In the late ’80s, Arnold Schwarzenegger felt like breaking free from the mold of the rough and tough action movie roles that defined him. So, he decided to take the route less traveled and went for a movie where the majority of his co-stars were… kindergartners.
Kindergarten Cop is a sweet and funny film about an undercover cop named Kimble (Arnie), who is tasked with replacing his fellow detective after she falls ill. He tries to turn the kids into police officers, turning “mush to muscles,” but learns that kids have a way of their own and that he needs to soften up if he wants them to listen.
You won’t believe what these kids look like now!
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Specific Demands
Arnold Schwarzenegger knows his worth, so it’s no surprise that he felt quite comfortable asking for specific things before agreeing to the role of John Kimble. His conditions were the following: Schwarzenegger wanted Ivan Reitman to be the director.
He wanted the movie to have a “physical fitness theme,” and he wanted the film to touch on subjects like broken homes, poor families, and child abuse (both mentally and physically). Luckily, the producers gave the actor what he wanted, because the discourse surrounding such sensitive topics is what really made this film stand out from other comedies at the time.
Kurt Russell and Robin Williams Were in the Running for the Role of Kimble
It’s nearly impossible to picture anyone else in John Kimble’s shoes. However, Schwarzenegger wasn’t the casting director’s first pick for the role. A few other big names were in the running for the part of rough and tough Detective Kimble.
These names include Kurt Russell and Robin Williams, as well Bill Murray, Patrick Swayze, and Danny DeVito. Perhaps the weirdest name in the running was Chuck Norris, who was also asked to audition. Luckily, Schwarzenegger got the role.
Elijah Wood’s Cringy Audition
Yup, we know it’s weird to think about this, but Lord of the Rings star Elijah Wood actually auditioned for a part in the film. If he had landed the role, this would have been one of his first childhood appearances on screen. Sadly, though, he didn’t get the part.
According to Elijah Wood, the audition he gave was “the worst” one of his entire career. The film’s director, Ivan Reitman would certainly agree. He told then nine-year-old Wood that his acting was “not believable.” The poor guy went on to describe this experience as “traumatic.”
Schwarzenegger Was Terrified to Act in Front of Children
Schwarzenegger has starred in some wacky roles throughout his career. However, acting in Kindergarten Cop apparently scared him the most. Why? Arnold wasn’t a fan of acting alongside kids. They made him nervous.
Schwarzenegger genuinely felt like the character in the film. He had a point there, keeping the kids together was no easy feat. “After the first day of filming, I was in a sweat,” director Ivan Reitman revealed.
Schwarzenegger’s Surprise Birthday Party
Celebrating your birthday at work might be a drag sometimes, but it appears as though Arnold had a blast when he turned 43 on the set of the film. The cast and crew of Kindergarten Cop surprised the actor with an on-set birthday party, with the adorable kids singing Happy Birthday as he walked in.
Arnold must have been thankful for arriving to set that morning, and in general, for agreeing to act in a movie with kids despite his fears. The surprise birthday party surely lit up Schwarzenegger’s day!
Penelope Ann Miller Had Her Doubts About the Role
Penelope Ann Miller shines in the movie as Kimble’s fellow teacher turned love interest. However, the actress was initially quite reluctant to accept the role. Penelope explained her doubts in a 2009 interview: “I just had done theater, and I had just come off of working with Robert De Niro on Awakenings, and I just was like … Arnold Schwarzenegger? He’s, like, the barbarian movies and stuff.”
Penelope Ann Miller eventually cast her doubts aside and ended up agreeing to the role. To this day, she says it’s one of the best choices she’s made. She looks back favorably on the film and has zero regrets about taking the part.
Some of the Kids Became Child Stars
The little fellas in the movie are all grown up now, and some of the kids have really achieved spectacular things. For example, actor Adam Wylie, the one who plays Larry, went on to star as Brad Langford on the hit series Gilmore Girls.
Another example is Ross Malinger, the one who plays Harvey. He went on to star as Tom Hanks’ son Jonah in the movie Sleepless in Seattle. Another notable name is Odette Annable, who played Rosa. Odette went on to land a role in Cloverfield, as well as starring in several shows including Supergirl and House.
Schwarzenegger Juggled Two Films
Kindergarten Cop wasn’t the only movie Arnold Schwarzenegger was working on at the time. In the ’80s and ’90s, the actor’s schedule was packed with different projects. And while working on the set with the kids, he was also working on the movie Terminator 2: Judgement Day.
In between workdays on the set of Kindergarten Cop, Arnold Schwarzenegger had to travel to LA so he could film a trailer for the upcoming Terminator movie, before heading right back to the children to resume filming.
Pamela Reed Loved Putting on an Accent
In Kindergarten Cop, Pamela Reed stars as Kimble’s police partner, Phoebe O’Hara. At one point in the movie, Phoebe is forced to act as if she were Kimble’s sister, and to make it believable, she had to speak in an Austrian accent to match Schwarzenegger’s form of speech.
During an interview with Entertainment Weekly in 1991, the actress revealed that she had a blast learning how to speak in a true Austrian accent. “Inside of an hour, he was calling me ‘my leetle Pemelah’ and I was calling him ‘my deah Ah-nold,” she reminisced.
Kimble Is His Favorite Role
Schwarzenegger has starred in a lot of exciting roles throughout his career. Some are heavier and more action-packed than others. But funnily the more lighthearted character of John Kimble is his absolute favorite.
Arnold Schwarzenegger apparently enjoyed trying out something a little different from his normal action hero roles. The actor also said he eventually enjoyed acting alongside the children (that is, once he got over his initial uneasiness).
The Film’s Foggy and Rainy Location
The film’s director Ivan Reitman chose the rainy and foggy town of Astoria, Oregon as the movie’s location. He liked the look of the place and decided to go for it after thorough deliberation. For a little over a week, most of the kids (kindergarten through fourth graders) at John Jacob Astor Elementary School were given $35 a day to star as extras.
This wasn’t the first time the school was smack in the middle of a movie set. In 1985, right down the road from the school, The Goonies was shot. In Kindergarten Cop, though, the scenes shot in classrooms were shot on a Universal soundstage in LA so that Arnold Schwarzenegger could be close to his family.
Schwarzenegger Wanted Ivan Reitman to Direct
The reason Arnold insisted on having Ivan Reitman on the set as the movie’s director was because he believed that the man had a way with kids. According to Arnold, Reitman knew how to talk to them and calm them down.
But it wasn’t like working with kids came naturally to Reitman. The director once admitted: “My shirt was all wet [after the first day of filming], my voice was hoarse, and I had this really panicked look in my eyes. So, I developed the five Reitman rules of filmmaking—listen, act natural, know your character, don’t look in the camera, and discipline.”
Ivan Reitman’s Son Was in the Film Too
Now a four-time Oscar nominee, Jason Reitman has come a long way since his days on the set of Kindergarten Cop. Looks like he followed in his father’s footsteps. Jason grew up to direct films including Juno, Up in the Air, and Young Adult.
When he was younger, he played the role of “Kissing Boy” in Kindergarten Cop, which actually marked his first kiss in real life too! “It was really embarrassing,” Reitman recalled, “My kissing was half as bad as my acting. I doubt she knew it was my first kiss. Her name was Tiffany.”
He Was a Hypocrite When It Came to Ferrets
In the film, Kimble brings in a ferret to shine as the class mascot. But in real life, it looks like Arnold Schwarzenegger isn’t too fond of the animal. Apparently, in California, owning a ferret is illegal, and it has been so since the 1930s. In 2004, though, the state passed a bill to drop the ban but was then vetoed by the governor, Mr. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Apart from bringing a ferret into the classroom, Arnold Schwarzenegger also gave a surprise commencement speech to the high school nearby. Astoria High School’s graduating class in 1990 had the honor of listening to some of Arnold’s words while he was in town shooting the film.
Stephen Root Was Removed From the Movie
The creative character actor who also worked as Jimmy James on NewsRadio, as well as the voice of Bill on King of the Hill and Milton in Office Space, starred in Kindergarten Cop as a sheriff in a scene that was, unfortunately, taken out.
This wouldn’t be the first time he was cut out of a film. He was also cut out of another movie – 2004’s Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. Oh well, the movie still came out great, with or without Stephen Root.
“Who Is Your Daddy” Was Partly Scripted
One of the most memorable scenes in the movie is the one where John Kimble asks the children in his classroom all sorts of important questions, including the most important one of all: “who is your daddy, and what does he do?”
In the scene, the kids start to detail all the different jobs their fathers do. Fun fact – this scene was just partly scripted. A few of the lines that were given came directly from the children themselves. Ivan Reitman explained: “I gave some kids lines to say, but half of them were real…They talked about what their real fathers did and they enjoyed that.”
Miller Gave Schwarzenegger Kissing Lessons
Penelope Ann Miller played Schwarzenegger’s love interest in the film and fellow teacher. In the movie, she falls for Schwarzenegger who plays an undercover cop masking as a kindergarten teacher.
During one of the scenes in the film, Miller’s character shares a kiss with Schwarzenegger. But for the scene to come out just right, Miller had to teach the actor a thing or two about smooching properly. She instructed Arnold to hold her breath before going in for the kiss, or else it would look like the two were “swallowing each other up.”
The Film Made Hummer Vehicles Available to the Public
While on the set of the film in Astoria, Oregon, Arnold Schwarzenegger spotted a convoy of military Humvees speeding on by. The actor said he absolutely had to meet the executives of the military contractor who were responsible for the cars.
Arnold wanted to sign waivers and acquire a vehicle of his own. The actor managed to gradually convince the company to design the car to suit the civilian market. His request finally bore fruit in 1992. Good for Arnie!
A School Trip Was Canceled
After the movie wrapped up, John Jacob Astor Elementary School’s principal, Judy Bigby, wanted to take all of the school’s 400 students to watch the film. However, she watched it first on her own and later changed her mind.
She believed that the movie was a tad too violent for them (indeed, it was rated PG-13). One 9-year-old from Astoria who did manage to see the film was quoted by People Magazine saying he believed that the film was pretty good. “Not to make Mrs. Bigby sound bad, but I would call it more comedy than violent,” he politely explained.
Schwarzenegger Believed That It Was Violent
Not only did Arnold agree that the movie shouldn’t be screened for young children, but he believed that the controversy surrounding the violence in the movie wasn’t worth it and that it cost the producers quite a lot.
Arnold estimated that the issues surrounding the violence cost the movie around $25 million in box office receipts. “It should have reached the exact same audience as Twins,” he claimed, “which made over $110 million; Kindergarten Cop made $85 million.”
Writing the Right Stuff
The movie’s screenplay was written by Murray Salem, Herschel Weingrod, and Timothy Harris. As well as jotting down the funny screenplay for this Arnold picture, Weingrod and Harris also worked on the script for Twins (1988), which was also directed by Ivan Reitman and starred Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Fun fact about Kindergarten Cop: Over 2,000 children were auditioned for roles in the movie. This massive number was then filtered and whittled down considerably, with most of the children featured in the movie being non-actors.
The German in Arnold Kicked In
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s fans know him best as the Austrian dude who speaks English with a prominent foreign accent. Indeed, the actor has made light of his own way of speaking for several years, turning what was once viewed as a form of a handicap, into a major signature strength.
In the movie, during the scene in which Kimble carries Phoebe into a hotel room, he blurts out a quote in German, “das macht mich stocksauer, jetzt bin ich sauer!” This translates to: “That makes me really angry! Now I am angry!”
A Surprise Zoom Reunion
In 2020, Arnold Schwarzenegger surprised his former co-stars (who are now all grown up) with a heartwarming zoom reunion. “Hello,” Arnold said to his cast members, “It’s the funniest thing to see all of you guys… I haven’t seen you guys in all these years. It’s wild.”
The former rambunctious kids who played in Arnold’s class and appeared on the zoom call were: Christian Cousins, Miko Hughes, Brian Wagner, Adam Wylie, and twins Krystle and Tiffany Mataras. Miko was elated: “This is the coolest surprise. I would have never expected this.”
The Kids Made the Movie
Christian Cousins starred in the film as Dominic, a little boy Kimble was tasked with rescuing from his drug lord father. The now grown-up Cousins thanked Arnold Schwarzenegger for “saving [his] life from Richard Tyson in the locker room area.”
“After 30 years I want to thank you again,” he stated, adding, “It was a pleasure playing Dominic with you.” Even though the former kid actors all thanked Arnold, he insisted that the movie came out great thanks to them. “Without any doubt, it was the performance of you kids that really made this movie,” he said. “That’s what made it endearing, that’s what made it successful, and people wanted to watch it over and over again.”
They Prepared Him for Fatherhood
After catching up with all his younger costars, Arnold Schwarzenegger shared that the time spent with them really prepared him for fatherhood. Arnie and his wife Maria Shriver welcomed a baby girl named Katherine in December of 1989, about a year after the film premiered.
“It was a warm-up for my kids,” Schwarzenegger, now a father of five, claimed, “By hanging out with you guys between the breaks and talking to you and all that, this movie really helped me become a better parent myself with my kids. It really helped me raise my kids.”
Best Quotes of the Film – “I’m the Party Pooper”
Arnold’s character Kimble lets himself into a club, despite being uninvited, all so he could convince Cindy, a witness, to identify Crisp out of a line-up. He creates a bit of havoc in the place with his shotgun, and when an anonymous person asks to know who in the world he is, he answers: “I’m the party pooper.”
The way Arnold’s character responds in a calm manner before shooting the couch the guy who asked the question is sitting on is precisely what makes this line so funny. In true Arnold Schwarzenegger fashion, the actor gave this ordinary line a whole new meaning.
“You Know, Kindergarten Is Like the Ocean. You Don’t Want to Turn Your Back On It”
This deeply poetic advice came from Joyce, one of the teachers in the film who is also the mother of one of Kimble’s students. She ends up being the woman Kimble is after and whom he later falls in love with. The advice is means that if children are left unsupervised, all kinds of trouble can happen.
Joyce likely knew that Kimble would be returning to absolute disaster in the class, which he did. More times than not, Kimble lost it after trying to tame the kids and gave up. This was a lesson Kimble had to learn the hard way.
“If You Don’t Stop Screwing Around Back There, This Is What I’m Gonna Do With You”
On Phoebe and Kimble’s flight from Los Angeles to Oregon, they find themselves sitting, unfortunately, right in front of kids, one of whom keeps kicking Kimble’s seat. Obviously, no one wants to put up with that for a whole flight. So, Kimble freaks the poor kid out.
He states the above quote and snaps a pencil in half, leaving the child pale and frightened. It did the job because right after he threatened him, the kid scooched back in his chair and sat quietly for the rest of the flight.
“I’m Not a Policeman, I’m a Princess!”
The very first time Emma says this line, she’s confident and tough. However, when she says it again, looking up at the tall and intimidating Kimble, she repeats it in a softer manner. Little Emma tries to rebel against Kimble’s strict ways but doesn’t manage to pull it off, probably because of how scary-looking Kimble was.
In the scene, Emma broke Kimble’s rules and refused to do what the rest of the class was doing. Kimble told her that this was “police school,” but Emma refused to take his word for it. It’s highly unlikely Emma grew up to be a cop.
“You Can’t Just Walk in Here and Put a Gun in My Face. I’m Trying to Get a Manicure”
The character of Crisp is an evil, evil guy; it’s no wonder Kimble has been chasing after him for so long in the hopes of protecting Dominic and Joyce from him. Even so, Crisp still had his funny moments. He says the above quote at the start of the movie when Kimble barges in to arrest him.
Of all the things one could say when being arrested, Crisp casually responded with, “You can’t just walk in here and put a gun in my face. I’m trying to get a manicure.” Richard Tyson was perfect for this role!
“What Did It Feel Like to Hit That Son of a B****?”
In the movie, Kimble expected Principal Schlowski to be angry with him for being violent towards a parent, an abusive father who had been mistreating his son and wife. The showdown happened out in the open where all students accidentally witnessed it. But Kimble ends up being surprised to hear the principal ask this question.
Kimble responds that it felt good, and after Principal Schlowski smiles, he turns around and leaves. The principal then throws her fist into the air, probably envisioning the father as her target. At this point in the film, it looks as though Principal Schlowski is beginning to like Kimble, whereas at first, she was positive that he would fail and quit.
“On Second Thought, Take the Gun”
At one point in the film, Phoebe is too sick to do her job as an undercover kindergarten teacher, so she asks Kimble to replace her. As he prepares himself for the job, he asks Phoebe how he looks. She advises him to remove the gun.
But then, after further deliberation over the troubles that six-year-olds are capable of doing, Phoebe rethinks it and tells Kimble, “On second thought, take the gun.” Given Kimble’s disastrous first day on the job, it looks like Phoebe had a point.
“Our Mom Says That Our Dad Is a Real Sex Machine”
While Kimble questions the children on their fathers’ professions, twin girls give him one truly honest answer. They obviously didn’t know what it meant and were simply repeating what they heard at home, but surely their mom would be mortified to learn that this is what their girls told the kindergarten teacher.
Kids don’t know the meaning of such words, but adults do. The twins’ innocent way of saying the line is what makes this phrase so funny: that and also the look Kimble shoots them when he hears it. He definitely wasn’t expecting that answer.
“Not So Tough Without Your Car, Are Ya?”
While attempting to find her way back into the school (which is currently on fire), Phoebe is hit by a vehicle. Sitting behind the wheel is Crisp’s mom. The blow temporarily stuns her, but then Phoebe finds another way inside and beats Crisp’s mom with a baseball bat.
Phoebe eventually gets her revenge, and adds a fun, witty quote to top it off. Unless there’s a vehicle involved, Crisp’s mom won’t be able to win a fight. Phoebe ends up proving that she’s one fierce detective who can get hit by a car and keep on fighting.
“Boys Have a Penis and Girls Have a Vagina”
One of the kids in Kimble’s class says this quote on his very first day, making everyone in the class burst into laughter. This line is certainly an icebreaker, and it turns into a recurring joke of some sort.
Later in the movie, that same little boy repeats this line to Kimble’s work partner, Phoebe, who concludes that Kimble had indeed “covered the basics.” This line surely made audiences laugh in cinemas when they heard it for the first time.
Now & Then – Joseph (Miko Hughes)
Miko Hughes played Joseph, the hilarious little kid who breaks the ice with his wise tip that boys and girls have different genitals. The child star was just 27 months old when he was cast for his first major role in 1989’s horror flick Pet Sematary.
Hughes has since then starred in a string of films and TV productions. His credits include Apollo 13 (alongside Tom Hanks) as well as Full House. According to the actor’s IMDB page, he still acts here and there has a few minor roles lined up.
Larry (Adam Wylie)
A cute, freckled ginger with an adorable face, Larry, played by Adam Wyle was the kid who let out a cry when Kimble yelled “SHUT UP” in the middle of the classroom. He calmed down right after, when Kimble showed up with the new class mascot – the ferret.
Nowadays, the actor is in his 30s, and while he doesn’t appear much on the screen, he’s grown to become a successful voice actor! He has amassed nearly 14 acting credits on his resume. Many of you might recognize him as the voice from the hit cartoon Hey Arnold.
Dominic (Christian & Joseph Cousins)
Dominic was the cute little boy Kimble protects from his abusive father, Cullen Crisp. The character is played by twins Christian and Joseph Cousins. After Kindergarten Cop, the twins shared another role in Knots Landing.
In 1995, after a few short years of working together and apart, they retired from acting. According to their Facebook pages, Joseph works as a stylist, and Christian is the Director of Sales for Orient Express Furniture.
Tina & Rina (Tiffany & Krystle Mataras)
Twins Tina and Rina arguably said the most risqué phrase in the whole movie. When Kimble asks what their dad does for a living, they answer: “Our mom says our dad is a real sex machine.” These little twins also made every ‘90s girl want to pick up her hair in a side pony.
In the ’90s, they were one of the most famous sets of twin child stars in show business. You can find them in a bunch of other ’90s films including Single White Female, Problem Child 2, and Camp Nowhere. At the start of the century, they took a break from Hollywood and created a business together called Wasted Cupcakes – booze filled delicacies!
Rosa (Odette Annable)
In the film, Rosa made us all laugh by confusing Kimble with her Spanish. In the famous scene when the undercover cop asks the class, “Who is your daddy and what does he do?” Rosa politely responds, “Mi papa trabaja en la casa, y juega conmigo mucho.” This translates to “My father works in the house and plays with me a lot.”
Nowadays, this brunette beauty is mostly known for her 2008 role in the smash hit Cloverfield. Two years later, she tied the knot with her co-star from Brothers & Sisters, Dave Annable. She was also listed to star in ABC’s The Astronaut Wives’ Club.
Emma (Sarah Rose Karr)
Emma, played by Sarah Rose Karr, is the adorable girl who argues with Kimble that she’s not a police officer but a princess! After the movie wrapped up, Sarah Rose Karr went on to star in Father of the Bride and in the hit franchise, Beethoven.
However, at one point, Sarah and her unbelievable cuteness pretty much vanished from the scene. Today, Sarah’s whereabouts aren’t very clear. Some sources claim that she went to the New University of Florida and moved on with her life.
Harvey (Ross Malinger)
While Harvey wasn’t a major character in the movie, actor Ross Malinger seemed to charm the pants off Hollywood executives because two years after the movie’s release, he landed the role of Tom Hanks’ son, Jonah, in Sleepless in Seattle!
If you look at Ross’ IMDb page, his resume is pretty impressive. He appeared in several TV shows, such as Suddenly Susan and Party of Five. Nowadays, though, he’s no longer in Hollywood. Instead of acting, he works as the manager of Automotive Legends in Malibu, California.