The bees were bred specifically for this movie. They needed to make sure that the bees were only twelve hours old, so that they looked like mature bees, but their stinger wouldn't be powerful enough to do any real damage.
Exterior, hallway, and stairway scenes were actually filmed for a few days in the infamous Cabrini-Green housing projects, though the producers had to make a deal with the ruling gang members to put them in the movie as extras to ensure the cast and crew's safety during filming. Even with this arrangement, a sniper put a bullet through the production van on the last day of filming, though no one was injured.
There was in fact, a Candyman killer in real life who is different to the fictional Candyman. Dean Corill was a serial killer in the Houston, Texas area, who raped and murdered numerous boys from 1970 to 1973. He would lure children into his home using candy from his family's factory. So the media dubbed him the "Candyman". Dean Corll had two teenage accomplices who actually helped lure the young boys, but when Dean plotted to rape and kill one of them, they shot and killed him.
While investigating one of Candyman's crime scenes, Helen and Bernie discover that the design of the apartment's medicine cabinet made it a possible point of entry for an intruder. This was not a made-up piece of horror movie fiction. While researching the film, Rose learned that a series of murders had been committed in Chicago in this very way.
Virginia Madsen had to get up close and personal with those bees, a fact that almost forced her to pass on the role. "When Bernie was first asking me to do the role I said, 'Well, I can't. I'm allergic to bees,'" she told HorrorNewsNetwork. "He said 'No you're not allergic to bees, you're just afraid.' So I had to go to UCLA and get tested because he didn't believe [me]. I was tested for every kind of venom. I was far more allergic to wasps. So he said, 'We'll just [have] paramedics there, it will be fine!' You know actors, we'll do anything for a paycheck! So fine, I'll be covered with bees. "So we a had a bee wrangler and he pretty much told us you can't freak out around the bees, or be nervous, or swat at them, it would just aggravate them. They used baby bees on me. They can still sting you, but are less likely. When they put the bees on me it was crazy because they have fur. They felt like little Q-tips roaming around on me. Then you have pheromones on you, so they're all in love with you and think you're a giant queen. I really just had to go into this Zen sort of place and the takes were very short. What took the longest was getting the bees off of us. They had this tiny 'bee vacuum,' which wouldn't harm the bees. After the scene where the bees were all over my face and my head, it took both Tony and I 45 minutes just to get the bees off. That's when it became difficult to sit still. It was cool though, I felt like a total badass doing it."
When Philip Glass signed on to compose the score for Candyman, he apparently envisioned the final film being something totally different. According to Rolling Stone, "What he'd presumed would be an artful version of Clive Barker's short story 'The Forbidden' had ended up, in his view, a low-budget slasher." Glass was reportedly disappointed in the film, and felt that he had been manipulated. Still, the haunting music is considered a classic score--and Glass's own view of it seems to have softened over time. "It has become a classic, so I still make money from that score, get checks every year," he told Variety in 2014.
The effects crew had a blacksmith make Candyman's hook, but when they went to pick it up, the blacksmith refused to sell it to them. Once he'd heard it was for a Clive Barker horror movie, the devout Christian blacksmith had misgivings about the project.
In a August 2011 interview with Cindy Pearlman of the Chicago Sun Times Tony Todd stated, "I'll never forget that I filmed that movie in a building on the South Side of Chicago. Building 116. Unit C. That's the Candyman pad!"
Clive Barker has confronted a number of academics who have accused him of taking advantage of and using a an African American urban legend with the simple fact that HE created the story of The Candyman and that it was, in fact, NOT an actual urban legend
The character of Candyman came in at number 8 on Bloody-Disgusting's "The Top 13 Slashers in Horror Movie History" and ranked the same on Ugo's "Top Eleven Slashers", Tony Todd made #53 on RetroCrush's "The 100 Greatest Horror Movie Performances" for his role.
There was some controversy that the film was depicting racism and racial stereotypes. According to Rose, "I had to go and have a whole set of meetings with the NAACP, because the producers were so worried, and what they said to me when they'd read the script was 'Why are we even having this meeting? You know, this is just good fun.' Their argument was 'Why shouldn't a black actor be a ghost? Why shouldn't a black actor play Freddy Krueger or Hannibal Lecter? If you're saying that they can't be, it's really perverse. This is a horror movie. . .'" According to Virginia Madsen, "I was and am now worried about how people will respond. I don't think Spike Lee will like this film."
Virginia Madsen was originally set to play the part of Bernadette but with the film's relocation from Liverpool to Chicago, it was decided that the character should be played by an African-American actress.
There is a Guy Fawkes mask hanging next to Helen's bathroom mirror. Fawkes is an infamous figure in English history (perhaps an allusion to the source novella, which is set in England), who attempted to blow up the English Parliament on November 5, 1605. Guy Fawkes Day was traditionally celebrated by lighting bonfires and burning Fawkes in effigy, although this practice has been curtailed in recent years by the fire department.
Candyman combines elements of two real urban legends: Bloody Mary (a ghost who appears by chanting her name in a mirror) and the Hook (a killer with a hook for a hand who attacks a couple in a parked car).
According to Tony Todd, "I met with Bernard Rose, who's a brilliant mind and a great director, and I wanted to say it was a hire. But I just... people kept telling me, 'Oh you'll never be able to shake this,' and I said, 'You know, I'm gonna do the best I can and go away from that.' I knew when I read it, and I saw the bees and the stuff, I knew things like that haven't been filmed before, so that was interesting. And I've always wanted to find my own personal Phantom of the Opera."
The Candyman in Clive Barker's original story had been described as an imposing possibly white man (he is described as having a rather unnatural shade of yellow that of course adds to his candy theme) with an unruly red beard.
The change of setting necessitated a change to certain elements for the film. According to journalist Steve Bogira, one source of inspiration may have been a pair of articles he wrote for the Chicago Reader in 1987 and 1990 about the murder of Ruthie Mae McCoy, a resident of Chicago's Abbot Homes housing project. In 1987, McCoy had been killed by an intruder who entered her apartment through an opening behind the bathroom's medicine cabinet.
The original story takes place in a fictional British housing project called Bob's Corner in the late 70's, while the movie moves the setting to 90's Chicago and the real life slum of Cabrini Green. The change in setting also makes the bonfire seem out of place, as in the original the bonfire is part of the traditional Guy Fawkes Night celebrations.
Dejuan Guy bonded really well with Virgina Madsen, in the scene where they're walking out of the apartment housing project and going over to the restroom, it was freezing cold and in some takes, Madsen would cover him with her jaclet to keep him warm.
Virginia Madsen was friends with director Bernard Rose and his then-wife, Alexandra Pigg, and Madsen was originally to play the role of Helen's friend Bernie while Pigg was to play Helen. The choice was then made to make the character of Bernie African American so Madsen lost the part. As shooting was about to commence, Pigg discovered that she was pregnant, so the role of Helen was offered to Madsen.
When Anne-Maries Rottweiler has been killed and decapitated with (supposedly) a meat cleaver and the head of the dog is seen lying on a kitchen floor amid a puddle of blood. The decapitated head was a lifelike fake rubber model. The blood was, of course, fake stage blood.
When Helen discovers a toilet bowl filled to the brim with bees all feeding on something unseen. To achieve the effect, a queen bee scent was applied by a professional bee wrangler to the inside of the toilet bowl. This wrangler released the bees from the hive into the toilet which had no water in the bowl and was not a functional toilet. Vaseline was applied to the upper inside of the bowl to prevent bees crawling up near the lid. After the scene was filmed the bees were collected with the special soft, safe, gentle vacuum and returned to the hive.
For the scene in which bees fill Candyman's chest cavity, bees were placed in a special body appliance which was filled off stage and strapped to Tony Todd's chest. Utmost care was taken to be gentle in placing the bees properly for the scene and then collecting them afterwards.
The film's opening credits feature a great aerial view of Chicago, which was pretty revolutionary for its time. "We did that with an incredible new machine called the Skycam, which can shoot up to a 500mm lens with no vibration," Bernard Rose told The Independent. "You've never seen that shot before, at least not done that smoothly."
In a 2012 interview, Virginia Madsen said this film is the one she is most recognized for, especially at airports. "More people recognize me from that movie than anything I've done," she told HorrorNewsNetwork. "It means a lot to me. It was after years of struggling. As an actor, you always want a film that's annual, like It's a Wonderful Life or A Christmas Story. I just love that I have a Halloween movie. Now it's kind of legend this story. People have watched it since they were kids, and every Halloween it's on, and they watch it now with their kids. That means a lot to me. The place I get recognized the most is the airport security for some reason. Every person in airport security has seen Candyman. Maybe it makes them a little afraid of me."
In "The Forbidden", Helen's last name is Buchanan as opposed to Lyle in the movie. Anne-Marie's last name is changed from Latimer to McCoy in the movie, as well as her baby's name from Kerry to Anthony.
At the beginning thousands of swarming bees fill the screen. This scene was accomplished via the use of optical special effects. Added to the special effects were a series of closeup shots of real bees. The bee wrangler placed a large number of bees on a wall and queen bee hormone was used to keep the bees in that particular spot. To get the effect of bees exploding towards the camera, a special vacuum was used with a reverse suction. This was superimposed with special effects to give the overall total effect.
For a scene in which both Helen and Candyman are covered with bees, the queen bee scent was placed on the actors and then the bees were placed on the actors by pouring them out of a container. A special bee vacuum was used after to collect the bees.
Rose expressed interest in Barker's story "The Forbidden", and Barker agreed to license the rights. Where Barker's story revolved around themes of the British class system in contemporary Liverpool, Rose chose to refit the story to Cabrini-Green public housing development in Chicago and instead focus on themes of race and social class in inner-city United States.
Although Barker's short story is set in his native Liverpool, Rose decided "that the film would be much better done in the U.S." Assisted by members of the Illinois Film Commission, Rose scouted locations in Chicago and found Cabrini Green "an incredible arena for a horror movie because it was a place of such palpable fear." Rose once said in an interview with The Independent that he found filming in Chicago easier than filming in England.
Viewers may think of Candyman as one of the horror genre's most terrifying villains, but Rose said that "the idea always was that he was kind of a romantic figure. And again, romantic in sort of the Edgar Allan Poe sense--it's the romance of death. He's a ghost, and he's also the resurrection of something that is kind of unspoken or unspeakable in American history, which is slavery, as well. So he's kind of come back and he's haunting what is the new version of the racial segregation in Chicago. "And I think there's also something very seductive and very sweet and very romantic about him, and that's what makes him interesting. In the same way there is about Dracula. In the end, the Bogeyman is someone you want to surrender to. You're not just afraid of. There's a certain kind of joy in his seduction. And Tony was always so romantic. Tony ties him in so elegantly and is such a gentleman. He was wonderful."
In a 1992 story in the Chicago Tribune, some high-profile black filmmakers expressed their disappointment that the film seemed to perpetuate several racist stereotypes. "There's no question that this film plays on white middle-class fears of black people," director Carl Franklin (Out of Time, Devil in a Blue Dress) said. "It unabashedly uses racial stereotypes and destructive myths to create shock. I found it hokey and unsettling. It didn't work for me because I don't share those fears, buy into those myths." Reginald Hudlin, who directed House Party, Boomerang, and Marshall, described the film as "worrisome," though he didn't want to speak on the record about his specific issues with the film. "I've gotten calls about [the movie], but I think I'm going to reserve comment," he said. "Some of my friends are in it and I may someday want to work for TriStar." For Rose, those assessments may have been hard to hear, as his goal in adapting Barker's story and directing it was to upend the myths about inner cities. "[T]he tradition of oral storytelling is very much alive, especially when it's a scary story," he told The Independent. "And the biggest urban legend of all for me was the idea that there are places in cities where you do not go, because if you go in them something dreadful will happen--not to say that there isn't danger in ghettos and inner city areas, but the exaggerated fear of them is an urban myth."
In 2011, the last remaining high-rise in the Cabrini-Green housing project was demolished. Over the years, the property--which opened in 1942--gained a notorious reputation around the world for being a haven for violence, drugs, gangs, and other criminal activities. While the project's real-life history weaves its way into the narrative of Candyman, it only makes sense that Rose would want to shoot there. Which he did. But in order to gain permission to shoot there, he had to agree to cast some of the residents as extras. "I went to Chicago on a research trip to see where it could be done and I was shown around by some people from the Illinois Film Commission and they took me to Cabrini-Green," Rose said. "And I spent some time there and I realized that this was an incredible arena for a horror movie because it was a place of such palpable fear. And rule number one when you're making a horror movie is set it somewhere frightening. And the fear of the urban housing project, it seemed to me, was actually totally irrational because you couldn't really be in that much danger. Yes, there was crime there, but people were actually afraid of driving past it. And there was such an aura of fear around the place and I thought that was really something interesting to look into because it's sort of a kind of fear that's at the heart of modern cities. And obviously, it's racially motivated, but more than that--it's poverty motivated."
Kasi Lemmons said it was notorious and edgy filming in Cabrini Green, but felt that it was important to see it and she felt grateful she did see Cabrini Green and that it was really interesting, as she felt she was someplace "really", as it was a real location and helped to get the vibe of the whole thing.
Kasi Lemmons stars as Virginia Madsen's sidekick in this movie; just like she is the sidekick to Jodie Foster in the similarly themed Silence of the Lambs which came out a year later. 4 years after this she would star in Eve's Bayou, another iconic horror movie from the 90s.
It's interesting that this story about tragedy, intrigue and the supernatural amongst African Americans living in the Cabrini Green Housing Project of Chicago, as well as drama and intrigue in places like Indiana, and Hyde Park and the University of Chicago, was penned by a gay English Caucasian author who had never lived in any of these places when he wrote The Forbidden, the story on which the Candyman is based. That's not to say it's not effective, it is considered a classic in the horror genre! It's just a unique and odd source for these stories.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
In addition to allowing the filmmakers to cover his face with bees, Tony Todd actually agreed to film a scene in which he had a mouthful of bees--and that, too, was all real. He told TMZ that he wore a dental dam to prevent any bees from sliding into his throat--which doesn't mean that he didn't suffer a sting or two or 23, to be exact, over the course of three Candyman movies. Though it might have been worth it. "I had a great lawyer," he told TMZ. "A thousand dollars a pop."
According to Tony Todd, the studio cut several minutes of footage out to the swirling embrace scene at the end of the film when Candyman tells Helen "Surrender to me" because they were leery of the interracial context of the scene.