‘Wayne’s World’ Director Penelope Speeris Reveals Why She Left Hollywood

By Tiffany Meier

“Wayne’s World” director Penelope Spheeris opened up in a new interview about why she left Hollywood for good.

“[Hollywood] changed into something that I didn’t want to be a part of,” she told the A.V. Club. “I really didn’t want to be a part of mainstream Hollywood anymore. It was too—it’s ugly. You have no friends in Hollywood. Hollywood is a lonely, lonely desert, especially as a woman.”

Spheeris is best known for directing the 1981 documentary “The Decline of Western Civilization,” the film “The Little Rascals” in 1994, as well as the Grammy-nominated “Bohemian Rhapsody” music video for her 1992 Hollywood film “Wayne’s World.” The film was so successful that “Wayne’s World” remains her highest-grossing film to date at $183.1 million at the box office, according to BoxOfficeMojo.com.

Director Penelope Spheeris attends Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences Hosts A 'Wayne's World' Reunion
Director Penelope Spheeris attends Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences Hosts A ‘Wayne’s World’ Reunion, Beverly Hills, Calif., April 23, 2013. (Valerie Macon/Getty Images)

In the interview with A.V. Club, Spheeris spoke about how her love for filmmaking began back in college.

“When I was at school at UCLA, they loaned [us] cameras and I was going home one day and I saw a bunch of crows flying in a field. I used some negative film, and I printed it as a negative so it was a black sky with white birds in it. That was my first piece of film I ever shot. And I’m like, ‘Man, this is cool!’ Filmmaking is about trying to master or change reality, and have your own interpretation of it.”

She continued, “I fell in love at that moment, and again when I did my film at UCLA called ‘Hats Off To Hollywood.’ I put some music to a shot of Hollywood Boulevard in, like, 1968 or something, and man, when you put music and movies together—it was like the sky opened up and God said, ‘You’re meant to do this.’ So I did it.”

However, Spheeris said everything changed when she started working with the Weinstein brothers on the 1998 film “Senseless,” which flopped, grossing $13 million on a budget of $15 million.

“You can’t screw up when you’re a woman. One little mistake, and you’re done,” she said. “Like ‘Senseless,’ they kept rewriting and rewriting it, and I’m like, ‘Dude, you guys, this is not working. Don’t keep rewriting it. Let me just do the movie I signed up to do.’ But they kept rewriting it, and it’s in my contract that I got to do what they say, you know?”

“So I had to do this movie, and it didn’t do very well,” she said. “And as a woman, when you do a movie that doesn’t do well, then you’re done. You’re in director jail.”

She said after that movie, she decided she didn’t want to work in the film business anymore.

“I was just finishing this movie and I said, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore. I don’t want to work in this movie business anymore.’ And as a matter of fact, that was that.”

Spheeris admitted that working in a male-dominated industry was tough, but she wasn’t “bitter” when she decided to leave. Her last credited film is “The Real St. Nick” from 2012.

“I got to a point where I said, ‘It’s not that important to me.’ It took a little while, because that was me. I identified with the movie business. ‘I am a filmmaker. That’s what I do,'” she said.

“Right now, I don’t identify with that anymore,” she said.

Her body of work—including her short films, music videos, documentaries, and feature films—currently reside in the Academy Film Archive in Los Angeles, according to the A.V. Club. “The Decline of Western Civilization” trilogy has been restored and is currently out on Blu-ray.