They’re creepy, and they’re kooky. There’s no denying that. The Addams Family put Tim Burton to shame when it comes to Gothic spookiness. In 1991, the family Addams hit the big screen, bringing their distinct style and sense of the macabre. But would there be an audience for that? We’ve got 20 altogether kooky facts about The Addams Family you might not know.
Charles Addams’ first single-panel comic featuring the family that would come to bear his name debuted in The New Yorker way back in 1938. There’s only so much you can do with a single panel of a comic, even when you do over 150 of them, so Addams took things to the next level with a TV series in the 1960s. This show is what really paved the way for the film.
20th Century Fox were hoping to make an Addams Family film, but there was a snag. Orion owned some of the rights because they were planning to reboot the TV show and wouldn’t sell them. Meanwhile, Charles Addams’ widow also owned some rights that were needed for the film. Eventually, it’s Orion who bought the remaining rights from the widow Addams, and they went forward on the film.
Yes, Tim Burton was asked to direct The Addams Family. However, he turned it down. Burton was already working on Batman Returns and did not have the time to take on another project.
Barry Sonnenfeld had served as a cinematographer on movies such as the first three Coen Brothers films, as well as Big and When Harry Met Sally…, among others. He got the chance for a promotion with The Addams Family, as this marked his feature directing debut.
Tim Burton may not have directed, but a project like The Addams Family certainly attracted a type. Caroline Thompson was one of the two credited writers. Her debut screenplay was Edward Scissorhands, and she also wrote on The Nightmare Before Christmas later. The other screenwriter was Larry Wilson, who wrote Beetlejuice.
In the Addams Family TV show, Fester is Morticia’s uncle, and Grandmama is Gomez’s mother. However, in this film, Fester is Gomez’s brother and Grandmama becomes Morticia’s mom. This has been the accepted canon ever since.
Huston was a fan of Morticia, the matriarch of the Addams clan, and thus really wanted the role. However, she did not expect to be cast. In her mind, Cher was perfect for the role, and she expected Cher to get it. In the end, though, it was Huston’s role.
Maybe this was a case of be careful what you wish for. In her autobiography, Huston said shooting the movie was “long and arduous.” For some reason, it was decided that Morticia’s eyes would slant upwards. To make this happen, an elastic strap was attached to the back of her head and glued to her temples. It was incredibly uncomfortable for her, and she had to take them off at lunch to avoid a rash and a headache. This led to hours in the makeup chair to fix everything, making it quite the vicious cycle for Huston.
While filming the movie, Raul Julia had a blood vessel burst in his eye. They had to shoot around Julia while he recovered, which was probably a little tricky given that Julia was playing Gomez.
Judith Malina, who played Grandmama, was doing 12-hour days while caked in latex. That was probably tough, but Huston said that Malina had a means of managing the discomfort during the shoot. She would apparently just smoke one joint after another in her trailer whenever she wasn’t needed on set.
As production was heading toward wrapping up, director of photography Owen Roizman quit the film. Gale Tattersall was hired to replace him. Then, a few weeks later, Tatersall had to be rushed to the hospital. While Tatersall was recovering, Sonnenfeld put on his old hat and served as cinematographer while still directing. Shockingly, the movie ended up running over schedule.
Originally, Sonnenfeld didn’t want to reveal if the real Uncle Fester had returned, or if he was still an impostor. The actors were not fans of this decision. They deputized Christina Ricci – perhaps thinking Sonnenfeld might find it hard to say no to a little kid – to share their concern with the director. Sonnenfeld agreed to change the ending, and was ultimately happy with the decision.
Originally, the Mamushka dance scene involved a full song to go along with the dance and was a much longer scene. Test audiences thought that this really dragged, so the Mamushka was cut down considerably, though it was restored for an extended-version DVD.
The Addams Family had gone $5 million over budget, and Orion was worried about having a flop on their hands. They actually had suffered a series of flops and were not feeling good financially. As such, while the film was still in production, Orion sold the domestic rights to the film to Paramount. Neither studio told the filmmakers, who found out through a journalist.
MC Hammer was contracted to produce a theme song to The Addams Family, and he obliged on that front. The “U Can’t Touch This” legend gave us “Addams Groove.” He also made a music video, which was shown prior to the film in theaters.
It turned out that Orion didn’t have anything to fear. Yes, the production was a mess and went over budget, but The Addams Family turned out to be a big success. The movie ended up making $191.5 million against a $30 million budget, with $113.5 million of that coming in the United States, where Paramount had the rights.
Huston gutted it out through all that elastic and glue to get nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. The movie also got an Oscar nomination for Best Costume Design. It wound up winning a couple awards, one good, one not so much. The Addams Family took home Favorite Movie at the Kids Choice Awards, but “Addams Groove” also won a Razzie for Worst Original Song.
A tie-in video game came out in 1992 as well. You play as Gomez and have to rescue your family. The game came out for Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis, and The Addams Family was received much better than Fester’s Quest, considered one of the worst video games ever. There was also a pinball game that became quite successful. In fact, the Addams Family pinball machine became the best-selling pinball machine of all time.
After the success of The Addams Family, a sequel was quickly greenlit by Paramount. Addams Family Values came out in 1993 and was once again directed by Sonnenfeld. A lot of people think it is better, quality-wise, but it wasn’t as successful in the box office. With a budget of $47 million, Addams Family Values made $111 million.
Julia said that was playing Gomez was by far his favorite role, and he loved when fans told him how much they loved his work in the Addams Family movies. Sadly, the actor died in 1994 at the age of 54. His family said that at the end of his life, as he was dealing with his illness, the love he got for playing Gomez really bolstered his spirits.
Chris Morgan is a sports and pop culture writer and the author of the books The Comic Galaxy of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and The Ash Heap of History. You can follow him on Twitter @ChrisXMorgan.
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