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The Terrifyingly Real Stunt In The Original Candyman

Bernard Rose's "Candyman" is one of the most underrated horror movies of the 20th century. In addition to being exceptionally well-crafted and scary as all get out, it's one of the most conceptually and subtextually rich entries in the genre's self-reflexive post-'90s era, with a willingness to pick apart the mystery and the allure of scary tales, as well as the very folktale it's inspired by, that puts most "meta" horror movies to shame. With the much-hyped Nia DaCosta-directed sequel on the way, 2021 just might be the year we, as a culture, finally give the original 1992 "Candyman" its due — and, to be sure, there will be plenty for new fans and viewers to pick apart themselves.

For starters, "Candyman" has one of the most fascinating production histories in horror cinema. Made for just $8 million (via AFI), and following a notorious ten-year career for Rose as a leading figure in experimental indie horror, it was put together mostly thanks to the passion and commitment of the parties involved, as well as smart, crafty use of limited resources — including hypnosis — rather than through big expenditures. And, if you're wondering, yes, this also applies to that scene: The most shocking and disturbing moment in "Candyman" was completely for real.

Tony Todd really had bees placed in his mouth to film the climax

Making "Candyman" was a turning point for actor Tony Todd, who played the titular ghost and is reprising the role in the sequel. In an interview with IGN, he said, "I knew when I read it, and I saw the bees and the stuff, I knew that things like that hadn't been filmed before." Spurred on by that novelty and by the vision of Bernard Rose, he ignored colleagues' reservations about the soundness of entering such a strange, potentially hazardous project, and took it on as his "own personal 'Phantom of the Opera.'"

His commitment to the role of Candyman has become iconic. However, not everybody who's seen the movie might realize that said commitment extended to having real bees placed in his mouth for the film's climax, in which the Candyman kisses Helen (Virginia Madsen) and sends bees down her throat. Per The Guardian, the "bee scene" proved the production's biggest challenge: Entomology professor Norman Gary had to breed non-venomous bee hives in the studio roof and then bring them safely on set, in a process that took several days, and, according to Rose, "All Tony [Todd] had was a dental dam to prevent them going down his throat."

In Todd's own words, dealing with the bees was no biggie: "Once I realised it was an important part of who Candyman was, I embraced it," the actor told The Guardian. "It was like putting on a beautiful coat." Of course, he still negotiated an only-fair $1,000 bonus for every sting, of which there were 23. Indie filmmakers, don't try this at home.