Special Effect Stages for ‘The Fly’ 1986 version
Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum), a brilliant but eccentric scientist attempts to woo investigative journalist Veronica Quaife (Geena Davis) by offering her a scoop on his latest research in the field of matter transportation, which against all the expectations of the scientific establishment have proved successful. Up to a point. Brundle thinks he has ironed out the last problem when he successfully transports a living creature, but when he attempts to teleport himself a fly enters one of the transmission booths, and Brundle finds he is a changed man. Directed by David Cronenberg.
The Academy Award-winning makeup seen in The Fly was designed and executed by Chris Walas, Inc. over a period of several months. The final “Brundlefly” creature was designed first, and then the various steps needed to carry protagonist Seth Brundle to that final incarnation were designed afterwards. The transformation was intended to be a metaphor for the aging process. Indeed, Brundle loses hair, teeth, and fingernails, and his skin becomes discolored and lumpy. The intention of the filmmakers was to give Brundle a bruised, cancerous, and diseased look that gets progressively worse as time goes on.
Various looks were tested for the different stages before the perfected versions seen in the completed film were arrived at. Some early test footage can be seen on the 2005 The Fly: Collector’s Edition DVD.
Early versions of the different makeup stages include:
- A prototype of Stage 2, featuring more exaggerated facial discoloration, open sores, and peeling skin (test footage of this version can be seen on the Fly CE DVD).
- The first test version of Stage 4-A, which featured the same face sculpt as the final version of the makeup, but also had an enlarged headpiece underneath Goldblum’s wig. The “hernia-bulge” on his side is in a lower position on his torso than the final version, and only Brundle’s face and hands are visibly mutated (also, the sticky pads on his palms are of different colors than the metallic-green pads seen in the final film). The rest of Goldblum’s body is discolored with body makeup, and there are numerous insect-like hair on his arms and torso. In the final version of the makeup seen in the film, Brundle’s entire body is lumpy and deformed (test footage of this version can be seen on the Fly CE DVD).
- There may also be another version of Stage 4-A (which can be seen in nearly all of the publicity and still photos of that stage). This version appears to have been slightly different arm appliances (with less distorted hands and the lighter-colored palm-pads of the first prototype), and more hair on Brundle’s head (which actually seems to coordinate better with Stage 4-B, since Stage 4-B appears to have more hair than the filmed version of Stage 4-A). It is unclear if this really is a prototype, since most photographs of this version indicate that it was filmed on the set. The apparent differences between the “prototype” and the filmed version may be mere optical illusions created by different lighting schemes and film stocks.
The following is a breakdown of each stage of Seth Brundle’s horrifying transformation as designed and created by the CWI crew (with behind-the-scenes information presented in italics):
- STAGE 1 (on view in the scene where Veronica discovers the small insect-like hair on Brundle’s back): Brundle’s face is discolored, and it looks as though he has a bad allergic rash. Small insect-like hair are growing out of the scratches on his back (an injury sustained prior to Brundle’s fateful teleportation when he accidentally rolled onto a stray circuit board). Actor Jeff Goldblum’s face was painted with dabs of blue, red, green, yellow, and purple makeup. The fly-like hairs growing from the scratches on Brundle’s back were made from monofilament fishing wire that was trimmed, tapered, and tinted black.
- STAGE 2 (on view from the scene where the manic Brundle storms the city’s streets and then enters the bar until the point where he discovers the truth about his fusion with the fly by checking his computer’s records): It looks as though Brundle has a bad case of acne, as his face is full of what appear to be pimples, warts and bumps (and more lesions appear on his face as time goes on). There are also some small fly-like hair growing out of various areas of his face. Many more such hairs are growing out of the scratches on his back. Brundle’s entire body is becoming subtly discolored, and his fingers are swollen, blotchy, and have loose nails. Plastic warts and pimples were applied to Goldblum’s face. He wore foam-rubber fingertips for the nail-pulling scene.
- STAGE 3 (on view in the scene where Veronica visits Brundle after his one-month period of isolation): Brundle’s face is lumpy and discolored. His hair is thinning (with visible bald spots) and he has no eyebrows. He must now walk with the aid of a pair of canes (as a result of the changes to the internal structure of his body) and vomits digestive enzymes on his food in order to dissolve it. His right ear falls off in this stage. Goldblum wore a full face/neck foam-rubber appliance with wig. The “vomit drop” was made from eggs, honey, and milk.
- STAGE 4-A (on view in the scene where Brundle demonstrates his wall-crawling and “vomit-drop” abilities to Veronica): Brundle has lost all of his fingernails and toenails, as well as both ears. More of his hair has fallen out, and his teeth are crooked (with receding gums). His face and arms are lumpy and deformed, and coarse insect-like hair are popping up all over his body. A hernia-like bulge has developed on the lower left side of his torso. Sticky, cushion-like pads have appeared on Brundle’s hands and feet, giving him the ability to cling to walls. The index and middle fingers of his right hand are webbed together with a flap of flesh, and are starting to fuse together. Some of the toes on Brundle’s feet are clustering and fusing together. Brundle’s inner structure has changed enough so that he no longer needs to walk with the aid of canes, and his natural posture is now hunched-over and inhuman. He has also begun to exhibit nervous and jerky fly-like twitches and tics. Goldblum wore foam rubber appliances on his head, neck, arms, feet, and abdomen. Various pieces of foam were put under his clothes to suggest a misshapen form underneath. He also wore another wig with sparse hair, and custom-made dentures to show Brundle’s crooked teeth.
- STAGE 4-B (not seen in the final cut of the film; appears only in the deleted “Monkey-Cat”/insect leg-amputation sequence that can be seen on the 2005 Fly Collector’s Edition DVD): Essentially the same as Stage 4-A, but now Brundle is completely naked. He has lost his genitals, his buttocks have fused together, and his hips have become enlarged. The hernia-like bulge on his side is very noticeable now, and eventually bursts open to reveal a small, fly-like appendage that is messily amputated by the horrified Brundle. This stage used the same sculpting for the face and arms as the Stage 4-A makeup appliances did, but since the scene revealed the entirety of Brundle’s deformed body, Goldblum was required to wear the first of two full-body, foam-rubber bodysuits designed for the film.
- STAGE 5 (on view from the point where Brundle loses his teeth up until the moment when his jaw is ripped off): Brundle is nearing the end of his metamorphosis. His hair is almost entirely gone, and his head has become swollen and misshapen, with his face becoming even more deformed with each passing day. The right eyelid is puffed up and the left eye is enlarged. The index and middle fingers on Brundle’s right hand have fused together, and the pinky fingers of both hands are “dead” and vestigial. The middle finger of the left hand has swollen grotesquely. Brundle loses a number of teeth in this stage, and the open wound on his torso (from the deleted “Monkey-Cat” sequence) is clearly visible. Goldblum wore a second full-body suit similar to the one seen in Stage 4-B, but this version featured more exaggerated deformities. Goldblum also wore special dentures with missing teeth and custom-made contact lenses that made one eye appear bigger than the other. The most complete makeup job in the film, this stage took nearly six hours to apply to the actor. The shots of Brundle’s jaw flexing in a non-human way so as to vomit corrosive enzymes on Stathis Borans, as well as the shots of Brundle’s jaw being ripped off, were accomplished with mechanized, full-bust puppet replicas of the character. In a shot deleted from the film, Brundle ejects an eight-inch proboscis to suck up the remains of Borans’ foot, a sequence that also used a mechanized bust. This was the last stage of Brundlefly’s transformation to involve actor Jeff Goldblum.
- STAGE 6 (seen when Brundlefly tosses Veronica into Telepod 1 and then steps into Telepod 2): Brundle’s dead and decaying outer layer of skin falls off to reveal his final incarnation, the entity previously dubbed “Brundlefly” by the diseased scientist. This grotesque, human-insect hybrid creature has a misshapen head with antennae, insect eyes with enlarged eyelids, and a proboscis. The torso is somewhat segmented, like an insect’s, and the hips are enlarged and deformed. The right leg reverses its joint to become reverse-bending and Brundle’s dead human foot is shaken loose. The creature’s new, hoof-like foot ends in a pair of insect claws. The left leg is vaguely humanoid, but there is an extra joint beneath the knee, and the foot consists of three large, deformed toes that are tipped by insect claws. The left arm is humanoid, and terminates in a deformed, human-type hand with stubby, vestigial fingers. The right arm features a distorted and elongated hand that has two long, tubular fingers (which are also tipped with insect claws), and a small, fly-like leg (similar to the leg that burst out of Brundle’s left side in the deleted “Monkey-Cat” scene) can be seen on the right side of the creature’s torso. This ultimate fusion of man and insect was brought to life through the use of various cable-controlled and rod-operated puppets.
- “STAGE” 7 (seen in The Fly’s final moments, after Brundlefly is merged with a section of Telepod 2): Not necessarily a stage, but after its failure attempt to reclaim some semblance of humanity by merging with Veronica Quaife, Brundlefly is accidentally fused with a large chunk of its own sending telepod. The resulting fusion of man, insect, and machine crawls out of the receiving pod, mortally wounded and in terrible agony. The
thing that was once Seth Brundle silently begs Veronica to end its life, and she does. This final incarnation of Seth Brundle, technically not a part of his metamorphosis into Brundlefly, was dubbed the “Brundlething” or “Brundlebooth” by the film’s crew (and is also called “BrundlePod” by some fans). The pathetic creature was created as a rod puppet with cable-controlled facial features.
Like this post? Subscribe to my RSS feed and get loads more!