Spaceballs celebrated its 30-year anniversary in 2017, solidifying its role as a cult-classic parody for the ages. It’s not by chance that this Mel Brooks comedy spoof of a movie was a blockbuster hit, as he took the production seriously due to his love for the Star Wars original trilogy.
Spaceballs was released in 1987, being co-written, directed, and produced by Mel Brooks,, who also had multiple acting roles. Other notable cast members included Dom DeLuise as the voice of Pizza the Hut, Bill Pullman as Lonestar, John Candy as Barf, Joan Rivers as the voice of Dot, Daphne Zuniga as the Druish Princess Vespa, and Rick Moranis as Dark Helmet.
Star Wars was the main film which was made fun of the most, but Brooks also took stabs at Alien, Star Trek, Planet of the Apes, and Wizard of Oz. Ironically, the set in which most of the filming was done was also the old Wizard of Oz set where many of the old yellow bricks could still be found lying around in odd places.
With classic lines like “She’s gone from suck to blow” and “My Schwartz is bigger than yours,” Spaceballs was widely accepted by Star Wars fans and science fiction geeks around the world.
While many are still waiting for a sequel (there’s been rumors for over a decade now), we go behind-the-scenes regarding this classic parody with 15 Shocking Facts Fans Didn’t Know About Spaceballs.
15. Third Degree Burns Were Experienced By The Actor Playing Pizza The Hut
Mel Brooks wanted the Pizza the Hut suit to look as realistic as possible. In order for this to happen, hot artificial melted cheese was used for the costume. The plus side to this was that it looked extremely realistic, as well as slightly disturbing.
The downside side, however, was that it resulted in the actor wearing the suit receiving second and third degree burns from melted cheese bubbling and dripping around him.
Actor and effects worker Richard Karen was so fed up with the outfit, in fact, that he quit after Brooks insisted on taking reshoots of Pizza the Hut. You might recall that the voice for Pizza the Hut was none other than the famous Dom DeLuise, who adamantly refused to wear the ridiculous costume from the beginning.
14. It Was The Most Expensive Movie That Mel Brooks Ever Produced
Despite the hilarious stories concerning how Brooks cut corners on set to make his movie a reality, it was still the most expensive movie he has ever made to date. A large part of the budget went to post-productions costs, which allegedly costed approximately 5 million dollars.
Why the exorbitant high costs, you might wonder. Well, Brooks respected George Lucas so much that he hired Lucasfilm to do all of the post-production work on the movie.
It may have cost him an arm and a leg– and another leg– but many fans and critics believe that his decision to hand over post-production to Lucasfilm is what helped turn Spaceballs into the blockbuster hit that we know and love today.
13. Approval For Spaceballs Was Given By A Star Wars Master
Mel Brooks is a comedian who loves to make fun of the world, but he’s also a fan of Star Wars. Because of this, he sought after the approval of George Lucas himself before he he began producing Spaceballs.
Not only did Lucas give his consent to Brooks to make the film, but he also found the idea hilarious and applauded Mel Brooks for a job well done. While it may natural to assume that there may be some disagreements between the two artistic geniuses, there wasn’t. In fact, the two highly respect one another and each other’s creative works.
George Lucas even once told Mel Brooks (regarding Spaceballs the movie), “Take out the comedy and it really works as an adventure.” Maybe Lucasfilm and Disney should bring on Brooks to write the comedic parts for the new Star Wars trilogy under the helm of Rian Johnson.
12. Various A-List Actors Turned Down The Role Of Lonestar
Going after the biggest names in Hollywood won’t always guarantee the making of a blockbuster. However, the practice of doing so has been around for decades and doesn’t seem to be dying down anytime soon. Mel Brooks originally asked Tom Cruise and Tom Hanks to play the role of Lonestar. However, both immediately turned him down.
Bill Pullman was next on the list, mostly due to the fact that he had yet to star in a movie that raked in the blockbuster money. However, this was also because he was willing to get paid an amount that Brooks could afford.
As fate would have it, Bill Pullman was the perfect fit for Lonestar. The interaction between him, John Candy, and Rick Moranis was priceless. No other actor– let alone Cruise or Hanks– could’ve pulled it off like Pullman did.
11. It was supposed to be called Planet Moron
Mel Brooks loves to title his movies in a simplistic manner. An example of this is his latest spoof, as well as Blazing Saddles and History of the World Part 1. Thankfully, his original title idea for the movie, which was Planet Moron, for this classic Star Wars spoof was spoiled from the very beginning. A British comedy film released in 1985 called Morons from Outer Space temporarily took the wind out of his sails.
However, Mel Brooks has never been one to be outdone, and instead decided to call the movie Spaceballs. Brooks knew that the concept of “space” had to be in the title for the sake of marketing, but he needed something to gain attention. Eventually he came up with “balls” — a play on words, since he was known for making “screwball”-style movies. Hence, Spaceballs was born.
10. Star Wars Prequels Inspire Spaceballs: The Animated Series
When George Lucas digitally re-mastered the original trilogy and released the Star Wars prequels, a revival of all things Star Wars related took place. This included a whole new generation discovering Spaceballs. Brooks wanted to make another movie, but questioned whether or not he could pull it off with a “screwball” movie budget. So instead, he chose the animation route.
However, Spaceballs: The Animated Series unfortunately flew under the radar. Many missed out on Brooks spoofing the Star Wars prequels, The Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, and Grand Theft Auto.
The series was only picked up by G4 and Canada’s Super Channel, since Bill Pullman and Rick Moranis did not return to reprise their roles. A replacement actor was also needed for Barf, due to John Candy’s passing in 1994. For many, having those major actors absent was a reason to avoid Spaceballs: The Animated Series.
9. A Novelization Was Written By A Goosebumps Author
Every great movie gets a book adaptation, but Brooks wasn’t willing to settle for just any author. R. L. Stine wasn’t a household name yet since his Goosebumps books wouldn’t be released until 1995. However, his ghost writing name Jovial Bob Stine had just released a novelization to the first Ghostbusters movie.
Mel Brooks liked what he saw and had R. L. Stine write the novelization for Spaceballs. Stine wrote it under his alter ego pen name Jovial Bob Stine. The book was written for a YA audience, removing some heavier language and innuendos, instead opting for a more child-friendly perspective.
8. There Was No Merchandising
Per an agreement set between Mel Brooks and George Lucas, Brooks agreed not to sell any merchandise (the novel was the only exception). This was primarily set in place since Lucas was still raking in millions of dollars through mostly toy sales at the time. Yet, even though Mel Brooks agreed to the no selling of merchandise clause, he never agreed to not make fun of it.
This contract led to the infamous scene in Spaceballs where Yogurt (played by Mel Brooks) does his “Merchandising, Merchandising” monologue. However, making fun of lunch boxes and cereal containing 100 percent sugar with the Spaceballs name attached to it wasn’t enough. Brooks had to go to the extreme which led to “Spaceballs the flame thrower.”
7. Cameo Actor Michael Winslow Helped Cut Production Costs
Michael Winslow’s cameo saved over a thousand dollars in production costs. He was able to help the team by doing what he does best: making weird noises while playing the role of a radar tech. Best known at the time for starring in all eight Police Academy movies, Winslow created various radar sounds in a short beat with Rick Moranis as Dark Helmet.
“Sir, I’ve lost the bleeps, the sweeps, and the creeps.” Winslow then creates sounds for each item that the radar itself is supposed to be making. To this, Dark Helmet replies, “That’s not all he’s lost.” Immediately following this line comes Winslow, who states “We’ve been jammed,” as actual jam (raspberry) drips down the radar screen.
6. The Millennium Falcon Had A Cameo
Prior to the classic scene with a cameo from John Hurt, in which he does a parody skit on the film Alien (which he starred in), there’s a shot of the parking lot outside the space dinner.
Lonestar and Barf are pulling into the lot and directly across from where them and the dinner is the Millennium Falcon. Perhaps Han and Chewie had already finished their meal, or were quickly taking a break in the bathroom, but the classic fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy got its screen time in Spaceballs.
Mel Brooks added the spaceship in as an Easter egg, mostly because of his own personal love of the Star Wars movies. Taking a shot of it flying around space would have cut too much into his budget, so he settled for having it in the parking lot outside of the dinner, which only eagle-eyed fans could spot.
5. Colonel Sandurz Was Written For An A-List Actor
When Mel Brooks designed the character Colonel Sandurz, he specifically had Steve Martin in mind to play it. Sadly, Martin turned down the role. He likely had too much on his plate at the time (as he was starring in and producing multiple films a year), but it would’ve been neat to see his take on Colonel Sandurz.
Instead, George Wyner stepped up like a pro and nailed the part perfectly. He was even open to portraying iconic Steve Martin moments with a touch of his own personal take. The result was spot on, but for those who grew up in the ’80s and ’90s, it’s hard not to wonder what it would have been like with Martin acting next to Moranis.
4. The Trials And Tribulations Of Barf
John Candy was the perfect actor to play the role of Barf. The only problem was that Barf was supposed to have a mask, but with a star like Candy doing the role, the idea of wearing a mask was thrown out the window. After several failed attempts at creating a costume, a middle ground was finally found.
John Candy strapped a 30-pound battery pack onto his back, which allowed three technicians off screen to control his model ears and tail. John played along with the shenanigans like a pro, improving one of the opening scenes in which he keeps hitting Lonestar in the face with his tail every time he turns around.
3. Mel Brooks Was Allergic To His Body Paint
Call it karma if you want, but Mel Brooks also suffered while on set. Being the master that he is, Brooks played both President Skroob and Yogurt, while also directing, writing, and producing Spaceballs. While playing the part of Yogurt (a parody on Yoda), Brooks insisted that he be covered in a gold colored make-up.
The make-up and costume contained latex, however, which Brooks was highly allergic to. After a couple of hours in, his rash spread around his face and began to affect his eyes. The make-up team was under strict orders to not take more than an hour to get Brooks prepped for takes, which allowed him to get in the shots he wanted before he eventually got treatment for the spreading rash.
2. The Improv Scene Has Become A Classic
Rick Moranis contributed to his character Dark Helmet in a variety of different ways. In fact, it was his idea to use a different voice while having the mask down and to use his regular voice when it was up. (Perhaps you thought Kylo Ren was the first to do that.)
Moranis also let his acting chops flow by not being afraid to improvise when he felt it suited the scene. In one scene, what was supposed to be an in-house joke turned into one of the most remembered and loved moments in Spaceballs.
In it, Dark Helmet is in a corner room, playing with dolls from the movie (props that were used in the merchandising scene with Yogurt). The entire scene is one big improv monologue, depicting Dark Helmets’ love for the Druish Princess and his hate for Lonestar.
1. New Technology Had The Crew Worried About Their Health
At the time of filming and producing Spaceballs, green screen technology was still a new concept. Because of this, many of the actors and crew were uncertain if it was healthy to work around it. A popular theory on set was that the green screen had the potential to damage one’s eyes if exposed to it for a long duration of time.
This led to many actors, such as Bill Pullman, wearing sunglasses in between takes. Yeah, you read that correctly– the same Bill Pullman who starred in Independence Day was afraid that the green screen would hurt his eyes while filming Spaceballs.
Obviously, there weren’t any side-effects to working around a green screen, but looking back, it is pretty hilarious to know that most of the cast and crew believed the absurd rumors.
Can you think of any other crazy facts about Spaceballs? Sound off in the comments!
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