Alfred Hitchcock’s classic chiller Psycho boasts cinema’s most famous shower scene, but it’s fair to say that Porky‘s is a close second. Midway through Bob Clark’s generation-defining high school sex comedy, there’s an extended sequence where the film’s three horny pals — Pee Wee (Dan Monahan), Billy (Mark Herrier) and Tommy (Wyatt Knight) — play peeping Toms, peering into the girls’ locker room while their female classmates are showering. It’s a scene that was advertised heavily in the film’s trailers ahead of its release 40 years ago on March 19, 1982, and was also immortalized on the Porky‘s poster and VHS box art.
And Herrier tells Yahoo Entertainment that he and his co-stars were well aware that the sequence was going to be central to the film’s marketing campaign. “We knew what picture we were making,” the now 67-year-old actor says with a laugh. “Because of the audacity of the scene, it was clearly going to be a big set-piece in the movie. It would’ve been hard for them to surprise us with anything on the poster. It made sense!”
It should be noted that no actual voyeurism occurred on the Porky’s set. Instead, when Herrier and his co-stars peered through those peepholes, the only thing they saw staring back at them were a few spotlights. “The area that we crawled into was an entirely built set,” he remembers. “I think they went to a school with an actual girl’s shower to film the other side. So there was nobody else there: The girls’s lines were yelled from off-camera by some script person or maybe even Bob.”
Similarly, Herrier, Monahan and Knight weren’t on hand to deliver their lines when the scene was shot from the actress’s point of view. But Clark did employ a male double for the joke that caps the scene. After their ruse is discovered, and the guys are relentlessly mocked by the girls, Tommy responds by shoving his penis through one of the peepholes, where it’s grabbed by his adult nemesis, Beulah Balbricker (Nancy Parsons), the school’s no-nonsense female coach. Herrier says that the director specifically cast a stand-in who possessed — with apologies to Mel Brooks — an “enormous schwanzstucker” to serve as Knight’s stunt penis for that gag. (Knight died in 2011.)
But concern over being slapped with the dreaded X-rating kept Clark from showing the full monty, as it were. “They filmed him putting his pee-pee through the hole, and it started to come out,” Herrier says of how the joke was originally shot. “The girls are reacting to like it’s a snake coming out of the ground, and it was actually this pathetic little thing! I think it would have brought the house down: It was hysterical, and not pornographic at all. It would’ve been exactly what Bob intended, which was just silly and pathetic. But the film would’ve gotten an X, so they had to cut it out.”
Even without the stunt penis, Herrier says that the shower scene brought the house down when Porky‘s screened for preview audiences. And the instant notoriety of the sequence sold plenty of tickets when the movie opened in general release. Made for around $5 million, Porky’s became 1982’s highest-grossing comedy, earning a final domestic tally of over $100 million in the face of overwhelmingly negative reviews. Those eye-popping figures helped make teen sex comedies Hollywood’s go-to genre for the next few years, much to the chagrin of Hollywood casting agents who were tasked with finding actors to appear in Porky’s descendants like Screwballs and Revenge of the Nerds.
“Casting directors were not at all happy with the movie, because for the next five years they had to cast raunchy sex comedies,” Herrier says, adding that he and his co-stars “paid a bit of a price” for being associated with Porky’s. “I know for a fact that when some of the other guys were brought in [for roles], the casting directors would say, ‘Oh, you were in Porky’s,‘ and that was the end of the conversation. That movie was stigmatized by the industry for awhile.”
These days, Porky’s serves as the literal poster child for the kind of comedy that likely wouldn’t be made in contemporary Hollywood. And Herrier agrees that moments like the shower scene are out of step with the times. “It’s not so much the bawdiness — it’s the objectification [of women] that would be completely inappropriate to do today,” he notes. “The focus on the women is from a purely physical point of view, and the film’s focus on getting laid is also purely from a physical point of view.”
“But Bridesmaids showed that it can work from both sides,” Herrier continues, referring to Kristen Wiig’s trendsetting 2011 hit, which opened the door to a wave of raunchy female-led comedies that included Girls Trip and Blockers. “So I don’t think that Porky‘s necessarily wouldn’t be made now, but it’s just not the same sensibility. Also, the guys look like dicks literally and figuratively a lot of the time! They do get their comeuppance in the shower scene: Even though they’re looking at the girls through an objectification lens, they are punished for it. It’s interesting that that element is there.”
For the 40th anniversary of Porky‘s, Herrier shared other behind the scenes stories from Angel Beach High, including a casting near-miss with an established movie star, the latter-day sequel that never was and why he was “robbed” of an enormous payday after the movie’s success.
One movie star who isn’t in Porky’s (and one who is)
Even though Porky’s was released in the U.S. by 20th Century Fox, it’s essentially an independent film — one that was co-funded by Melvin Simon Productions and the Canada-based Astro Bellevue Pathe, as well as Canadian tax incentives. That meant Clark had a limited budget to work with, and made the conscious choice to save money by hiring unknown 20-something theater actors to play the movie’s randy high schoolers.
“I didn’t even have an agent at the time I auditioned,” Herrier confesses. “I got a call from one of my best friends, Boyd Gaines, and he said, ‘Hey, I’ve been asked to audition for this movie, and they said that they’d like us to prepare a scene with a friend. You want to do this?'” I said, “‘Yeah, sure. When is it again?'” So we did a scene, an we both go called back for basketball tryouts, which I aced. Suddenly I was on the shortlist to play Billy!” (Gaines, meanwhile, landed the role of Coach Roy Brackett — more on him later.)
But he was almost pushed off that shortlist just as suddenly by none other than Dennis Quaid. Fresh off of breakout performances in movies like Breaking Away and The Long Riders, the then-27-year-old Quaid was in the mix to play one of the main roles in Porky’s, and had he said yes, Herrier believes that Clark would have gone a different way with Billy. “I don’t think I would’ve made the cut, but Dennis said “No,” and I became Billy.”
As far as Herrier recalls, Quaid was the only established star who was considered for Porky’s. But the film’s ensemble does include a star-in-the-making: Kim Cattrall. The future Sex and the City fan favorite had a host of TV credits to her name before landing the part of Miss Honeywell, the absurdly attractive coach who catches the eye of the male students and coaching staff — including Coach Brackett, played by Herrier’s friend and audition partner.
“She was delightful; just a joy to be around,” Herrier says of Cattrall, who has expressed mixed feelings about the film in the years since its release. “Of all of us, she became the biggest star, so I think it’s easier for her to not include this in her resume because of so many other things. And it was always somewhat controversial: Even though people were lined up around the block to see Porky’s, artistically it wasn’t what any of us signed up for.”
The anti-Happy Days
Garry Marshall’s blockbuster sitcom, Happy Days, was still on the air when Porky’s arrived in theaters in 1982, and the movie’s R-rated recreation of 1950s America was very different than the PG version that aired weekly on ABC. While Herrier says that Clark wasn’t specifically trying to send up Fonzie and the gang with the ribald antics of Pee Wee and his pals, the writer/director was inspired to recreate his own misadventures as a Florida teenager in the ’50s. “This was essentially his memory of his teenage years … and much of what happens in the film were incidents from his own experience in high school.” (Funnily enough, Clark also drew on his childhood for his seasonal favorite, A Christmas Story, which is the antithesis of Porky’s in almost every way.)
Believe it or not, Herrier remembers Clark’s first draft of the Porky’s screenplay being even raunchier than what ended up onscreen. “My girlfriend at the time read the script, and her response was: ‘You can’t do this — please don’t do this,'” he says, chuckling. “We were all able to judiciously work with him to make the rougher edges a little less rough without losing what obviously was going to be a bawdy teen comedy. But we did what we could to keep it from being a pornographic movie!”
Besides exposing the sexual side of the ’50s, Clark notably worked some of that decade’s uglier societal prejudices into Porky’s as well. One of the Angel Beach students, Tim Cavanaugh (played by Cyril O’Reilly), has a father who is a virulent racist and tries to pass his hate along to his son. Throughout the film, Tim singles out Jewish classmate, Brian Schwartz (Scott Colomby), for hazing, but eventually has some common sense beaten into him … literally. By the end of Porky‘s he’s high-fiving Brian and knocking down his dad. “Rednecks are not celebrated in that movie,” Herrier says pointedly. “Bob remembered hating [redneck culture], and being a part of it.”
The real Porky was really arrogant
Speaking of rednecks, the nominal plot of Porky’s pits Pee Wee and his Angel Beach friends against Porky Wallace — the corpulent criminal proprietor of the eponymous bar/bordello located one county over. Clark cast 54-year-old singer/actor Chuck Mitchell as the movie’s designated villain, and Herrier says that art imitated life when it came to their off-screen relationship.
“We liked to torment him, and there were times we felt he had earned it because he was arrogant,” he admits. “[Chuck] loved to revel in the fact that they named the movie after his character. He had a big Cadillac, and I think the license plate said “Porky.” So he’d drive around with the top down in L.A. and revel in all the cars honking at him!”
Much like its spiritual ancestor, Animal House, Porky’s ends with a rousingly “futile and stupid gesture,” as the Angel Beach cohort blow up Porky’s place of business. And by saving money on the cast, Clark ensured that he had the budget to stage a grandly explosive finale. “That was one of the last things we shot,” Herrier says, adding that all the necessary safety precautions were taken. “We never felt unsafe. Dan was the only one who had any possibility [of danger] because he he blows something up in real time with a plunger. What you can’t see from off-camera is that they put a big roof over him so that he’d be protected from any possible debris.”
Breaking the bank
Every young actor dreams of being in a hit film, but Herrier and his co-stars didn’t reap the financial benefits of Porky’s success. “We were way, way, way underpaid for what the movie wound up becoming,” he says, adding that Clark did give the six main cast members one point of the net profits as compensation when the film’s production scheduled was slashed from 11 weeks to eight weeks. “Each of our sixth of a point wound up being worth 20-30 times what our salary was on the movie, because it was making so much money! They couldn’t hide that much money coming in that quickly, so they had to acknowledge a profit.”
Still, Herrier believes that creative Hollywood accounting resulted in a lighter wallet. “I will say it out loud: Mel Simon Productions robbed us blind. I’m sure that there are hundreds of thousands of dollars that should have had our names on it that they managed to hide and bury in shell companies and all of that. We didn’t see nearly as much as we should have, but that’s the biz.” The cast did receive a bump in pay for the next two films in the Porky’s franchise — 1983’s Porky’s II: The Next Day and 1985’s Porky’s Revenge — but neither of those films came close to replicating the box office success of the first movie.
Still, the Porky’s name (and that poster) remains recognizable enough that various revivals have been attempted over the years, including one nearly overseen by Howard Stern. And Herrier says that his co-star Tony Ganios — who played Angel Beach High’s resident muscle man, Meat — wrote a script roughly a decade ago that would have reunited the original cast for a story inspired by the post-Bridesmaids landscape for raunchy comedies. (Clark died in 2007.)
“The premise was brilliant,” he remembers. “Basically, all of us guys wound up having daughters that were way worse than we were. And then we had to go to Havana to solve something. It was really funny, and it looked like we might get it made, but it didn’t happen. We’re all too old to have daughters now, so they’d have to be our granddaughters!”
Porky’s is currently streaming on Prime Video.