Late in March, we were filling an order for our Bull Shit tee. No big deal, right? Normally, yes, but this was no ordinary purchase, because attached to the order was a note added by the customer:
This shirt is for the kid from the movie The Jerk! He’s grown up and turning 40. 🙂
Our curiosity naturally piqued, we fired back a response which led to a second exchange, and ultimately, an interview with Jon Leichter, the actor who played Billy in the film, and the recipient of said gift. Mr. Leichter was kind enough to wax eloquently on The Jerk and his memories thereof…
It Goes to 11: So the obvious question here — what do you think of our Bull Shit tee? Is it a fair approximation of the original? Any idea where the one you wore came from and how it ended up in The Jerk?
The original (left), side by side with our take (right).
Jon Leichter: I received the replica Bull Shit tee as a 40th birthday gift, and I was thrilled! For years, anyone who has known that I was in that scene in The Jerk has asked me if I got to keep the shirt (which I didn’t). The original shirt was allocated (and taken back) by the wardrobe department. I have no idea what they ever did with it. Too bad my mother didn’t request to keep it!
(Editor’s note: one imagines that it would be a tight fit at this point in time…)
It Goes to 11: Tell us a bit about how you were cast as Billy in The Jerk. How old were you at the time of filming?
Jon Leichter: I was born and grew up in Hollywood. You know how people always say to parents that their kids should be in movies? My parents took it literally.
At age 7, my father (who was in the music business) found an agent to represent me. I started going on auditions and booking gigs. I had a certain 70’s look that casting directors seemed to like. I did about 4 commercials before I got cast in The Jerk. I continued working until about age 9. My agent ended up leaving the business, and at the time I was too young to understand the implications and whether or not I cared to continue.
It Goes to 11: What can you remember of the carnival train shoot?
Jon Leichter: I remember several details of the train shoot quite well. The scene was filmed in a section of Griffith Park (in Hollywood). The specific area was called Travel Town. The train ride already existed as part of the park. I got to drive the train myself. There was a lever that controlled the speed and direction of the train. The more one pushed the lever forward, the faster the train went. One would put the lever into neutral for the acceleration to stop. Pulling back on the lever caused the train to go in reverse. There were no brakes, but there was an emergency brake, which I never used. I didn’t have to steer since the train was on a track. We filmed my scene in one day, and it was a blast!
It Goes to 11: There’s a look of pure glee on your face as the train rounds the track and Navin chases from behind. Was that improvised?