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It's been two decades since "Office Space" earned a cult following with its hilarious portrayal of workplace angst.
And Ron Livingston, who starred as frustrated IT worker Peter Gibbons in the 1999 comedy, recently looked back on the role in an interview with TODAY.
"It was my first lead in a studio film, so it was a big deal," he recalled. "It was a huge break. I thought it was gonna be the biggest thing I'd done so far. And I think it was. I saw the movie two or three days before it came out. And you could already tell, 'cause there just wasn't any press about it, there wasn't any advertising, that it was kinda getting dumped under the rug. And I saw the movie. And I was like, 'This movie is terrific. My parents are gonna love this when it's playing for a dollar at the second run theater in five years.'"
Livingston admits he was "kinda starstruck" working with Jennifer Aniston, who played his character's love interest, a waitress disgruntled with her own job (and its required "flair") at fictional restaurant Chotchkie's.
"Jennifer Aniston was just lovely," he said. "Probably the hardest thing about that job was trying to play off like I'm not starstruck by Jennifer Aniston while being starstruck by Jennifer. I'm still starstruck by Jennifer Aniston. So I think she probably remembers me as being, like, just awkward and weird, which is probably not far from the truth."
Of all the movie's running jokes, one of his favorites is Milton Waddam's unending devotion to his red Swingline stapler. But he still feels "a little bad" about the movie's use of Michael Bolton as a punchline for a character who shares his name.
"It's a funny premise; it's a funny concept." he said. "And if the movie didn't blow up the way it did, it'd be fine. But I sorta always felt bad that this really talented guy who's just trying to live his life, that we just blindsided him like that. But I think he seems to be doing OK regardless."
The actor says the movie's ending — which sees Peter leave the corporate world and find more fulfillment as a construction worker — is key to its appeal.
"There's been a lot made about that movie in relation to office work, and crappy jobs, which makes sense, 'cause the movie's called 'Office Space,'" he said. "But I think the reason it resonated is because really on a fundamental level it's just about a guy who's miserable — who, by the end of the movie, gives himself permission to quit the thing that's miserable, and do the thing that makes him happy, even though the status of the thing that makes him happy is much lower, and the pay is much lower. And for some reason, I think in America, that was a really novel idea at the time, that you could actually do that, that you could actually prioritize your happiness above your sort of success, and social status."
Livingston can be seen on two TV series this fall: “A Million Little Things,” an ABC drama about a group of friends reeling from a recent death, and “Loudermilk,” a comedy about a recovering alcoholic and substance abuse counselor airing on AT&T Audience Network.