Behind The Scenes Saturday: The Fly (1986)

Welcome to Day 29 of Spooky Season!! For this month’s last Behind The Scenes Saturday, I chose my favorite David Cronenberg film, The Fly! The Fly made its impact on the horror genre through its melancholy tone, stressful love triangle, and amazing special effects. So, be very afraid, grab a cheeseburger, avoid all telepods, and enjoy these fun facts on one of Cronenberg’s best!!

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  • After the film was released, Jeff Goldblum (Seth Brundle) wrote to Vincent Price, the star of the original The Fly. In the letter, Goldblum said to Price, “I hope you like it as much as I like yours.” Price was very touched and went to see the film. He wrote back to Goldblum, saying the film was “wonderful right up to a certain point… it went a little too far.”
  • There was understandably difficulties shooting the scenes with the baboon, Typhoon. In one incident, Typhoon was so startled by the flashing lights in the telepod, he broke the door off to get out. It was up to Jeff Goldblum and Typhoon’s wrangler to keep him in check.
  • During a meet-up with Martin Scorsese, Scorsese told the film’s director, David Cronenberg, that Cronenberg looked like a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon. That comment inspired Cronenberg’s cameo in this film as a doctor. He originally wasn’t going to a cameo in this film, but Geena Davis (Veronica Quaife) asked him to be in the scene with her.
  • For the scene where Seth and Veronica were having coffee and Seth went on a rant, the script for the scene was only half-written at first. The rest of the scene was written at the last minute to add more to the character.
  • Brundlefly’s vomit was made of a mixture of honey, eggs, and milk.
  • Mel Brooks tried to keep the fact that he was a producer for the film under wraps because he didn’t want people to know. This was because he was afraid people wouldn’t take the film seriously if they knew he was a part of it. When people did find out, he made the most of it by handing out deely boppers at the film’s premiere.
  • According to David Cronenberg, Mel Brooks was the one who came up with the famous line, “Be afraid. Be very afraid.” Brooks was responding to how the characters should react to the early stages of Seth’s transformation.
  • A few scenes were deleted from the final film, including: Seth sent a cat and baboon together through the telepod, resulting in a mutation that Seth beat to death with a pipe. Another one included Brundlefly climbing on the outside of his building and an insect leg emerged from his side. Lastly, an alternate ending had Veronica having another birthing dream, except her baby came out with beautiful butterfly wings.
  • To Cronenberg’s surprise, critics viewed the film as a cultural metaphor for AIDS. Cronenberg’s intention was more a general analogy for disease itself, mostly cancer.
  • Charles Edward Pogue’s original script was rewritten extensively but Cronenberg insisted on keeping Pogue’s name in the credits. Cronenberg said that he would’ve never known how to write the script if not for Pogue’s version.
  • When Seth’s ear falls off, Geena Davis’s shocked reaction was genuine.
  • The Fox executive didn’t want to cast Jeff Goldblum in the film as he felt Goldblum wasn’t a bankable star. Chris Walas, who was in charge of creature effects, was also worried Goldblum’s face would be difficult to work with when it came to the makeup effects.
  • Jeff Goldblum was the one who suggested Geena Davis for the role of Veronica. David Cronenberg was hesitant in casting her considering she and Goldblum were dating at the time. Cronenberg didn’t want to work with a real-life couple, however, Davis’s first reading convinced him that she was right for it.
  • Michael Keaton was offered the role of Seth Brundle, but he ended up turning it down.
  • Jeff Goldblum was asked by Chris Walas to add a characteristic to transfer to the end Brundlefly puppet. Goldblum considered and added his trademark twitches that was then added to the puppeteering.
  • Chris Walas and his crew had a meeting prior to filming. They discussed whether to work on this film or Gremlins 2: The New Batch. Walas’s crew unanimously decided that although it would be very difficult coming up with all the designs and starting construction in just three months, the challenge would be good for them, so they picked this film.
  • John Getz (Stathis Borans) had a massive migraine during his audition. For his first scene where he and Veronica are discussing the tape, David Cronenberg asked him to have the headache again. This is why Getz has his hand on his head throughout the scene.
  • Jennifer Jason Leigh and Laura Dern were both considered for the role of Veronica Quaife.
  • Mel Gibson was also considered for the role of Seth, but he turned it down to do Lethal Weapon.
  • Marky, the man who Seth beat in arm-wrestling, was played by George Chuvalo, a professional heavyweight boxer.
  • David Cronenberg agreed to direct, but he had the condition that he was allowed to bring on board his regular group of collaborators: Editor Ronald Sanders, Production Designer Carol Spier, Director of Photography Mark Irwin, and Composer Howard Shore.
  • Brundlefly’s melting eyeballs were created using condoms, KY jelly, and shredded rubber.
  • Chris Walas stated that every project has at least one effect that’s a real pain to pull off. For this film, it was Stathis’s melting hand. Walas hated the end result, but David Cronenberg was really happy with it.
  • David Cronenberg named Seth Brundle after Formula One racer, Martin Brundle. This is ironic due to Seth Brundle’s motion sickness.
  • The original ending showed Veronica living with Stathis again, but it was changed due to negative audience reactions. David Cronenberg himself didn’t like the ending, and if I may be frank, I think they made the right call to cut it.
  • Although the real Seth is gone when Brundlefly makes his final transformation, David Cronenberg still wanted a little bit of humanity in the creature. They accomplished this with the creature’s eyes, that were referred to as big versions of Jeff’s eyes.
  • As he’s transforming, Seth goes through the five stages of grief. Denial as he doesn’t believe there’s anything wrong with him. Anger as he loses his temper easily. Fear as he watches his human body deteriorate. Bargaining as he attempts to fuse with another life form. Acceptance as he begs Veronica to shoot him.
  • For the inside-out baboon scene, two puppeteers were under the floor animating the baboon while a third person pumped out blood. The three puppeteers had to wear raincoats due to the amount of blood that was spilling on them. Multiple times, the cast and crew broke for lunch and completely forgot the three under the floor.
  • There were many happy epilogues that were considered for the film. They were all scrapped when production decided to end the film immediately after Seth died. The film’s producer, Stuart Cornfeld, stated, “Once your hero is dead, your movie is over.”
  • Linda Hamilton was David Cronenberg’s first choice to play Veronica. However, Hamilton was deeply disturbed by the film, in particular the scene where Veronica gives birth to a maggot.
  • There was a scene where Brundlefly ate Stathis’s severed foot, but it was cut due to pacing.
  • The scene where Veronica accidentally ripped Seth’s jaw off took 2 weeks to accomplish.
  • To get the perfect shot where all the actors in the bar scene jump, David Cronenberg had the crew surprise the actors by making a loud, sharp bang on set.
  • For the final scene, the puppeteers under the floor were very bored. To amuse themselves, they glued pictures to John Getz’s foot that was under the floor. They also dipped his foot in oatmeal to mess with him. Getz later said he should’ve realized because he was unable to move, he would be an easy target.
  • Stathis’s fate is subtly foreshadowed in the film. When he talks about Seth, he has his left hand in his pocket, making it look like he doesn’t have his left hand. He eventually loses that hand.

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