The Fly (1986)

R | 96 mins | Horror, Science fiction | 1986

Director:

David Cronenberg

Producer:

Stuart Cornfeld

Cinematographer:

Mark Irwin

Editor:

Ronald Sanders

Production Designer:

Carol Spier

Production Company:

Brooksfilms
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HISTORY

       According to a 10 Jun 1986 HR news item, a “reconceptualization” of The Fly (1958, see entry) started preproduction in England during Jan 1985, with Robert Bierman directing. After a “family tragedy” that forced Bierman to leave the project, David Cronenberg was hired to direct the film and principal photography began in Toronto, Canada, Cronenberg’s hometown, on 1 Dec 1985. In an 8 Aug 1986 interview with LA Weekly, Cronenberg reported that he rewrote much of Charles Edward Pogue’s original script, but “almost 100 percent” of the film’s depiction of character “Seth Brundle’s” metamorphosis from a human into a fly was consistent with Pogue’s screenplay. Cronenberg noted that his changes included removing campy aspects retained from the original film and a cameo with actor Vincent Price. Seth’s line, “Please help me,” which was used in advertising campaigns and became popularly associated with the film, was retained from the 1958 picture. As stated in LA Weekly, Cronenberg’s casting in the role of the “gynecologist” was “accidental” because producer Stuart Cornfeld, who was initially going to play the part, “got cold feet.”
       As noted in a 9 Oct 1986 Rolling Stone article, Pogue pitched his idea for a remake of The Fly to Cornfeld in 1984. Although Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation owned the rights to The Fly, the studio opted against financing a remake after reading Pogue’s script. According to Cornfeld, the studio did not think a picture “where the protagonist becomes the antagonist” would be marketable. After Cornfeld sold the script to director Mel Brooks’s production ... More Less

       According to a 10 Jun 1986 HR news item, a “reconceptualization” of The Fly (1958, see entry) started preproduction in England during Jan 1985, with Robert Bierman directing. After a “family tragedy” that forced Bierman to leave the project, David Cronenberg was hired to direct the film and principal photography began in Toronto, Canada, Cronenberg’s hometown, on 1 Dec 1985. In an 8 Aug 1986 interview with LA Weekly, Cronenberg reported that he rewrote much of Charles Edward Pogue’s original script, but “almost 100 percent” of the film’s depiction of character “Seth Brundle’s” metamorphosis from a human into a fly was consistent with Pogue’s screenplay. Cronenberg noted that his changes included removing campy aspects retained from the original film and a cameo with actor Vincent Price. Seth’s line, “Please help me,” which was used in advertising campaigns and became popularly associated with the film, was retained from the 1958 picture. As stated in LA Weekly, Cronenberg’s casting in the role of the “gynecologist” was “accidental” because producer Stuart Cornfeld, who was initially going to play the part, “got cold feet.”
       As noted in a 9 Oct 1986 Rolling Stone article, Pogue pitched his idea for a remake of The Fly to Cornfeld in 1984. Although Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation owned the rights to The Fly, the studio opted against financing a remake after reading Pogue’s script. According to Cornfeld, the studio did not think a picture “where the protagonist becomes the antagonist” would be marketable. After Cornfeld sold the script to director Mel Brooks’s production company, Brooksfilms, which had previously financed “body horror” films such as The Elephant Man (1980, see entry), Brooks was eager to recruit Cronenberg. According to Rolling Stone, when Cronenberg’s agent requested fees of $800,000 to direct the picture and $150,000 to rewrite the script, Brooks offered him $1 million. Meanwhile, Twentieth CenturyFox shifted leadership and decided to release the picture.
       Rolling Stone reported that the role of Seth was turned down by John Malkovich and Richard Dreyfuss before Jeff Goldblum was cast. Although Goldblum was romantically involved with Geena Davis at the time, he did not suggest her as his leading lady, according to Rolling Stone, and Cronenberg pursued her for the role of “Veronica Quaife” on his own accord.
       As stated in studio production notes from AMPAS library files, special effects and “Fly” designer Chris Walas began work on the project with a staff of thirty assistants at his San Rafael, CA, studio in Sep 1985. In Oct of the same year, a cast of Goldblum’s body, including his teeth, was made to construct the effects used to depict Seth’s metamorphosis. Cronenberg stated in production notes that he wanted to portray “a fusion of two creatures to create something new” rather than an insect already familiar to audiences. The variety of fly used in the film was the “blow fly,” or Calliphora Vomitra, which was selected because it is several times larger than a “house fly,” making it easier to capture on film.
       According to production notes, locations included Toronto International Studios in Kleinburg, Ontario, the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Chinese Consulate in Toronto, which provided the exterior of Seth’s doctor’s office. The operating room, where Seth breaks through a glass wall to rescue Veronica, was constructed on a sound stage and consisted of a thirteen by nine square foot wall of breakaway glass bricks, each six inches thick.
       SynthaVision, the company that designed the special effects and computer animation “textures” during Seth’s teleportation scenes, reportedly used techniques “relatively new to film,” according to a 15 Aug 1986 Back Stage article. With a ten-week schedule, the company chose to combine digital animation with hand-drawn illustrations rather than build models, which would have forced them to exceed their time constraints and budget. The entire film cost $10 million, according to HR on 10 Jun 1986.
       Although research conducted by CinemaScore on the film’s opening day suggested a B grade, as reported in HR on 20 Aug 1986, Rolling Stone, stated in its 9 Oct 1986 article that the film was the “top-grossing film in the country” for the first two weeks after its release. On 21 Aug 1986, Washington Post estimated the opening weekend box-office gross at $7 million. However, Rolling Stone predicted The Fly ’s popularity would be difficult to maintain because potential audiences were turned off by reports of its “viscera” and gore. Cronenberg told Rolling Stone that he intended for audiences to “watch the unwatchable” and based the final scenes of Seth’s decomposition on the death of his own father, who had suffered from bone disease. Cronenberg stated that he used the horror genre not to provide an escape from reality, but rather to convey an “ultra-ultra-reality” that forced viewers to reevaluate their perceptions of normality. However, the 21 Aug 1986 Washington Post noted two scenes that were edited from the film by Cronenberg because they were deemed “too disturbing,” although the director vowed to include them in the video release. One scene, which depicts Seth attempting to bite off the leg of a fly after it protrudes from his skin, caused a woman to faint at a preview screening. The second edited sequence showed a two-headed creature, part baboon and part cat, that attacks itself and Seth at the same time.
       A sequel to the film, The Fly II (see entry), directed by Chris Walas, was released in 1989. A 5 Sep 2003 DV news item announced that Fox Searchlight hired Todd Lincoln to write and direct another remake of The Fly, but the film was not produced. On 16 Feb 2007, LAT reported that the Los Angeles Opera and the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris had teamed to produce an opera based on The Fly, and Cronenberg was set to direct. The opera premiered in Paris on 2 Jul 2008.


The summary and note for this entry were completed with participation from the AFI Academic Network. Summary and note were written by participant William Hemstrom, a student at Oregon State University, with Jon Lewis as academic advisor.
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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Back Stage
15 Aug 1986
p. 40.
Daily Variety
8 Aug 1986.
---
Daily Variety
5 Sep 2003.
---
Hollywood Reporter
17 Dec 1985.
---
Hollywood Reporter
10 Jun 1986.
---
Hollywood Reporter
11 Aug 1986
p. 3, 6.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Aug 1986.
---
LA Weekly
8 Aug 1986.
---
Los Angeles Times
14 Aug 1986
p. 1, 12.
Los Angeles Times
16 Feb 2007.
---
New York Times
15 Aug 1986
p. 18.
Rolling Stone
9 Oct 1986
pp. 45-46.
Variety
13 Aug 1986
p. 11.
Washington Post
21 Aug 1986
Section C, p. 7.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A David Cronenberg Film
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
3d asst dir
3d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Co-prod
Co-prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Cam apprentice
Addl photog
Addl photog
Still photog
Best boy elec
1st elec
2d elec
Key grip
Dolly grip
Asst key grip
Grip
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
1st asst art dir
FILM EDITORS
Assembly ed
1st asst ed
2d asst ed
2d asst ed
Asst ed, London
Negative cutter
SET DECORATORS
Set des
Set dresser
Set dresser
Asst set dresser
Prop master
Asst prop
Const mgr
Scenic artist
Head carpenter
Revolving set des
COSTUMES
Ward mistress
MUSIC
Mus ed
Mus rec eng
Mus rec at
London
SOUND
Prod sd
Prod sd
Supv sd ed
Supv sd ed
Dial ed
A.D.R. Ed
Sd eff ed
Foley artist
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
The fly created and des by
Spec eff
Spec eff
Computer/Video eff supv
Title by
Title by
Title by
Title by
"Fly" creature eff by
Crew, C.W.I.
Crew, C.W.I.
Crew, C.W.I.
Crew, C.W.I.
Crew, C.W.I.
Crew, C.W.I.
Crew, C.W.I.
Crew, C.W.I.
Crew, C.W.I.
Crew, C.W.I.
Crew, C.W.I.
Crew, C.W.I.
Crew, C.W.I.
Crew, C.W.I.
Crew, C.W.I.
Crew, C.W.I.
Crew, C.W.I.
Crew, C.W.I.
Crew, C.W.I.
Crew, C.W.I.
Crew, C.W.I.
Crew, C.W.I.
Crew, C.W.I.
Crew, C.W.I.
Crew, C.W.I.
Crew, C.W.I.
Crew, C.W.I.
Crew, C.W.I.
Crew, C.W.I.
Crew, C.W.I.
Crew, C.W.I.
Crew, C.W.I.
Crew, C.W.I.
Crew, C.W.I.
Crew, C.W.I.
Crew, C.W.I.
Opticals by
Visual eff supv, Dreamquest
Motion control supv, Dreamquest
Motion control supv, Dreamquest
Anim eff des, Dreamquest
Anim eff des, Dreamquest
Opt compositing, Dreamquest
Opt compositing, Dreamquest
Opt compositing, Dreamquest
Visual eff coord, Dreamquest
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Prod coord
Visual consultant
Unit pub
Prod's asst
Prod's asst
Asst to Mr. Cornfeld
Prod accountant
Post-prod coord
Transportation coord
Craft service
STAND INS
Brundle stund double
Gymnastic double
Gymnastic double
Stunt coord
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the short story "The Fly" by George Langelaan in Playboy (Jun 1957).
SONGS
"Help Me," performed by Bryan Ferry, written and produced by Nile Rodgers and Bryan Ferry, Nile Rodgers and Bryan Ferry appear through the courtesy of Warner Bros. Records.
DETAILS
Release Date:
1986
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 15 August 1986
Production Date:
began 1 December 1985
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Copyright Date:
20 August 1986
Copyright Number:
PA296016
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo® in selected theaters
Color
Color by De Luxe®
Duration(in mins):
96
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
28229
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

At a Bartok Science Industries party, Seth Brundle persuades journalist Veronica Quaife to return home with him by claiming to be on the brink of a discovery that will change the world. Inside a warehouse, Seth shows Veronica his invention of “telepods,” which she mistakes for “designer phone booths.” To demonstrate their use, Seth asks Veronica for a personal item and after she slips a stocking off one leg, Seth places it in a telepod. Seth logs into his computer with a voice-recognition password and Veronica watches as her stocking disintegrates in one telepod and reappears in another. Amazed, Veronica activates her voice recorder and interrogates Seth, who says he is working alone and even Bartok, the company financing him, does not know about the project. When Seth realizes their conversation is being recorded, he insists that his work is top secret, but Veronica refuses to give him the tape and leaves. Later, when Veronica plays the tape for her editor at Particle Magazine , Stathis Borans, he concludes that Seth is a “magician” who conned Veronica with a disappearing act. Just then, Seth arrives at Stathis’s office and invites Veronica to lunch. At a diner, Seth tells Veronica that he will lose the support of Bartok and be unable to realize his goal of teleporting life forms if she makes his work public too soon. As incentive to hold off on her article, Seth invites Veronica to shadow him in the lab and offers her the exclusive rights to his story, which, he predicts, will end when he is able to teleport ... +


At a Bartok Science Industries party, Seth Brundle persuades journalist Veronica Quaife to return home with him by claiming to be on the brink of a discovery that will change the world. Inside a warehouse, Seth shows Veronica his invention of “telepods,” which she mistakes for “designer phone booths.” To demonstrate their use, Seth asks Veronica for a personal item and after she slips a stocking off one leg, Seth places it in a telepod. Seth logs into his computer with a voice-recognition password and Veronica watches as her stocking disintegrates in one telepod and reappears in another. Amazed, Veronica activates her voice recorder and interrogates Seth, who says he is working alone and even Bartok, the company financing him, does not know about the project. When Seth realizes their conversation is being recorded, he insists that his work is top secret, but Veronica refuses to give him the tape and leaves. Later, when Veronica plays the tape for her editor at Particle Magazine , Stathis Borans, he concludes that Seth is a “magician” who conned Veronica with a disappearing act. Just then, Seth arrives at Stathis’s office and invites Veronica to lunch. At a diner, Seth tells Veronica that he will lose the support of Bartok and be unable to realize his goal of teleporting life forms if she makes his work public too soon. As incentive to hold off on her article, Seth invites Veronica to shadow him in the lab and offers her the exclusive rights to his story, which, he predicts, will end when he is able to teleport himself. Returning home, Veronica is surprised to find Stathis in her shower, but the editor reminds her that she gave him the key when they were lovers. Denying his attempt to rekindle their affair, Veronica says she is not writing the teleportation article after all and asks him to leave. Back at the lab, Vernoica videotapes Seth’s attempt to teleport a baboon, but the animal is turned inside out. Later, they make love. Inspired by Veronica’s remarks about her lust for flesh, Seth sends a steak through the telepod. When Veronica reports that it tastes “synthetic,” Seth concludes that the computer is interpreting, not replicating, the objects it transports and decides to teach the computer an appreciation of animate objects. Some time later, Veronica videotapes Seth’s first successful teleportation of a baboon and they celebrate with champagne. When Veronica discovers a package from Particle that was slipped under the lab door with a mock up cover article about Seth, she excuses herself and goes to the magazine’s office. There, she argues that the story is not available for publication, but Stathis, who is jealous of her new relationship, claims that since he sent her to the Bartok party, he has rights to it, too. When Veronica promises to keep Stathis informed about Seth’s work, he agrees to wait on publishing the article. Back at the lab, Seth gets drunk, fearing that Veronica is still seeing Stathis, and decides to teleport himself. Although Seth’s transmission is successful, a fly is sealed inside his telepod with him and he begins to display manic behaviors. After reconciling with Veronica, Seth wakes to discover he has extraordinary acrobatic strength and concludes that molecular disintegration and reformation is purifying. With exceptional vigor, Seth makes love to Veronica, but she pulls away in exhaustion and cuts a sample of the unusual hairs growing from a wound on his back. Wanting Veronica to share his energy, Seth tries to force her into a telepod, but she refuses and argues that something went wrong with his experiment. Seth accuses Veronica of complacency and storms away to find a mate who can “keep up” with him. At a bar, Seth flirts with a young woman named Tawny and bets her boyfriend $100 in an arm wrestling match. Snapping the man’s wrist, Seth takes Tawny to his lab and demonstrates his invention by transporting himself through the telepods. After they make love, Seth drags Tawny toward a telepod, but Veronica arrives and scares the girl away. Veronica reports that she had Seth’s hair analyzed at a lab and it was identified as insect hair. Terrified, Veronica begs Seth to seek help, but he kicks her out, proclaiming that their deal is off. When she leaves, Seth examines his blotchy face in the mirror and bites off a fingernail. Thinking he is dying, Seth reviews the computer data from his first teleportation. He discovers there was a fly in the telepod and the system fused their bodies at a “molecular-genetic level.” Four weeks later, Veronica receives a call from Seth, who says she was right about his condition, which has worsened. At the lab, Veronica finds Seth walking with canes and covered with boils. He explains that the teleporter spliced his genes with the fly and now he is dying of cancer, but he refuses to see a doctor. Although he vomits and his ear falls off, Veronica embraces her lover as he begs for help. Later, Veronica appeals to Stathis, but he urges her not to go back to Seth. When Veronica refuses, Stathis suggests that she videotape Seth so he can see proof of his condition. Returning to the lab, Veronica discovers Seth crawling on the ceiling. Seth shares his discovery that he is not diseased, but rather turning into a “Brundlefly,” and sets up a video camera to demonstrate how he eats by regurgitating digestive enzymes. Later, as Stathis watches the tape, Veronica returns home in tears and tells him that she is pregnant with Seth’s baby. Back at the lab, Seth discovers that he can reverse his metamorphosis by teleporting himself with another human, thereby splicing his genes with those of his own species. However, when he gives the computer a voice command for “preliminary integration,” it does not recognize his voice and switches to manual input. Seth’s fingers are too disfigured to type and when Veronica arrives at the lab, Seth reports that he is losing his teeth and appendages. Crying, Veronica is unable to tell Seth about the baby and he orders her leave, warning that insects are ruthless and untrustworthy. Running outside, Veronica tells Stathis that she wants an abortion immediately, but Seth observes their interaction and follows them to the doctor’s office. When the gynecologist inquires about why Veronica is intent on having the procedure in the middle of the night, Veronica threatens to do it herself. As she is left to undress in the exam room, Seth jumps through a wall of glass bricks and carries her away. On a rooftop, Seth says the baby is his only hope of survival and begs her to keep it. Meanwhile, Stathis goes to Seth’s lab with a shotgun and, looking at the computer, learns Seth’s plan to fuse himself with another human. Seth jumps upon Stathis from the ceiling and regurgitates digestive enzymes on his hand, causing it to disintegrate. As Stathis attempts to reach his gun with his foot, Seth does the same with Stathis’s ankle. When Seth prepares to kill Stathis by regurgitating on his face, Veronica stops him and he begs her to participate in his fusion plan, so they can live as one. Pushing him away, Veronica unwittingly rips off Seth’s jaw and his body breaks apart, revealing a fully formed Brundlefly within. The insect throws her into a telepod and seals himself in another, but with only seconds to spare, Stathis shoots the wires that connect Veronica’s pod to the computer. As the teleportation is activated, the Brundlefly disintegrates and Stathis drags himself to Veronica’s telepod to release her. However, the computer reports that the Brundlefly has been fused with the telepod and it reappears, half insect and half machine. Weeping, Veronica stands over the creature with Stathis’s shotgun. The Brundlefly points the gun at his own head and she pulls the trigger. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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