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Most of the props were sourced from New York thrift shops

For added early 60s period realism, the film’s crew sourced most of the wardrobe and props from New York thrift stores. Curiously, suitable garbage cans proved elusive, so set decorator Tessa Davies wound up drove around New York in a truck full of new garbage cans and simply knocked on people’s doors asking if they would swap their old can with a new one.

The original film was only made because of a bet

Little Shop of Horrors was originally a 1960 B-movie from filmmaker Roger Corman, who made it for a bet that he couldn’t create an entire film in a week. He rehearsed with the cast from Monday to Wednesday before shooting on Thursday and Friday, using sets left over from his last production. Alas, reshoots had to be done afterwards so Corman technically lost the bet.

The stage musical was created by Disney songwriters Alan Menken and Howard Ashman

Premiering off-off-Broadway in 1982, the Little Shop of Horrors stage musical became a huge success, and remains hugely popular to this day. The offbeat adaptation of Roger Corman’s 1960 B-movie was the brainchild of composer Alan Menken and writer/lyricist Howard Ashman, who have since provided songs for numerous Disney hits including The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules and Tangled.

Bill Murray improvised all his lines

Bill Murray has a brief but memorable cameo in Little Shop of Horrors as a masochistic dental patient, alongside Steve Martin’s sadistic dentist. A keen ad-libber, Murray only agreed to the role on the condition he be allowed to improvise. To this, director Frank Oz told Murray, “‘Look, as long as you’re the masochist and Steve’s the sadist, I don’t care.’ So that’s what happened.”

Everyone died in the original ending

Director Frank Oz spent around one-fifth of the movie’s budget on a dark, dramatic ending which sees Seymour and Audrey killed, and giant Audrey II plants conquering the world. However, test audiences were appalled by this, and the studio demanded a new, happy ending be shot. The original bleak ending has since been brought back on the Little Shop of Horrors director’s cut Blu-ray.

It was studio Warner Bros’ most expensive movie at the time

At the time, Little Shop of Horrors was the most expensive Warner Bros production ever, with a budget of $25 million (which equates to around $69 million today, adjusted for inflation). Most of this went on the plant puppets, which were operated manually. Of course, that’s small change for Hollywood now: at present, WB’s most expensive movie is 2017’s Justice League, which cost $300 million.

The actors had to shoot the Suddenly Seymour number with ice cubes in their mouths

Little Shop of Horrors was shot at Pinewood Studios in London, England. However, because the stage was so big, it was impossible to heat properly, so the room was absolutely freezing, which meant everyone’s breath was visible. To avert this, Ellen Greene and Rick Moranis came up with the idea of putting ice cubes in their mouths while performing the Suddenly Seymour sequence.

The puppet’s lip-syncing had to be shot in slow motion then sped up later to make it look like Audrey II was singing

While figuring out how to film Audrey II’s musical numbers, the producers found the large puppet couldn’t lip-sync very effectively. However, when they filmed the plant slowly lip-syncing to the music, and then sped up the footage during editing, Audrey II looked far more lifelike.

This meant the actors had to lip sync at half-speed when performing alongside Audrey II

The major hitch in this plan was in any group numbers or duets involving Audrey II. For these scenes, the actors had to lip-sync and act at half-speed to match the puppets. While this worked beautifully onscreen, it created a pretty surreal filming experience for the cast.

The film had its own tie-in board game called Feed Me!

Little Shop of Horrors was so popular, it inspired a board game created by Milton Bradley. Feed Me! was released in 1987, and while it wasn’t an official Little Shop of Horrors tie-in, it featured a plastic plant with a hinged mouth that would spontaneously slam shut. The plant was clearly modelled on Audrey II, so it’s surprising MB didn’t get sued by Warner Bros.

The biggest plant puppet had to be operated by 60 technicians

Credit: Warner Bros/The Geffen Company

CGI was still too primitive to create realistic creatures back in 1986, so Audrey II had to be brought a life via puppetry – which wasn’t a problem for director Frank Oz, thanks to his experience working alongside Jim Henson. Numerous puppets were built: the smallest was only four inches high, while the largest was over 12 feet and required around 60 technicians to operate it.

Cyndi Lauper and Madonna were considered for the role of Audrey

Ellen Greene makes a great Audrey – but she almost didn’t get the role. Amazingly, singers Cyndi Lauper and Madonna were actually in the running for the part. Lauper reportedly was very keen to sign up for the role, but ultimately wasn’t available due to prior recording and touring commitments.

Eddie Murphy could have played the voice of Audrey II

Thanks to his work in Mulan and the Shrek movies, Eddie Murphy is as well-known today for his voice acting as his live-action performances, but this wasn’t the case back in 1986. However, the Beverly Hills Cop star was considered to provide the voice of Audrey II. In the end, singer Levi Stubbs was cast instead, whilst 1986 saw Murphy make The Golden Child.

John Candy nearly played Mr. Mushnik

Another 80s comedy legend who appears alongside Rick Moranis, Steve Martin and Bill Murray in the film is the sadly missed John Candy. However, while Candy makes a memorable cameo as radio host Wink Wilson, he could have been an even greater presence in the film, as he was originally offered the role of plant shop owner Mr. Mushnik – which instead went to Vincent Gardenia.

A bizarre dream sequence was cut from the final movie

One song from the stage show that was left out of the movie is The Meek Shall Inherit. This was originally filmed as a bizarre nightmare sequence, in which Seymour suffers tormented visions of financial success marred by the blood on his hands from feeding Audrey II. It isn’t clear why this scene was removed, but rough footage of the menacing scene is on YouTube.

Steve Martin injured himself when he accidentally punched his fist through a door filming one scene

One scene sees Steve Martin’s Orin Scrivello angrily kick a door open. However, in an earlier take for this scene, Martin pushed the double swinging doors open with his hands, only to be cut when the glass unexpectedly shattered, cutting his hands. Happily, Martin wasn’t seriously injured, and this outtake can be found in the extras of The Little Shop of Horrors DVD and Blu-ray.

It contains the first Oscar-nominated song to feature profanity

Although it’s now a staple of stage productions, Audrey II’s song Mean Green Mother From Outer Space was composed specifically for this film. It was nominated for Best Original Song at the 1987 Academy Awards, and was the first-ever Oscar-nominated song to contain swear words, plus the first to be sung by a villain. It lost to Top Gun’s Take My Breath Away by Berlin.

At one point, gunfire came through the wall from the neighboring Aliens set

Credit: 20th Century Studios/Brandywine Productions

Little Shop of Horrors was filmed at London’s Pinewood Studios back-to-back with another major 1986 movie: James Cameron’s Aliens. Early in the shoot, actor James Remar unwitting fired a prop gun loaded with blanks, causing an explosion that tore through the wall separating the two sets. Luckily no one was hurt, but Remar was soon fired for using drugs, and replaced by Michael Biehn.

Somewhere That’s Green heavily influenced a Little Mermaid song

In the song Somewhere That’s Green, city girl Audrey pines after a house with a garden. Later when Howard Ashman and Alan Menken worked on The Little Mermaid, the drew heavily on that earlier song when writing Ariel’s song, Part of Your World. Menken once noted, “We jokingly used to call [Part of Your World] ‘Somewhere That’s Wet,’ like Somewhere That’s Green but underwater.”

Vincent Gardenia says Frank Oz only cast him because he liked his name

Italian-American actor Vincent Gardenia (who died in 1992) co-stars as plant shop owner Mr Mushnik. While Gardenia had enjoyed a long and varied career on stage and screen (with notable film roles including Moonstruck and the first two Death Wish movies), the actor reportedly thought Frank Oz only cast him because of his name. After all, ‘Gardenia’ is a fitting moniker for a florist.

Frank Oz included an Easter Egg of his own name

Watch closely and you’ll notice that in one of the street backdrops there’s a neon sign for Chooz gum. On Twitter in 2018, Oz added that he picked Chooz – a defunct brand – to avoid any contemporary product placement. However, this also provides a little Easter Egg, as the last two letters flicker – spelling the director’s surname, Oz (an abbreviation of Oznowicz).

Jim Belushi was only cast when the original Patrick Martin actor wasn’t available for reshoots

When they were forced to reshoot the original apocalyptic ending, one casualty was actor Paul Dooley, who originally played sleazy salesman Patrick Martin. When reshoots were scheduled, Dooley wasn’t available, so his role had to be entirely reshot with James Belushi. Dooley got a ‘special thanks’ note in the credits, but the Director’s Cut restores his performance – with a ‘special thanks’ credit for Belushi.

It got a spin-off Saturday morning cartoon

While it isn’t exactly a full-blown horror movie, Little Shop of Horrors is still pretty dark – so it’s a little surprising that it was sold to a family audience. It even spawned a Saturday morning kid’s cartoon, entitled simply Little Shop to further downplay the horror elements. Launched in 1991, it lasted a single season and significantly changed the setup: no eating people, for one.

Rick Moranis and Vincent Gardenia almost ruined a dramatic scene with giggling

One of the film’s most dramatic moments comes when Mr. Mushnik discovers that Seymour has been the accomplice to Audrey II’s terrible crimes. Frank Oz had originally intended to shoot the scene very differently in an over-the-shoulder style, but Rick Moranis and Vincent Gardenia could not stop making each other laugh. Instead, Oz had to use close-up shots that couldn’t be ruined by laughter.

The film almost starred Rodney Dangerfield

Someone at the Geffen company was obsessed with getting comedian Rodney Dangerfield in the film, and went to oddly extreme lengths to try and include him. Dangerfield was asked to secretly record vocals for Audrey II’s songs, completely behind the back of Frank Oz – and on the reshoots, Dangerfield’s name was on the call list for Patrick Martin, even though Jim Belushi had been cast.

Two of Jim Henson’s children worked on the movie

For Audrey II’s puppeteers, Oz hired his old friends the Jim Henson Company, and two of Jim Henson’s own children were among the cast and crew: Brian Henson (who later directed The Muppet Christmas Carol) was part of the puppeteering team that operated the mighty plant, whilst young Heather Henson has a small acting role in the dentist’s office scene.

The dentist’s equipment was used again in Burton’s 1989 Batman

The dental tool props Steve Martin uses in this movie were later used again in Tim Burton’s Batman, where they are used to operate on the disfigured face of Jack Nicholson’s Joker. Things went full circle in a way here, as years earlier Jack Nicholson made an early appearance in the original Little Shop of Horrors, as the dental patient later played by Bill Murray.

It marked the final movie appearance of Bertice Reading

The elderly lady who opens the song Skid Row (Downtown) is a passing figure, but she’s played by a stage legend Bertice Reading, a Tony-nominated performer and comedian who spent most of her career in the UK. She sang these few lines live on set, and it became her final movie appearance before her death in 1991.

The Greek Chorus members are all named after girl bands

Tichina Arnold, Michelle Weeks, and Tisha Campbell play the film’s ‘Greek Chorus,’ named Crystal, Ronette and Chiffon. Presented like a 60s girl group, they’re named after three such popular acts of the era: The Ronettes, The Crystals and The Chiffons. Years later, Disney’s Hercules – also boasting songs from Alan Menken and Howard Ashman – featured a similar girl group Greek Chorus.

It was Ellen Greene who decided Audrey should be blonde

Ellen Greene was the film’s only cast member to have been in the original stage production. As a result, much of the film’s interpretation of Audrey comes from Greene – not least her blonde hair. In the original 1960 movie, brunette Jackie Joseph plays Audrey. However, Greene decided to don a platinum wig for the stage show, and this has become a staple of the character.

Mushnik’s phone conversation is a tribute to the original film

Early on in Little Shop of Horrors, we hear Mr. Mushnik talking on the phone to a client named Mrs. Shiva, whose relatives are “dropping like flies” – making her a great customer for the florist. This seemingly throwaway scene is one of the few that comes directly from the original 1960 movie, with much the same dialogue.