As part of the film's promotion, the "Audrey II" plant was occasionally interviewed, in character, by the press. On at least one occasion, the interview concluded with Audrey II "eating" the interviewer.
"Mean Green Mother From Outer Space" (written for this film) is the first Oscar-nominated song to contain profanity. As a result, the song was edited, replacing the more risqué lyrics with lyrics cut from the final film (though included on the film soundtrack).
It supposedly took Steve Martin six weeks to film all his scenes. He contributed ideas such as socking the nurse in the face (originally he was to knock her out using his gas mask) and ripping off the dolls head.
All the scenes were filmed at Pinewood Studios in England, including what was then the largest studio set in the world, the "007" stage. They did not want to shoot on location, because it would ruin the fantastical mood of the film. Part of the giant 007 stage was used to film the "Suddenly Seymour" number. Due to its size, the stage was impractical to heat properly and thus caused breath condensation to appear. This was countered by having the actors put ice cubes in their mouths.
Frank Oz originally wanted the Greek Chorus (Crystal, Ronette and Chiffon) to be highlighted by a spotlight whenever they appeared, but this proved to be impractical as the light would spill over onto the other actors. He did manage to have them 'magically' remain dry during the rain storm in the title number.
The Old Woman who begins the song "Skid Row (Downtown)" is Tony-nominated singer/actress/comedienne Bertice Reading. It's been erroneously said that her voice is dubbed over by Michelle Weeks, who played Ronette, but this is false. In fact, Bertice sang her part in the song live on set. She also provides the vocals on the soundtrack. This was Bertice's final film appearance before her death in 1991.
For the scene during "Suppertime" when Mushnik is offering Seymour a way out, director Frank Oz originally wanted to use over-the-shoulder shots. But Rick Moranis and Vincent Gardenia kept cracking each other up so he had to use close-ups.
The scenes in which the two largest Audrey II puppets are performing with the actors are filmed at a lower speed. First at 16 frames per second, then at 12 frames per second for the final number. This means that the actors had to move and lip sync in slow motion.
The shot pulling away from Audrey after the song "Somewhere That's Green" was so long that it required two cranes, one placed on top of the other, to pull it off. The camera actually shifts a little when the one crane stops and the other takes over.
There are no blue screens or opticals involved in any of Audrey II's scenes. The plant was made in six different stages of growth and there were three different versions of Mushnik's shop, making it possible for two units to work with different sized plants at the same time. Each of the talking plants had to cleaned, re-painted and patched up at the end of each shooting day, which would take up to three hours depending on the size.
While filming the scene in which Dr. Scrivello pushes open the double swinging doors to Audrey's apartment complex Steve Martin cut his hands when the glass windows shattered. As a result, in the final cut he is kicking the door open. The outtake of Martin cutting his hand can be seen as a special feature on the DVD and Blu-ray releases.
Mushnik is seen on the phone with one of his biggest clients, Mrs. Shiva, whose family is "dropping off like flies." This is a reference to an elderly shop patron with the same name, and with a similar problem, in the original "The Little Shop of Horrors (1960)." Shiva is a Jewish mourning ritual; it's also the name of the Hindu god of destruction, part of the trinity of gods along with Brahma (the creator) and Vishnu (the maintainer).
In the original cut of the film Paul Dooley played the part of Patrick Martin. When the cast and crew returned several months later to shoot a new ending, Dooley was unavailable so James Belushi stepped into the role. Dooley received a "special thanks" credit in the film and his scene appears in the black and white workprint ending that was available on the original DVD release. The 2012 Director's Cut Blu-Ray/DVD release restores Dooley's part, and conversely it's Belushi who receives a "special thanks" credit.
Ellen Greene as Audrey (I) is the only member of the Off-Broadway cast to appear in this film. When she originated the role in 1982, it was her idea to wear a blond wig over her brunette curly hair. Howard Ashman originally saw Audrey as a brunette, based on Jackie Joseph's look in the original The Little Shop of Horrors (1960).
The original production of "Little Shop of Horrors" premiered off-off-Broadway at the WPA Theater on May 6, 1982, before transferring off-Broadway to the the Orpheum Theatre, where it ran between July 27, 1982 and November 1, 1987 for a total of 2,209 performances. The musical made its Broadway debut 11 years later at the Virginia Theater, where it ran between October 2, 2003 and August 22, 2004, totaling 372 performances.
In 1986, D.C. Comics released a comic book adaptation of the film. Although the book retains some scenes that didn't make it to the final cut of the film, most characters bear little resemblance to their live-action counterparts.
The song "Some Fun Now" was adapted from the song from the Off-Broadway show "Ya Never Know." Four other songs ("Closed for Renovation," "Mushnik & Son," "Now (It's Just the Gas)," and "Call Back in the Morning") were cut from the score and one, "Mean Green Mother From Outer Space" was written for the film. Howard Ashman and Alan Menken wrote and proposed two songs to be used during the end credits: the ballad "Your Day Begins Tonight" and "Crystal, Ronette and Chiffon". These were dropped in favor of a medley of songs from the score.
Levi Stubbs (the voice of Audrey II the giant man eating plant) would also provide the voice of a talking carnivorous plant in an episode of the cartoon "Visonaries: Knights of the Magical Light". "Honor Among Thieves" (#1.11)
A tip-off to the fact that the film was shot in England can be seen in the garbage can from which Scrivello's boot (leg?) protrudes after his gassy demise: prominent among the other garbage is a newspaper crossword--but its grid is that of a British cryptic puzzle, not the American-style crossword layout most people are familiar with.
The gun used in the movie is a Smith & Wesson Model 36. Near the end of the movie Audrey II uses the gun to shoot at Seymour, there are about 12 shots fired without reloading during the scene. The gun only has a 5 shot capacity.
Jimmy Dean is indirectly referenced, in lyrics of "Feed Me!" Audrey II,"How'd you like to drive a Cadillac car/ How 'bout a guest spot on Jack Paar/ How about a date with Hedy Lamarr? You'll get it!" Seymore,"Gee, I'd really like a Harley machine/ Drivin' round like I was James Dean/ Make all the guys on the corner turn green!" Though James Dean was being sung about; Jimmy Dean and Jack Paar were both a host of _The Tonight Show (1962)_ (Though the film's year isn't explicitly stated, Paar hosted from 1957 to 1962.)
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
The original script called for Audrey and Seymour to be eaten by Audrey II. Frank Oz reluctantly had it changed after negative reactions from test audiences. Oz claims that the difference between the success of the scene in the play and the same scene in the film is that there is no curtain call to remind the audience that the actors were okay.
In 1998 the special edition DVD was released with the alternate "everybody dies" ending. A couple of days after its release the DVDs were yanked off the shelves and replaced with new ones that don't contain that ending. This is because producer David Geffen wanted to re-release the film in theaters with the gruesome ending. However the ending wouldn't be restored for another fourteen years, with the release of the Director's Cut Blu-Ray.
In the very last shot of the theatrical version of the film, the camera pans down as the Greek chorus passes the screen and we only get to see the faces of two of the three girls (Tichina Arnold and Michelle Weeks). This is because Tisha Campbell-Martin was unavailable for the re-shoot and had to be replaced by an English double.
The "Suppertime" number uses two different sizes of Audrey II. When the plant is singing all alone in the shop, it is actually a smaller size; the same size as when it sang "Feed Me", but now standing on a scaled down set to make it look larger. The full size one that is seen to interact with Seymour and Mushnik was not provided with lip movement, but was built to swallow Mushnik's (mechanical) legs.
After the 1998 DVD was recalled, there was no colored copy of the original ending in existence to Warner's knowledge. The original ending was lost, until Warner used re-discovered color negatives and other production notes with help from Frank Oz and the film's creative team. The Blu-Ray and DVD versions of The Director's Cut (originally called "The Intended Cut", but was changed due to Oz supporting the project) were released on October 9th, 2012, and it was screened at the 50th annual New York Film Festival.
The tie-in trading card set released by Topps contains many shots of scenes now deleted from the movie. These includes images of the plants taking over New York; of Audrey (1) being eaten; and pieces of the deleted extended song sequence - all presented in full colour. The back of some of the trading cards could be put together to form a larger picture of the plants attacking the Brooklyn Bridge.