Hardly has there ever been a film that has entered into the general lexicon as the Full Monty. Although the term is now generally described as a strip show, the English slang, if you look it up in the diction is actually to do something “by whatever means necessary.”
The Full Monty was a blockbuster hit released in 1997 and launched the careers of some very important British actors including Robert Carlyle and Tom Wilkinson.
The story revolves around a group of steel mill workers from Sheffield who find themselves unemployed with the mill shuts down. One day, one of the former steelworkers, Gary, sees a lineup of outside a local club to see a Chippendales' striptease act. He gets the idea to form his own striptease group using local men in hopes of making enough money to pay off his child support obligations.
The first to join the group is a security guard at the steel mill where the men worked. Feeling depressed, Lomper attempts suicide, but is rescued and convinced to join the group. Next, they recruit Gerald, their former foreman at the mill, who is hiding the fact that he is unemployed from his wife. In total six men join the group.
The men take dance lessons and begin to practice their act all the while trying to advertise their show. After a couple of failures, Gary realizes they can compete with the Chippendales by going the Full Monty. The other members of the group are unsure but Gary manages to convince them.
The film was first passed on by Film4 and Miramax because they thought it was too similar to another English film they had committed to called Brassed Off about a bunch of British unemployed guys who compete in a musical show: If you’re scratching your head you’re not alone – it is one of Miramax’s rare missteps. Fox Searchlight ended up financing it very low-budget, for around $6 million. It was written by Peter Cattaneo who also directed the film.
The stripping sequence was shot in one day, halfway through the shoot. Robert Carlyle, who just the previous year stared in another classic, Trainspotting, specified he could only do one take of them naked. In the script, the final reveal was written as a full-frontal naked star jump. Cattaneo knew we wouldn’t be able to show any genitals, so he tried to be clever by positioning the camera low in the crowd, with hands going up in the air to cover the actors. But it was too hard to pull off spontaneously which was when he realised he could just shoot in from the back, with just a row of bums.
Despite being a comedy, the film quickly became a classic because it also touches on serious subjects such as depression, body image, working class culture, unemployment. It was a critical success, making $258m worldwide, the 10th biggest film that year. It was also the highest-grossing film in the UK until it was outsold by Titanic which came out later that year. It won the BAFTA Award for Best Film, and was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best Original Music Score, winning the last. The British Film Institute ranked The Full Monty the 25th best British film of the 20th century. The film was later adapted into the 2000 musical The Full Monty, and in 2013, it became a play.
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