Anton Tobias, played by Devon Sawa, is a classic teen slacker. He spends his days skipping school and getting high with his friends Mick (Seth Green) and Pnub (Elden Henson). When a string of murders plagues his small California town and his parents go missing, Anton starts to get a sneaking suspicion that he might have something to do with it. Soon, Anton finds that his hand is doing things without his permission, including killing his best friends and turning them into wise-cracking zombies.
Coming off a string of teen movies that made him a ’90s heartthrob, Devon Sawa shocked audiences with his lead role in the horror comedy Idle Hands (1999). Filled with the stoner humor and prat falls that made ’90s movies so special, the movie has a place in the hearts of anyone nostalgic for the decade. With funny performances from Seth Green and Devon Sawa, a memorable role for Jessica Alba, and colorful gruesome special effects, it’s a must-watch for those who love a good horror comedy.
Wondering how they made the movie? Read on for behind-the-scenes trivia from the making of Idle Hands.
Making Idle Hands
1. The title is based off the saying, “idle hands are the devil’s playthings.”
2. Idle Hands was filmed in the same neighborhood as the original Halloween (1978).
3. The scene where Randy (Jack Noseworthy) hits on Tanya (Katie Wright) as she mourns the murdered fast food twins is a lot weirder than you might think. It turns out that Noseworthy and Wright are half-siblings in real life and didn’t find out until they met on set.
4. Christopher Hart not only plays Anton’s disembodied demon hand in Idle Hands, but as Thing in The Addams Family (1991) as well. Hart is a magician by trade but has experience playing hands in films.
5. Recognize Anton’s dog, Duke? The canine actor also played Corky in Road Trip (2000).
6. Devon Sawa didn’t actually have a driver’s license during the filming of Idle Hands. When Anton steals Randy’s truck, they had to have a stunt double do the driving for him.
7. The original ending was more serious, but test audiences wanted something else from the film. Seth Green described the changes made to the ending in an interview with The Onion AV Club:
And the studio was listening to the test marketing and saying that…they really wanted the zombies to be cuter, and have more wacky antics, and apparently all the kids in the audience thought that there should be more pot-smoking, that pot should save the day, and somewhere, somehow, Jessica Alba needed to get her top ripped off. And that’s how that whole new ending got shot, where she’s up on the car lift and gets her midsection ripped off, and pot saves the day. Like I build a giant bong out of a carburetor.Seth Green, The Onion AV Club, 2007
8. The original ending that Seth Green is alluding to featured a sequence with a swimming pool. You can still find that alternate ending on the DVD release.
9. There was an alternate ending that had Mick and Pnub ascending a staircase to heaven while wearing football equipment. While that ending ended up getting changed, you can see this version on the DVD or in clips from the original theatrical trailer.
10. Popular pop punk band The Offspring play at the high school Halloween dance. They play a cover of “I Wanna Be Sedated” by the Ramones and “Beheaded.”
11. Devon Sawa was a teen heartthrob after working in films like Now and Then (1995) and Casper (1995). Idle Hands and its raunchy stoner comedy was a big departure from what he’d been doing. He told the AV Club his reasons for choosing the role:
As soon as I got to 17 and 18 years old and I wasn’t playing these teen roles anymore, it was hard to transition. So I thought I was going to do the weirdest stuff I could possibly do. Stuff that was edgier and alternative, like Idle Hands and SLC Punk! and the “Stan” video. I wanted to get out of that kind of teen-idol thing. So far it’s worked.Devon Sawa, AV Club, 2012
12. Most of director Rodman Flender’s work has been in television, but Idle Hands isn’t the first horror movie he directed. He made The Unborn (1991) and Leprechaun 2 (1994). He also recently made horror comedy Eat Brains Love (2019).
Goofs, Gags, and Easter Eggs
13. Mick and Pnub’s names are actually a shoutout to an old sketch from a 1981 episode of Saturday Night Live. In it, Eddie Murphy plays Buckwheat from The Little Rascals as he releases an album called “Buh-weet Sings.” One of the songs he covers, “Looking for Love,” is pronounced “Wookin’ Pa Nub” with his lisp. Thus, Mick and Pnub had their names.
14. You might expect fake dish soap would be used when Anton washes his mouth out after smoking nutmeg and oregano, but that’s not the case. Devon Sawa thought up the gag on the spot, so there was no time to swap it out for something edible.
15. Anton, Mick, and Pnub watch a lot on his TV, all of which fit the themes of the film. Pay close attention to the screen for the following:
- Anton watches Night of the Living Dead (1968).
- Mick and Pnub dance along to the music video for 2 Live Crew’s “Pop That Coochie.”
- Mick and Pnub watch Dawn of the Dead (1978).
- Anton, Mick, and Pnub watch the music video for Rob Zombie’s “Dragula.”
16. Did you spot Jessica Alba in the background as Anton throws up in the bushes outside of his house? You can spot her playing the bass guitar on her balcony as Mick and Pnub walk up to Anton’s house, which is a remnant from a deleted scene.
17. After killing Mick and Pnub, Anton comes up from the basement and walks right into a support beam. The thud you hear wasn’t added in post–Devon Sawa actually hit his head on the beam. He would do this for every take, fully committing to the bit.
18. If you wondered why Pnub shouts “Go, go, Buffalo” when Anton kills the cops, that’s because of a now-deleted scene. In that scene, the audience learns that the cops were the head and ass of Go Go Buffalo, the mascot when they were students at the high school.
Release and Reviews
20. The release for Idle Hands had to be delayed. Unfortunately, the original release was planned around the same time as the Columbine school shooting.
21. Idle Hands had a roughly $25 million budget but only made about $4 million at the box office. This makes it a commercial flop.
22. While Idle Hands currently has a 15% reviewer’s rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it has a much higher audience score of 58%. While the raunchy stoner humor and black comedy elements may not have spoken to critics, many viewers were fans of the film. Devon Sawa’s stellar hand acting and prat falls along with Seth Green’s comedic timing made this a sleeper hit when it comes to ’90s teen horror.