There are slasher movies like Halloween and Friday The 13th and then there’s Bernard Rose’s 1992 masterpiece Candyman.
Adapted from the Clive Barker short story, The Forbidden, the premise was simple enough and centered around a familiar urban legend: if you say the name “Candyman” into the mirror five times, you will summon the hook-handed murderer of the same name, with grave consequences for all involved. But what starts as an ordinary urban legend becomes something far more sinister.
Beautifully shot and boasting a stellar cast and sensational Philip Glass score, Candyman’s real strength lies in the fact that, 25 years on from its release, the film is still very, very scary.
And if you think the movie itself is a chiller, just wait until you see some of the fascinating facts loaded has dug up about the making of the movie and the chilling story behind it.
Eddie Murphy Almost Played Candyman
Tony Todd may have made the role of Candyman an icon of modern horror cinema but there was a time when a far bigger star was considered for the part: Eddie Murphy. Though it’s unclear why exactly Murphy ended up passing on the project, it may have been down to the fact he was a far less imposing figure than Todd. Murphy is just 5-foot-9 while Todd is 6-foot-5.
Sandra Bullock Also Came Close To Starring
Candyman producer Alan Poul revealed on the film’s DVD commentary that Sandra Bullock was all set to play the role of film’s female protagonist, Helen, had Virginia Madsen not stepped in. Madsen only landed the part at the last minute after Alexandra Rose, director Bernard Rose’s wife, found out she was pregnant and left the project. Madsen was initially unsure but Alexandra visited her and convinced her to take the part.
“It was great for me, but it was so sad for her because this was her role; she found this story and really wanted it,” Madsen told the Horror News Network. So when I was asked to step in I felt like ‘I can’t take my friend’s role.’ She actually came over one day and said ‘It would just kill me to see someone else play this role, you have to be the one who plays it.’ So with her blessing, I took on the role. I really tried to work my butt off just to honor her.”
The Bees Were Bred Specifically For The Movie
Back in the day when filmmakers did things for real, rather than rely on CGI, Rose and the team behind the movie had to come up with a creative way to have an appropriately terrifying amount of bees on the screen without endangering the lives of everyone on set. The solution was to use newborn bees that were just 12 hours old. While these bees looked full grown, they actually had a far less powerful sting.
The Story Was Relocated To Cabrini Green
It was director Bernard Rose who decided to relocate the setting from the original story’s original setting of Liverpool to the Cabrini-Green housing project in Chicago, which had a reputation for violence, drugs, gangs, and crime. “I went to Chicago on a research trip to see where it could be done and I was shown around by some people from the Illinois Film Commission and they took me to Cabrini-Green,” Rose told AintItCoolNews.com.
“And I spent some time there and I realized that this was an incredible arena for a horror movie because it was a place of such palpable fear. And rule number one when you’re making a horror movie is set it somewhere frightening. And the fear of the urban housing project, it seemed to me, was actually totally irrational because you couldn’t really be in that much danger. Yes, there was crime there, but people were actually afraid of driving past it. And there was such an aura of fear around the place and I thought that was really something interesting to look into because it’s sort of a kind of fear that’s at the heart of modern cities. And obviously, it’s racially motivated, but more than that—it’s poverty motivated.”
The Producers Made A Deal With Local Gangs
Keen to ensure the Cabrini Green shoots went as smoothly as possible, the movie’s producers approached several gangs and struck up a deal. They could appear as extras in the film if they could also ensure the cast and crew’s safety during filming. Everything went well until the final day of production when someone fired a single bullet at a production van. Thankfully, no one was hurt.
Tony Todd Got A Bee Sting Bonus
As the Candyman, Todd agreed to have any number of bees run all over his face and even in his mouth during one memorably gruesome kissing scene with Helen. Todd wore a dental dam to prevent any from getting down his throat – something that could have been potentially lethal – though he was still stung on multiple occasions. 23 times, to be precise. Not that Tony minded all that much – he had a bonus system in place whereby he earned money for every time he was stung. “I had a great lawyer,” he told TMZ. “A thousand dollars a pop.”
Composer Philip Glass Hates The Movie
Movie soundtrack maestro Philip Glass earned rave reviews for his work on the film’s score but is not a massive fan of the end product. “What he’d presumed would be an artful version of Clive Barker’s short story ‘The Forbidden’ had ended up, in his view, a low-budget slasher,” he told Rolling Stone. Though he insists, to this day, that he was manipulated to work on the project, Glass does at least appreciate one thing about the movie’s success. “It has become a classic, so I still make money from that score, get checks every year,” he told Variety in 2014.
Virginia Madsen Is Allergic To Beers
Initially, Madsen was hesitant to take the role of Helen because she was allergic to bees, but Rose persisted. Madsen underwent several tests at UCLA to determine whether she was truly allergic. Even when the results came back, Rose simply suggested they have paramedics on the set just in case. “So we a had a bee wrangler and he pretty much told us you can’t freak out around the bees, or be nervous, or swat at them, it would just aggravate them,” Madsen recalls.
“When they put the bees on me it was crazy because they have fur. They felt like little Q-tips roaming around on me. Then you have pheromones on you, so they’re all in love with you and think you’re a giant queen. I really just had to go into this Zen sort of place and the takes were very short. What took the longest was getting the bees off of us. They had this tiny ‘bee vacuum,’ which wouldn’t harm the bees. After the scene where the bees were all over my face and my head, it took both Tony and I 45 minutes just to get the bees off. That’s when it became difficult to sit still. It was cool though, I felt like a total badass doing it.”
There Was A Real-Life Candyman
Though the legend of Candyman that features in the book originates from the Clive Barker story The Forbidden, there was an actual, real-life, Candyman killer who predates the movie. Dean Corll became known as the Candy Man or Candyman, after the kidnap, torture, and murder of at least 28 young boys in the Houston area between 1970 and 1973. He got the nickname due to the fact his family owned a candy factory.
Candyman Was Accused Of Being Racist
During pre-production, producers began to worry the film might be labelled racist for the fact the main villain was black and the movie itself was set in Cabrini-Green. “I had to go and have a whole set of meetings with the NAACP because the producers were so worried,” Rose told The Independent. “And what they said to me when they’d read the script was ‘Why are we even having this meeting? You know this is just good fun.’ Their argument was ‘Why shouldn’t a black actor be a ghost? Why shouldn’t a black actor play Freddy Krueger or Hannibal Lecter? If you’re saying that they can’t be, it’s really perverse. This is a horror movie.'”
George Franklin, the director of the criminally underrated Devil in a Blue Dress, was among those to criticise the movie, nevertheless, for perpetuating stereotypes. “There’s no question that this film plays on white middle-class fears of black people,” he told the Chicago Tribune. “It unabashedly uses racial stereotypes and destructive myths to create shock. I found it hokey and unsettling. It didn’t work for me because I don’t share those fears, buy into those myths.”
The Film Took Inspiration From A Real Murder Case
The memorable scene in which Helen and best friend Bernie discover the design of one of the apartments made the medicine cabinet a possible point of entry for an intruder entering from the abandoned next door apartment was inspired by a real-life case.
While developing the film, Rose learned of a series of murders that had taken place in this exact same way. 52-year-old Chicago resident Ruthie Mae McCoy was shot and killed when someone broke into her apartment, climbing in through the medicine cabinet from the next door apartment. McCoy called 911 at the time, but the authorities ultimately failed to act with enough haste to prevent her death.