After taking a lengthy break from the public eye, funnyman Mike Myers returns this week to unleash his latest comic creation, The Love Guru, upon the world. It's been six years since the release of Austin Powers in Goldmember, the third -- and presumably final -- chapter of what is perhaps the most quotable comic franchise of all time. Since then, the comedy landscape has changed considerably, thanks largely to the rise of the Judd Apatow brand, and some wonder whether fans will embrace Myers' long-overdue return.
While most of the questions regarding Myers' relevance won't be answered until The Love Guru's box office receipts are tallied, one fact remains indisputable: the man behind Austin Powers, Dr. Evil, Wayne Campbell and Dieter from Sprockets hasn't lost his knack for creating unique and memorable characters. The inspiration for Guru Pitka, the oddball spiritualist at the center of The Love Guru, sprang from the unlikeliest of sources. After his father passed away just prior to the 1991 release of his first starring vehicle, Wayne's World, a despondent Myers sought solace in the work of new-age philosopher Deepak Chopra. "His philosophy and his writings really spoke to me," recalls Myers. "He's not only a great teacher and a great writer, but he's also a great librarian of other thoughts."
"I began reading from everywhere and everything," he continues, "only to come to the conclusion -- and I'm not sure if it's really a conclusion because it's an ongoing thing -- that 'enlightenment is to lighten up.'"
Myers' study of Chopra led to a meeting with the bestselling author, which soon developed into a fully-fledged friendship. Ever the impressionist, Myers couldn't help but mimic Chopra's thick Hindi accent. The Guru Pitka was born.
Though he hasn't appeared in front of the camera since 2003's ill-fated live-action Dr. Seuss flick The Cat in the Hat, Myers hasn't stopped performing. "I'm made of 99% water and 1% ham -- I love performing," Myers quips. "With The Love Guru, I did stage shows and I kept performing that way. I'm never too far from performing. I take a long time to come up with the ideas, and there's a gestation period before it's ready to be born."
Myers has repeated the same process with all of his movies. It's a method he learned from studying a pair of old-school comedy legends. "The Marx brothers used to tour their movies for six months before they filmed them," he says. "They wrote something like two-and-a-half hours worth of material and then they settled on 90 (minutes). Performing in front of a crowd was a key part of shaping it, getting timings -- all that stuff."
Legendary for his intense work ethic and strict attention to detail, Myers devoted a large portion of his Love Guru preparation toward developing a reality-based, self-contained philosophical framework for his fictional guru, crafting acronyms and catch-phrases that would impress Dr. Phil.
One of Pitka's favorite acronyms is D.R.A.M.A. What does it stand for? "Distraction, which is to get out of the current pain to a place of calm," Myers explains. "Regression is to go back to that time in your life when people told you stuff about yourself, which is the difference between guilt and shame -- guilt is 'I feel bad'; shame is 'I am bad.' When you're a little kid, people tell you stuff about yourself which goes right into what I call 'the shame core.' You distract yourself and get calm, regress yourself to that time when people told you about this, you adjust it -- that's the 'A' -- and write it yourself. Instead of going, 'I am bad,' you go 'I am good.' Maturity is taking responsibility for own health and happiness, and Action is putting all of these abstract concepts and have the rubber meet the road and have it be applied to your life. This is D.R.A.M.A."
Whew -- quite a mouthful. This is usually the point where most comedians might add the punchline. But Myers is dead serious about his desire to deliver a positive message together with the laughter. "This is a silly, fun movie that I hope has a beautiful message," he says, straight-faced. "You have to love yourself before anyone can love you. You're responsible for your own health and happiness. And you have to lighten up. That's what this movie is about."
Sounds a bit ambitious for a bawdy flick whose climax features a pair of elephants copulating on a hockey rink, but if anyone can pull it off, it's Mike Myers.
Saving the world, one midget joke at a time.