The Controversial Scene That Was Cut from the Jerk

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In 1979, the film world was graced with the cult classic comedy “The Jerk,” directed by Carl Reiner and starring Steve Martin in his debut as a film lead. The story of this now-iconic film follows Navin R. Johnson, a charmingly naive character portrayed with endearing clumsiness by Martin, on his hilariously unpredictable journey from poverty to wealth and back, as he navigates a world he barely understands. While celebrated for its comedic brilliance, “The Jerk” also contained a controversial scene that never made it to the final cut. This lost scene has sparked curiosity and debate among fans and critics, adding an intriguing layer to the film’s history.Watch the video Here:

Join us as we explore over 20 fascinating facts about “The Jerk,” including this elusive scene, behind-the-scenes stories, little-known details about the cast and crew, and the film’s impact on comedy.

1. The Genesis of ‘The Jerk’
The concept of “The Jerk” originated from a line in Steve Martin’s stand-up act: “I was born a poor black child.” This line became the seed for the film’s story, evolving into a narrative about Navin Johnson’s life and his series of odd jobs. Martin’s transition from stand-up comedy to the big screen was a strategic move to establish a more enduring career in the film industry.

2. Collaborative Screenwriting
The screenplay of “The Jerk” was a collaborative effort between Steve Martin, Carl Gottlieb, and Michael Elias. Gottlieb, known for his work on “Jaws,” and Elias, who had previously collaborated with Martin, aimed to infuse humor into every page of the script. This trio’s dynamic brought a unique blend of wit and narrative to the film.

3. Carl Reiner’s Directional Touch
Legendary comedian Carl Reiner directed “The Jerk,” bringing his unique comedic sensibility to the film. Reiner was not just a director but also contributed significantly to the script. His daily commutes with Martin were filled with brainstorming sessions, leading to constant script enhancements.

4. Steve Martin and Bernadette Peters’ Romance
During the production of “The Jerk,” Steve Martin and Bernadette Peters were romantically involved. Their off-screen relationship added an extra layer of chemistry to their on-screen performances, making their characters’ interactions more authentic and engaging.

5. The Lost Cameo of Bill Murray
Bill Murray filmed a cameo for the film, but this scene was ultimately cut from the final version. Murray later humorously mentioned this during a “Saturday Night Live” episode, jokingly criticizing the film for his absence.

6. Stanley Kubrick’s Admiration
Renowned director Stanley Kubrick was a fan of “The Jerk,” often quoting lines from the film. His admiration for the movie led to a meeting with Steve Martin, where they discussed potential film collaborations, showcasing the film’s influence beyond the comedy genre.

7. The Improvised Licking Scene
A memorable scene where Navin licks Marie’s face during their first date was completely improvised by Steve Martin. Bernadette Peters’ genuine reaction added to the authenticity and humor of this unexpected moment.

8. From Stage to Screen
Steve Martin incorporated many elements of his stand-up act into the film. This included the iconic scene where Navin emotionally declares he doesn’t need anything, yet comically picks up various objects on his way out, demonstrating Martin’s ability to translate his stage persona to a cinematic context.

9. The Gas Shortage Influence
The 1970s gas shortage had a practical impact on the film’s production. Steve Martin and Carl Reiner carpooled to the set, using this time to creatively brainstorm and develop new jokes, showing how external factors inadvertently contributed to the film’s humor.

10. The Original Title
“The Jerk” was initially titled “Easy Money.” Martin, seeking a title that conveyed an epic tale, was inspired by Dostoyevsky’s “The Idiot,” eventually settling on “The Jerk” as a fitting name that captured the essence of the film’s main character.

11. The Opti-Grab Invention
A central plot element, the Opti-Grab, was a fictional invention that played a significant role in Navin’s journey. This quirky device, which prevents eyeglasses from slipping, symbolizes Navin’s naive yet inventive character, leading to both his rise and fall.

12. The Beverly Hills Mansion
The film features a mansion in Beverly Hills, which was owned by Mohammed al-Fassi. This mansion, known for its eccentric decorations and colorful history, added a touch of real-life extravagance to the film’s setting.

13. Box Office Success
“The Jerk” was a major box office hit, grossing over $100 million worldwide. Produced on a modest budget, the film’s financial success marked a significant milestone in Steve Martin’s film career and solidified his status as a leading comedic actor.

14. Critical Reception and Legacy
“The Jerk” received mostly positive reviews and has been hailed as one of the funniest films ever made. Its legacy continues, with the film being recognized in various lists of top comedy films, reflecting its enduring appeal and influence on the comedy genre.

15. Casting and Characters
The film featured a diverse cast, including M. Emmet Walsh and Jackie Mason, alongside Martin and Peters. Each actor brought their unique flair to the film, contributing to its dynamic character ensemble and comedic impact.

16. The Sequel ‘The Jerk, Too’
In 1984, a television film sequel titled “The Jerk, Too” was released. Although it starred Mark Blankfield as Navin and did not involve Martin as a writer, it was an attempt to extend the story of Navin Johnson, showcasing the original film’s lasting popularity.

17. Steve Martin’s Dual Role
In addition to playing the lead character Navin, Steve Martin also took on a lesser-known role in the film. He appeared as the Cat Juggler, credited under the pseudonym “Pig Eye Jackson.” This dual performance showcased Martin’s versatility and added a layer of humor to the film, as audiences later discovered his hidden cameo.

18. The Influence of Stand-Up on Navin’s Character
Navin’s character was heavily influenced by Steve Martin’s stand-up comedy. Components of his act, such as the absurdity and naivety, were seamlessly integrated into Navin’s personality. This blending of stand-up and film narrative was a key factor in making Navin a memorable and beloved character.

19. The Film’s Shooting Locations
“The Jerk” was shot across 85 locations in Greater Los Angeles, including Pasadena and Westlake Village. The diverse locations added to the film’s dynamic visual appeal and underscored Navin’s journey from a small town to the bustling city, reflecting his wide-eyed view of the world.

20. The Creative Process of Script Development
The script of “The Jerk” was a living document, with changes and additions being made frequently. Martin and Reiner’s daily discussions led to constant evolution of the script, ensuring that the film was packed with fresh and spontaneous humor.

21. Bernadette Peters’ Role
The character of Marie, played by Bernadette Peters, was specifically written with her in mind. Martin’s foresight in casting Peters brought a unique charm and chemistry to the film, as her performance perfectly complemented Martin’s comedic style.

22. The Film’s Musical Elements
Music played a significant role in “The Jerk.” The scene where Navin and Marie sing “Tonight You Belong to Me” was one of Martin’s favorites. This musical interlude not only provided a tender moment in the film but also showcased Martin and Peters’ musical talents.

23. Cultural Impact
“The Jerk” has been recognized for its significant impact on comedy and pop culture. Its quotable lines and memorable scenes have made it a staple in the comedy genre, influencing future comedies and comedians alike.

24. Snipped From The Final Cut
Several scenes were cut from the final version of “The Jerk,” including an alternate introduction of Marie and a comic scene featuring Gailard Sartain as a Texas oil millionaire. These deleted scenes, while not essential to the film’s narrative, offered additional humor and character development.

25. Television Version Additions
The television version of “The Jerk” included additional scenes not seen in the theatrical release. These scenes provided more context and depth to the story, offering viewers a slightly different experience from the original film.

26. The Film’s Editing and Post-Production
The editing process of “The Jerk” was crucial in shaping the final product. Editors Bud Molin and Ron Spang worked to balance the film’s comedic timing with its narrative flow, ensuring that each joke landed effectively while maintaining the story’s coherence.

27. The Controversial Canned Scene
Among the scenes cut from “The Jerk” was a controversial one featuring Bill Murray as a flamboyantly gay decorator. This scene was ultimately removed due to concerns about its portrayal and sensitivity. The deletion of this scene sparked discussions about comedic boundaries and the portrayal of LGBTQ+ characters in film. Murray’s acknowledgment of being cut from the film during a “Saturday Night Live” episode added to the intrigue and controversy surrounding this lost scene. The decision to remove it highlights the challenges filmmakers face in balancing humor with social responsibility, a topic that remains relevant in discussions about comedy and representation in cinema.

Reflecting on ‘The Jerk’
As we reflect on the legacy of “The Jerk,” one can’t help but wonder: What impact do you think this film has had on the landscape of comedic movies, and how do you see its influence in today’s cinema?

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