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Live-action film adaptations of classic cartoons and television series aren't always something to write home about, but that's far from the case for The Addams Family movie, which managed to accurately capture the creepy and kooky tone of the beloved property and its most iconic characters. But behind the scenes facts about the movie that went from a rather obscure and mostly forgotten relic of yesteryear to one of the most successful releases of 1991 is just as interesting as the source material.
Like a lot of movies that start as passion projects for certain producers, the conceptualizing, shooting, and post-production of The Addams Family was not for the faint of heart and ended up being one of the most the intense and challenging projects for many of those on both sides of the camera. So, before we all get carried away by one of Pugsley and Wednesday Addams' creatures, likes snap our fingers and get this show on the road.
Scott Rudin Came Up With The Idea To Adapt The Addams Family After Being In A Van Full Of People Singing The Show's Theme
The Addams Family theme song will forever go down as one of the most iconic and singable of its kind, but did you know the catchy tune led to the 1991 adaptation? In a Los Angeles Times profile on the production, producer Scott Rudin revealed that he came up with the idea to adapt the property when he and several 20th Century Fox executives were driving back from a screening when one of their kids started singing the theme. Everyone then started singing in unison, and he knew that he had to make the movie. Rudin pitched the idea the next day, but due to the rights being tied up with multiple parties, it took some finessing in order to get the ball rolling.
The Project Was Offered To Tim Burton And Terry Gilliam Before Barry Sonnefeld Got The Job
Barry Sonnefeld, who was an accomplished cinematographer in his own right, made his directorial debut with The Addams Family, but he wasn't the first to be offered the gig, as he detailed in a section of his memoir, Call Your Mother: Memoirs of a Neurotic Filmmaker (via EW), where he had a meeting with Scott Rudin:
[Scott Rudin speaking] I sent the script to Tim Burton and Terry Gilliam and they both passed. After those two, I had a choice — give it to some safe hack comedy director or take a chance on someone who might do a brilliant job. Someone who was a visual stylist…. This can't look like a typical comedy. The movie has to create a world and be amazing to look at — like Charles Addams' drawings.
Once getting hired, the job would prove to be no cakewalk for the young filmmaker as he experienced a great deal of stress and poor health, among other things, during the chaotic shoot.
Barry Sonnefeld Came Up With A Unique Way Of Getting The Students To Cry In The Schoolhouse Scene
One of the funniest moments in the movie takes place when Morticia Addams (Anjelica Huston) takes a job as a kindergarten teacher and proceeds to make the entire room burst into hysteric sobs upon reading Hansel and Gretel. Pulling this off was no easy task, which director Barry Sonnefeld remembered in his memoir, Call Your Mother: Memoirs of a Neurotic Filmmaker (via EW), where he recalled the unorthodox way he got the kids to start crying:
OK, kids. You guys did great. We're done filming, and all we have to do now, so stay where you're sitting, is to give you your measles vaccination.
At first, the kids didn't buy it, but one by one, they each started crying, which luckily the cameras caught and the scene was saved.
Christopher Lloyd Came Up With Fester Addams Signature Facial Expressions
Christopher Lloyd's depiction of Fester Addams in The Addams Family is one of the standouts of the film, mostly due to the insane facial work he does throughout his performance. Those smirks and the squirmy expressions weren't part of the character as Raul Julia revealed in a Filmnet Plus behind-the-scenes documentary where he took great pleasure in praising Lloyd for the brilliant ways he thought of to distort his face and add to the characterization of Gomez Addams' long-lost brother. Having never worked with the Back to the Future star prior to the 1991 production, Julia was just smitten with the skill and dedication of the actor.
Raul Julia And Dan Hedaya Actually Filmed The Sword Fighting Scene Without Stunt Doubles
Raul Julia's portrayal of Gomez Addams is not only one of the best depictions of a character in The Addams Family, but in any adaptation of a classic property to date. The way he dedicated himself to the role and lost himself in the pomp and circumstance of the Addams family patriarch goes unmatched, and can be seen in dueling scene with Dan Hedaya's character, the despicable Tully Alford. In the Filmnet Plus behind-the-scenes documentary, the late Julia revealed that while there were stunt doubles on hand, he and Hedaya made it a point to learn all of the moves and film the fight on their own, which ultimately added a nice touch of realism to an otherwise offbeat and otherworldly movie.
To Give Her Eyes More Of A Slant, Makeup Artists Glued Fabric To Anjelica Huston's Head
Many members of the cast were forced to undergo extensive makeup and prosthetic work to prepare for their roles each day of shooting, but perhaps the most painful application was endured by Anjelica Huston, who had to sit through what sounds like an extremely uncomfortable process in order to pull off the look of Morticia Addams. Here's how Huston described the process in her memoir, Watch Me:
[Make-up artist] Fern Buchner contrived to make my eyes slant by gluing tabs of fabric to my temples and securing them firmly behind my head with a sturdy elastic band. The only problem with this was that in the screen test, the lower part of my face appeared to be sagging, so she attached two more tabs behind my jawline.
The process of constantly pulling back her face proved to be too much for Angelica Huston at times and the actress recalled experiencing extreme headaches if the contraption was left on for too long without being loosened between shoots.
Cher Wanted To Play Morticia Addams But The Film's Producers Always Had Anjelica Huston In Mind
Looking back now, it's hard to picture anyone but Anjelica Huston in the role of Morticia Addams in The Addams Family, but there was another talented actress who was vying for the role before the final decision was made. During a 1991 conversation with EW, producer Scott Rudin revealed that Cher, yes, the Cher, was interested in taking on the role, but Huston was the first and only serious choice for the role. In that same conversation, Huston revealed that she used to read Charles Addams' comics growing up and almost immediately accepted the role when she was first contacted.
Fester Addams Was Originally Supposed To Be An Imposter Until Christina Ricci Pleaded Against It
For most of The Addams Family, Uncle Fester Addams thinks he is Gordon Craven, the son of the evil con artist and loan shark looking to pull a fast on the family. After being hit in the head at the end of the movie, Fester realizes that he is actually the long-lost brother Gomez claims he is and goes about doing what Uncle Fester does. Originally, Fester was supposed to be an imposter all along until members of the cast, including a young Christina Ricci voiced their concerns with director Barry Sonnenfeld as he revealed in a conversation with EW:
Raul [Julia] and Anjelica [Huston] were really upset. In fact, everyone was upset except Christopher Lloyd [who plays Fester]. But the person who best articulated their concern was Christina [Ricci].
The director eventually changed that aspect of the movie, thanks in part to pleading and opinions of the talented child actor.
It Took Christopher Hart Four Months To Shoot All Of Thing's Scenes
One of the unsung heroes of The Addams Family production was hand actor Christopher Hart who lent a hand for the depiction of Thing in the 1991 classic. And although his character isn't featured in every scene throughout the feature film, it took Hard four months to fulfill his commitment to the role, as he explained in a conversation on The Red Booth. According to actor whose hands have appeared in movies and shows like Idle Hands and Angel, he would have to sit through two hours of makeup each day and shoot all of his scenes twice (once with the rest of the cast and once on his own), with the visual effects team erasing his body in post-production.
It Took 20 Weeks To Shoot The Movie After Multiple Setbacks Including A Fainting Director
Getting The Addams Family ready for its November 1991 theatrical release was no easy task, especially when you consider all the setbacks the production endured before it could even enter post-production leading up to its premiere.
The first major obstacle the crew had to overcome was the fainting spell experienced by director Barry Sonnenfeld a few weeks into the shoot. If that wasn't bad enough, the original director of photography left for another job not long after that and his replacement was rushed to the hospital with a serious sinus infection. To top it all off, the Los Angeles Times, who wrote an extensive profile on the production, revealed that Orion Pictures, which funded the movie, sold the picture to Paramount in the middle of shooting, causing more confusion and delays.
Despite the extensive delays, constant starts and stops, and as director Barry Sonnenfeld described to the Los Angeles Times in the aforementioned article as black cloud hanging over the movie, The Addams Family went on to be a highly successful box office hit and even spawned a 1993 sequel, Addams Family Values.