Even the Spiders Had To Audition for ‘Arachnophobia’

Even the Spiders Had To Audition for ‘Arachnophobia’


The big picture

  • arachnophobia
    he used real spiders to ensure a genuine scare and avoided CGI for authenticity.
  • Director Frank Marshall recalled Alfred Hitchcock's
    the birds
    when reading the script of
  • The spiders had to audition
    focusing on specific characteristics such as appearance and behavior.

If you want to do a creature feature, making spiders evil is the easiest way to scare the audience. Some have done well, like this year Sting i infestedtogether with those of 1977 William Shatner– starring kingdom of the spiders. Some have opted for a more silly route, like the one in 2002 Eight-legged monsters. And then there's the plethora of bad CGI giant spiders in little-seen movies over the past few decades. (Ice spidersanyone?) But no creepy eight-legged creature feature will ever top the 90s arachnophobiastarring Jeff Daniels i John Goodmanand directed by Frank Marshall. It has some comedy, sure (Goodman is hilarious as exterminator Delbert McClintock), but it's also genuinely terrifying because almost every shot features real spiders. There is no CGI, and outside of a few scenes of Daniels fighting the spider near the end, no animatronics are used. That doesn't mean just any spider can make the movie, though. Even the arachnids had to audition.


A new species of South American killer spider climbs into a small Californian town inside a coffin and begins to reproduce, leaving a trail of deaths that baffles and terrifies the young doctor who has just arrived in town with the his family

Publication date
July 20, 1990

Don Jakoby, Al Williams, Wesley Strick

Execution time

Main genre

Frank Marshall wanted “Arachnophobia” to be like Alfred Hitchcock's “The Birds”.

Frank Marshall is best known for being a Hollywood producer. Along with Steven Spielberg and his wife, Kathleen Kennedy, Marshall founded Amblin Entertainment. He spent the 80s producing some of the biggest films of the decade, including Raiders of the Lost Ark, poltergeist, gremlins, The Color Lilai Who Framed Roger Rabbit. He is still a producer today, but there came a time when he also wanted to sit behind the camera as a director. You have him to thank for movies like live i Congobut in 1990, for his first film, he signed for something called arachnophobia.

In an interview with Amblin, Marshall talked about working as a second unit manager Alwayswhen Disney Jeffrey Katzenberg offered him the opportunity to be in the front seat of a movie about killer spiders. Marshall said he jumped at the chance because the script reminded him of Alfred Hitchcock's the birds. Hitchcock's 1963 scare fest is about Tippi Hedren i Rod TaylorThe characters are on the run for the weekend when bird attacks happen around them.

Marshall brought in another writer to focus arachnophobiathe story of He told Amblin, “We went much further down the path of taking the birds like our inspiration, where it was really about this family that had moved to the country from San Francisco and then this spider invasion happens around them.”

Marshall knew that all the terrifying spider attacks in the world don't matter if you don't care about the characters first. This made the casting of Jeff Daniels as its protagonist, Dr. Ross Jennings, a perfect choice. He was a serious actor known for movies like Conditions of affection i The purple rose of Cairo. If anyone could sell the fear of being terrorized by hundreds of spiders, it was him. However, arachnophobia I needed these spiders. It doesn't matter how great a story and acting talent you have if the antagonists end up looking like fools. arachnophobia he has humor, though spiders themselves are never a joke. For that not to happen, that meant they had to be real.

Spiders had to audition for 'Arachnophobia'

It's easy to create a creature feature with CGI spiders these days. This may make the crew less agitated, but the audience can detect that the spiders are not real, immediately making them a source of laughter rather than fear. Part of the reason why infested what works so well is that they actually used real spiders in scenes where the arachnids aren't the size of a dog. kingdom of the spiders they used real spiders, but also raised some ethical questions, as several tarantulas were killed on screen. Fortunately, insect and arachnid guidelines now prevent this on set, which was the case arachnophobia. There may be scenes where a spider “dies” but there has been no real injury.

Using real spiders definitely helps, but you still need to get the right ones. In kingdom of the spiders, for example, hundreds, if not thousands, of real tarantulas were used, and while they are terrifying to look at, they are thick and slow with short legs. Frank Marshall wanted spiders that had a certain look, so he used the creepy-looking Avondale spider. They are harmless, with no venom in their bite, but they also have long legs, huge fangs and are very active.

Marshall told Amblin that he held “what I called the Spider Olympics.” where he had a supervising entomologist, Steve Kutcher, bring the spiders of Avondale to the auditions. He tested them, not only to see if they were afraid, but also to see their size, their ability to climb the glass and if they could be motivated to move, which was done by targeting them with a hair dryer. Marshall said, “We had a spider condo where we had different drawers with spiders that could climb better than others, some that were faster than others. It was really a science of different spider actors.”


Why we should celebrate 'arachnophobia' as a creature classic

Seriously, it's great.

Many tricks were used to get the “arachnophobic” spiders to act

Spiders crawl out of the sink in 'Arachnophobia'
Image via Buena Vista Pictures Distribution

The spiders inside arachnophobia not just walk around looking imposing, but seem to act and make their mark on the plot. We see them crawling inside a person's shoe or crawling down a screen with a person sitting nearby. One scene shows them coming out of a bag of popcorn! So how did they do it? Some of it comes from hot air from hair dryers. That's how the scene where they seem to burst out of a bathroom sink drain happens. The spiders were in a tube with a dryer underneath, pushing them up. For the creepy popcorn bag stunt, spiders have haunted him. with the cameras simply recording what they were doing. In the documentary, Thrills, chills and spiders: the making of arachnophobia, Steve Kutcher said that while spiders were easy to work with, they couldn't be trained. He said, “You can harness their behavior. If you put them in a hot place, they'll want to get out of the hot place and go to a cooler place.” In most scenes you see spiders moving in a direction perfect for the scene, that's because Kutcher or someone else is behind it with a hair dryer. Lemon Pledge was also used to get spiders to move in certain directions. They don't like it, so if you spray it on the floor in a line, they'll move away.

But what happens arachnophobia's finale, where Jeff Daniels' Dr. Ross Jennings, a man who is afraid of spiders, has to face a giant one, just like Chief Brody (Roy Scheider), a man who is afraid of water, must face the great white shark at the end of jaws? All kinds of stunts are done, including having the mammoth creature attack Daniels and set him on fire. No audition was required for this, thankfully, as Marshall said it went Chris Wallacewho had designed the mini villains gremlins, to build an animatronic spider. He told Amblin, “I guess you could say that between Steven and Kathy and I, we were a bunch of big kids trying to hurt each other.” It's safe to say it worked. arachnophobia was one of the highest-grossing films of 1990, and more than three decades later, it still holds up as a realistic look at one of our greatest fears.

arachnophobia is available to rent on Prime Video in the US

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