A brilliant but eccentric scientist begins to transform into a giant man/fly hybrid after one of his experiments goes horribly wrong.
This film is something of a rarity for me, in the fact that it’s a remake that I actually like.
I think it’s fair to say that in 1986 David Cronenberg gave us one of the creepiest films ever made when he released a remake of “The Fly”. It was a film only Cronenberg himself could make, he took the original film as a base foundation and made it his own in a way only he could.
We see Jeff Goldblum cast as our lead, ‘Dr. Seth Brundle’, and I honestly can’t think of anyone else better suited for the role. The same goes for Geena Davis, who I have to say puts in an absolutely incredible performance too. After watching this film I’d watch anything that featured any of these two.
The film is known for it’s amazing, and I mean A-M-A-Z-I-N-G, make up and effects. Even by todays standards they are still incredible, I mean they were that good that even the Academy Awards couldn’t ignore it and it even did the impossible and won the Oscar for make up work.
As I stated earlier, this is a film that only Cronenberg could have done, I wouldn’t have trusted anyone else to deliver like he did with this feature. This was my introduction to his work and what an introduction it was, it made a huge impact, not just on me but the genre itself and more.
Personally I think “The Fly” is one of the best Horror films ever made and I stand by that statement.
Miscellaneous facts about the film:
In a 1987 interview on Sinister Image (1987) Vincent Price revealed that when this remake was released, star Jeff Goldblum wrote him a letter saying, “I hope you like it as much as I liked yours.” Price was touched by the letter, he composed a reply and went to see the film, which he described as “wonderful right up to a certain point… it went a little too far.”
Those involved with the making of the film, including David Cronenberg, remember that the baboon (whose name was Typhoon) was very much a wild animal, and not an actor. Visual effects supervisor Hoyt Yeatman said in a special features documentary that Typhoon was once startled by the flashing lights in the telepod and broke the door off to get out. The wrangler and Jeff Goldblum (who is 6’4″) were the ones who had to keep the primate in check. “They’re very volatile, and there’s no such thing as a tame baboon,” Cronenberg said. “Jeff, because he was much bigger and stronger than the baboon, was able to dominate him, and the baboon’s wrangler said 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.”
The first name mentioned in the end credits is Chris Walas, Inc. as the creator and designer of the Brundlefly makeup. After a screening, the audience cheered upon seeing this first credit. Producer Stuart Cornfeld turned to Walas and said, “You’re getting the Oscar”. Cornfeld’s prediction came true when Walas did in fact win the Academy Award for Best Makeup, which was also the only nomination and award the film received from the Academy. Walas claims that this was probably because his name was listed first.
After watching some of his early films, director Martin Scorsese asked to meet David Cronenberg. Upon meeting him, Scorsese said he looked like a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon. This inspired Cronenberg to give himself a cameo as a doctor.
The line, “I’m saying, I’m an insect who dreamt he was a man and loved it, but now that dream is over, and the insect is awake.” is a reference to author Zhuangzi’s famous Butterfly Dream story. It’s also a reference to Franz Kafka’s famous short story, The Metamorphosis.
The scene where Seth and Ronnie are having coffee at the restaurant, and Seth is talking endlessly, was only half scripted when production began. The remainder was written the night before the scene was going to be filmed, as Jeff Goldblum felt that he could add more to the character.
Mel Brooks 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 people did find out, he decided to make the most of it by handing out deely boppers at the premiere.
The Fly’s vomit was made from honey, eggs and milk.
Seth’s saying, “Drink deep, or taste not, the plasma spring”, is a reference to a famous quote from Alexander Pope’s “An Essay on Criticism”. The full quote is: “A little learning is a dang’rous thing; drink deep, or taste not the Pierian Spring: Their shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, and drinking largely sobers us again.”
It took nearly five hours to apply the most extensive makeup stages to actor Jeff Goldblum.
According to David Cronenberg, the line “Be afraid, be very afraid!” was invented by Mel Brooks while discussing how characters should react to the early stages of Seth Brundle’s transformation.
Several sequences were filmed but cut from the final release, including: a sequence where Brundle sends a cat and the surviving baboon through the telepods, resulting in a mutated creature he beats to death with a pipe; a scene where Brundle climbs the outside of his building as an insect limb emerges from his side; and an alternate ending in which Veronica has another dream of her unborn child, this time as a baby with beautiful butterfly wings.
The famous tagline, “Be afraid, be very afraid!”, originated in this film as dialogue spoken by Veronica Quaife (Geena Davis).
Although his script was extensively rewritten, Charles Edward Pogue still receives onscreen credit for the screenplay. David Cronenberg demanded that Pogue receive credit claiming that he would have never known how to write the script if not for Pogue’s version.
David Cronenberg was surprised when the film was seen by some critics as a cultural metaphor for AIDS, since he originally intended the film to be a more general analogy for disease itself, terminal conditions like cancer and, more specifically, the aging process.
Eventually played as a double-billed movie with Aliens (1986) which was released the month before.
David Cronenberg noted on his DVD audio commentary that the baboons used in the film frightened him personally, as they are potentially dangerous, physically very strong and, as very intelligent and very wild animals, are highly unpredictable. However, Cronenberg believed due to his tall and muscular physique, the baboons behaved affectionate and deferential towards Jeff Goldblum, who had trained and worked out in preparation for the role, making the scenes with them easy to film. Other films using baboons often have mixed success, such as during the filming of The Omen (1976), when Lee Remick had to be rescued from an overly-excited baboon during the zoo attack scene.
While working at 20th Century Fox, it was Scott Rudin’s suggestion to Stuart Cornfeld that they hire David Cronenberg as director. Cornfeld agreed and after Mel Brooks had written an eloquent letter to the bosses at Fox, they agreed. Cronenberg’s asking salary at the time was $750,000. Brooks, Cornfeld, and Fox, countered with an offer of $1 million, which sealed the deal.
Most of the makeup work and puppets used for the film are now located in Bob Burns’ collection.
The Chris Walas, Inc. designers studied graphic books on disease as a starting point for their “Brundlefly” makeup/creature designs. The final “Brundlefly” creature is horribly deformed and asymmetrical. This reflects director David Cronenberg’s idea that the creature shouldn’t be a giant fly, but rather a literal fusion of a man and an insect that embodies elements of both.
David Cronenberg met with some opposition when he announced that he wanted to cast Jeff Goldblum in the lead role. The executive at Fox who was supervising the project felt that Goldblum was not a bankable star, and Chris Walas felt that his face would be difficult to work with for the make-up effects. Both, however, deferred to Cronenberg’s judgment. Cronenberg himself later had reservations when Goldblum suggested Geena Davis, his girlfriend at the time, for the other lead role, as he did not want to have to work with a real-life couple. Cronenberg was convinced after Davis’s first reading that she was right for the role. Producer Stuart Cornfeld suggested that they audition more actresses saying that it’s the “script that is brilliant”. Cornfeld relented after “nobody else even came close”.
Geena Davis wasn’t acting when Jeff Goldblum’s right ear falls off. Her reaction in the film was genuine and she was genuinely shocked when it was filmed and David Cronenberg kept the take of her reaction in the film.
Michael Keaton was offered the role of Seth Brundle, but he declined.
Originally a project for Tim Burton to direct.
Screenwriter Charles Edward Pogue wrote the first draft of the script. When David Cronenberg was hired as director, one condition was that he be able to rewrite the script to his satisfaction. Cronenberg substantially altered the characters (and their names), the dialogue, and much of the plot. However, key details from Pogue’s script (the fusion of man and fly and details of the metamorphosis) were retained.
This film recycles the line “Help me,” said by the main character in both versions. Famously, stars Vincent Price and Herbert Marshall required several takes to film the scene with that dialogue in the original, because they could not stop laughing.
Chris Walas asked Jeff Goldblum to give a physical characteristic to his performance he could easily transfer over to the end ‘spacebug’ puppet. Goldblum thought about it, then added his trademark twitches which they could then easily add to the their puppeteering.
The exact reason why Seth Brundle’s head becomes so enlarged and misshapen towards the end of his transformation was that two large compound fly eyes were to be revealed on the top of his head, back when Seth was going to turn into more of a fly monster than a fly/human fusion. If you look closely, especially in shots that show the back of Seth’s head, you can still see the circular outlines of the fly eyes.
Chris Walas had a meeting with his crew prior to production. He said they could do this film or Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990). Working on this film meant that they would have to come up with all of the designs and begin construction in three months. Walas’ crew unanimously agreed that it wasn’t possible in that time frame but decided to do it anyway because it was more of a challenge.
Musician Bryan Ferry originally composed a song called Help Me at Mel Brooks and Stuart Cornfield’s commission and was originally going to be played in the movie’s closing credits. However, David Cronenberg, despite liking the song, felt that it was inappropriate to the film itself and after screening to Brooks and Cornfield, they all agreed that the song didn’t mesh with the film, resulting with the song being played only in the film’s bar scene and not being included in the movie’s soundtrack album making the song extremely rare.
An early treatment for a sequel, written by Tim Lucas, involved Veronica Quaife dealing with the evils of the Bartok company. Brundle’s consciousness had somehow survived within the Telepod computer, and the Bartok scientists had enslaved him and were using him to develop the system for cloning purposes. Brundle becomes able to communicate with Veronica through the computer, and he eventually takes control of the Bartok complex’s security systems to gruesomely attack the villains. Eventually, Veronica frees Brundle by conspiring with him to reintegrate a non-contaminated version of his original body. David Cronenberg endorsed the concept at the time. Geena Davis was open to doing a sequel (and only pulled out of The Fly II (1989) because her character was to be killed off in the opening scene), while Goldblum was not (although he was okay with the cameo), and this treatment reflects that. However, a later treatment written by Jim Wheat and Ken Wheat was used as the basis for the final script, written by Frank Darabont. Mick Garris also wrote a treatment, with elements incorporated into the final film.
While the setting is never explicitly discussed by the characters, the CN Tower, Kensington Market, and various other Toronto landmarks are shown throughout the film. Lingo-savvy viewers will note that the local barfly in the arm-wrestling scene uses the Canadian term “chocolate bars” instead of the American “candy bars.”
During his audition, John Getz recalls having a terrible migraine the entire time. Later, while filming Stathis’ first scene where he and Veronica discuss the tape, David Cronenberg asked if he could have the headache again. This is why Getz has his fingers on his head throughout much of the scene (especially during the line, “He’s conning you.”)
Originally, David Cronenberg turned down the film because of scheduling conflicts with the shooting of Total Recall (1990) for Dino De Laurentiis. The producers then hired Robert Bierman; unfortunately, Bierman experienced a terrible family tragedy just prior to the beginning of production and decided he couldn’t make such a dark film. At about the same time, Cronenberg realized that he and De Laurentis were not seeing eye to eye on Total Recall (1990) and backed out, leaving him free to direct this film. Bierman has since stated that he has never seen the film, as it brings back bad memories and he does not want his own vision of it compromised.
It is loosely based on George Langelaan’s 1957 short story of the same name, which also formed the basis for The Fly (1958).
Cronenberg told the makeup team to think of the transformation process as a form of cancer, something Seth actually mentions in the film, and it shows.
David Cronenberg often has stated that he doesn’t see the film as a horror movie so much as a metaphor for the aging process and terminal disease, and how dehumanizing the toll on the human body is to the person experiencing it and to those close around them. Some people have also claimed that it’s also a metaphor for AIDS and while Cronenberg has said he did not intend that to be, he is fine if people conclude that from his film.
Jennifer Jason Leigh and Laura Dern were considered for the role of Veronica Quaife, but the producers wanted an unknown.
This was the last film on which Mark Irwin and David Cronenberg collaborated. Irwin was unavailable to work on Dead Ringers (1988) as he was already committed to The Blob (1988). Irwin told Cronenberg, “I wouldn’t leave one of your films to work on somebody else’s”. Cronenberg instead hired Peter Suschitzky, having admired his work on Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980), and has used him as cinematographer on every one of his films since.
According to the script, Stathis goes skeet shooting, which is why he had a shotgun on hand for the film’s climax.
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 ‘Madame Butterfly’. Perhaps a reference to the deleted dream sequence of the heroine giving birth to a butterfly.
An opera in two acts based on the movie was produced for the stage in 2008. David Cronenberg served as director, Howard Shore composed the music and the lyrics were written by David Henry Hwang (with whom Cronenberg collaborated on M. Butterfly (1993)).
As far as his creative relationship with Cronenberg, Walas says the director “is fascinating to work with. He’s very intelligent, observant, and understanding. He’s also challenging and supportive. He has a very clear idea of what he wants and how he sees things, so the design phase tends to go quickly. His design directions also tend to be more emotional and psychological than most directors. Most directors will describe what they want physically. They’ll say, ‘It needs to be bigger; make the eyes red; add more horns.’ David’s descriptions were more like, ‘It needs to be in more pain, and I want to see confusion in its eyes.’ I would say David’s style is much fuller and covers a wider design approach than most directors.”
Mel Gibson was considered for the role of Seth Brundle. But he turned it down to do Lethal Weapon (1987).
When David Cronenberg agreed to direct, it was on the condition that he be allowed to work with his regular group of collaborators, including Editor Ronald Sanders, Production Designer Carol Spier, Director of Photography Mark Irwin and Composer Howard Shore.
This was the first theatrical film to have its broadcast premiere on the Fox television network.
Marky, the barfly whom Seth gruesomely defeats in one-sided arm-wrestling, is played by George Chuvalo, a famous Canadian heavyweight boxer.
The design of Brundle’s Telepods was inspired by the engine cylinder of Cronenberg’s Ducati 450 Desmo.
James Woods turned down the role of Seth Brundle to do Oliver Stone’s Salvador (1986).
The tag line for this movie; “BE AFRAID. BE VERY AFRAID!” became an instant catch phrase in the culture at large and people still use it today for a variety of reasons.
According to Chris Walas, Rick Baker had once told him that “when you would read a Cronenberg script, it was a challenge to try and figure out what effects could actually be pulled off, and what effects couldn’t. Walas tells us, “I don’t remember any effects we didn’t attempt. There was a lot cut from the film, naturally, as that’s the nature of practical creature effects. There’s an entire stage of the make-up that didn’t make it into the movie.”
The scene where the arm wrestler’s wrist breaks originally had a more elaborate rig, then Chris Walas came up with a simpler approach, “a plate was glued to the actor’s hand that had a projection (the snapping bone) extending a couple of inches down the arm so that when the actor snapped his hand back, the bone came popping out.
According to David Cronenberg, the basic premise of the film, two lovers, one of whom contracts a disease and the other who is forced to watch and ultimately helps the sick one commit suicide, would never have been made as a straight drama. However, as a sci-fi, genre picture, the more serious, dramatic tones and the realism of what the film has to say was guarded. “But you have to consider how many people have given themselves their own death sentence in their bathrooms by discovering that thing in the shower or in the bathtub or in the mirror. That’s where the potency of those scenes comes from.”
Seth rolling onto a circuit board and getting a nasty cut on his back, after sleeping with Veronica for the first time, foreshadows him being betrayed by his own technology.
The inspiration for the design of the telepods came from the shape of the cylinder in David Cronenberg’s vintage Ducati motorcycle. Brundlefly’s “vomit drop” was, in reality, made from honey, eggs, and milk.
Co-producer Kip Ohman was the person who originally had the idea of remaking the original film. He had recently landed Charles Edward Pogue as a client, and suggested that he should be the one to write it. They pitched the idea to Twentieth Century-Fox, who agreed to finance it. After reading Pogue’s first draft, however, they rescinded the offer. Not only would they not finance the picture, they refused to relinquish the rights so that Ohman and Pogue could take it to another studio. Ohman finally convinced Fox to distribute the picture if they could get someone else to finance it. Ohman ultimately found producer Stuart Cornfeld, who had previously produced The Elephant Man (1980), and therefore knew Mel Brooks. Brooks agreed to allow Cornfeld to use Brooksfilms to produce the picture, but decided a new writer was needed. Pogue was therefore booted off the project, and Walon Green was hired in his place. It was decided that Green’s draft was even worse than Pogue’s, so he was fired and Pogue was re-hired. Pogue was ultimately booted off the project once again once David Cronenberg demanded to be able to re-write the script to his own satisfaction, as a condition of coming on board to direct. Cronenberg and Pogue didn’t actually meet until after the film had come out. When they spoke, Cronenberg told him “apparently we made a hit movie together.”
Jeff Goldblum found the makeup which Seth is nearing the end of his transformation tiring because the makeup and latex was putting weight on his eyes.
John Getz remarked in interview that he took his role because the character was a stereotypical, unlikeable 80s yuppie villain, a role he was often offered but actually became the hero in the end.
Seth’s melting eyeballs were created using condoms. The outsides had contact lenses applied to them to match the make-up worn by Jeff Goldblum. The insides were filled with KY jelly and pieces of shredded rubber. Fishing line attached from the fake eyes to the back of the prosthetic insect head. As the head expanded, the condoms were torn apart, with the KY falling perfectly through the orbital sockets.
Willem Dafoe was considered for the role of Seth Brundle.
Prior to production, Robert Bierman was hired to direct the film, but pulled out of the production because his daughter had died and when production on Total Recall (1990) was canceled, David Cronenberg took over to direct the film.
Richard Dreyfuss turned down the role of Seth Brundle.
It’s been reported that initially Chris Walas felt Jeff Goldblum’s face would be difficult to work with, make-up wise. Stating, “David asked if there was anything specific he should be looking for when he was casting Brundle. We told him to try and find someone with a small bridge of the nose to allow us more freedom with the make-up. Jeff’s got a larger nose and big ears that were a bit of an issue to deal with, but when David said he was thinking about Jeff for the role, both Stephan and I were very enthusiastic and said we’d make it work. We were both fans of Jeff’s work.”
The only technique that Walas avoided for filming was bladder effects, which were used in An American Werewolf in London (1981) and The Thing (1982) to great effect. Walas didn’t go this route because it had already been done many times in previous effects movies, “and I didn’t want the final transformation to become just one more in a long line of them.”
Walas says that on every project there’s usually one effect that’s a real pain to pull off, and it was the melting hand. Walas wasn’t thrilled with the end result, but the shot was sped up, and Cronenberg was happy with the end results.
Explaining the concept of teleportation to Veronica, Seth says “Your stocking was disintegrated there and reintegrated here, sort of.” In the original short story and the 1950s films, the central device was generally referred to as a “disintegrator-reintegrator machine” rather than a teleporter.
About his own cameo as the gynecologist, David Cronenberg mentions he rarely does cameos in his own films. He would prefer to hire actors for all of the roles in his films. However, Geena Davis asked him to play this part, as she felt more comfortable with the director being in the scene with her.
The “insect politics” speech was something that David Cronenberg came up with from his days as an entomologist. He was fascinated by insect societies, the division of labor, and the caste structure therein, yet they are very much not human.
That really is Jeff Goldblum playing the piano early in the film. It was his idea for the character, wanting to be like Cary Grant in The Philadelphia Story (1940). Goldblum now plays piano in his own jazz band, the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra.
How to create a modern day creature for the story was the real challenge of the film, Chris Walas says. “We really needed to have a carefully worked out, logical visual development of the character that would keep Jeff onscreen as long as possible. The final transformation wasn’t as drastic in David’s original script. I think the jaw coming off and the head splitting open are the only descriptions.
The name Brundle came from Formula One racer, Martin Brundle. David Cronenberg generally takes names of his characters from the world of motor racing, as he is an enthusiast. The director notes this is interesting considering Seth Brundle suffers from motion sickness, one of the reasons why he invented the telepods.
It always bothered David Cronenberg that in the 1958 version of The Fly, the flies head on the human body was the size of a normal man’s head. No scientific or logical reason was given that the flies head would grow to human size if they were simply swapped. Another thing that bothered the director about the original film was the shot from the fly’s point of view, the classic mosaic shot of the screaming wife. “We all know that insect eyes have facets unlike human eyes, many facets, hundreds of them, thousands of them.” Cronenberg goes on to explain that each of those facets would replicate a different piece of the whole picture, not the whole picture itself.
The line “Be afraid. Be very afraid.” came from Mel Brooks who said it casually during a conversation about the script. Cronenberg believes that as much as it has been mimicked and reused in films since most probably don’t remember it came from The Fly.
The idea of the opening title card, the idea of it fluttering in, was done initially for the film’s teaser. Cronenberg liked it so much he incorporated it into the finished film.
The push-in shot of the baboon disappearing from one telepod was David Cronenberg’s first ever motion control shot. In order to make the baboon seem to disappear the shot had to be done twice, one with the baboon in the telepod and one without. To ensure both shots are the exact same, computers have to be used to control the camera. This being the early days of such technology, the tracks the dolly traveled on were extremely large, and Cronenberg compares them to 19th Century railroad tracks.
There are a few moments where David Cronenberg notes a special effect that would have been done using computers had the film been made when technology allowed it. For instance, the scene where Veronica walks in on Seth crawling across the ceiling was done using a huge Ferris wheel and the set being built on that Ferris wheel. As Seth/Goldblum crawls on the ceiling and down the wall, the set rotated to give the supernatural appearance of someone able to do such a thing. Cinematographer Mark Irwin had to devise a system using mirrors in order to light the scene.
A number of actors were approached for the role of Seth Brundle. Many of them turned the role down, as they were afraid of how much prosthetic makeup they would be required to wear late in the film, that their performance would be lost in the makeup and how much it covered. Jeff Goldblum was not afraid at all. He, in fact, welcomed the challenge. The makeup for the last part of the film took over five hours to apply before filming could even begin. Geena Davis would often sing and read to him while he was having his makeup put on. Cronenberg also notes Goldblum had to learn to speak with various kinds of prosthetic teeth in, and the actor had to work with a speech therapist throughout the filming.
One of the many attempts to remake this version of The Fly dates back to 2003, when Fox Spotlight announced they were remaking The Fly for a Summer 2006 release date. This version would be written and directed by Todd Lincoln, who stated the first half of the film would be a scene-for-scene remake, but the second half would turn more into an action-horror film, teasing that “we’d get to see Brundle fly with wings and go on a killing spree”. Lincoln was also eyeing Billy Crudup or Brad Pitt for the role of Seth Brundle, who would turn into a creature that resembled less of a human/fly hybrid and more of a literal giant fly, with large red compound eyes and fully developed wings. After being in development hell for several years, the film was finally removed from Fox Spotlight’s upcoming schedule in 2007.
Early designs of the teleportation pods resembled glass showers or phone booths.
John Lithgow auditioned for the lead role.
Veronica tells Seth (Jeff Goldblum) that “Something went wrong.” Ellie Sattler tells Ian Malcolm (Goldblum) the same thing in Jurassic Park (1993). Brundle and Malcolm are also both in the habit of wearing the same set of clothes every day.
Seth says he doesn’t like to wake up every morning wondering what to wear. In Michael Crichton’s novel Jurassic Park, Ian Malcolm says he only wears black and grey because he doesn’t like to spend time wondering what to wear when he wakes up. Jeff Goldblum played Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park (1993) and its The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997).
Rob Bottin submitted his own idea for the design of the Brundlefly, it ended up being scrapped.
Walas wanted a actor in a suit, but Cronenberg wanted to make sure it was unrecognizable as a human in any form. “Once we had that design done up as a maquette, we worked backwards with the make-up designs to suggest the final forms slowly growing into place.”
After their metamorphosis, adult flies break out of their pupa by inflating their heads to crack it open, something they are only able to do at this stage of their life cycle. Though not apparent on-screen, Seth’s head is pushed off in the same way. The mechanical head underneath the prosthetic Brundle face was built to expand from human to insect proportions in order to push off the human skin.
David Cronenberg mentions he doesn’t think the original story by George Langelaan is a particularly well-written story. However, he feels the basic concept is stunning and “high concept.” Cronenberg believes it is sure to spawn a few more movies sometime in the future.
The idea of Seth Brundle mimicking Albert Einstein in that his wardrobe is made up of the exact same outfit to keep him from using brain power to select clothing is one of the character elements David Cronenberg added to the screenplay. In fact, the director states he has taken on this way of dressing himself since, but he says in his case it’s probably just laziness.
David Cronenberg notes in the scene where Seth is rambling on and on while continuously pouring sugar in his coffee that even though a lot of dialogue was written, Goldblum added lines in order to continue the amping up effect it had on his character. Cronenberg also notes this scene could have a parallel with someone being on cocaine, which was common in the 1980s. He also likens the Brundlefly fusion to a disease and the fact that when someone is given a disease, they always try to find the benefits to what is happening to them. “I really did want there to be a strangely attractive though dangerous up-side to the fly fusion,” mentions the director.
David Cronenberg mentions a few times the importance of how much Brundle should be able to articulate what is happening to him. By late in the original film, the scientist was a complete mute, and Cronenberg felt this couldn’t have worked for his film. Cronenberg mentions books written from the first-hand perspective of someone who has contracted a terminal disease and how enlightening it was to hear in their own words what was happening to them. The way Brundle explains what is happening to him was drawn from these books allowing the audience to experience the disease even more so than if they were simply watching him transform. This was also important for the director later in the film when Brundle begins to literally lose his own voice.
David Cronenberg notes that even though it isn’t very realistic for someone, in this case Veronica, to only have two people in her life, he felt it important that her only source for comfort or support in dealing with what is happening to Seth is her former lover, Stathis. The director felt it important to emphasize the triangle at the center of the film and to help build Stathis’s motivations later in the film. In fact, The Fly originally ended with Veronica living with Stathis, but audience’s negative reactions – and Cronenberg’s own disapproval of such an ending – forced it to be cut.
This is the second of three movies that co-star Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis. The others being Transylvania 6-5000 (1985), and Earth Girls Are Easy (1988).
Before production on the film could begin, the original director Robert Bierman had to pull out of the film due to the death of his daughter whom had been killed in a tragic accident and production was halted for 3 months. He decided not to do the film due to the film’s dark film subject matter and was replaced by David Cronenberg.
Veronica refers to the telepods as “Designer phone booths” upon first seeing them. The full-sized teleportation booths in the 1958 film were more or less those and as scripted would have had a similar appearance, hence the line. When the “designer Italian phone booths” the creative team came up with came off as too intimidating, the more-exotic-looking pods of the finished film were conceived, but the line still worked and was thus kept.
David Cronenberg recognizes the theatricality to the movie, and, in fact, mentions how he was working on an opera adaptation with Howard Shore. He points out that most of the movie is three characters interacting in one location. “Four if you count the baboon.”
The director mentions that watching the film for this commentary was the first time he had seen it since 1986 during its release. He makes notice by how disturbing yet emotional he finds the film to be. He believes that is one of the contributing factors to the film’s success, that it attracted an audience that generally did not see horror films, especially one as graphic as this.
“This is my version of the sexual awakening of a nerd.” – stated David Cronenberg on the sex scene between Seth Brundle and Veronica Quaife.
When recording Howard Shore’s score, David Cronenberg remembers Mel Brooks questioning whether certain moments were too much. He particularly noticed how much the music crescendos when Brundle is walking down the street. “The guy is just walking down the street,” said Brooks. “No, Mel,” replied Cronenberg, “The guy is about to meet his destiny.”
George Chuvalo, who plays the man Brundle arm wrestles in the bar, is the Canadian heavyweight boxing champion. He fought Muhammad Ali and George Foreman and was never knocked off his feet during his career.
On the directors commentary, David Cronenberg mentions technology and CGI when discussing the makeup effects on Jeff Goldblum. The director finds an immediacy to the character and the performance that is generally lost when a CG performance is given or motion capture is utilized. This is particularly found in the scene between Seth and Veronica on the roof of the Bishop Straun School -they actually filmed there – where the director notes the emotion in the scene and how it could have easily been lost had it been shot using green screen.
David Cronenberg felt that in the final transformation, when Seth is completely gone and all that remains is a giant walking fly, the creature still needed some kind of human element to it for emotion. The articulation was still important even though the character could no longer speak. The director chose to give the creature emotional eyes, what Cronenberg refers to as “big versions of Jeff’s eyes.”
This Mel Brooks production won the Academy Award for Best Achievement in Make-Up. Just a few short years before, this wasn’t even a category. That changed because another Mel Brooks production, The Elephant Man (1980), did not receive a special achievement award.
The silver car driven by Stathis Borans (John Getz) is a 1980 Maserati Quattroporte III.
“Am I dying? Is this how it starts am I dying?”, David Cronenberg set this sequence in a bathroom specifically because in real life many people’s first sign that they are gravely ill comes to them in the privacy of their bathroom as they realize something is amiss with their body. Interestingly, the later reveal that Veronica is pregnant takes place in her bathroom, where she’s gone to cry after receiving the news offscreen.
Included among the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”, edited by Steven Schneider.
One of the biggest disappointments for Chris Walas was the monkey-cat scene. It was shot very, very quickly at the end of a long day with no rehearsal. “We needed more time to get it right, but there just wasn’t any.” He stated.
Chris Walas had a hell of a learning curve on Gremlins. In the days of practical effects, effects artists had to reinvent the wheel to make something come to life, and it was a hard process to make an army of animatronic creatures. As Walas recalls, “I should say that I was personally terrified for the entire show. It was a gigantic project for me, beyond anything I had done before, and time and the schedule were not on my side.”Once he got Gremlins under his belt, “It was a very empowering experience for me,” Walas says. “I think I gained a lot of confidence out of it. The Fly wasn’t really that much of a leap so much as it was a journey down a different path. The Fly was all about the make-up and the emotional reality of the work. It was less crazed fantasy and was less puppets from start to finish like Gremlins was.”
The scene where Seth performs gymnastic moves around his apartment was obviously done by gymnast stand-ins. However, as Cronenberg points out, the gymnasts were not used to doing their moves in multiple takes. While competing, gymnasts train for up to years at a time to perform only once. They had to perform their moves so many times during filming it got to the point where they couldn’t do them any longer.
Many epilogues were thought of, most of them dealing with Veronica giving birth or not giving birth, giving birth to a perfectly healthy baby, and even giving birth to a butterfly baby which ended up being a dream. Cronenberg found that the ending they have was so shattering to audiences that nothing worked after that.
Brundle goes through the stages of grief during his transformation. Denial: he refuses to believe anything is wrong, believing instead that he has been improved. Anger: He becomes short-tempered. Fear: He is afraid as he sees his body starting to deteriorate. Bargaining: He attempts to arrest the process but fusing with another life form. Acceptance: he begs for death.
After bringing Veronica, a journalist, to his apartment, the first thing Seth does to impress her is play the piano. In real life, David Cronenberg’s mother played the piano, while his father was a journalist.
After the successful teleportation of the baboon, Veronica tells Seth that he’ll never have to be carsick again, to which Seth says “or airsick or seasick.” In The Right Stuff (1983), Jeff Goldblum played a man who got seasick. In Independence Day (1996), he played a man who got airsick.
In all four “Fly” movies (1958, 1959, 1986, & 1989) the lab is accessed by a large sliding metal door. Delambre’s lab in the fifties films, Seth Brundle’s loft apartment and lab in 1986, and Martin Brundle’s BartokCorp lab in 1989. Presumably, David Cronenberg decided to keep the motif as a nod to the original film and was repeated in the 1989 sequel.
The song “Help Me” by Bryan Ferry was developed for the movie as a promotional tool. It was common in the 1980s to have a song written for your movie so you could have a music video running that promotes the film. David Cronenberg doesn’t feel it fit in the movie and using it over the end credits, which was the original plan, was a complete disaster. Howard Shore’s score was just fine, and “Help Me” was left though barely audible during the bar scene.
The film was later parodied in the ITV sketch comedy show Hale and Pace (1986). Norman Pace is seen going into one telepod and is teleported into the other, and he comes out as a zipper. The word “fly” is slang for the zipper on a pair of pants.
Brundle’s mishap results from the computer’s confusion at the presence of an extra genetic pattern, and its attempt to rectify the situation by fusing them. This conveniently ignores all the genetic material belonging to the bacteria and other microorganisms that make up a sizable proportion of the human body. Probably Artistic License, as otherwise there is no movie. (Though, it could be argued that the fly’s genetic structure was sufficiently complex to confuse the computer, while nascent organisms were considered a part of the human body.)
Stathis is associated with shadows and orange lighting (example being Veronica finding him taking a shower in her apartment), while Seth is given more light and blue tones. But then the tragic mistake happens. Seth’s decaying skin takes on a very reddish-orange, rusty shade as his metamorphosis progresses, and he becomes associated with shadow. Come his penultimate form and the final 20 minutes, which take place at night, blue contrast is brought back by the lighting and Veronica’s blue dress, while Stathis gets the light along with a blue-gray sweater as he becomes a Hero Antagonist. The final five minutes push things further as Seth’s final Brundlefly form emerges and Stathis shoots out the cables connecting Ronnie’s telepod to the others, which is followed by the botched teleportation destroying part of a telepod, leaving the entire loft a blue-suffused scene as smoke fills it. These are just a few examples of the film’s use of this color contrast.
At first, Walas figured they’d just need a couple of fake heads for the final transformation, but Cronenberg of course wanted an extreme transformation, “so there was no way we could use an actor for the final creature. We initially tried to design different make-up approaches, working from Jeff to what might be the final version, but it quickly became clear that we needed to define the final stage first, and work our way backwards with the make-up design.”
For Chris Walas, one of the most important lessons he learned from Gremlins “was the fact that there is always more than one way to do an effect. There’s always another option. We developed a lot of our own technology for Gremlins that we adapted to The Fly, particularly along the animatronics line, so we had an existing library of hardware available. That became critical on The Fly as we had to rethink some effects due to the tight schedule.”
In the Pogue draft, the principal antagonist was a Corrupt Corporate Executive who cheated the protagonist out of the proper royalties he deserved for his work on the “F32 formula”, and went on to try and seize control of the telepods from him upon learning of his tragic plight. In the final film, Stathis tells Veronica that earlier in his career Seth was “the leader of the F32 team. Remember them? An inch away from the Nobel Prize for Physics he was only 20 at the time.” Amusingly, what exactly either version of F32 was is not specified in either script.
In the bathroom scene, as Seth’s gradual transformation into Brundlefly begins, Seth has lesions on his face. Lesions are a skin condition related to HIV/AIDS. The film was released during the dawn of the AIDS epidemic and the film was seen by many as a metaphor for the disease and the film deals with even more basic issues that everybody can identify with.
The character Mr. Bean, played by Rowan Atkinson, makes at least two references to this film: Mr. Bean’s wardrobe is the same as Brundle’s, and the sentence “Be afraid. Be very afraid.” was used to promote the character’s first movie.
Seth in his final Brundlefly form. For a mutated abomination, his eyes rather resemble puppy-dog eyes. The trick, as Cronenberg explains in the DVD Commentary, is that Brundlefly’s eyes were designed to look human rather than fly-like, taking some inspiration from Jeff Goldblum’s eyes.
The shotgun Stathis Borans uses at the end is a Browning 12 Gauge over/under double barreled shotgun.
The Fly came to David Cronenberg through Mel Brooks who was working with producer Stuart Cornfeld at the time. Cronenberg had read the screenplay for the remake before, but couldn’t work on it, as he was in the process of working on an adaptation of Total Recall with Dino De Laurentiis. The director was interested in the way co-writer Charles Edward Pogue had rewritten the original 1958 film, but Cronenberg felt the characters in the screenplay could have been differentiated more from characters in the original short story. Still he was impressed and surprised by how much the screenplay felt like something he would have written.
David Cronenberg notes the baboon used in the film became attracted to the script supervisor, Gillian Richardson, as she was evidently close to his height. Cronenberg notes this was a problem on set, and Jeff Goldblum who’s 6ft4, who was exponentially taller than the baboon, was able to dominate him. A subservient relationship grew between Goldblum and the baboon, who accepted the lead actor as the alpha male on set. The director goes on to talk about how you can’t train a baboon, and ways to make it look as if the one was performing had to be devised. For one scene, a living fly was attached to a fishing line and dangled around the baboon’s head.
Included among the American Film Institute’s 2002 list of 400 movies nominated for the top 100 top 100 America’s Greatest Love Stories movies.
The opening line of the film foreshadows the entirety of Seth’s transformation. What he’s working on certainly changes his world and life as he knows it.
This is the first Fly movie to be shot in the 1.85:1 ratio. The three previous films were all shot in 2.35:1.
The License Plate on Stathis Boran’s car reads “Particle.”
Howard Shore was hired to score the Lord of the Rings films because Peter Jackson was a fan of his work with Crononberg. While the epic adventure of The Lord of the Rings is very different from Cronenberg’s brand of body horror, Jackson saw the Shelob’s Lair sequence as a horror movie within the adventure, and told Shore to make it sound like this film. The erie strings on the score can be heard at the climax of this film, just as Brundle is about to vomit on Stathis’s face. Similar music can be heard in Shelob’s Lair. The music while Brundlefly emerge from Seth’s body is also similar to the scene where Gandalf, Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas confront Grima’s soldiers in Edoras.
David Cronenberg auditioned several women for the Veronica Quaife role, but he wanted someone who could match Jeff Goldblum’s Seth Brundle in his eccentricities and stature. The director and Goldblum finally decided to look towards Goldblum’s girlfriend at the time, Geena Davis. Cronenberg found that working with a real-life couple meant he and the actors had to find a way to allow them to disconnect from who they were and find these characters who have just met.
The idea of Veronica flushing the toilet while Stathis Borans is in the shower came about when Geena Davis was messing around on set. David Cronenberg refers to this moment as one of the classics of film history and explains the concept of cold water rushing from an apartment and hot water moving to the shower.
David Cronenberg has interesting insight into the comparison between scientists and artists, how many scientists also have some kind of artistry about them. The director notes the cross-over between brilliant scientists and brilliants artists, how their creativity works and how they come up with solutions. He mentions how like Seth Brundle, many scientists seek answers through the comfort of producing art. In Brundle’s case it is playing the piano. “You can be a science geek or a science nerd, but it doesn’t mean you have no poetry in your soul or body.” he stated.
The oft-parodied moment from the original where the human-headed fly is caught in the spider web and screaming “Help me! Please, help me!” in its squeaky voice? Seth makes a desperate plea for help to Veronica with those words in one of the film’s more emotional moments. At the bar where Seth seeks another romantic partner, “Help Me” is the title and key lyric of the song heard in the sequence’s first stretch. (The Bryan Ferry song was originally intended for the film’s closing credits, but was delegated to background music because it was too much of a tonal shift from Howard Shore’s orchestral underscore…although it was released as a single.)
Included among the American Film Institute’s 2001 list of 400 movies nominated for the top 100 Most Heart-Pounding American Movies.
Seth gets queasy as Veronica drives him to his loft so he can show her the telepods. She comments “You’re not a very accomplished drunk” (he had a glass of Scotch at the Bartok event) before he explains that it’s actually his chronic motion sickness kicking in. Later Seth actually gets drunk and decides teleporting himself with no other human beings around is a fantastic idea.
Mel Brooks and Stuart Cornfeld had previously produced The Elephant Man (1980), which was directed by David Lynch. David Cronenberg’s previous film The Dead Zone (1983) was produced by Dino De Laurentiis, who produced Lynch’s films Dune (1984) and Blue Velvet (1986). Laura Dern, who auditioned to play the love interest in this film but lost out to Jeff Goldblum’s real-life girlfriend Geena Davis, appeared in Blue Velvet (1986) and later worked with Goldblum in Jurassic Park (1993) and, like Davis, began a relationship with him. Seth gets Ronnie to come to his apartment by offering to make her coffee. Dern later became a coffee enthusiast thanks to Lynch.
“You really get into the nervous system of your actors when you’re directing, and it is like a fusion, a sort of Brundlefly fusion.” – stated David Cronenberg on working with his actors, particularly Jeff Goldblum, who the director feels was perfect for the role.
Seth is quite the coffee aficionado in this film. On The World According to Jeff Goldblum: Coffee (2020), Jeff Goldblum revealed that he is not himself a coffee drinker, and recently cut caffeine from his diet.
The original The Fly famously ended with the fly-with-human-head caught in a spider’s web. Howard Shore was later able to score a sequence like that: Shelob’s Lair in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Director Peter Jackson said to score that sequence like a Cronenberg film.
Seth mentions earlier because of his motion sickness he had vomited on his tricycle as a child, foreshadowing his later ability to vomit corrosive substance to digest food.
David Cronenberg notes the discussion that the film is really about AIDS. The disease was at its highest when the film was made, but the director says it is more about the general idea of aging, disease, and the inevitability of deteriorating. He feels this universal fear was another key element to the film’s success. Likewise, Cronenberg, now much older than he was when he made the film, is able to relate to the themes his film brings up. He finds the film to be far more disturbing now than when he made it 20 years prior.
Jeff Goldblum also appeared in Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978). Both this film and Body Snatchers are remakes of 1950s sci-fi horror movies, based on stories that came out a year before the original films. Both have Goldblum transformed into a human hybrid. Both are highly regarded remakes.
David Cronenberg’s previous film was The Dead Zone (1983), which had Christopher Walken, Brooke Adams and Colleen Dewhurst. Jeff Goldblum had previously appeared in Annie Hall (1977) with Walken and Dewhurst, and another sci-fi/horror remake, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), with Adams.
The white car driven by Veronica Quaife is a Saab 99.
Laura Dern, who was considered for the female lead, appeared instead in David Lynch’s Blue Velvet (1986) this year. As of 2021 she has never worked with Cronenberg, but in her subsequent collaborations with Lynch, has worked with many other actors who have. In Wild at Heart (1990) she worked with Willem Dafoe, who appeared in eXistenZ (1999). In Inland Empire, she worked with Jeremy Irons, who appeared in Dead Ringers (1988) and M. Butterfly (1993). In Twin Peaks (2017), she worked with Jennifer Jason Leigh (also from eXistenZ (1999)) and Naomi Watts, who appeared in Eastern Promises (2007). [link=Twin Peaks (2017)] also featured David Duchovny, who played Jeff Goldblum in a “Celebrity Jeopardy” sketch on Saturday Night Live: David Duchovny/Puff Daddy/Jimmy Page (1998). Dern and Goldblum, of course, appeared together in Jurassic Park (1993). That film also featured BD Wong, who was in the original cast of the play on which M. Butterfly (1993) was based.
Co-producer Kip Ohman, who spearheaded the effort to get this film made, died just a year after its release. The original film suffered a similar tragedy. Director Kurt Neumann died just a month after its release. Ohman died on July 25, 1987, while the original film was released on July 16, 1958. Neumann died on August 21, 1958, while this was was released on August 15, 1986.
Seth brags that he owns a restaurant-quality espresso machine in the opening scene. In The Life Aquatic (2004), Jeff Goldblum character own’s such a machine.
In the original film, the ill-fated scientist was played by David Hedison, who went on to appear in The Lost World (1960), based on the novel about an island with dinosaurs. Jeff Goldblum, of course, appeared in his own dinosaur-themed adventure, Jurassic Park (1993). The sequel, in which his character is the lead, was also entitled The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997).
Thanks to genetic technology and an insect, Jeff Goldblum’s character ends up creating a monster he cannot control. In Jurassic Park (1993), he warns the other main character about the dangers of genetic technology, arguing that they cannot control the dinosaurs that were drawn from blood-drinking insects.
The movie that took over the number one position at the weekend box office from this film in late August 1986 was Stand by Me (which had opened the previous weekend in the number two position), which also spectacularly indulges in the vomit indiscretion shot.
The lead cast of this film are all United States natives, who traveled to Canada (specifically Toronto) to make the film for a Canadian filmmaker. On an episode of Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (2012), Jeff Goldblum discovered that his great-grandfather emigrated from Europe to Halifax, before migrating to the United States. Goldblum and Cronenberg are also both Jewish.
When they meet at the Particle offices, Stathis (who at this point believes Seth to be a fraud) makes a smug joke to Seth: “If you plan to make anything disappear, let me know.” Foreshadowing when they meet again in the climax, Seth uses his vomit drop on Stathis’s hand and ankle.
David Cronenberg feels the ending, is the same as the ending to his previous work The Dead Zone (1983), another film where many epilogues were thought of but not used.
Producer Mel Brooks and composer Howard Shore both started their careers on sketch comedy shows. Brooks was a writer for Your Show of Shows (1950). Shore was the first musical director for Saturday Night Live (1975).
In the episode of The Projection Booth podcast covering this movie, critic Samm Deighan argues that Seth Brundle could be on the autism spectrum when the conversation turns to the screenplay-only detail that he always goes to the fast food place for lunch because he likes the predictable uniformity of the cuisine. Between that and his famously Limited Wardrobe (Einstein-inspired or no), he seems to want repetition and familiarity in his life, a common autistic trait. Other traits he has that are often observed in autistics include his difficulty in making small talk but eloquence in and enthusiasm for explaining his interests and work, his talent for logical thinking, his work virtually defining his life even as he brings Veronica into it, his stuttering/fumfering, his extravagant hand/arm gestures as he speaks, and his straightforwardness (he’s an amusingly Bad Liar when he attempts it). Critic Drew McWeeny discusses encountering autistics who love this character in the Screen Drafts episode ranking David Cronenberg’s filmography (it was ranked #2).
An audience member passed out when Seth’s ear fell off.
This might be unintentional, but the song Seth plays on the piano when he first brings Veronica up to his lab to show off the telepods is “Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing”…and the movie that song comes from is about Star-Crossed Lovers.
Trailer narrated by Hal Douglas.
Seth finds the solution to his “flesh” problem not by obsessing over how to program the computer, but through his relationship with Veronica. This is actually how many gifted people find creative solutions to their problems. By taking a break from it, they will subconsciously make connections to other activities in their lives.
“It’s the flesh — it makes you crazy” originates as pillow talk and becomes the eureka moment Seth needs to properly program the telepods. His subsequent Teleporter accident results in a mutation of the flesh that literally makes him crazy.
Director Cameo – David Cronenberg: It was Geena Davis’ idea that he appear as a gynecologist.
David Cronenberg: [disease POV] Brundle describes his condition from the “disease’s” viewpoint, saying its “purpose” or its “want” is to “turn him into something else.”
Geena Davis claims that the only time she felt “grossed out” by the amount of gore was in the scene where Seth’s ear falls off and she holds him. She states that her reaction to holding her face up to Goldblum’s was not acting and that she was indeed really grossed out.
Scripted, but never filmed, was a segment meant to have followed the deleted monkey-cat scene: A homeless lady screams after interrupting Brundlefly as he feeds out of an open dumpster. Brundlefly seizes the bag lady and disintegrates her face with his vomit drop. Before he finishes feeding on the woman’s corpse, Brundlefly’s humanity emerges for a moment; just long enough to contemplate the horror of his sub-human existence.
Jeff Goldblum was often wearing as much as 5lbs of prosthetic makeup during his fly transformation.
The infamous cat-monkey scene where Brundlefly fuses a cat and the remaining baboon and then beats it to death with a lead pipe was cut following a Toronto screening. According to producer Stuart Cornfeld the audience felt that there was no turning back for Seth and they lost all sympathy for his plight, which caused the rest of the film to not play as well. In Cornfeld’s own words: “If you beat an animal to death, even a monkey-cat, your audience is not gonna be interested in your problems anymore”.
Two puppeteers (one of them Chris Walas) were located underneath the floor animating the inside-out baboon while a third pumped blood. All three of them had to wear raincoats because of the large amounts of blood being pumped. Frequently the rest of the crew would break for lunch and forget about the three underneath the floor.
Several versions of a happier ending were shot but ultimately never used. Two were filmed in which Veronica has another dream of her unborn child, this time as a baby with beautiful butterfly wings. She wakes up in both and is revealed to still be pregnant in one while her pregnancy is left open in the other. Another two versions featured her having an unseen nightmare and being comforted by Stathis, who in one version states the baby is his and in the other that it is dead. Jeff Goldblum admits to being angry about the filmed “Stathis” endings, as he felt Veronica ending up with Stathis undermined the tragedy of the film. Eventually it was decided that, although some of the filmmakers – including producer Stuart Cornfeld – liked the alternate ending, it was more appropriate to end with Seth’s death as, according to Cornfeld, “Once your hero is dead your movie is over”.
Stathis’ hand and foot both survived for some time after the completion of the film. John Getz claimed to have kept one of the prosthetic feet used in the film for years in his freezer with neighborhood kids visiting almost daily to see it. Conversely the arm with the melted hand was turned into the base of a lamp and put in the Chris Walas, Inc. shop before going to Bob Burns’ collection.
Seth’s gradual transformation into Brundlefly happens over 4 weeks and 6 days.
Linda Hamilton was David Cronenberg’s first choice for the role of Veronica based on her performance in The Terminator (1984), but she turned it down, because she was disturbed by the script. Particularly the scene where Veronica gives birth to a maggot baby disturbed her the most.
Stathis’s melting hand effect was created by sculpting the mutilated hand, then building up an intact hand on top of it out of gelatin. The gelatin was then melted using stage lights and a hair dryer, and filmed at low speed. Chris Walas essentially recreated the same effect he had used earlier for Toht’s melting face in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981).
David Cronenberg didn’t want Seth Brundle to swap heads with a fly like in the 1958 film and instead decided to have Seth Brundle undergo a horrifying gradual transformation by having his genes fused with a fly on a genetic level.
Chris Walas wanted to avoid the use of bladders for the final transformation in which Brundlefly becomes the “Spacebug” as the technique, created by makeup legend Dick Smith, had been used in films like An American Werewolf in London (1981) and The Howling (1981) so much that “housewives knew about it”. He eventually came up with having the Spacebug’s head extend and push the prosthetic likeness of Jeff Goldblum’s head apart. Walas’ crew constructed a puppet that featured a retracting and extending head.
A scene was filmed in which Brundle is seen eating Stathis’s severed foot after melting it off with his vomit drop, but it was cut for pacing.
One version of the script had Brundle losing his ability to speak while becoming more fly-like, as in The Fly (1958).
Veronica ripping off Seth’s jaw in the final transformation sequence took 2 weeks to film.
The transformation was broken up into seven distinct stages, with Jeff Goldblum spending many hours in the makeup chair for Brundle’s later incarnations. Stages 1 and 2: subtle, rash-like skin discoloration that leads to facial lesions and sores, with tiny fly hairs dotting Goldblum’s face, in addition to the patch of fly hairs growing out of the wound on Brundle’s back. Stages 3 and 4-A: piecemeal prosthetics covering Goldblum’s face (and later his arms, feet, and torso), wigs with bald spots, and crooked, prosthetic teeth (beginning with stage 4-A). Stage 4-B: deleted from the film, this variant of stage 4 was seen only in the “monkey-cat” scene, and required Goldblum to wear the first of two full-body foam latex suits, as Brundle has stopped wearing clothing, at this point. Stage 5: the second full-body suit, with more exaggerated deformities, and which also required Goldblum to wear distorting contact lenses that made one eye look larger than the other. Stage 6: the final “Brundlefly” creature (referred to as the “space bug” by the film’s crew), depicted by various partial and full-body cable- and rod-controlled puppets. Stage 7: another puppet which represented the mortally-injured Brundlefly-Telepod fusion creature (initially dubbed the “Brundlebooth” and later the “Brundlething” by the crew) as seen in the film’s final moments.
In order to get all the actors in the bar to jump at the right time David Cronenberg had the crew, unbeknownst to the actors, make a loud, sharp bang onset.
While filming the finale, the puppeteers under the floor would get bored and start gluing pictures to John Getz’s real foot, or place it in oatmeal. Getz fondly recalls that he should have realized, being unable to move, that he was a perfect target.
Throughout the film, Seth does not kill anyone. He only wounds and severely injures. However, in a deleted scene, Seth kills the Baboon/Cat hybrid. Additionally, a scripted scene that was never shot, was one in which Seth kills a bag-lady in an alleyway. In the sequel, The Fly II (1989), unlike this film, Martin Brundle kills four people.
In Charles Edward Pogue’s draft, the film ended with Ronnie falling into a coma and having a nightmare of giving birth to a giant maggot, but waking up in a hospital and learning she gave birth to a healthy baby boy.
The scene in which Seth breaks Marky’s arm in the bar almost didn’t happen. Chris Walas and his crew kept putting development of the effect on hold to focus on more difficult ones. The prosthetic arm piece and bone was made within a few days, as soon as they realized they were almost out of time.
Brundle’s speech “I’m, just gonna have to disintegrate. In a novel way, no doubt. And then I’ll die and it will be over.” is verbatim the events that happen to him by the end of the film.
Two of the cues from Howard Shore’s score are reused for the climax. “Plasma Pool”, from the scene where Brundle storms out on Veronica ignoring her belief that something went wrong, is used when Brundlefly is fused with the telepod. “The Last Visit”, from the scene where Brundle tells Veronica to never come back before she can tell him about her pregnancy, is used when Veronica mercy-kills the Brundlefly-telepod fusion.
Stathis fate is foreshadowed throughout the movie. Every time he talks about Brundle, you can see his left hand in his pocket, making it look like he doesn’t have one. That’s the fate he eventually suffers in the finale.
When they filmed the scene where Seth finishes his transformation at the end of the movie and Veronica rips off Seth’s jaw, David Cronenberg told Geena Davis to “rip that sucker off” when she pulls the jaw off the Brundlefly puppet.
John Travolta was considered for the role of Seth Brundle. But 20th Century Fox wouldn’t allow him to be cast due to the critical and commercial failure of his previous film for them, Two of a Kind (1983).
Seth getting a microchip stuck his back foreshadows Seth getting fused with the Telepod.
It is believed Seth and Ronnie’s baby is conceived when Seth and Ronnie have sex on Brundle’s couch 39 minutes into the film. In The Fly II (1989), Martin Brundle inherits Seth’s mutant genes, and it is logical that Martin Brundle was conceived after Seth went into the telepod with the housefly trapped inside.
The climax of this film includes many plot elements from Cronenberg’s previous film, The Dead Zone. Both involve a character breaking and entering, armed with a shotgun, intending to kill another character. The female lead appears in that scene, along with both a former and current lover. Sarah also has her infant son, while Ronnie is pregnant with hers. The lead character is also fatally shot in both films. That makes this the first of two monster movies starring Jeff Goldblum that borrows its ending from a Stephen King adaptation. The second was Jurassic Park, which made references to The Shining.
After the destruction of the first baboon, Seth stares off into space while Veronica consoles him. Later, his “insect politics” speech references Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis.” While both are played for serious, rather than comical effect, both are staples of Mel Brooks productions.
2 thoughts on “Franchise Review: The Fly”
One of my all-time favorite movies. Goldblum is incredible. Really interesting stuff on here.
He really is!