When it comes to horror villains, there are few that have the elegance, grace, or tragedy as Candyman. Much like the character himself, the film has always had a haunting and hypnotic quality to it. While Candyman is often grouped together with slasher villains like Freddy Krueger or Jason Vorhees, he’s honestly much closer to that of Dracula and Frankentstein’s monster in terms of tone and backstory.
It’s a film that still holds up three decades later, and is continuing its popularity and public awareness with the recent 2021 installment. So in honor of its 30th anniversary today, we thought it would be fitting and fun to look at 30 fun facts about Candyman!
1. Clive Barker’s original story “The Forbidden” was set in Britain and dealt with the class system. However, when adapting Candyman for American audiences, the same themes were used but with race relations, since that was much more relevant to American history and audiences.
2. Eddie Murphy was at one point considered for the title role. But was ultimately deemed too short at 5’9”, opting for Tony Todd with his 6’5” stature.
3. Virginia Madsen was initially very hesitant to take the role of Helen because she is allergic to bees and knew she would be very close to them.
4. Had Virginia Madsen not taken the role, the producers’ next choice would have been Sandra Bullock.
5. Prior to shooting, director Bernard Rose took Tony Todd and Virginia Madsen ballroom dancing so they could form an elegant and romantic bond between their characters.
6. Candyman’s hook had to be made a second time, because the first one they had commissioned was made by a devout Christian blacksmith, who refused to sell it to the production when he found out it was for a horror film.
7. Bernard Rose met with the NAACP prior to production because the studio feared that featuring a black slasher villain might be perceived as racist, and wanted the NAACP’s opinion. Reportedly, their members had no issue and felt that it was actually very inclusive to have a black slasher villain, because why couldn’t they have one too?
8. For his characterization of Candyman, Tony Todd drew inspiration from the Batman villain Scarecrow (for his ability to invoke fear) as well as the Phantom of the Opera and Hunchback of Notre Dame (because they too were perceived as monsters, but were actually tragic, romantic characters).
9. In the original script, saying Candyman’s name 13 times summoned him, but it was reduced to 5, as Bernard Rose felt 13 was a bit excessive.
10. The movie’s opening aerial shot of Chicago was very much revolutionary at the time. It was done via Skycam, which used a cable system to run a camera as it filmed downward. Nowadays, it would be much easier to do a shot like this with a drone.
11. Several exteriors were shot in the actual Cabrini-Green housing projects in Chicago. In order to operate there safely, the producers made deals with the local gangs who occupied it. This included hiring many of them as extras.
12. Child actor DeJuan Guy (who played the boy Jake) was nicknamed “One Take Jake” because of his tendency to get everything right on the first take.
13. However, on the last day of filming there, one of the production vans had a bullet hole in it. No one knows who fired it, but fortunately no one was injured.
14. The bees that covered Tony Todd were only 12 hours old and specifically bred to be used in the movie. At 12 hours old, they looked large enough to be adult bees, but their stingers weren’t as strong.
15. While many reports differ on how many times Tony Todd was stung by the bees, Todd himself confirmed it was 26 times in an interview for Eli Roth’s History of Horror.
16. Todd did negotiate with producers so that he would receive an extra $1,000 bonus for each bee sting he received.
17. It took a half hour to get all the bees on Todd. Part of the trick was getting the queen bee’s scent on him.
18. Upon entering Cabrini-Green, Helen mentions that a week earlier a kid had been shot there. Tragically and ironically, only a few days before the film’s release, a boy named Dantrell Davis was killed by a stray bullet in Cabrini-Green while walking to school.
19. The scene in which Helen has to strip in front of a female police officer, the officer was played by Rusty Schwimmer, a very good friend of Virginia Madsen. She has requested that Schwimmer be cast, citing that she’d feel much more comfortable doing that scene with a close friend of hers.
20. Director Bernard Rose used hypnosis on Virginia Madsen to get her into the right phase for shooting her scenes with Candyman. But it started being too effective on Madsen, and she requested they stop doing it.
21. The scene in which Helen and Bernadette climb through the medicine cabinet to the other apartment was very real. There had been a series of murders in Chicago using that very same method allowing the killer to enter other people’s apartments.
22. Candyman grossed $25.8 million on a $9 million budget. Which was enough to spawn two sequels, as well as the 2021 “requel”.
23. Composer Philip Glass wrote the film’s haunting piano score, although he admitted that he was rather disappointed with the final film. He wrote the musical theme with the expectation that it was going to be a romantic and artful adaptation of Barker’s story. But he felt it was turned into a slasher and felt manipulated. Either way, the Candyman theme is very highly regarded among horror fans, and Glass himself admitted that for years, he continued to get royalties from it.
24. Virginia Madsen has admitted that Candyman is the movie she is most recognized for, and is proud of it.
25. Tony Todd also cites this movie as his favorite that he’s ever done.
26. Candyman received generally positive reviews from critics, which was unusual for horror. Roger Ebert praised the film for “scaring me with ideas instead of scaring me with gore.” However, Gene Siskel claimed that Candyman’s appearance looked too much like a “blaxploitation pimp coat”.
27. Nominated for Best Horror Film at the Saturn Awards, but lost to Bram Stoker’s Dracula. However, Virginia Madsen did win her Saturn Award for Best Actress.
28. Ranked #75 on Bravo’s 100 Scariest Movie Moments.
29. The Cabrini-Green housing project has since been demolished, with the last high rise being taken down in 2011. The 2021 sequel Candyman deals with the aftermath and gentrification that followed that.
30. In the years since its release, many have called out Candyman for featuring African American urban legend, but from the perspective of a white protagonist. This was part of what producer Jordan Peele and director Nia DaCosta wanted to address and update with the 2021 film.
Which of these did you already know? Which ones surprised you? Let us know in the comments!