Things I learned from They Live’s audio commentary

I decided to listen to the audio commentary of They Live because I’m the type of person that enjoys learning even the most tedious of shit about a film I like. I appreciate most people have better things to be doing so here’s a run-down of the fun things:



1. Both men are watching the film together for the first time in twelve years.



2. The shot of the train going past as the credits roll cost $12,000. Piper knows this because the camera guy missed it and they had to do it twice.


3. The film was released in France as Invasion: Los Angeles. (Maybe because of Invasion USA, released two years earlier? There’s not much in common, one is Chuck vs. Cubans and the other’s Piper vs. Aliens.)


4. Piper wears the famous shades from the film at every Hooters he can. ”I’m just kidding.”


5. Carpenter & Piper met at Wrestlemania III. Carpenter wanted to meet Piper and Piper wanted to impress so he asked someone how he looked and they replied ”about forty pounds overweight.”


6. The film was Piper’s first starring role. Piper says he’d been on screen before, but never with a real director. Piper says They Live is his best work in film (Piper wasn’t very picky when it came to film roles so it’s not exactly a competition there.)


7. Piper’s body was in great shape for the film, causing a rumour to spread around that Carpenter had used a computer to put Piper’s head onto somebody else’s body.



8. Piper: ”I’ve done twenty-five films.”

Carpenter: Well that’s more than me, I’ve only made twenty.”

Piper: ”Yeah, but you made twenty good ones!”


9. When discussing the ideas of subliminal advertising Piper brings up The Brunswick Affair, a documentary that uncovered the truth about TV advertising initiated by the Brunswick corporation. (Sorry to be that guy, but that was a pseudo-real documentary. So if people were fooled by it, they did their job right. More info on it here.)


10. Carpenter discusses the influence of the film coming from Ray Nelson’s short story Eight O’Clock in the Morning (which you can listen to here).


11. Piper clears up his origins again: He was born in Saskatchewan then moved to a different country every year including Glasgow & Australia. (Which is why he sounded like nothing else on this planet.)


12. The blind Vicar grabbing Piper ”scared the dog right out of me!” because he grabbed Piper by the throat.



13. ”Here’s me asking this kid out for a date. That’s what it looks like! ”Hey kid, what are you doing later? In the mean time, can I borrow your binoculars?” Heh heh heh!”



14. As the blind vicar gets beat up by the police, Piper shouts ”shades of Rodney King!” and laughs for nearly a minute.


15. Piper explains Carpenter’s direction: ”Ask me as much as you like before we start shooting but as soon we start, I don’t wanna hear a word from ya!”


16. A lot of the camera shots through the special glasses are actually matte paintings, including the OBEY poster (You don’t notice this when you watch watch a film, then as soon as you hear something like that, it’s ruined forever.)



18. Carpenter objected to Piper falling over in the shop. Carpenter can’t recall the objection. ”I must have been on some drugs at the time.”



19. Piper: ”So imagine you know something that you know nobody else will believe. You ever been in that spot with your wife? I know I have!”


20. Regarding the bubblegum line: Carpenter’s instructions were ”say something Rob!” so Piper used a line he’d written down. Piper never intended on the line being THE line of the film. ”Who knows what’s going to work?”



21. On the scene where Meg Foster hits Piper with a bottle: ”I’ve been hit softer than Andre The Giant than I got hit by her!” The bottle didn’t break on the first take, which didn’t help.



22. Carpenter loves the fight scene. ”One of the great fight scenes in movie history. It’s a real fight, it’s not a flashy fight, you guys don’t have kung fu or martial arts you’re not flying through the air. You’re just going at it.” (No arguments there.) Keith David comments in one of the additional featurettes how it was modelled on the fight scene from The Quiet Man. Also, Piper used to pick David up and walk around asking ”What shall I do with him?”


23. The fight was rehearsed in Carpenter’s backyard for two weeks, it took three days of shooting in the same alley. Former-boxer Keith David would sometimes miss the miss and end up hitting Piper for real, which eventually caused Piper to shout ”Keith, you’re killing me. Just hit me!”


24. According to Piper, the line ”Life’s a bitch and she’s back in heat” was used by Randy Savage a lot after the film came out.


25. John Carpenter is a life-long wrestling fan and had an article published in Ring Magazine when he was fifteen.


26. Vince McMahon didn’t want Piper to do the film and offered Piper another film instead of this one but with shooting four weeks later with the same price. Piper declined because of the lack of Carpenter. Piper cited business reasons for them not wanting to make the film. ”God forbid you get over by yourself.”


27. Piper claims the film saved his career because by not being around wrestling all the time, it meant he was twice as important when he returned. (He was proto-Lesnar!)


28. Piper mentions he just started with the XWF (placing this commentary around 2003) ”They’ve got nine billion dollars and they’re going to have shows all around the world including China.” Bloody hell, you’d think Piper would be a bit more cynical than that! XWF went nowhere.


29. Piper: ”Remember when they put the squibs on backwards? Oooohkay!!”


30. Meg Foster showed up to film one day looking green because the make up people decided to change her look without telling anyone. They had to colour-tint the scenes because they didn’t have time to re-shoot.





Piper closes the commentary with ”May you be half-an-hour in heaven before the devil knows you’re dead!” which is an old Irish saying according to him.


Overall: Carpenter and Piper sound like they have a lot of love for each other and it’s fun listening to them relentlessly fan-boying. They’re both proud of the film and how it turned out and Piper’s Piper. He could read the phone book and make it sound like an adventure.



Carpenter: ”There’s a big difference between Piper and other actors, he’s lived life.”

  • dennett316

    Love that movie, and Piper is indeed really good in it. Until The Rock came along, probably the best performance by a wrestler in a movie (like you said above, that’s not exactly a high bar).
    Will definitely listen to this commentary when I get round to cracking open my They Live blu ray. Maffew, if you’re after another good commentary, John Carpenter and Kurt Russell have a good one on The Thing.

    • My fav commentary of all time is Cannibal: The Musical. It’s just unbelievable how hilarious it is.

    • MaffewOfBotchamania

      The Evil Dead ones are great too.

  • Shawn

    Carpenter and Russell’s commentary on Big Trouble in Little China is also very much worth listening to.

  • ViewtfulHero

    The fight was rehearsed in Carpenter’s backyard for two weeks, it took three days of shooting in the same alley. Former-boxer Keith David would sometimes miss the miss and end up hitting Piper for real, which eventually caused Piper to shout ”Keith, you’re killing me. Just hit me!”

    Sounds legit

  • MPT

    Sucks that they never mentioned that Cripple Fight that was based on the fight scene

  • The Wicker Man (BWF)

    Big Trouble in Little China’s commentary with Russell and Carpenter is one of my favorites.