30 years ago, body-horror maestro David Cronenberg unleashed his twisted vision of The Fly unto the world
A heady mix of gross-out prosthetics, gooey bodily fluids and vile transformations, it starred Jeff Goldbum as Seth Brundle, a man who unwittingly splices himself with the genetics of a fly in an experiment gone wrong.
It’s just as entertainly putrid as it was three decades ago, so to celebrate, here are 30 things you (probably) didn’t know about the film.
1. The Fly’s vomit sounds kinda tasty
It was made from honey, eggs and milk. Yum.
2. Vincent Price thought it was excessive
The original’s star revealed in a 1987 inteview that he’d been so touched by a letter written to him by Jeff Goldblum, he went to see the new film. He described as “wonderful right up to a certain point… it went a little too far.”
3. Cronenberg’s cameo was inspired by Martin Scorsese
In a meeting, Scorsese remarked that Cronenberg looked like a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon, which inspired Cronenberg to give himself a cameo as a doctor.
4. Mel Brooks tried to keep his involvement secret
He didn’t want people to know he was a producer for the film because he thought people wouldn’t take it seriously if they knew he was involved. When the game was up, Brooks made the most of it by handing out deely bobbers at the premiere.
5. There was an “alternate sequel” planned in the 90s
It reportedly involved Geena Davis, and was to be directed by Renny Harlin and titled Flies. It was said to feature a story where Veronica gives birth to twin boys.
6. David Cronenberg wasn’t originally in mind to direct
The project was originally conceived for Tim Burton to take the helm.
7. Jeff Goldblum’s make-up was often quite heavy
The actor’s prosthetics could weigh as much as 5lbs during the more make-up heavy scenes.
8. And could take a long time to apply
Those same scenes could take as long as five hours to prepare for.
9. Goldblum’s body had a soothing effect on animals
Cronenberg, who was wary of the potentially dangerous baboons used on the film, admitted on the film’s DVD commentary that he felt Goldblum’s tall and muscular physique caused the apes to behave affectionate and deferential towards the star, thus making the scenes with them easier to film.
10. And he had to step in to wrangle a baboon one time
A baboon called ‘Typhoon’ was a wild animal, and not a trained one. Once startled by the flashing lights in the telepod, he broke the door off to get out, and the on-set wrangler and Goldblum had to keep the primate in check.
Cronenberg said of the incident: “Jeff, because he was much bigger and stronger than the baboon, was able to dominate him… it was a good thing that the baboon formed that relationship… Otherwise there could have been big trouble on the set with some of the female members of the crew.”
11. Studio bosses paid more than what Cronenberg wanted to get him
After Mel Brooks had written an articulate letter to the bosses at Fox, they agreed to Cronenberg as director. His asking salary was $750,000, which was countered with an offer of $1 million… this sealed the deal.
12. Though some outside circumstances also helped
Originally Cronenberg had turned down the film because of scheduling conflicts with the shooting of Total Recall, and Robert Bierman was hired for The Fly.
Bierman experienced a family tragedy just prior to shooting and decided he couldn’t make such a dark film. With Cronenberg not seeing eye to eye with his Total Recall crew he backed out, leaving him free to direct.
13. And he did have one special condition
Namely that he got to rewrite the script screenwriter Charles Edward Pogue had already completed. Cronenberg altered the characters – including their names – as well as the dialogue, and much of the plot.
14. But Pogue still got his screenwriting credit
Cronenberg demanded that Pogue receive a credit, claiming that he would have never have known how to write the script if it was not for Pogue’s version.
15. The special effects crew took this film on for a ‘challenge’
The creature effects crew had a choice between The Fly or Gremlins 2 to work on next. They chose the former, even though it meant coming up with designs and constructing them within in three months, and despite a unanimous decision that it couldn’t be done. They wanted the challenge.
16. Though they were often forgotten about on set
While operating the inside-out baboon puppet, three puppeteers were located underneath the floor, one of them to pump blood around the model. They all had to wear raincoats because of the large amounts of blood being pumped, and the rest of the crew would often break for lunch and forget about them under the floor.
17. But they did get their own back
While filming the finale, bored puppeteers under the floor would glue pictures to John Getz’s foot.
18. John Getz tries to channel a migraine at one point
The actor suffered a terrible headache during his audition, but still got the part. While filming his first scene with Veronica, Cronenberg ask Getz if he could have one again, which is why Getz has his fingers on his head throughout much of the scene.
19. The creature isn’t actually a giant fly
David Cronenberg wanted to make that clear, so the artists studied books on disease as a starting point for their ‘Brundlefly’ designs, with the asymmetricality of the finished product meant to reflect a literal fusion of a man and an insect.
20. The telepods’ design came from an unlikely, mechanical place
They were inspired by the shape of the cylinders on Cronenberg’s vintage Ducati motorcycle.
21. The film went ‘high culture’ in 2008
An opera based on the movie hit theatre stages. The stage version was again directed by Cronenberg, while original composer Howard Shore also returned to perform musical duties.
22. But that’s not the film’s only tie with the stage
The first bar and the last bar of music on the soundtrack is taken from the last bar of music from Puccini’s tragic opera Madama Butterfly, thought to be a reference to a deleted dream sequence in which Veronica gives birth to a butterfly.
23. It’s not neccesarily based on the 1958 original
While considered by many a remake, the 1986 version of The Fly is based more on George Langelaan’s 1957 short story of the same name than the 1958 film.
24. Some critics saw the film as a metaphor for AIDS
But it was never intended that way, with Cronenberg originally intending the film to be an analogy for disease in general, terminal cancer and the ageing process.
25. Bryan Ferry was snubbed on the soundtrack
The musician composed a song called ‘Help Me’ under Mel Brooks’ commission, which was was originally going to be played in the closing credits. Though David Cronenberg liked the song, he felt that it was inappropriate to the film, and the track was dropped, being played only in the film’s bar scene.
26. It’s actually the fourth Fly film
Many assume that as this film is a remake of a 1958 original, it must only be the second Fly film to be made. Not so, as both Return of the Fly (1959) and Curse of the Fly (1965) fell in between.
27. Geena Davis was genuinely grossed out at points
Such was the detail in the make-up, Geena Davis admitted that the scene in which Seth’s ear falls off and she holds him grossed her out so much that her reaction is not acting.
28. There were happier endings shot
More than one version of a happier ending was shot but never used, including two in which Veronica has another dream of her unborn child, this time as a baby with beautiful butterfly wings.
29. Cronenberg employed some sneaky directing tactics
In order to get all the actors in the bar to jump at the right time, the director had the crew, without giving any prior warning to the actors, make a loud, sharp bang on set.
30. Seth’s transformation into the Brundlefly is slower than you might think
The film makes it seem quicker, but it actually takes place over four weeks and six days.
On a final note, we’ll just leave this magnificence here: