10 Things You Didn’t Know About Wet Hot American Summer

Source: Netflix

The TV adaptation of the hilarious cult film Wet Hot American Summer will premiere at midnight the night of Thursday, July 30 on Netflix, and we’re so excited we can barely keep our swim trunks on. The movie, which came out in 2001 (can you believe it’s been 14 years?!), was set at the last day of a Jewish summer camp in 1981 and starred Janeane Garofalo, David Hyde Pierce and a veritable treasure trove of now-super-famous actors, including Paul Rudd, Bradley Cooper, Amy Poehler, Christopher Meloni, Molly Shannon, Michael Ian Black, Elizabeth Banks and more. Here are 10 things you didn’t know about the movie and much-anticipated summer TV series:

10. The Show Brings Back A Lot of the Movie’s Original Stars

The new Netflix show, which is officially called Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp, is written by the show’s original creators, Michael Showalter and David Wain, and also puts Wain back at the helm. Consisting of eight episodes, the show will include a lot of the movie’s original stars. Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler, Christopher Meloni, Bradley Cooper, Michael Ian Black, Molly Shannon, Marguerite Moreau, Ken Marino, Joe Lo Truglio and Elizabeth Banks will all appear in the new series.

(c) USA Films/ Courtesy: Everett Collection

9. Some Huge Stars Are Joining The Cast

In addition to the amazing list of names returning, many big stars are joining the show, including a couple you’ll recognize from Mad Men and Glee. You’ll get to see  Jason Schwartzmann, Jon Hamm, Kristin Wiig, Rich Sommer, Chris Pine, Rob Huebel, John Slattery, Jayma Mays, Josh Charles, Randall Park and probably my favorite addition, Weird Al Yankovic, who apparently plays someone named Jackie Brazen.  It’s honestly hard to imagine how the show is going to fit this many people in just eight episodes.

Helga Esteb /

8. The Show Will Be A Prequel

Even though all of the stars of Wet Hot American Summer are 14 years older (and were older than their characters to begin with), the show will be a prequel to the movie, taking place two months before the movie did. The show will give us a glimpse of the very first day at Camp Firewood, and it’s going to be hilarious to watch 40-somethings pretend to be teenagers and young adults in their early 20s.

Source: Netflix

7. The Movie Was A Box Office Flop

It’s kind of rare to revisit a movie that wasn’t a financial success — and Wet Hot American Summer definitely wasn’t. According to Wikipedia, the film’s budget was only $1.8 million, but when the movie first premiered at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival, filmmakers said it cost $5 million in the hopes of attracting buyers. The film was shown to four different sold-out crowds — but even still, no company stepped up to distribute it. Months later, USA Films offered the filmmakers $100,000 for the film and the investors accepted, even though the deal meant that the filmmakers would make very little money off of it. The movie premiered in New York City on July 27, 2001 and then got a limited theatrical release in fewer than 30 cities. According to Box Office Mojo, the movie only made $295,206 in domestic gross.

(c) USA Films/ Courtesy: Everett Collection.

6. The Movie Received Generally Poor Reviews

Even though viewers at the Sundance Film Festival seemed to like Wet Hot American Summer, film critics were not as generous. The movie only has 31% on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 72 reviews, and it has a Metacritic rating of 42 out of 100, based on 24 reviews. Roger Ebert only gave the film one star out of a possible four and was very sarcastic in his panning of the film. However, some movie reviewers saw what audiences have grown to love over the years. Entertainment Weekly rated the film with an “A” and called it one of the ten best films of the year. Newsweek also gave it a glowing review, with David Ansen calling it a “gloriously silly romp” that “made [him] laugh harder than any other movie this summer. Make that this year.”

USA Films

5. Bradley Cooper Will Wear A Shiny Leotard

In a trailer that was released in early July, we got a sneak peek at some of the things that will happen on the show, and one of the most promising moments gives us a glimpse of Bradley Cooper in a pretty, well, special outfit. It’s a tight, shiny, blue and gold number that could be a leotard or figure skating outfit. Or, given that the trailer also tells us that there will be a musical theater performance at the camp, perhaps it’s just a dancing outfit. We’ve all seen The Silver Linings Playbook so we know that Brad’s got the goods on the dance floor. Are you excited?

4. Ronald Reagan Is Involved

It might seem a bit strange that a U.S. President would be a character on a show about a summer camp, but Michael Showalter (one of the show’s and movie’s creators) also stars as Gerald ‘Coop’ Cooperberg/Alan Shemper in the series — and he also plays Ronald Reagan (who was president when the show took place, in the year 1981). We have no idea how this comes to be, so we’ll have to watch and figure it out!

Source: Netflix

3. The Actors Ended Up With Different Roles Than Originally Planned

Back in 2011, when Wet Hot American Summer was celebrating its 10th anniversary, Details magazine interviewed the writers, directors and actors for a comprehensive oral history of the movie. The piece contains a lot of cool behind-the-scenes facts about how the movie came together, including that Amy Poehler originally auditioned for Marguerite Moreau’s part, in addition to the role of Susie (the character she ultimately played). Meanwhile, Elizabeth Banks originally auditioned for Marguerite’s role too, and admitted she was disappointed that she didn’t get the part. “To me, playing Barbecue Sauce Girl was a consolation prize,” Elizabeth said. But Marguerite also auditioned for Barbecue Sauce Girl — and then David Wain saw an innocence in her, something you don’t immediately consider when you think of Amy Poehler or Elizabeth Banks.

Source: Netflix

2.  The Actors Stayed At The Camp And Ate Camp Food

Also in the Details article, the actors and creators revealed that while shooting the movie, the actors had a very authentic camp experience at Camp Towanda in Pennsylvania. “We would eat in the chow hall. We slept where the campers sleep,” Paul Rudd explained. Ken Marino chimed in: “The crew stayed in one bunk area for kids, and all of us [in the cast] stayed in the nurse’s quarters— basically the room Janeane and Joe destroy looking for the phone.” Molly Shannon enjoyed the low-budget experience: “With hair and makeup, I don’t even think we had mirrors,” she said. “It was just in cabins. I loved how free it was. It felt like when you’re little and you make up a show.” But Michael Ian Black was not thrilled with the food: “I don’t know what they were f—ing thinking, but they contracted the actual people who make food for the camp to make food for us,” he explained. “And, you know, pizza bagels every day when you’re 11 years old is a dream. When you’re 30, and it’s pizza bagels every day, you wanna kill somebody.”

Source: USA Films

1. The Original Script Involved A Murder

According to IMDB Trivia, the shooting script for the film included a very dark scene in which counselor Andy (played by Paul Rudd) murdered a camper to cover up the fact that so many campers drowned or died in other ways under his watch. (Have we mentioned that Andy is a terrible camp counselor?) However, director and co-writer David Wain says that his father read the script and told him that he’d disown him as a son if David kept something that horrific in the film. As a result, he took it out.

Source: USA Films

Amanda Young