Brainchild of the Canadian comedian Mike Myers, Austin Powers and a supporting cast of bizarre, vulgar, over-sexed but very funny characters have delighted the cinematic audiences of the world over the course of three motion pictures, each one arguably more popular and hilarious than the last. Directed by directed by Jay Roach (Meet The Parents), the series spoofs the James Bond franchise more brilliantly than ever before, wallowing in retro chic and bringing toilet humour back from the domain of the schoolyard and into the lives of the masses. For better or worse, the goofy-toothed secret agent and his monstrously repressed nemesis, Dr Evil, stand as possibly the most quoted fictional characters in a pub on a Friday night by men under the influence of intoxicating beverages.
Born of English parents and raised initially in the UK, Myers was thus exposed to the earthy and often exceptionally bawdy humour of the time (it also seems to have introduced him to the concepts of sarcasm and irony that are alien to many natives of the Americas). Series such as The Avengers, Adam Adamant (in which a Victorian spy is cryogenically frozen and thawed out in the 1960s... sound familiar?) and even On The Buses with its obsessive pursuit of 'birds'1 by rather common Englishmen with very bad teeth, can all be seen to influence the humour of the films. Myers also worked in England in the early 1990s as a presenter on the Wide Awake Club which was part of the TVAM breakfast show, where he displayed the anarchic brand of comedy that would later make him famous on the cult US show Saturday Night Live.
The basic premise of the films is this: Austin Powers is a secret agent of the British Government, originally from the 1960s and thanks to his powerful 'mojo'2 one of the most sexually-alluring men alive. Opposing Powers is the diabolical Dr Evil, a bald-pated villain bent upon world domination at any cost. Cryogenically frozen in the last years of the decade, the former to chase the latter, the pair are thawed out in the late 1990s and continue their titanic struggle while trying to come to terms with the modern world and thirty years worth of change.
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery was the first film and did moderately well at the box office, telling the tale of Austin and Dr Evil arriving in the present day and the villains subsequent attempt to flood the world with 'red hot magma' by detonating a nuclear warhead at the Earth's core. But on the film's video and DVD release, its popularity soon spread making it a cult classic.
Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me was in many ways a far slicker package than its predecessor and did fantastic business both in cinema and later on in home entertainment media. Introducing the concept of time travel, the sequel sent Austin Powers back to the '60s in pursuit of Dr Evil who had stolen his mojo in the past to render him impotent in the present. This film saw the inclusion of new characters and the slowly dawning realisation that Dr Evil was actually funnier and had a greater potential for comedy than the eponymous secret agent.
Austin Powers in Goldmember was much anticipated and well-received by audiences, but never quite broke new ground upon the previous film. Once again Powers travelled back in time to battle evil, but this time it came in the patently odd form of Goldmember, an insane Dutch gold magnate bent upon similar diabolical schemes to those of his ally in villainy Dr Evil. Dr Evil and Goldmember plot to use a tractor beam to ensnare a comet known as 'Midas 22' (and made of solid gold into the bargain), cause it to collide with Earth, melt the polar ice-caps and flood the planet.
If one thing can be said of the Austin Powers films it is that the humour derives in no way from the plot. Instead, it's the diverse cast of characters and the actors who portray them that bring the films to life.
Austin Powers (Mike Myers)
Do I make you horny baby? Do I?
The eponymous hero of the series is a character based upon the dapper and groovy male leads of such films as Alfie and The Ipcress Files that personified the fashionable image of the UK in the late '60s and early '70s. An international icon in his crushed velvet suit and cravat, Powers sports the awful dental hygiene that most Americans believe characterises the British smile (an unfounded and baffling stereotype to most Brits alive today). Awaking in the modern world, he is at first baffled and confused as modern women find his open promiscuity, sexism and awful teeth utterly repellent. It takes time, but Austin is soon back on his feet, battling evil in the name of Queen and Country ... and being very sexy about it too.
Dr Evil (Mike Myers)
Throw me a frickin bone here... I'm the boss, need the info!
International supervillain, evil doctor extraordinaire or complete dingbat; whichever way you slice it Dr Evil is the lead player on the side of Power's foes. Raised by a narcoleptic Belgian and an underage prostitute with webbed feet, Dr Evil is the logical parody of every camped up evil-doer ever to plot world domination and be thwarted more by his own ineptitude than the efforts of the erstwhile hero. Accompanied by his beloved hairless cat Mr Bigglesworth and sitting at the helm of the Virtucon Corporation, Dr Evil tries his very best to terrorise the free world with his diabolical plots (most of which are poo-pooed while on the drawing-board with hilarious effect). Arguably even more out of touch than Austin Powers, Dr Evil makes commendable but ridiculous efforts to contemporise such as trying to dance the Macarena for his son and throwing ghetto-slang and gang-signs at the President of the US.
Frau Fraubissener (Mindy Sterling)
Send in the clones!
Founder of the militant wing of the Salvation Army and Dr Evil's most unflinchingly-loyal follower, the shrill-voiced Frau Fraubissener stands as one of the few baddies who seems able to get things done in the name of the greater evil. Her overemphasised pronunciations never fail to set Dr Evil on edge and she also comes up with many of the dastardly devices that are thrown in the path of Austin Powers such as the seductive and deadly Fembots. Brilliantly acted by comedienne Mindy Sterling, the scenes between Frau, Dr Evil and Scott Evil are some of the best in the series.
Mini Me (Verne Troyer)
'Just as evil, but only one eighth of the size', Mini Me was first seen in the second film, cloned from genetic material taken from Dr Evil and stored by Virtucon with the ultimate aim of producing a perfect duplicate of the frozen doctor. As usual, they fell somewhat short of the mark in their efforts. Dressing like and affecting the mannerisms of his genetic progenitor, Mini Me is nevertheless far more vicious and nasty when it comes to issues such as who gets the last chocolate éclair and shows no qualms towards biting a few fingers in order to get his way. No physical coward either, Mini Me enjoys more than one physical confrontation with Austin Powers in which the latter soon comes to regret holding back due to the supposed size disadvantage of the former.
Scott Evil (Seth Green)
I hate you... I wish I'd never been genetically created in a lab!
Most father/son relationships have their ups and downs as one generation struggles to understand and accept the other, but the relationship between Scott Evil and his father Dr Evil truly breaks the mould. The young Scott has been raised to believe that he was grown from his father's genetic material, much like Mini Me, while he was in cryogenic stasis (though the true nature of his conception is revealed in the second film) and finally meets Dr Evil in the late 1990s. As could well be imagined, the young man into 'titty films' and the evil doctor bent on world domination soon develop possibly the most dysfunctional relationship ever seen on celluloid. Scenes such as the father and son therapy session in the first film are simply hilarious.
Fat Bastard (Mike Myers)
Chilli... baby-back ribs!
First appearing in the second film, Myers dusted off the over-blown Scottish accent last seen in the film So I Married an Axe-Murderer to play the 'disgruntled Scot's Guard, weighing a metric ton'. A double-agent acting for Dr Evil, it is Fat Bastard who steals Austin Powers' mojo while he lies in stasis. Fat, flatulent and ginger, Fat Bastard is convinced totally of his own status as an object of desire to the opposite sex, claiming that 'Once you've had fat, you never go back'. On a more disturbing note, he also claims to have dined on many meats, including baby - 'the other, other white meat'.
Number Two (Robert Wagner/Rob Lowe)
Dr Evil, perhaps we could leave the family squabbling until later?
Working directly under Dr Evil and probably the real brains behind the multi-million dollar Virtucon empire, Number Two has long suffered from the fact that while his boss wants to take over the world he would rather dominate the world of business. In the years that Dr Evil was in cryogenic stasis, Number Two built up the means by which the erstwhile villain can afford to menace the free world, so you can appreciate the fact that he gets a little upset when Virtucon is threatened as a result of these inept schemes. His name also gives Austin Powers the chance to demand to know: 'Who does Number Two work for?!?'
Goldmember (Mike Myers)
Dat's a keeper... Put it in de shkin box, shave me from myshelf.
Hailing from the Netherlands, suffering from leprosy and sporting quite literally a 'gold member', this roller-skating gold magnate spouts references to disco tracks of yesteryear in-between offering people 'a shmoke and a pancake'. Quite the most bizarre character in the trilogy, Goldmember is drafted in by Dr Evil to battle Austin Powers in yet another unsuccessful attempt to take the world by the 'short and curlies'. As the theme tune put it: 'He had the Midas touch/He touched it too much...'
Nigel Powers (Michael Caine)
There are two things I can't stand. One is intolerance of other cultures... The other is the Dutch.
Seeing as how the roles played by Michael Caine in the 1960s gave birth to the concept of Austin Powers himself, it seems only right that he should play Austin's on-screen father as well. Looking at Nigel Powers, it's easy to see where Austin inherited his fashion sense, attitude towards the opposite sex and awful teeth. The elder Powers first appears in Goldmember when the eponymous villain kidnaps him on the orders of Dr Evil.
Basil Exposition (Michael York)
Austin! that's my Mother!
Basil Exposition has worked for MI5 for over 30 years, keeping the British end up and collaborating with international allies from the United States to the former USSR and working closely with Austin Powers on many occasions. While Austin may be the international playboy with flamboyant style, Basil is the well-grounded Englishman always ready with a sensible turn of phrase and a dignified briefing. The only time he has been seen to loose his calm demeanour was the time he made the mistake of introducing his mother to Austin while the secret agent was on a mission, with disastrous results.
Vanessa Kensington (Elizabeth Hurley)
But his teeth, they're awful Mummy!
Following her mother firstly into MI5 and secondly into a leather catsuit at the side of Austin Powers, Miss Kensington at first finds herself repelled by Powers' sexism and lackadaisical attitude towards contraception. But after some time she warms to his charms and manages to break free of her prim and proper exterior and enjoy herself in his charming company.
Felicity Shagwell (Heather Graham)
Shagwell by name, shag very well by reputation.
Working undercover for the CIA and on the trail of Dr Evil, Felicity proves herself to be feisty and even more forward than Austin himself when he encounters her in London in the '70s. A dedicated field agent, she demonstrates her willingness to sacrifice herself in the course of duty when assigned to track down and interrogate Fat Bastard. She also likes a nice massage now and then.
Foxxy Cleopatra (Beyonce Knowles)
I'm Foxxy Cleopatra, and I'm a whole lot of woman.
The Destiny's Child member makes an admirable acting debut as the undercover FBI agent with a major afro and plenty of attitude. On the trail of Goldmember - whom she is sure killed her partner - Foxxy encounters her old flame Austin Powers when she is performing at a nightclub owned by the villain. Realising that they are both after the same man, the two team up and pursue Goldmember together, following him into the future. Now if she can only decide which generation of the Powers men she likes the best, Foxxy may be onto something.
The Mole (Fred Savage)
Look, I realise I have a large mole on my face; and I realise the irony that I too am myself a mole.
Fred Savage3 plays the MI6 double agent known only as The Mole. First popping up in the fold of Dr Evil, The Mole masquerades as 'Number Three' and generally sucks up around the bad guys to begin with. Later he is introduced to Austin Powers by Basil Exposition and named as the mole in Dr Evil's organisation. The universal fascination/revulsion that his mole elicits affects Austin, Dr Evil and even Mini Me when the latter defects to the other side and The Mole is assigned to debrief and welcome him to British Intelligence.
Further Reading, Baby!
Swing by New Line's fab official Austin Powers site.