Coming up to the 30th anniversary of The Addams Family, director Barry Sonnenfeld reflected back upon his experience in making the original live-action movie. In 1991, Sonnenfeld took on the original live-action movie as a first-time director, and its success established him as a Hollywood name. He went on to helm the sequel Addams Family Values along with titles Get Shorty, Wild Wild West, and the first three Men in Black movies.
In a new Variety interview, Barry Sonnenfeld notes how the project wasn’t quite so fun behind the scenes. Paramount President Stanley Jaffe had told the director that the movie was “unreleasable” after seeing ten minutes of footage, and costs were cut to such a degree that there wasn’t even bottled water on set. The good news is that the other executives at Paramount were on board, even if Jaffe wasn’t.
Another benefit to the production is that Sonnenfeld was given a bit more freedom than most first-time directors working for a big studio when it came to the casting. Early on into production, when the movie was in development at Orion Pictures before it was sold to Paramount, studio heads were pushing for Cher to play Morticia. However, Sonnenfeld stuck to his guns with Anjelica Huston, casting her alongside Raul Julia as Gomez for pretty much the same reason.
“I felt the IP, which was Charles Addams’ drawings, was going to be our sales’ point. For awhile, Orion really wanted Cher to play Morticia. I don’t remember who they wanted for Gomez. But I felt that we really needed two really good actors. Both Gomez and Raul had a real love of life and nothing could make them sad. And Anjelica was perfect for that part. Because it was Orion they let us make those choices.”
While Raul Julie and Anjelica Huston are indeed perfect for those roles, what mattered most was that the two had amazing chemistry together. It was actually their romance that helped draw Sonnenfeld to the project in the first place. He also loves the “pro-family” message of the movie, insisting that the family is very functional even if they’re a bit eccentric. As Sonnenfeld puts it:
“One of the things I love about this movie is how romantic it is. It’s also very pro-family. Every reviewer would write ‘It’s the most dysfunctional family.’ Actually, no. It’s a very functional family. The parents love their children. The children love their parents. The parents leave the children alone so they can grow and learn.”
In the interview, Barry Sonnenfeld also seems to shut down the rumors that Kim Basinger and Anthony Hopkins were also eyed for the roles of Morticia and Uncle Fester, respectively. Sonnenfeld has no knowledge of that happening, and he was on board for the project before it even had its greenlight. He does reveal that Tim Burton and Terry Gilliam both turned down directing the movie before the offer went to him, however.
In commemoration of the movie’s 30th anniversary, The Addams Family is getting a new release on 4K UHD. It features extended footage, and is labeled as having “more mamushka” because of its longer dance scene featuring Raul Julia and Christopher Lloyd. You can read the full interview at Variety.