulate the bar? Why not just shoot in a bar when it’s actually open to the public and therefore it comes with all the extras?” It’s a win-win for everybody.

LaLoggia: I had a buddy, Rio Hackford — whose father is the director Taylor Hackford — he used to run the Three Clubs.7 And so as soon as I knew we needed a bar, I called him and I said, “I need a favor, you gotta do this for me.” It served as two locations, actually.

7. Rio Hackford appears in the movie as a character named Skully. He bumps into Patrick Van Horn’s Sue in the Dresden parking lot and Sue pulls a gun.
Liman: The downside is that the actors had to act under some pretty grueling conditions. The band comes on at 10, and we’re not done by 10, so suddenly we’re having to shoot the scene and we can’t even hear each other.
Favreau: It was embarrassing because we were walking into clubs and bars that we would really drink in. And nobody knew about Swingers, they just saw us walking around making our movie.
Livingston: We would use just the house lights and the bar to light the scene. If you turn the lights up a little bit, all the bar denizens would sort of thin out and move away. And if you dialed them down a little bit, the bar denizens would sort of fill in a little bit.
Liman: We were shooting in a trendy bar and suddenly I ran into some classmates from film school and I could just see the way they were looking at me — with this big poufy thing on my shoulder and some actors and a scene lit with lamps from a discount home store — that they were thinking Doug’s lost it. Just that, like, this poor guy, maybe he showed some promise in film school, but he has clearly gone off the reservation. This is not how you make a movie on any level. There is no aspect of this that looks professional.
Désert: The script called for a party scene, so we decided, Let’s just throw a party.
LaLoggia: We had some buddies who lived up in the Hollywood Hills on Temple Hill Drive. Actually, the guys who were in the house are now the executive producers on Revenge.

Mike White:8 The house was one of the centers of partying back then. There were four guys that lived there. Two of them have gone on to be successful producers — Wyck Godfrey and Marty Bowen. Their production company is called Temple Hill [Entertainment], in reference to the house. They produced all the Twilight movies, actually.

8. Attended the party. And went on to write Chuck & Buck, The Good Girl, Orange County, The School of Rock, and the HBO series Enlightened.
LaLoggia: At any rate, they owned this very cool old house and had a bunch of roommates. And we asked them if they would throw a party that we could film but not tell anybody we were gonna film it. And obviously people saw cameras in there once we all arrived, but they still didn’t know what it was about, and people in L.A. love that stuff.
White: They wanted people to stick around so they could have the liveliness of a real party. They provided booze. Maybe too much booze.
Adam Scott: I was at that party. We would see them walking around, shooting these little scenes. And we had no idea what it was they were doing.
White: I remember them shooting and I actually thought, at the time, This is so embarrassing for them.
Désert: Was I really drinking? I refuse to answer that question on the grounds that I might incriminate myself.
White: The cast and crew saw us as just background to the movie, but from our perspective it was a real party. It wasn’t like I was an extra.
Liman: It may have been the low point of the filming. Nobody was taking our film seriously.
Langton: The answering machine bit was every bit as painful on the page as it was on the screen. I was in Vancouver working on a movie and Doug called me and said, “Can you say this into the phone?” I said, “Sure, OK … This is Nikki, leave a message!” And then, you know, “Don’t ever call me again.”
Favreau: The characters are exaggerations of aspects of all of our personalities. Vince has a lot of the charm of Trent, but he’s a much different guy. And I was definitely going through a sad period, but I was never a basket case like Mikey was; I wouldn’t leave 50 messages on a machine.
Liman: I had made this creative decision early on that the camera be handheld, it would be pretty active, unusually active for the dialogue during the movie, and then when we got to the phone call where Jon calls Nikki over and over again, I decided I would actually use a tripod and lock the camera off and just make you watch this shot and use a long piece of film so we could hold on it for a long time.
Favreau: Doug always says what he’s most proud of in that one is that people react as though they’re watching a horror movie. We shot that on the first day of filming; there was just crickets on the set. There was nothing funny about it.

“Vegas, Baby! I Wish I Had a Dime for Every Time Somebody Said It”

Favreau: I’m the type of guy who will stay in my house if I’m not motivated. And Vince is the type of guy who will pull you out of that. That’s sort of where the Vegas trip came from.
Langton: When you live in L.A. and you’re 20, there is always someone who’s not really from there who says, like, “Let’s go to Vegas!” And so you’re like, “Yeah!” because everybody’s having fun and you’re out and literally, it seems so close. And at five in the morning, you want to just off yourself because it’s the worst idea in the world.
LaLoggia: Victor [Simpkins] and I flew to Las Vegas, met with some high roller there, begged him to let us shoot the Flamingo exterior, and then he also let us shoot the Glitter Gulch, downtown on Fremont Street. We took the entire crew — that was their treat. We handed out twenty-dollar bills to everybody and said, “Here’s what we’ve got, go gamble, go knock yourself out.”
Liman: We shot all the Vegas footage in one night. That’s 15 minutes of a 90-minute movie.
Favreau: There wasn’t a lot of discussion. We went in, we did it. There wasn’t even a video playback screen, everything was what Doug saw through his eyepiece. We were all just scrambling to get it on camera.
LaLoggia: Vegas was free. I got the casino in Vegas to let us be there for free. It was crazy.
Vaughn: Jon was always very close with his grandmother, and she’s in the movie. She’s a schoolteacher from the Bronx, so kind and sweet, and she plays the woman at the casino table who gets some free breakfast. My father has always played blackjack, he plays a lot of cards. And so we both thought it would be fun to put them in a film.
Favreau: The scene in the trailer was taken right from The Odd Couple. I definitely had that in mind, because there’s a whole thing where it’s Oscar and Felix and they’re with the Pigeon sisters, the British sisters, the neighbors in the apartment building, and there was one scene where Oscar leaves to get drinks and he comes back and everybody’s crying. He goes, “Is everybody happy?” And he’s so mad that Felix ruined everything by talking about his divorce. That was definitely the inspiration for that scene.
Ludwig: Vegas was funny because Vince really liked gambling and at the time he was dirt poor.
Liman: Vince gambling was the least of my concerns.
Ludwig: His car was always breaking down or out of gas. Twice, he came in with so little gas that the car ran out as he was approaching set and I had to siphon gas out of other cars.
Liman: He wasn’t gambling right where we were shooting, he was gambling at a table 10 feet away. During the takes, he’d come back to us and depending on what was happening at the table, his performance would go up or down based on whether he had just won or lost.
Ludwig: He got on this incredible lucky streak. We’d start rolling and it was like, “Where’s Vince?” He had to sort of tear himself away and we were constantly losing him to the tables because he had this unbelievable streak of luck. He was winning like crazy.
Liman: Our careers were riding on this movie and whatever was happening at the tables with Vince was working.
Ludwig: Then we went to another casino and Vince lost everything.
LaLoggia: Vegas, baby! I wish I had a dime for every time somebody said it.

Ludwig: So flash-forward: We’ve shot in Las Vegas and we’re coming back to L.A. We’re driving on the side of the highway and there’s the sign: Los Angeles — however many miles away. 9

9. The sign read:
“Jean 20
Los Angeles 278″

And so we set up the shot there, without permission.

Liman: We organized the shoot around the things most likely to get us arrested at the end of the schedule.
Ludwig: A state trooper comes by and asks, “What are you doing here?” And we say, “We’re in a convoy, we’ve lost some of our trucks so we’re just waiting.” So he says, “OK,” and takes off and we set up and start shooting the shot in the convertible. It was John and Vince talking, on the side of the highway, against the desert, with trucks going by. It’s the “You were so money and you don’t even know it” scene.
Vaughn: None of the locations were really legal in the traditional film sense.
Ludwig: In about two hours we got half of the scene done, and when we turned around to get the other half of the scene another state trooper pulled up and said, “What are you doing here?” And we said, “We’re filming.” And he said, “Do you have a permit?” And I said, “Yes, we do.” He said, “Can I see it?” I said, “Well it’s with our producer, who’s on his way back to L.A. Do you want him to come back here, he could show it to you?” He said, “Yes.” So I get on the phone and I called the producer in L.A. and he didn’t know anything about what I was talking about but I started inventing this conversation about, “Come on back with the permit.” And he’s going, “What are you talking about?” I kept talking like he was responding to me.
Vaughn: You can hear the sirens in the background.
Ludwig: And so this kept the cop waiting for 25 minutes. So we start shooting the other side of the conversation and then the cop goes, “Did you actually show this permit to any other police officers?” And I said, “Yes, there was another cop who came by here at 10 a.m.” And he said, “OK, let’s call the other cop.” Ten minutes later, that other cop that had come by in the first place comes up, pulls over, and he says, “He never showed me a permit.” So they go, “You’re done, wrap up, get out of here.” And we hadn’t finished the scene. So I go around telling everybody to pack up. And the whole crew starts moving stuff from one place to another, except Doug and the actors are sitting in the car. The actors are sitting in the car and Doug just sort of turns on the camera surreptitiously. They’re wired for sound. So we kept shooting while the entire crew starts picking stuff up and moving it around and around and around because we’re still shooting and actually nothing is getting put away until finally Doug is happy.
Favreau: Doug was never afraid of getting in trouble. That was definitely the diciest moment.
Ludwig: You need a little bit of larceny in your heart to get a film made.

“It Was Bubbling on the Underground Like You Wouldn’t Believe”

Vaughn: When Jon moved to L.A., I started to take him out to a lot of these swing music places. A lot of the old punk rock bands started to play swing. It was an alternative to the alternative scene — great live music, people dressing up, and the dancing was fun in a fun, intimate way. You would go and dance with a girl and hang out. It was really conversational. It was like being back in Chicago, where people would actually talk.
Morris: The Derby was in Los Feliz. It didn’t really look like much. It was kind of a dark building and you could tell it had an oval roof to it. It was shaped like a hat and on the backside there was a Louise’s restaurant. You’d walk up these steps to get up to the Derby and right at the door were footprints. And they were Cecil B. DeMille’s footprints, just like on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. And that was the first indication that you were walking into old Hollywood.
Glen “The Kid” Marhevka (trumpet player, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy): When we first started playing, we would show up at a club in suits and fedoras and people would just trip. They stared at us like we were aliens. But you’d go out and you’d dance. You’d dance with people. There was physical contact. It was kind of romantic. And just plain cool.
Morris: It was Hollywood personified. I mean, it was as hip as any club I have ever been into ever.
Favreau: As I was writing the script, I didn’t have it set in the swing-dancing scene. It was gonna be just in the lounge scene. And I happened to go to the Derby, and I thought, Oh my god, what a great place to set the ending. And that’s when it started. So as I was trying to get the movie made, I was learning how to swing dance so I could do that scene.
Ludwig: We went one night to the Derby, where we ultimately shot, and Robert Duvall was just sitting at a table, watching the swing dancing. He was just mesmerized. We decided we were gonna shoot in that place while it was open for business.

Favreau: I taught Heather Graham to dance.10 I brought her out and I think we did it in her house, also. She lived in Beachwood Canyon. She had wooden floors. And I went over there and we practiced some moves. But I had learned how to dance at the Derby; they used to give lessons. And then I just would lead. You know, it’s easier if the guy knows what he’s doing.

10. Graham’s publicist declined multiple interview requests.
Morris: Swingers was shot on Wednesday and it was shot live in the room that night. Like, our performance playing was a real night at the Derby, nothing changed. There were people paying admission, people that were hovering around the dance floor — that’s what it looked like that night.
Marhevka: Pretty much everybody on the Hollywood scene would end up there on a Wednesday night when we played. We met everybody you can imagine in that place, from Quincy Jones to Uma Thurman to the cast from Friends.
Morris: Jon was at the Derby every Wednesday night when Big Bad Voodoo Daddy played. My girlfriend, Martina, was one of the best dancers there and he started dancing with her. And then they became friends. So we kind of all became friends.
Marhevka: Jon gave our singer, Scotty, the script one night and said, “Hey, I’m doing this independent movie. I want you guys to be in it. You’re my favorite band and I’d love to have you guys in it.” I don’t think Scott even looked at the script, to be honest with you. I think he just kinda threw it in the van or whatever and the next week Jon asked him, “Hey, what did you think?”
Morris: I had completely forgot about Jon’s movie. The week went by, but I didn’t read it. It was in the front seat of my truck. And we get to the Derby and Jon comes to me first thing. He was never there early. And first thing he was there and he was like, “What did you think, man, what did you think of the script?” And I just went, “Yeah, man, it was great, we’ll totally do it.” I mean, what else were you gonna do?

“We’ll Pay You $50 If We Can Have Your Baby”

Favreau: My original script ended with the phone call with Heather’s character, Lorraine; I’m happy; I hang up on my old girlfriend; I take the call from the new girl and the camera pulls away into a helicopter shot we couldn’t afford and that was the end.
Liman: Initially, I’d been excited about doing a movie about a guy getting over his ex-girlfriend and meeting somebody new. But then the first time we did a reading, I discovered it was actually a movie about friendship and had nothing to do with the girlfriend — the real love story was between Jon and Vince.
LaLoggia: Jon wanted me to do the voice of Michelle. That was important to him. We were so busy that I don’t know that we ever got into the minutiae. When you’re 24 years old, I think you don’t even know what questions to ask about someone’s relationship. Was it good? Was it bad? Why did you break up? How did you get over it? The truth of the matter is, I was so sick of him and so over everything and so tired that I wanted to kill him. It was very difficult for me to do that [scene]. I had to look at him and I really wanted to wring his neck. We sat in the room and recorded it on a digital audio-tape machine that we bought at Radio Shack and then returned the next day.
Liman: I said to Jon, “You know what, I don’t think that’s the ending of our movie. I think I care more about your relationship with Vince.”
Favreau: I felt like any scene we’d create was going to feel tacked on. Everything’s been resolved in the story; it’s gonna feel like we’re overstaying our welcome. But then I thought about this story that Vince told me.
Vaughn: I went back to Chicago to see my parents before I started filming Swingers and I was at the airport, waiting to fly back to Los Angeles, sitting down, waiting. And there was a gentleman in line to get his boarding pass. But it appeared to me that he kept waving at me and smiling at me and giggling and it made me uncomfortable. At first I thought, How do I know this guy? But he’s doing it in a very kind of babyish way, it feels a little weird. And he just was very confident the way that he did it. And he kept moving through the line very slowly, and so I tried to look at him like You’re crazy, or laugh, like Ohhhhh. But nothing like this seemed to deter him from wanting to engage me in this kind of a flirtatious, little-kid way. So when he finally got his ticket, he began to walk toward me. And I’m like, Oh jeez, this guy is really coming over here. And then he stopped and he picked up a baby that was sitting in a chair that I couldn’t see from my vantage point.
Favreau: Vince told me the story and that clicked and I thought, Oh, here’s a good way to use both things.
Liman: It’s a genius scene.
Vaughn: I do think that having that was kind of a fun thing, to pull back the curtain a little bit on the wizard.
Favreau: I start to sum it up like it’s going to be some cheesy afternoon special, stating the theme in the most obvious way of what lesson I learned. And in the middle of my speech where I’m about to make the movie a lot cheesier, he interrupts because the girl’s making eyes at him.
Vaughn: We used a little misdirection there.
Liman: We got to the diner and Favreau turns to me as soon as I walk in and goes, “Have you seen the baby?” Right then I know we’re in trouble.
Maddie Corman (Peek-a-Boo Girl): Everyone started to panic. People on walkie-talkies were asking: “Do you have the baby?” “Do you have the baby?” It became clear very quickly that there was no baby. Things got chaotic.
Favreau: We had cast a kid, like we didn’t know how old the baby was, I think we said it was like a 4-year-old or something. He was way too big.
Liman: We were in our twenties, nobody on this movie knows anybody with a baby. So I sent our location manager, who was the nicest person in the crew, to the Mayfair Market thinking that every shopping cart I’ve ever seen has that little thing for kids that I used to hold berries and eggs and shit like that. I figured there must be a lot of people shopping with babies for every shopping cart to come with a little baby seat.
Favreau: It was creepy.
Liman: He came back 20 minutes later, horrified, because he’d been kicked out of the supermarket by the manager because he was going up to all these people with children saying, “Can we have your baby in our movie?”
Liman: We were really running out of time and daylight, and Ludwig went running out onto the street right in front of where we were shooting and saw a car with a baby seat and flagged it down.
Corman: The baby was not kidnapped. The family, however, may have been coerced.
Liman: We told them “We’ll pay you $50 if we can have your baby for half an hour,” and they said sure. And, like, had he not found that baby, I wouldn’t have had an ending to the movie. No plan B.
Corman: While we filmed, the parents stood in the corner. They tried to show not too much of the baby. But I have to say, I was pretty good at peek-a-boo.

“It Wasn’t About Making Wayne Gretzky’s Head Bleed”

Ludwig: Wayne Gretzky’s head bleeding was the hardest thing to shoot in the whole movie. We finished up and we had the camera for another 72 hours before we had to return it. So we had to shoot an insert of a TV screen where one of them makes Wayne Gretzky’s head bleed. We’re in the editing room with the TV set and we’re playing that game and the editor can’t make Wayne Gretzky’s head bleed and then I can’t make Wayne Gretzky’s head bleed, Doug can’t make Wayne Gretzky’s head bleed. And we’re shooting this for a couple of hours and we can’t do it. So we called up Jon in the middle of the night, it’s like one in the morning, and he comes over and he can’t do it. And finally we had to call Vince and get Vince over there at two in the morning. Four and a half hours after we started, he gets Wayne Gretzky’s head to bleed.
Vaughn: That was a fun game.
Favreau: Everything was geared around being done in time to get into Sundance, and we raced and raced and raced to get a cut.
LaLoggia: The very first cut is never what you expect. We were just miserable and thought, God, this is a horrible movie. What did we do? All these people came out and did this for us and we’ve ruined everybody’s life. We wrapped at the end of September, it had to be at Sundance in three weeks. It went with no music in places and black holes. I mean, it was like they took a look and were like, What the hell is this?
Liman: I had skewed it toward Mike’s experience. Victor Simpkins came in and he saw the very first cut and said, “Relax a little bit, let it be. You don’t have to be so intense in your cutting. Let it play in group shots. Let’s feel the group. Don’t feel like you have to keep cutting to Jon’s close-up.” We took two days implementing that note and basically that was the movie. It literally went through two cuts.
Vaughn: We thought, Oh gosh, we’ll go to Sundance. They love independent films. They’re supportive of people who are getting their stories made and Jesus, this thing is really that. But it wasn’t in their wheelhouse of what they deemed to be important or artistic. So we didn’t get in.
Favreau: We didn’t make it. We were really depressed.
Livingston: It felt like the bottom dropped out. But the producers were really smart and they said, “We’re not worried about that. We think we’ve actually got a commercial movie here. We don’t even think this is a festival movie — it’s not dark or it’s not brooding. We think this is a feel-good crowd pleaser.”
Favreau: We didn’t have any distribution. So we were just sitting on a $200,000 piece of film. There was no guarantee of getting the money back. There was no guarantee of it ever being seen.
LaLoggia: It took us about 24 hours to pull our shit together and say, “You know what, screw it, we’re going to have a one-night-only screening and we’re gonna play this at the Fairfax and Doug’s agent is gonna tell everybody she knows.”
Liman: With the last little bit of money I rented a theater, the Fairfax $2 theater. I don’t know if it’s even still around anymore. We hadn’t shown the movie to any of our friends so that at the screening at a theater that held 500 people, we actually filled it with 490 friends. Nobody laughs at a movie harder than friends of the people who made it or the people in it. We set that whole thing up with 490 friends so that the ten people who actually matter would have a great experience.
LaLoggia: It was sometime in February, it was one night only, it was raining, and we had to have an overflow theater. We had one print, so we had to start the second screening later.
Livingston: And that was not an easy audience when you’re dealing with potential buyers, you know?
LaLoggia: Some of the companies — Propaganda, I remember, was one of them — they were all in the house, all these distributors, all these acquisition people. We were all in the theater.
Liman: And one of those important people was Michael Cole. He acquired films for Miramax.
Favreau: And it just destroyed; it destroyed.
LaLoggia: There’s the first moment about six minutes in, the backpack line. I knew if anybody laughed, if you hear the audience laugh, you’re sailing from there out. People went nuts in the theater. I ran out of the theater because it was so overwhelming.
Livingston: They got a couple of bids right away. It’s one thing to get one buyer in a movie — when you get two or three potential buyers, now all of a sudden you’re in business because they’re going to bid against each other. So they sold it for 5 million or something like that, which at the time was unheard of.
LaLoggia: We had hired a bus just to party that night, like, thinking, No matter what happens, we’ve done it. And it was crazy.
Wurmfeld: It was one of those wild nights where we hung out and partied and went to bed at two in the morning and then at like seven a.m. the phone was ringing off the hook with people who wanted to buy the movie. It was our fantasy of what might occur.
Liman: When we went to sell the film, CAA — my agency — was trying to get other people to bid against Miramax, and they told me to not answer my phone because Harvey had already made an offer to us and they were pretending like they couldn’t find me. And they were using that time to try to get other studios to make offers. But then Michael Cole actually showed up at my house in West Hollywood and knocked on my kitchen window. I couldn’t pretend to not be home, because he’s staring right at me.
LaLoggia: I was a little sad for some reason. I remember thinking, I have to sell this to somebody and then they’re gonna do what to it? I don’t wanna do it. I remember saying no to Miramax. Harvey Weinstein called me and said, “Do you understand what I’m offering you?” And I said, “I don’t really care. Blood, sweat, and tears are all over this film.” Harvey was like, “I don’t know what this is all about for you, but I’m not interested in digging into it again and opening it up and changing it.” And I remember him saying, “You are one lucky little girl,” and I remember saying, “And you’re one lucky old man.” We were just so attached to it and we had worked so hard on it that relinquishing it was scary. We got final cut because of that.
Liman: We sold the movie to them that night for $5 million.
Livingston: But this is where the Weinsteins were so smart. They started getting the idea of “We’re not just buying the movie, we’re buying relationships with the filmmakers. We’re going to be in business with Jon Favreau. We’re going to be in business with Vince Vaughn. We’re going to be in business with Doug Liman. And if we ever want to do anything in the future with these guys, we’ve got this over their heads to say, ‘Hey, we started you out.'” It’s just really, really smart business.
Liman: We bought Vince a brand-new used car.
Vaughn: The night we sold the movie to Miramax, Jon and I went to an Italian restaurant in Hollywood called Miceli’s, it’s a classic place, Old Hollywood, and if you buy one of those bottles of Chianti with the wood wrapped around it, you sign it and they hang it from the ceiling, so we did that to mark the occasion.

“With Clinton, It Was Bitchin'”

Liman: After selling the film to Miramax, we had this great premiere at the Vista Theater. It was one of the highlights of my life.
Favreau: Vince used the dailies from that monologue in the trailer and eventually ended up getting a television deal for a few hundred thousand dollars, which was a king’s ransom to us. We had never seen any kind of money like that. He was like the richest guy I knew. He would pick up dinners and pay for drinks; I mean, he was a big shot.
White: It was a huge success for the world of independent movies, and I was happy for Jon. But there was so much comparative anxiety that people were motivated by it. It motivated me to make Chuck & Buck a few years later. I was like, Well, if those guys can do it, I can do something like that.
Liman: But then the film opened a week later and nobody went to go see it. I went on opening night in New York up on Broadway and 84th Street on a Friday, and the film broke halfway through and they gave everybody their money back. And it was like that was it. I think it did $4 million in box office. It was done.
Favreau: It wasn’t a hit by any stretch of the imagination. On both sides of us, we had Good Will Hunting and Sling Blade, two other releases from Miramax that made a lot of money and we just didn’t, we didn’t hit the mark. It felt like a disappointment. And it wasn’t until years later that it built momentum on video, and became part of the culture and the language, that it became what it is now.
Liman: I got a call from somebody at Buena Vista Home Video who said, “Miramax screwed up. Your movie is way too good to disappear like that, and we want to give it a huge push on home video.” They used to have these events where they’d fly the owners of Blockbuster and all the video store chains out to L.A. for three days and Mel Gibson would give the keynote address. They were gonna make the whole weekend Swingers-themed and do events at the Derby and screen Swingers for all of them. Meanwhile, I got a call from MTV that I had been picked as Best New Filmmaker for the MTV Video Awards. That event took place right around the same time that the home video weekend happened. And so suddenly if you went into a video store there’d be 20 copies of Swingers, like it was a big movie, everywhere in the country.
Wurmfeld: After we made Swingers, we started to develop a script that was like the girl’s version of Swingers. It was called 99 Pounds. And basically there were characters like each of those characters in a woman. The movie never did get made. Maybe we should pick it up again.
Liman: I don’t think my original investor ever understood how lucky he was — or maybe he did because he never invested in another movie ever again. I had a confidentiality agreement with him at the time and I still honor it. He was in banking. He was a financier.
Wurmfeld: Nicole and I were asked by IFP/West to write a bible to indie filmmaking, so we did that.
Liman: Patrick Van Horn? Sue? He was great, the least commercial of the group, the least career-focused. And, in a way, the artiste. He was all about the moment and not about agents and careers. He was amazing to be around.
Wurmfeld: Patty Van Horn never struck me as like really exploring the method of acting. I could be wrong, though.
LaLoggia: He kinda fell off the face of the earth after Swingers. I don’t know what happened to him. And Jon may have at least kept in touch with him, or at least Ron Livingston may have. I don’t know. But Jon might be able to tell you about Patty.
Favreau: Jeez. Vince would know better than me. I haven’t talked to him in years and years. I don’t know if he’s represented.

Désert: Patrick Van Horn. Yeah. He’s still around. I actually bump into him every once in a while at random spots. Yeah, yeah, every once in a while I’ll bump into him, it’s like, “Hey, what are you doing here?” “I’m walking.” “Oh, so am I.” “Hello.”11

11. Attempts to contact Van Horn were unsuccessful.
Cole: I only had those two lines, but the next thing I know, my little character was all over the place. I had guys screaming at me because they thought I was really that character. This guy was really drunk and he’s like, “I hate women like you, I never had the nice car.” Then these three guys from New York did a book on what men want. And they were on 20/20, and they played my scene as a prime example of what men don’t want.
Désert: After the movie came out it started to be a drag trying to go to those places. I’ve had people who’ve come up to me and said, “I wanna thank you guys for making the movie. But, also, go to hell because you’ve ruined our spots.” I remember going into the Dresden a bit after the movie came out and there was a crew of dudes that were kinda dressed like us in bowling shirts and hats. It turns out it was a bunch of dudes that had come in from Canada to do the Swingers crawl. They came to Hollywood so they could go to the Dresden, so they could go to the Room, go to the Derby. And I was like Wow, that’s dedication. I mean, the fact that I was there that night? They were in heaven.
Favreau: We were part of changing Las Vegas. We definitely had a hand in that. I mean, the Hard Rock had opened and that was a big thing, but when we used to go to Vegas, it was kind of an ironic tongue-in-cheek thing to do because it was mostly older people. And it was, you know, part of that ironic, smoking a cigar, sipping a scotch as a young man thing. Now it’s a full-on destination.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt: Growing up, my cinema was Laemmle’s Sunset 5. When I was 16 and got my license, I would drive over Laurel Canyon to see anything that was playing there: Sling Blade, Big Night, Trees Lounge, Daytrippers. I saw Swingers there — twice. I went with my buddy from high school. We were so stoked about the movie, we went back in and saw it again immediately afterward. Spending time in the world of twentysomething guys who are on the prowl for chicks — that’s what you dream of doing when you’re 16.12

12. Quote from Los Angeles magazine.
Glen “the Kid” Marhevka (Big Bad Voodoo Daddy): We played the Super Bowl halftime show. We played for three presidents. We played for Clinton, we played for some big dinner for Bush Sr., and we played some big dinner for Bush Jr., but you don’t have to put that in there. Clinton was bitchin’, because we got to hang with him. When he came to us he sat with us for like 10 minutes and was completely talking to us about saxophone and about his experiences and his collection of saxophones. It was cool, man — that was an awesome experience. And that was all 100 percent due to Swingers.
Liman: My whole plan for making Swingers was extremely unrealistic, as was my idea that I was gonna make Bourne Identity. And somehow I found myself moving to France to make Bourne Identity. On my first night there — it was 1999 or 2000 — I was incredibly homesick. I was going to be living there for a year and I don’t know anybody. I’m feeling like I’m in over my head. I’m staying in a hotel. And I turn the TV on to Canal Plus, which is the movie channel there, and there’s a movie ending and I’m like, Huh, I wonder what’s gonna be on next? And suddenly the Miramax logo comes up and then our music comes on. It grounded me in a way that ultimately gave me the courage to make Bourne Identity the way I wanted to make it. My whole career is sort of predicated on Swingers. So, what are the odds that that would happen? It’s on TV that night, at that moment? Pretty slim. Anywhere in the world, pretty slim. But those were the odds we faced every day on Swingers. So that was its last gift to me.
Vaughn: There’s just something about being that age, being that confident.
Favreau: It felt miraculous every day that we actually did what we set out to do. But we knew it was our moment. Everything ultimately just worked out the right way. It was like this little, big bang that made all of our careers.
Ludwig: It wasn’t just a movie, but something that meant something to people who were going through a similar experience. It made them feel better. It gave them someone to relate to. I met this kid one time who claimed to have seen the movie 20 or 30 times. I said, “Why did you see this movie that many times?” And he said, “You don’t understand. I go out, I get rejected by girls, and then I go home and watch Swingers.”

These interviews have been edited and condensed.

Alex French (@FrenchAlexM) and Howie Kahn (@HowieKahn_) are Grantland contributors.

Illustration by Sean McCabe.

Filed Under: Movies, Swingers, Pop culture, Jon Favreau, Vince Vaughn, oral history