Curtis 'Booger' Armstrong Explains Why John Cusack Disavowed 'Better Off Dead'
Over on the Nerdist podcast this week, Curtis ‘Booger’ Armstrong joined Chris Hardwick and the gang to talk about the Revenge of the Nerds and his career, in general. Armstrong is actually a fun guy to have on, because during the 80s, he worked with a ton of people, like Tom Cruise (Risky Business), Bruce Willis (Moonlighting) and, of course, John Cusack on Better Off Dead and One Crazy Summer, and he doesn’t mind sharing a little gossip.
On the subject of Moonlighting, Armstrong actually discussed the toxic relationship between Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd that basically ruined that show. They both hated each other, and neither one of them wanted to be on the show anymore (especially once Willis became a movie star). He also talked about the profound friendships he created on the set of Revenge of the Nerds, and how he continues to be close friends with many of those cast members (he works with Robert Carradine on their reality show, King of the Nerds).
One of the best stories, actually, is a segment where Armstrong talks about trying to find roles that might allow him to break free from the reputation he’s had over the past three decades and do something different that would allow others to appreciate him as an actor (rather than basically Booger). He thought that role was going to be Ray because it was a prestige film, and in it, he looked nothing like people are accustomed to seeing him look and turned in a performance dissimilar to everything he’s done before. The problem? Everyone thought he was Clint Howard.
But to the point of this post (though, you really should check out the podcast on Nerdist). Back in the 1985, Savage Steve Holland actually asked Curtis Armstrong to be in Better Off Dead and One Crazy Summer because he was such a fan of Revenge of the Nerds. That, of course, made him co-stars with John Cusack in both films, and Cusack has famously disavowed them. Several reasons have been offered over the years, but here’s the actual story, from Armstrong himself (with an assist from Hardwick, who relayed the story he heard from Savage):
Hardwick: I was sort of heartbroken to find out that Cusack essentially disavowed those films … Did you hear the story? They shot Better Off Dead and they said Cusack was great, and then they finished it and they almost immediately went into One Crazy Summer.
Armstrong: And he had a deal to do two movie with Savage. One Crazy Summer, which wasn’t called that then, was supposedly a kind of sequel to Better Off Dead and Cusack was already scheduled to do them.
Hardwick: What was it originally called?
Armstrong: Umm, I think, What I Did On My Summer Vacation.
Hardwick: So, while they’re shooting One Crazy Summer, they get this cut of Better Off Dead, and do this screening, and I guess John …
Armstrong: Walked out.
Hardwick: And he wouldn’t talk to anyone for the rest of filming.
Armstrong: It wasn’t that bad. It was … I had thought the screening was here but, wherever it was, he was so angry and so, I guess, disappointed that it was not the movie he was expecting, I don’t know. It seemed like the movie that I read, but he felt it was juvenile or something. And, uh, when I got to Cape Cod to shoot the second movie, he had already gone through this and, he was, we talked about it briefly, but he didn’t dwell on it. It’s not that he was refusing to talk to people or anything like that. In fact, he would talk to Savage, but he would also not listen to Savage and he would do whatever he wanted to do.
Then after One Crazy Summer was done, that was it. And he wouldn’t have anything to do with anything, and he wouldn’t publicize the movie, or anything like that.
Somebody told me recently that he had signed a poster of Better Off Dead. That was huge because he literally would not sign anything. Somebody would hand him something and he would push it away. He would not. It was like a cross in front of a vampire.