When "Office Space" dropped into theaters in 1999, the live-action feature debut by writer-director Mike Judge (creator of "Beavis and Butt-head" and "King of the Hill") was accompanied by a resounding thud. It wasn't until a couple of years later, though, after the initial DVD release of the film, that the small -- and actually quite funny -- ensemble comedy about office drones who hate their soul-deadening jobs was catapulted from cult status into the stratosphere of bona fide DVD blockbuster.
Here's a measure of its cultural impact: Swingline, the stapler company whose name appears on a fire-engine-red stapler featured prominently in the film, received so many requests for the product that -- guess what? -- it had to start manufacturing one. (A production designer originally spray-painted a prop model, and, with Swingline's permission, slapped on the company's logo.)
New on DVD is "Office Space: Special Edition With Flair" (R, Fox; $19.98), a similarly souped-up version with fresh reminiscences by Judge and his cast, a handful of formerly unavailable deleted scenes (including an alternate ending), but, sadly, only snippets of the original animated short films Judge made for "Saturday Night Live" and on which the movie is based. What's more, the DVD-ROM features only work on Windows machines, not Macs, which may be an in-joke, but I'm not sure.
We caught up with Ron Livingston in Australia, where the "Office Space" star is shooting an installment of an upcoming TNT series based on Stephen King short stories. Even now, the actor says he's less surprised by the film's second wind than by the fact that what he calls a "really smart comedy that only looks like a dumb comedy" never really took off to begin with.
"I always hoped it would do well in theaters," he says. "When it didn't, I was kind of like, 'Huh. I guess I don't know as much as think I do. Oh, well.' " Not counting the "veterans and stewardesses" who remember him from his roles in "Band of Brothers" and "Sex and the City," Livingston, who calls the airport "a great barometer of how well a DVD is doing," says he's most widely recognized these days for his take-this-job-and-shove-it antihero Peter Gibbons.
"A year or two after the movie had come and gone, I started to get stopped in airports. At first, it was a trickle: hip college kids, film buffs and musicians. Then it was office workers. Before long, it was 65-year-old women and 14-year-old kids."
The 37-year-old actor says he supported himself with a variety of office temp jobs when he was breaking into show biz, so he can understand the film's appeal to the white-collar wage slave. "I wasn't any good at waiting tables, but I can type 50 to 60 words a minute." Still, he believes the film's message about hanging onto dignity transcends one's employment circumstances. "One of the things that catches people is that it's not so much their jobs they hate, but the way they're treated," Livingston says. "One thing that surprised me was when junior high kids caught on to it. I couldn't figure it out. I thought it'd be over their heads, but they also sit for eight hours and have an authority figure drone at them."
As for whether life in Hollywood has improved things in that regard, Livingston cracks wise: "You should go on some auditions some time."
Although there's been talk of a sequel -- mostly on the studio's part, not Judge's -- Livingston himself is ambivalent. "If Mike figured out a way to make one," he says, "I couldn't imagine sitting at home in my living room watching everyone else go back without me. But if you're just trying to do a sequel to make another 12 bucks from all the people whose money you didn't get the first time, why don't you just do another DVD? Oh, what do you know? They did."