Eleven year old Ben Archer (JONATHAN TAYLOR THOMAS) is a smart kid with a big problem: how to “scare off” his mother Sandy’s (FARRAH FAWCETT) fiance, Jack Sturges (CHEVY CHASE), a beleaguered federal prosecutor unprepared for step-fatherhood. Ben and his mom have survived quite nicely alone for the past five years, and Ben doesn’t think they need anyone moving in with them now – especially some lawyer who thinks reading books on step-parenting qualifies him for the job.
Egged on by his best friend Monroe (NICHOLAS GARRETT), Ben comes up with several schemes to drive Jack away, one of which has Ben forcing Jack to join the YMCA Indian Guides program and participate in games and activities designed to nurture father/son companionship. During an Indian Guides camp-out, Ben plans to humiliate Jack and drive a wedge between him and Sandy. However, he is almost beaten to the punch by a sleazy mobster and his two henchmen who are out to get Jack for real!
Ultimately, the Guides take on the mob and use their wits and wisdom to capture Jack’s pursuers, and Ben and Jack both learn some valuable lessons about trust between kids and adults in Walt Disney Pictures’ new live-action comedy “Man of the House.”
A Walt Disney Pictures presentation, “Man of the House” is directed by James Orr from a screenplay by James Orr & Jim Cruickshank from a story by David Peckinpah and Richard Jefferies, “Man of the House” is produced by Bonnie Bruckheimer and Marty Katz. The executive producer is Margaret South. Buena Vista Pictures distributes.
Writer/director James Orr had very specific requirements when it came to casting “Man of the House.” “For the role of Jack Sturges I wanted a physical comedian who was also a good actor,” says Orr. “When we discussed our options, Chevy Chase immediately came to mind and we were thrilled when he read the script and agreed to take the role.”
“My character, Jack, is a rather straightlaced lawyer type who at first thinks it’s going to be easy to move in with his single-mom girlfriend,” says comedian Chevy Chase says. “He doesn’t foresee any problems with her son. But the boy, Ben, turns out to be very competitive. They’re actually competing for the same woman.”
For the Sandy Archer character, the filmmakers were especially challenged because, as director Orr points out, “The woman had to be so special that a man who had never been married nor had any children, would put up with the misery a 12-year-old on a rampage can put you through, to be with her. I saw a lot of wonderful actresses but none of them had that quality of vulnerability, beauty and playfulness that I was looking for until I saw Farrah Fawcett.”
“Farrah is extraordinary and though she is an excellent dramatic actress she also has enormous comedic skills,” adds producer Bonnie Bruckheimer. “She’s just so right for the role. She’s a mother. She’s very warm, very sexy and very appealing.”
“Any man alive would understand why you would put up with a 12-year-old to be with her,” raves Orr.
“What attracted me to the role,” says Fawcett, “was my character’s relationship to her son. The script touches on real human emotions. This really is a ‘90s picture, it’s about family and it deals with the issues and relationships of today.”
On casting Jonathan Taylor Thomas as 12-year-old Ben Archer, James Orr says, “I wanted a young actor who had the soul of a poet, because everything Ben Archer does comes from vulnerability, fear and insecurity, not from any meanness or any inherent negative qualities. Jonathan is very three dimensional. He’s an extraordinary person and very talented. I’ve rarely met a 12-year-old who impresses me as much as he does.”
“Ben’s a nice guy who’s a little rough around the edges because he’s had a tough life,” comments Thomas on his character. “His father left when he was 6 and it was really hard on him and his mother. He’s always been able to get rid of the guys his mom dated, but this guy [Chevy Chase] poses a challenge.”
“George Wendt was always the guy we had in mind for Chet Bronski,” says director Orr. “We needed a regular guy who was sympathetic and lovable, a guy with a big heart. That’s George.”
On the casting of David Shiner as Lloyd Small, director James Orr says, “I had seen David in “Fool Moon” on Broadway and was very impressed with him so I wrote a character around him.”
“When we first started casting the movie there was the role of an attorney,” says producer Marty Katz. “Having met Leonard George, who we were interviewing as a technical advisor, we realized he was quite charismatic. He’s the son of Chief Dan George (“Little Big Man”), and he is the Chief of the Burrard Band of the Salish Nation. We realized we could change our opposing lawyer to a Native American and weave him into the story. Since the Indian Guide organization deals with Native American spiritual and family value themes, it is good to have a positive Native American image within the film.”
“There’s so much more awareness of cultural values today,” says technical advisor/actor Chief Leonard George. “I find it really exciting that people in general want to know the essence of one another instead of the make believe images that have been taught for hundreds of years. I think this movie emphasizes the importance of learning the truth about those with whom we share the planet — and about ourselves.”
Read more in the promotional material from the Man of the House Press Kit: