20 Things You Didn’t Know About Candyman

Dare you say his name five times whilst looking in a mirror…? Candyman, the hook-handed living urban legend portrayed by the gravel-throated Tony Todd, was the last great creation of the original slasher era. The 1992 film which introduced him remains as nightmarish, and as relevant today. Let’s revisit this killer classic with some fearful facts you may not have known about the film.


20. It’s from the creator of Hellraiser

As it’s set in the USA with a largely American cast, it may come as a surprise that Candyman’s origins are British.

First off, the film is based on The Forbidden, a short story by Clive Barker, the British author and filmmaker behind Hellraiser and Nightbreed.

The Forbidden was originally published in magazine Fantasy Tales, then in volume five of Barker’s short fiction anthology series, the Books of Blood.

Hellraiser Clive Barker 20 Things You Didn't Know About Candyman

Credit: Steven Friederich via Wikimedia Commons

Other films based on Barker’s stories include The Midnight Meat Train, Rawhead Rex and most recently Books of Blood.

While Barker is an executive producer on Candyman, the film was written and directed by fellow Brit, Bernard Rose, who had previously made acclaimed 1988 horror Paperhouse.

At Rose’s suggestion, the setting was changed from Barker’s home town of Liverpool, as in the original story, to Chicago.

19. The filmmakers originally wanted Eddie Murphy to play Candyman

Once you’ve seen Tony Todd play Candyman, it’s very hard to picture any other actor in the role.

However, early on in the film’s development, the filmmakers had someone very different in mind: none other than Eddie Murphy.

Yes, as hard as it might be to imagine, the comedian-turned-actor was originally courted for the title role.

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However, Murphy was one of the biggest movie stars in the world at the time, so the Candyman team couldn’t afford him.

Instead, they cast the largely unknown Todd, who had not long since appeared in the 1990 remake of Night of the Living Dead.

Considering that Todd is much taller than Murphy, and has that magnificently deep voice, we imagine most viewers would agree they made the right call there.

18. Sandra Bullock was almost cast in the female lead

While Tony Todd’s Candyman is the title character, the real lead in the film is Virginia Madsen’s Helen.

The casting of the ambitious research student who unwittingly stumbles headfirst into the living legend of Candyman was also the subject of some revision.

Initially, Alexandra Pigg (Bernard Rose’s wife at the time) was in line for the role, until she became pregnant.

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Virginia Madsen then went to the top of the wishlist – but next in line for the role was Sandra Bullock, who, like Tony Todd, was still fairly unknown back in 1992.

The producers have since stated that Bullock would have been their next choice for the role had Virginia Madsen been unavailable – but this was not to be.

Not that this hurt Bullock’s career, given that 1993 saw her breakthrough into mainstream film alongside Sylvester Stallone in Demolition Man, with 1994’s Speed coming soon thereafter.

17. Candyman wasn’t black in Clive Barker’s original story

Bernard Rose took some considerable liberties in adapting Clive Barker’s story The Forbidden to the screen.

As well as moving the action to the other side of the Atlantic, it was Rose’s decision to make the most notable change of all: the ethnicity of the supernatural antagonist.

In The Forbidden, Candyman is described as a pale-skinned man with long blonde hair and brightly-coloured patchwork clothes.

forbidden 2 20 Things You Didn't Know About Candyman

This is of course a far cry from how Candyman is portrayed in the movie by Tony Todd.

However, Rose felt making the character a black man descended from slaves would add to the underlying social commentary.

Clive Barker approved of all these changes, happily declaring the film to be “Bernard Rose’s baby.”

16. Virginia Madsen was originally cast as supporting character Bernadette

When Alexandra Pigg was poised to play Helen, Virginia Madsen – a friend of Pigg and Rose – was initially lined up to play Helen’s best friend, Bernadette.

However, when Rose decided that Bernadette should be African-American, Madsen was out and Kasi Lemmons was hired instead.

Madsen has said she was hesitant to play Helen when Pigg had to drop out, knowing how much the role had meant to her friend.

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Of course, Madsen ultimately agreed to take the role when Pigg insisted that she do so.

Kasi Lemmons, meanwhile, had previously appeared in Vampire’s Kiss, but remains best known for appearing alongside Jodie Foster in The Silence of the Lambs.

Today, Lemmons is an acclaimed director, most recently responsible for 2019 fact-based drama Harriet.

15. The production couldn’t visit the Chicago housing project without a police escort

When Bernard Rose chose to move the action from Liverpool to Chicago, he and the crew quickly began scouting potential locations.

They settled on real housing project Cabrini-Green as the home of Candyman, for one simple reason.

On researching Chicago, they were told that Cabrini-Green was the absolute worst place to live in the city.

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Much the same as it is portrayed in the film, Cabrini-Green was run down, impoverished and rife with gang-related crime.

When the cast and crew first visited the location, they were only allowed to do so under police protection, with an escort of plainclothes officers.

Once it came to shooting there, local residents were hired as extras to help placate the gangs.

14. One terrifying detail was based on a real-life Chicago murder

Folklore researchers Helen and Bernadette are drawn to Cabrini-Green on learning that the residents there have attributed real killings to the surely mythical Candyman.

In the key murder driving their investigation, it is revealed the killer crept into the victim’s apartment through the bathroom cabinet.

He was able to do so because the cabinet connected directly to the apartment next door – with no wall seperating them.

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This is a chilling thought indeed – and all the more so because it actually happened to someone in real life.

In researching real murders in the Chicago housing projects, Rose discovered this design flaw was very real in some areas, and was exploited by the murderer of Ruthie Mae McCoy in 1987.

Rose even used a very similar name for the murder victim in the movie, naming her Ruthie Jean.

13. A blacksmith refused to let the production use one of his hooks because of his religious convictions

Just as Freddy needs his glove and Leatherface needs his chainsaw, Candyman just wouldn’t be Candyman without his hideous hook hand.

However, the special effects team ran into some unexpected difficulty acquiring this particular prop.

Bob Keen and the team at Image FX had worked on Clive Barker’s breakthrough film, Hellraiser, and were hired to perform those same duties on Candyman.

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They commissioned a blacksmith to design and build a real metal hook to be used by Candyman in the film.

Unfortunately, once the blacksmith learned the film was a Clive Barker adaptation, he refused to let them have the prop.

The blacksmith was a devout Christian, and felt that Barker’s hellish visions ran contrary to his firmly held beliefs.

12. Madsen and Todd studied ballroom dancing and fencing together to enhance their romantic connection

Not unlike that other 1992 horror hit Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Candyman is a love story of sorts.

Todd’s undead bogeyman seeks to make Madsen’s Helen the same as him, so they can be joined for eternity.

With this in mind, director Bernard Rose was keen to build an on-screen romantic connection between the two actors.

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In hopes of promoting this bond, Todd and Madsen took ballroom dancing and fencing lessons together.

Rose and Todd have both stated that they consider Candyman a romantic figure: the director has described the character as “very seductive.”

Rose has likened Candyman to Dracula, whilst Todd has described the character as “my own personal Phantom of the Opera.”

11. The opening title sequence used groundbreaking new technology

The opening credits of Candyman run against a remarkably smooth aerial tracking shot looking down on the streets of Chicago.

This remains a striking sequence to this day – and at the time, it was genuinely groundbreaking.

The shot was achieved using a relatively new photographic device known as the Skycam.

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The Skycam had been utilised in TV sports broadcasts since the mid-80s, but hadn’t been used much in film.

Bernard Rose boasted at the time, “You’ve never seen that shot before, at least not done that smoothly.”

The Skycam was the creation of Garret Brown, also the inventor of the Steadicam, which had been utilised to similarly eerie effect on Halloween and The Shining.

10. One grisly murder scene had to be trimmed to get the film an R-rating

Candyman isn’t as relentlessly violent and gory as a lot of other horror movies made at the time.

Even so, the brief moments of violence got a bit too close to the bone for US ratings board the MPAA.

For Candyman’s US release, a key murder scene toward the end of the film – the death of Helen’s doctor – had to be re-edited.

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In the 18-rated UK cut, this scene was left in as originally shot, but it was deemed too extreme for the R-rating in the US.

In the censored version, shots of the doctor’s bloody demise were replaced with cutaways to Helen’s horrified reaction.

US audiences can now see the scene in its entirety in the unrated DVD and Blu-ray releases.

9. The bees were real, and bred specifically for the film

A key part of Candyman’s iconography is that he’s covered in bees, like those that stung his original human form to death.

The filmmakers achieved this effect the old-fashioned way: they used real, live bees – reportedly over 200,000 of them by the end of the shoot.

The bees were bred especially for the film, so they could shoot with bees that were only 12 hours old, to minimise the risk of stinging.

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Yes, this means that even the bees which spill out of Tony Todd’s mouth and onto Virginia Madsen’s face were real.

Fortunately for Todd, the actor was fitted with a protective mouthpiece for the scene with the mouthful of bees.

The production hired bee handler Norman Gary, who had previously worked on that other early 90s movie notable for its deadly bees, My Girl.

8. Tony Todd negotiated a bonus fee for every time he got stung by a bee

As well as only using young bees, other special measures were taken to avoid the cast being stung.

The actors were coated in the scent of a queen bee, which reduces the risk of stinging.

The crew, meanwhile, were clad in protective bodysuits in all the scenes involving bees.

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Despite all this, they couldn’t avoid the occasional sting, and reportedly everyone present got stung at least once.

Of course, no one was at greater risk of this than Tony Todd – and as such, the producers agreed to give the actor an extra $1,000 for every bee sting he suffered.

Todd wound up getting stung 23 times throughout the course of filming. For anyone counting, this netted Todd a bonus of $23,000.

7. Virginia Madsen was hypnotised for real in some scenes

It’s no accident that Virginia Madsen’s Helen appears to literally be in a trance at certain points in the film.

Director Bernard Rose actually learned to hypnotise the actress for real during the shoot.

Madsen was of course fully aware that this was being done to her, and gave her full consent.

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Tony Todd and Clive Barker have both confirmed that, before shooting key scenes, Rose would clear the set and spend ten minutes putting Madsen into a trance state.

This approach was used every time Helen interacts with Candyman, to give these scenes a genuinely hypnotic quality.

Barker says this was also done for the scene when Madsen’s face is covered in bees, to help with the actress’s nerves (and who can blame her there).

6. The filmmakers consulted civil rights activists to ensure the script avoided racist stereotypes

Candyman is one of the few African-American horror icons, a move which prompted some controversy early on.

There were fears that writer-director Bernard Rose, being white and English, would perpetuate negative racial stereotypes.

While this was of course never Rose’s intent, the filmmaker understood why some would be concerned.

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To this end, Rose met with the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) to discuss the Candyman script before production began.

Ultimately, Rose says, the script was met with approval, NAACP representatives considering the project, “just good fun.”

Rose says, “Their argument was ‘Why shouldn’t a black actor be a ghost? Why shouldn’t a black actor play Freddy Krueger or Hannibal Lecter?'”

5. The film was still met with objections from some African-American filmmakers

Despite efforts made to avoid racist overtones, some still found Candyman problematic, notably some prominent African-American filmmakers.

Director Carl Franklin (Devil in a Blue Dress) accused the film of “(playing) on white middle-class fears of black people.”

Franklin felt that Candyman “unabashedly uses racial stereotypes and destructive myths to create shock.”

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At the same time, Reginald Hudlin (director of Friday, and one-time writer of comic book Black Panther) described Candyman as “worrisome.”

Todd, for his part, has stated that he “wasn’t worried about (Bernard Rose) being a white English guy… I trusted his intellectualism and my own instincts.”

The actor explains, “I knew I wasn’t going to create a caricature and that I wanted to root the character deep in the history of slavery in America.”

4. Composer Philip Glass felt he was ‘tricked’ into scoring a slasher movie

Candyman boasts an unusually classy score for a horror film of the time, courtesy of Philip Glass.

A highly respected contemporary classical composer and musician, Glass’s body of work includes numerous operas, symphonies and concertos, as well as some film scores.

However, Glass was reportedly outraged when he saw the final film, having anticipated something considerably more artful and less lurid.

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Credit: MITO SettembreMusica via Wikimedia Commons

On seeing Candyman in full, Glass felt that he had been misled into scoring a gory slasher movie.

Even so, Glass has conceded in recent years that the film “has become a classic,” and notes that “I still make money from that score.”

Nor is it the only horror movie Glass has worked on, as in 1999 he composed a new score for the original 1931 Dracula.

3. There were once talks about a Candyman/Leprechaun crossover movie

Just when you thought the idea of Eddie Murphy playing Candyman was the most ridiculous thing you’d ever heard, get a load of this strange-but-true titbit.

In the wake of 2003 hit Freddy vs Jason, studios got excited about the idea of horror crossover movies.

As a result of this, there were at one point discussions about a possible Candyman vs Leprechaun movie.

Candyman vs Leprechaun 20 Things You Didn't Know About Candyman

Leprechaun was played by Warwick Davis in a long-running series of goofy horror movies which mostly went straight to video in the 1990s.

Bernard Rose has stated that he took a meeting with the studio to discuss the idea, but Tony Todd flat-out refused – which is probably for the best.

Nor was Candyman the only Clive Barker property considered for a crossover at the time, as there were also talks about a movie pitting Hellraiser’s Pinhead against Michael Myers of Halloween.

2. A reboot is coming in 2021

Candyman spawned two sequels in 1995’s Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh and 1999’s Candyman: Day of the Dead.

2021 sees the release of the first Candyman movie in more than 20 years, co-written and produced by Jordan Peele.

Get Out and Us director Peele has dubbed the new Candyman a “spiritual sequel” to the 1992 original.

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The project has been shrouded in mystery, although it was originally thought that Aquaman actor Yahya Abdul-Mateen II was poised to take over from Todd as Candyman.

However, it has since been confirmed that Tony Todd is indeed returning, and will reprise the title role once more.

The sequel, entitled simply Candyman, will open in cinemas in August 2021 (delayed more than a year because of the Covid-19 lockdown).

1. There’s a surprising link between the original Candyman and reboot director Nia DaCosta

While Jordan Peele is on board the 2020 Candyman as co-writer and producer, directing duties have been handed to Nia DaCosta.

This will be DaCosta’s biggest film to date – and it turns out there’s an interesting connection between the American filmmaker and the original Candyman.

As we mentioned earlier, Candyman actress Kasi Lemmons has since become a director, and has also taught film production at New York University.

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Credit: JC Olivera via Getty Images

In this capacity, Lemmons mentored DaCosta on the younger director’s first film, 2018’s Little Woods (also known as Crossing The Line).

DaCosta has also directed two episodes of the British TV series Top Boy, and will next call the shots on Captain Marvel sequel The Marvels.

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