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).
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.
Bill Murray's scene in the waiting room was filmed as scripted, but there was virtually no written dialogue when his character got into the dentist's chair, except for ecstatic cries of pleasure . Over the course of the two days that he filmed, Murray kept riffing various ad-libs, which presented a challenge for the editor to assemble a coherent version of the scene.
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 doll's head.
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.
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 Jim 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).
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.
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 Old Woman who begins the song "Skid Row (Downtown)" is Tony-nominated singer/actress/comedienne Bertice Reading. It's been erroneously reported that her voice is overdubbed by Michelle Weeks, who played Ronette and performed the verse for the alternate version on the soundtrack album. In fact, Bertice sang her part in the song live on the set. This was Bertice's final film appearance before her death in 1991.
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 be cleaned, re-painted and patched up at the end of each shooting day, which would take up to three hours depending on the size.
The filmmakers originally offered the role of Audrey to Cyndi Lauper, before casting original stage star Ellen Greene. Lauper wanted the part but couldn't commit due to her recording/touring schedule at the time. Madonna was also reportedly considered for the role.
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).
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.
After the 1998 DVD was recalled, there were plans to reissue the film with a color version of the original ending, but since it had never been finalized and was only assembled for various workprints, the footage was deemed lost. In 2011, a small restoration team tracked down referential production notes and the existing negatives (which had been scattered in Hollywood, Kansas and London vaults) and assembled "The Intended Cut" without the participation of director Frank Oz or Richard Conway, who'd directed the extravagant special FX finale. Oz was so elated that Conway's footage had been restored and completed that he approved of it being called a "Director's Cut," though this was in-name only. This edit was screened at the 50th annual New York Film Festival on September 29, 2012 and issued on DVD and Blu Ray on October 9. Fans have criticized the finale's redundant footage and excessive length, as well as the omission of Seymour's lengthy soliloquy from "The Meek Shall Inherit" and other deleted/alternate scenes that were featured in early workprints, which began surfacing online in December 2012.
The original production of "Little Shop of Horrors" premiered at the WPA Theater in New York on May 6, 1982, before transferring to the the Orpheum Theatre, where it ran from July 27, 1982 to November 1, 1987, for a total of 2,209 performances. Its Broadway debut was 17 years later at the Virginia Theater, where it 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.
Wardrobe and props were obtained from New York thrift shops in order to attain a period realism. The most difficult items to find were garbage cans, so set decorator Tessa Davies drove around in a truck filled with new cans, and whenever she saw an old one outside of someone's home, she stopped and offered to trade. "People thought I was crazy!" she remarked.
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.
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.
Every song except "Da-Doo" is different on the soundtrack album. There are both drastic and minor deviations in orchestrations, singers, vocal takes, and several songs include additional verses and/or alternate lyrics. The single version of "Dentist!" includes sound FX and dialogue from the film (extensively featuring Bill Murray), as well as the line "He's strictly a medical mess," which doesn't appear in any other release of the song. There are several different single radio edits of "Mean Green Mother From Outer Space," and a 12" version which begins with the soundtrack album's ominous alternate "Prologue" seguing into the song.
The actresses playing Crystal, Ronnette and Chiffon rehearsed a brief dance solo that would have appeared during the song "Dentist!," but it was cut during production to prevent distraction from Steve Martin's performance.
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.
An original song entitled "Bad" was composed for the film's climax, the scene was storyboarded by artist Michael G. Ploog and it remained in the script from the first draft in 1983 until the final draft in September 1985, when it was suddenly replaced by "Mean Green Mother from Outer Space." A demo of "Bad" performed by Ron Taylor (who voiced Audrey II in the original stage play) was included as a bonus track on the 2003 Broadway cast album.
The film was originally intended to be a summer blockbuster, with a release date of July 2, 1986. A pair of disastrous test screenings pushed the release back until December 19, with reshoots taking place in September.
Someone at the Geffen company tried to get Rodney Dangerfield into the film. They even tried to get him to record the vocals for Audrey II behind Frank Oz's back. When the filmmakers returned to Pinewood Studios to reshoot the ending in September 1986, the revised script pages had Dangerfield playing Patrick Martin.
The dental tools used in Orin's office, during Bill Murray's famous scene, would again appear in Tim Burton's 1989 Batman. They're the tools used on Jack Nicholson's Joker after he fell into the chemicals. Coincidentally, Little Shop of Horrors (1960) was Nicholson's first movie role, in which HE plays the masochistic patient.
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, a special edition DVD was released with the alternate "everybody dies" ending. The DVDs were yanked off the shelves a few days after release, and replaced with DVDs without that ending, because David Geffen wanted to re-release the film in theaters with the gruesome ending. The ending was restored 14 years later, with the release of the Director's Cut Blu-Ray.
In the very last shot of the theatrical release, the camera pans down as the Greek chorus passes the screen. Only 2 women's faces are visible. Tisha Campbell-Martin was unavailable for the re-shoot and had to be replaced by an English double.
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.
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.
In a production meeting that was chronicled in a June 1985 issue of The New York Times magazine, producer and financier David Geffen recounted a bad test screening of Risky Business (1983), which later scored remarkably well when they added an upbeat tag ending. He suggested that writer Howard Ashman should revise the script with a happy ending, but Ashman countered that Seymour would be on "morally shaky ground" if he were to get off scot free. Filming of Ashman's script went off as planned, a positively dismal test screening ensued, and he was forced to write a happy ending, which scored off the charts and wound up costing Geffen an addition $2 million in production costs.
During "Feed Me", Audrey 2 replies "tell it to the marines" in between one of Seymours refrains. Thought at first it may seem like he's just being insulting to Seymours lamenting, there is also an interesting double meaning: in the original ending, Audrey 2 spreads and eventually takes over the world. Audrey 2 is, essentially, daring Seymour to try and stop him, since he knows that he can't be stopped that way and doesn't care about Seymours reservations