Died: December 18, 1997 (at age 33)
Birthplace: Madison, Wisconsin, U.S.
Christopher Crosby "Chris" Farley (February 15, 1964 - December 18, 1997) was an American actor and comedian. Farley was known for his loud, energetic comedic style, and was a member of Chicago's Second City Theatre and later a cast member of the NBC sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live between 1990 and 1995. Farley died of a drug overdose in 1997 at the age of 33.
Farley was born on February 15, 1964 in Madison, Wisconsin. His father, Thomas John Farley, Sr. (1936-1999), owned an oil company, and his mother, Mary Anne (née Crosby), was a housewife. He had four siblings: Tom Jr., Kevin, John, and Barbara. His cousin, Jim, is the CEO and Chairman at Ford Motor Company Europe.
Farley's family is Roman Catholic and of Irish and Scottish descent, and Farley attended numerous Catholic schools in his hometown, including Edgewood High School of the Sacred Heart. According to Joel Murray, a fellow Second City cast member, Farley would "always make it to Mass." Many of his summers were spent as a camper and counselor at Red Arrow Camp, near Minocqua, Wisconsin. He graduated from Marquette University in 1986, with a concentration in communications and theater. At Marquette, he played rugby and discovered a love for comedy. After college, he worked with his father at the Scotch Oil Company in Madison. He got his start in professional comedy at the Ark Improv Theatre in Madison, and at the Improv Olympic theater in Chicago. He then performed at Chicago's Second City Theatre, initially as part of Second City's touring group. He was eventually promoted to their main stage.
Along with Chris Rock, Farley was one of two new Saturday Night Live cast members announced in the spring of 1990. On SNL, Farley frequently collaborated with his fellow cast members Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Rob Schneider, and David Spade, among others. This group came to be known as the "Bad Boys of SNL."
Popular characters performed by Farley included Matt Foley, an over-the-top motivational speaker who constantly reminded other characters that he "lived in a van, down by the river". The name of the character was drawn from a real life friend of Farley's named Matt Foley, who, during a troubled period, lived in a van near a river. He later became a Catholic priest and appeared in the 2015 documentary "I am Chris Farley". In early renditions of the character, Farley used other names, depending on whom he knew in the audience, until the real life Foley went to the show and had his name used, at which point Farley felt the name best suited the character and refused to change it. Some of the mannerisms of the character were a combination of the positions Farley noticed his Rugby teammates take (at the pitch), coupled with the angry, high pitched yet low volume/muffled voice his father used when he was angry; Todd O'Connor of Bill Swerski's Superfans, a group of stereotypical Chicagoans who constantly shouted "da Bears!"; a Chippendale's dancer, in a famous sketch that paired him with guest host Patrick Swayze; one of the "Gap Girls", who hung out together at a local mall; a stereotypical lunch lady, to the theme of Lunchlady Land performed by Adam Sandler; Bennett Brauer, a Weekend Update commentator who often divulged his personal and hygienic problems via air quotes; and himself on The Chris Farley Show, a talk show in which Farley quite often "interviewed" the guest, regularly getting very nervous.
Some of these characters were brought to SNL from his days at Second City. Farley also performed impersonations of Tom Arnold, who gave Farley's eulogy at his private funeral; Andrew Giuliani, Jerry Garcia, Meat Loaf, Norman Schwarzkopf, Dom DeLuise, Roger Ebert, Carnie Wilson, Newt Gingrich, Mindy Cohn, Mama Cass, Hank Williams, Jr., and Rush Limbaugh.
Off-screen, Farley was well known for his pranks in the offices of Saturday Night Live. This would refer to Sandler and Farley making late-night prank phone calls from the SNL offices in Rockefeller Center, with Sandler speaking in an old woman's voice and Farley farting into the phone and mooning cars from a limousine. He was also known to frequently get naked and do various stunts for laughs. Chris Rock once claimed that he probably saw Farley's private parts more than Farley's girlfriend did. Sandler told Conan O'Brien on Late Night that NBC fired him and Farley from the show in 1995.
During his time on SNL, Farley appeared in the comedy films Wayne's World, Coneheads, Airheads, and uncredited in Billy Madison. He also appeared in the Red Hot Chili Peppers music video for "Soul to Squeeze", which was a song featured on the Coneheads soundtrack.
After Farley and most of his fellow cast members were released from their contracts at Saturday Night Live following the 1994-1995 season, Farley began focusing on his film career. His first two major films co-starred his fellow SNL colleague and close friend David Spade. Together, the duo made the films Tommy Boy and Black Sheep. These were a success at the domestic box office, earning around $32 million each and gaining a large cult following on home video.
The two films established Farley as a relatively bankable star and he was given the title role of Beverly Hills Ninja, which finished in first place at the box office on its opening weekend.
Drug and alcohol abuse-related problems interfered with Farley's film work at this time. Production of his final film, Almost Heroes, was held up several times so Farley could enter rehab. He was known among comedic contemporaries and friends to be sensitive about how his comedy was perceived ("fatty-fall-down"), and was particularly hurt by harsh critical reactions to Tommy Boy, a film he enjoyed making. He was particularly dissatisfied with Black Sheep, an attempt by the studio to recapture the chemistry on Tommy Boy and was only 60 pages into the script when the project was green-lit. As a result, he relapsed again the night of the premier, which required further rehab before he would begin to work on Beverly Hills Ninja. After his death on December 18, 1997, his final completed films, Almost Heroes and Dirty Work, were released posthumously.
Farley was originally cast as the voice of the title character in the movie Shrek, recording about 80-90% of the character's dialogue, but died just before recording was finished. A story reel featuring a sample of Farley's recorded dialogue was released officially in 2015. The original version of Shrek was more like Farley himself, according to his brother.
Farley was slated for another voice role in Dinosaur as a young male brachiosaurus named Sorbus who, despite his gigantic nature, was frightened of heights. After his death, the character was rewritten as Baylene, an elderly female Brachiosaurus played by British actress Joan Plowright.
At the time of his death, Farley had been in talks to costar with Vince Vaughn in The Gelfin, and to star in a biographical film about comedian Fatty Arbuckle. Jim Carrey's role in the 1996 film The Cable Guy was originally intended for Farley, but scheduling conflicts forced him to decline.
Farley was slated to appear in a third Ghostbusters film, which was at the time intended to be about a new trio of Ghostbusters taking on overpopulation in Hell. Dav Pilkey, author of the children's book series Captain Underpants, had wanted Farley to play the title role in a potential television series based on the books, but discarded the idea after Farley's death.
Farley had been in talks for the lead in an adaptation of the novel A Confederacy of Dunces. Farley even expressed interest in portraying Atuk in an adaptation of the novel The Incomparable Atuk. Both of these shelved projects, along with the Arbuckle biopic, have been alleged to be cursed as Farley, John Belushi, and John Candy were each attached to all three roles, and all three died before any of the films entered production.
Following his final guest appearance on SNL on October 25, 1997 there was a visible decline in Farley's health. Farley's hoarse voice and flushed skin were the subject of public scrutiny. In the final years of his life, Farley had sought treatment for obesity and drug abuse on 17 occasions.
On December 18, 1997, he was found dead by his younger brother, John, in his apartment in the John Hancock Center in Chicago. An autopsy later revealed that Farley had died of an overdose of cocaine and morphine. Advanced atherosclerosis was cited as a "significant contributing factor." Farley's death is often compared to that of his SNL idol John Belushi, who also died at age 33 of an accidental drug overdose consisting of cocaine and heroin.
Farley's private funeral was held on December 23, 1997 at Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church in his hometown of Madison, Wisconsin. Over 500 people attended his funeral, including many comedians who had worked with him on Saturday Night Live and on film such as Dan Aykroyd and Adam Sandler. His remains were entombed at Resurrection Catholic Cemetery.
On August 26, 2005, Farley was posthumously awarded the 2,289th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, located in front of iO West. An authorized biography of Farley, The Chris Farley Show, was written by his brother Tom, Jr. and Tanner Colby. The song "Purple Stain" from the Red Hot Chili Peppers' 1999 album, Californication, contains the lyric "Farley is an angel and I can prove this" as a tribute to Farley.
In 2013, Farley's official Facebook page announced that a documentary on Farley's life was in production by Network Entertainment and Hodgee Films, called I Am Chris Farley. The film was directed by Brent Hodge, director of A Brony Tale, What Happens Next? and Cameron's House Rules and Derik Murray, director of I Am Evel Knievel. On August 10, 2015, the documentary made its television debut.
|1992||Wayne's World||Security Guard|
|1993||Coneheads||Ronnie the Mechanic|
|1993||Wayne's World 2||Milton|
|1995||Billy Madison||Bus Driver||Uncredited|
|1995||Tommy Boy||Thomas "Tommy" Callahan, III||MTV Movie Awards Best On-Screen Duo|
|1996||Black Sheep||Mike Donnelly|
|1997||Beverly Hills Ninja||Haru||Nominated — MTV Movie Awards Best Comedic Performance|
|1998||Almost Heroes||Bartholomew Hunt||Posthumous release|
|1998||Dirty Work||Jimmy No-Nose||Uncredited; Posthumous release, (final film role)|
|1990-1995||Saturday Night Live||Various characters||100 episodes|
|1992||The Jackie Thomas Show||Chris Thomas||1 episode|
|1993||The Larry Sanders Show||Himself||1 episode|
|1993||Roseanne||Man in Clothing Store||1 episode|
|1997||All That||Chef Farley||1 episode|