How Kurt Cobain inspired the plot of this 90s movie

22 August 2020, 16:00

The cast of Empire Records, 1995
The cast of Empire Records, 1995. Picture: Monarchy/Regency/Kobal/Shutterstock

The death of the Nirvana frontman influenced Rex Manning Day in Empire Records.

Empire Records was a must-see movie for alternative music fans in 1995. The film starred a young Liv Tyler and Renee Zellweger and the storyline reflected the 90s grunge era in which it was released. Now it seems the film has a closer connection to grunge than we thought, as it's emerged a major part of the plot was inspired by Nirvana's Kurt Cobain.

Liv Tyler, Johnny Whitworth and Renee Zellweger in Empire Records
Liv Tyler, Johnny Whitworth and Renee Zellweger in Empire Records. Picture: James Bridges/Monarchy/Regency/Kobal/Shutterstock

The plot concerns a record store in Delaware that's under threat of being bought out by a larger chain. The movie takes place over the course of one day. Store employee Lucas - played by Rory Cochrane - "borrows" the day's takings and gambles the lot at a casino in the hopes of saving the shop's independence.

There's also the small matter of Rex Manning Day, which is scheduled to take place at the store while all the drama goes on. Manning is a faded 1980s celebrity (played by faded 1980s celebrity Maxwell Caulfield) and his personal appearance at Empire Records leads to the repeated call of "Happy Rex Manning Day!"

As Huffington Post reports, every 8th of April sees die-hard fans of Empire Records celebrate "Rex Manning Day" in honour of the embarrasing PA that takes place in the store. Gifs, memes and other social media jokes reference this rather obscure plot device.

According to Ethan Embry, who played Mark in the film, 8 April was chosen specifically because it was the day that Cobain was found dead, having tragically taken his own life three days earlier.

In a tweet in 2018, the star wrote: "The reason we picked April 8th as the day to have the powdered/coifed Rex Manning visit Empire is because Kurt was found on the 8th of April, the day the music of the 90s lost its mascot."

While Empire Records was a critical and box office flop, it's since become something of a cult favourite, thanks in part to "Rex Manning Day" and the very 90s soundtrack that included songs by The Cranberries, Evan Dando and The Gin Blossoms.