So we just recently Re-Viewed Labyrinth in celebration of David Bowies work in film, but it has also inspired us to share some interesting facts on the production and release of the film that you may or may not have know about this ever growing cult classic.
10. Jareth the Goblin King could have been a smooth criminal.
In the behind the scenes documentary Inside the Labyrinth Jim Henson recounts the thoughts about who to cast as the antagonist Jareth, and he mentions two intriguing and very different names before David Bowie. Who you ask? Sting, and…Michael Jackson. They would have had vastly different tones had either of those musicians been cast, but to be honest Jackson has just a mystical aura about him as Bowie did.
9. Helping Hands
You remember the scene where Sarah falls down into the oubliette? Where hands begin to form faces and speak to her? Well for that scene over 100 pairs foam/latex hands were made to accommodate the actors who would be working on the set. Helping hands indeed.
8. Dr. Beverly Crusher was a choreographer on the film
If your a Star Trek fan then you’ll be interested to know that Gates McFadden, who played Dr. Beverly Crusher in Star Trek: The Next Generation and a few of the films also worked on Labyrinth as a choreographer. McFadden was credited as Cheryl McFadden, and featured uncredited as one of the dancers in the ballroom scene. It also wasn’t the first time she worked with the creators of The Muppets as her second film appearance was playing Mr. Prices secretary in 1984s The Muppets Take Manhattan.
7. Monty Python had a hand in the script
Terry Jones, a member of the one of the most influential comedy groups of all time Monty Python, wrote the first draft of the script. It may not have retained much of his original ideas and work, but it was a Python nonetheless that got the script rolling on Labyrinth.
6. Toby was actually Toby
The baby Toby in the film was actually Toby Froud, the son of the conceptual artist Brian Froud who worked with Jim Henson and was critical in bringing both The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth to the screen. Apparently the only reason he was called Toby in the film is because it was the only name he would respond to…you know babies, prima donnas
5. Sarah was nearly played by…
Sarah Jessica Parker, Helena Bonham Carter, Laura Dern, Ally Sheedy, Kerri Green, Jane Krakowski and Marisa Tomei amongst others had all auditioned for the role of Sarah, before Jennifer Connelly won over Jim Henson. I’ll be honest, I would have loved to have seen Sheedy, Green or Krakowski in the role.
4. Masters of Puppets
So, firstly Hoggle was actually played by a woman. That is right, Hoggle the dwarf who never had a friend before was physically acted by Shari Weiser. You’d be forgiven for not knowing the name as she has only featured in a couple of films. Weiser played Trollog in the critically derided 1986 version of Babes in Toyland, which also featured Keanu Reeves and Drew Barrymore.
Secondly Brian Henson, son of the films director Jim Henson, actually voiced Hoggle and controlled the features of his face with 3 other puppeteers via mechanical mitts. Being a puppeteer ain’t easy folks.
Thirdly, two puppeteers played the hulking but friendly Ludo because the suit/puppet weighed quite a bit. The puppeteers interchanged in different scenes to give the other a break.
Fourthly, the humongous gate monster was the biggest puppet Hensons crew had ever built. Standing about 15 feet it took around 2-3 months to build, and was controlled by only one person!
3. Danny John Jules voices characters in the film!
After re-viewing the film and watching the credits list, I freaked out when I saw the name Danny John Jules appear as voicing Fiery #3 and Fiery #4. I apologise if you’re not a Red Dwarf fan, but Jules plays the Cat in the awesome British TV series, as well as featuring in Blade II. You won’t see him in Labyrinth, but when you see the Fire Gang start kicking their heads off, and jumping around you can sit back and smile knowing that #3 and #4 are voiced by none other than Danny John Jules. If your a real Red Dwarf fanatic you’ll also be keen to hear that Fiery #2 is also voiced by Charles Augins, who played Queeg 500, the back up system to Holly in Season 2!
2. Inspirational Literature
There are themes, motifs and narrative similarities with a few different sources of literature in Labyrinth. The Wizard of Oz and Outside Over There both contain elements which the film lovingly borrows from, and the books are visible in one of the opening scenes. When Sarah gets back home and storms to her room, the camera moves over to her and we pass each of the above books. In addition to this we also see a Where the Wild Things Are, Walt Disney Snow White Annual, Alice in Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass, and a Grimm’s Fairy Tales book, their presence a clear indication of the inspiration these fairy tales have had on the creation of the film. In regards to the first three titles mentioned, we see The Wizard of Oz as Sarah is a newer version of Dorothy who is whisked away to another fantastical land away from the problems of home, and Outside Over There is a tale about a young girl who must rescue her baby sister from goblins who’ve taken her. In the final credits there is actually an acknowledgement made by Henson who shows his debt to the works of Maurice Sendak, author of Where the Wild Things Are, and Outside Over There.
1. Labyrinth was a Box Office failure…
With a budget of $25 million (an incredibly small amount considering the puppet work required for the film) the film only grossed $12.7 million in the U.S. on release in 1986. This is a shockingly small amount for the highest grossing box office territory in the world. What makes it even more surprising is the extensive coverage that the film gained during its production and release, with music videos, toys and more released to coincide with the film it just did not grab the audience when it initially came out. The subsequent success on DVD and growing fan base will have made up for this by now, but the initial failure of the film affected director and Muppet creator Jim Henson significantly.