“The line I thought might resonate was not ‘Show me the money,’” Crowe told Premier. “It was Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding Jr.) talking about ‘the Kwan’—his own personal coinage for the combination of love, respect, and money. I like to think that Tidwell had been jealous of Dennis Rodman’s blend of pseudo-French trash-talk ‘inspirato.’ He wanted his own language, too, so ‘the Kwan’ was born. But once we began to show the movie, audiences were pleasant, at best, during Rod’s ‘Kwan’ speeches. It was the phrase that Cuba Gooding Jr., as Tidwell, forces the beaten-down Tom Cruise to scream that whipped them into a frenzy, ‘Show! Me! The! Money!’
“The line showed up in everything from a Bill Clinton speech to the Westminster Kennel Club dog show. Who knows exactly why? I suspect the high-octane chemistry between Gooding and Cruise ignited the words.
“The actual phrase was a mini-tribute to two people. One was Tim McDonald, the 49er defensive back, whom I’d interviewed during a negotiation period. ‘I work hard, I’ve served five years of my contract,’ he said to me. ‘Where’s the money? Where is the money?’ I’ve always remembered the confusion and desperation and need to support his family—all screwed up on his face as he waited for offers.
“Later, when writing, I turned McDonald’s yearning for financial self-worth into a war cry, with a little bit of my friend, producer, and coinage-king Art Linson thrown in for good luck. The ‘Show me the money’ sequence was a pure joy to direct. But I’ve always held a soft spot for the unnoticed concept of ‘Kwan.’ Some time later, during an Olympic performance by ice-skater Michelle Kwan, a friend called and told me to turn on the television. In the middle of a huge crowd, a lonely fan held up a sign reading ‘Show me the Kwan.’ Thank you for that.”
There was more to Cuba Gooding, Jr.’s performance than the catchphrase, of course—he won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in 1997—but that line seemed to turn up everywhere in the late nineties, and in 2005 was voted number 25 on the American Film Institute’s 100 Movie Quotes: America’s Greatest Quips, Comebacks and Catchphrases list.