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'Labyrinth' back in theaters: 5 mind-blowing facts about Jim Henson's cult classic

Adam Lance Garcia
Producer, Yahoo Entertainment

David Bowie wasn’t the only rocker considered for the lead role

Composer Trevor Jones, who had collaborated with Henson on Dark Crystal, was pushing for a rock score. “We discussed the idea of a central rock artist who was also an actor, onscreen along with the puppets,” Jones recalls in Labyrinth: The Ultimate Visual History. Henson sparked to the idea.

“Probably the coolest, strangest, weirdest thing that we found was Jim Henson’s handwritten list [reproduced in the book] of the musical artists he was considering for the role of Jareth. They boggle the mind,” Paula Block, co-author of the The Ultimate Visual History, told Yahoo Entertainment. “Can you imagine the film if the role had gone to Keith Richards?! Or David Lee Roth? Or ‘Fred’ Mercury? Or — for crying out loud — Ted Nugent?!” Aside from Bowie, other names on Henson’s list included Sting, Rod Stewart, and Prince.

Jennifer Connelly beat out a veritable who’s-who of Hollywood actresses

From April 1984 to January 1985, Henson auditioned dozens of young actresses in the U.S. and U.K., among them Helena Bonham Carter, Mary Stuart Masterson, Sarah Jessica Parker, Laura San Giacomo, Laura Dern, Marisa Tomei, Jane Krakowski, Yasmine Bleeth, Ally Sheedy, and Mia Sara. Krakowski, Sheedy, and Maddie Corman (Some Kind of Wonderful) emerged as the favorites until a relatively unknown 14-year-old blew everyone away: Jennifer Connelly. “When Jenny walked in, she was the right person, and it was one of those great little moments,” Jim Henson once said. Within a week of her audition, she was offered the role of Sarah, the teenager who gets whisked away to the goblin kingdom.

Jim Henson got by with a little help from his friends

A big Monty Python fan, Henson reached out to troupe member Terry Jones to write the script; Jones quickly signed on. Although Jones was the only credited screenwriter on the final film, plenty of others had input, including noted writer and script doctor Elaine May and frequent Henson collaborator George Lucas, who offered several story ideas and served as the film’s executive producer.

One character was for the dogs

According to Cheryl Henson, Jim’s middle daughter, the character of Sir Didymus, the bridge-guarding knight Sarah encounters in the Bog of Eternal Stench, was based on her older sister Lisa’s dog.

Hoggle was a handful

As Jim’s son Brian, who served as lead puppeteer on Labyrinth, explained to Yahoo Entertainment, it required a lot of work to bring the characters to life. Hoggle, the grumpy goblin sidekick for whom Brian provided a voice, was the most complex animatronic puppet ever created at the time. Hoggle required one puppeteer inside his costume and four more (including Henson) to move his expressive face: two performing the mouth and jaw and another two working the eyes and eyebrows, all using radio controls. After weeks of rehearsal, the Hoggle team worked in perfect harmony, and the character’s performance seems effortless. You’d never guess at all the heavy lifting going on behind the scenes.

Labyrinth returns to theaters this weekend.

 

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