Can You Feel The Force? Two years after his first adventure, photographer and master-spy Austin Powers is challenging Star Wars for the summer box office. Alan Jones goes undercover to investigate the allure of Austin Powers.
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Xposé Special #08

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You can keep your Star Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace and Eyes Wide Shut. The only film I'm looking forward to this Summer is Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. Why? Because Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery had me in hysterics from its Soul Bossa Nova Carnaby Street start to its Ming Tea BBC finish. I still can't remember laughing so much at any other fantasy comedy movie. Ever.

Throughout the years from Casino Royale (1967) to the recent Spy Hard (1997) - and all the terrible misfires in between (Operation Kid Brother starring Neil Connery, Sean's brother, remember that one?) - there have been many big screen attempts to satirize James Bond and his secret agent kin, Derek Flint, Bulldog Drummond and Matt Helm. Even the official 007 series got in on the double-entendre act by turning into a virtual self-parody of itself with the Roger Moore episodes. But after decades of spies coming in from the Cold War to an even colder critical reception, someone finally got it right with Austin Powers.

That man was Mike Myers, the talented comedian who got his start thanks to that American stand-up/skit institution Saturday Night Live. With Dana Carvey, he'd already spun off one of their most popular SNL sketches into the blockbuster Wayne's World and its equally successful sequel. But his most unique creation to date - Mr Austin Powers, the crushed-velvet flared suit wearing, snaggle-toothed, hairy-chested, Union Jack-painted sports car-driving, dolly bird shagging, psychedelic hipster with a Mary Quant bag-load of catch phrases including "Oh, behave!"

It actually didn't take long for the canny and camp Austin Powers mythology to be absorbed into popular culture. Almost immediately, the film became a cult smash hit and Sixties fancy dress parties became the in-thing amongst the film buff fashionista. Halloween 1997 was notable Stateside for featuring a record number of drag queens in Vanessa Kensington go-go togs alongside the ever-popular Xena. Myers also won three prizes for the movie; a Saturn Award for the Best Fantasy, and two MTV Awards for Best Dance Sequence and Best Villain (which he dedicated to late fellow comedian Phil Hartman).

More had to come, of course, although when I spoke to Myers about the possibility of a sequel at the London opening of Austin Powers, he was decidedly iffy about it. "I'm not sure about a sequel at this point," he said. "I've got to think long and hard if the idea has more mileage in it. Doubtless the formula will remain the same in the M Jay Roach directed sequel (the M inclusion has to be another James Bond gag, right?) ie sharp nostalgia, lounge core sophistication, groan-inducing slapstick and tasteless sexism. The brilliant trailer disguised as a Star Wars promo (shot before production even began on the sequel) certainly seems to suggest so.

Whereas the original movie followed the adjustment of Austin to the Nineties, the sequel takes the reverse approach and sees him going back to the far-out Sixties in a time machine. You see, Dr Evil has stolen Austin's mojo, and unless he follows his nemesis into the past and gets it back from the incense and peppermints drenched London of 1969, he'll remain completely unshaggable in the future. Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, it's that serious! While major plot details have been shrouded in secrecy, there have been a few leaks from the closed set. Expect a guided tour around Austin's Chelsea bachelor pad which contains in Myers' description, "All the accessories necessary to accommodate lots and lots of shagging", eg revolving beds and sliding poles. Also Dr Evil and his son Scott go on The Jerry Springer Show to discuss the Generation Gap and when the Ernst Stavro Blofeld look-alike arrives on the set, the caption 'Wants To Take Over The World' comes up on screen…

Alan Jones

Continued in Xposé Special #08

Image © New Line