Clue was the first film to be based on a board game, and the cult-classic comedy expertly captures zany characters in a marathon of murder mystery. Below are some of our favorite factoids!
1. It’s Tim Curry’s favorite film.
And it’s not hard to understand why. Curry carries the film expertly as the know-it-all butler. Curry said, “My part was about as big as the Bible.” Interestingly, Leonard Rossiter and Rowan Atkinson were first considered for the role, but it’s hard to imagine anyone living up to Curry’s performance. “Tim is a genius,” said Leslie Ann Warren. “I don’t know how he did what he did.”
2. Madeline Kahn improvised her famous line.
Kahn’s original dialogue was a simple line about hating the maid. But what came out surprised everyone, including the director. Tim Curry said, “We had to scrape ourselves off the floor.” Kahn’s “flames on the side of my face” is the only line of dialogue that was improvised – especially since the actors stuck to the script so as to deliver the fact-paced dialogue in the style of screwball comedies like Howard Hawks' His Girl Friday. Of course, Kahn’s line was too good to cut, and the director kept it in.
3. Carrie Fisher was the original Ms. Scarlet.
According to the director, Fisher was hilarious at her audition. However, a week before rehearsal, Fisher had to drop out due to medical reasons. Thankfully, Leslie Ann Warren was suggested, and she brought the roaring role to life. Warren said, “Wherever I go, twenty-somethings always come up to me and are reciting every line in the movie.”
4. John Landis was the original director.
Landis conceived the idea for the board game movie, but was unable to direct it after choosing to do another project, Spies Like Us. Directing duties then went to the screenwriter Jonathan Lynn, making it the first film he directed. An experienced theater director, Lynn found film a challenge. “What was hard was learning that what the eye sees is different from what the camera sees.”
5. The Last of Sheila was an inspiration.
Released in 1973, The Last of Sheila followed a group of Hollywood “friends” who discover a murderer is amid their rank. Written by Anthony Perkins of Psycho fame and Broadway legend Stephen Sondheim, the film was inspired by the duo’s own real-life murder-mystery parties. The original director John Landis approached them about crafting Clue but negotiations fell through.
6. Big names were floated for the cast.
Producers talked about casting Robin Williams and John Cleese and even met with Shelly Duval, Carol Kane, Tim Matteson, and David Ogden Stiers. For the role of the maid Yvette, Madonna, Demi Moore and Jennifer Jason Leigh were considered, but Colleen Camp rented her own maid outfit to land the role.
7. The cast purposefully didn’t wear their character’s color.
With names like Miss Scarlet or Professor Plum, one might think the costumes were an easy choice. However, director Lynn didn’t want to go with the obvious – especially since the names are code-names in the plot, and the characters wouldn’t have known to dress their color. While Ms. Peacock does wear some feathers in her hat, even she stays away from the predictable. Lynn said, “There’s an air of a peacock about her, but she’s not in peacock blue.”
8. Leslie Ann Warren had a hard time moving during filming.
In fact, according to Warren, her tight corset didn’t really allow the actress to sit. Slant boards were used when she wasn’t working, so she could lean against them for a break. Meanwhile, her cast mates, who had full mobility, were often playing in the billiard room.
9. The multiple endings hurt the box office.
John Landis was unable to finish the first script, which is why, in his words, he sought a “real writer” to help finish Clue's third act. Landis wanted multiple endings, in hopes that the audience would go back to see the other versions. The marketing campaign revealed that different theaters were given different endings, but movie-goers didn’t take to the idea. “What became clear very rapidly is the audience… didn’t know which one to go and see. So they didn’t go to any of them,” said Lynn.
10. There was another ending.
As if three fun endings weren’t enough, there was a fourth ending which didn’t make the cut. In it, Curry’s Wadsworth is the killer with a plan to poison those remaining, but his escape is thwarted by a Doberman in the get-away car. A version of this ending was included in the original movie storybook.
11. Psych had a Clue reunion.
In 2013, the television series Psych reunited three cast members of the film: Leslie Ann Warren, Christopher Lloyd, and Martin Mull. Dedicated to Madeline Kahn, the episode, entitled “100 Clues,” found the characters in – you guessed it – a murder mystery. The plot even had multiple endings, a singing telegram, and featured a riff on the famous “flames” line.
12. A remake is planned.
In 2018, Ryan Reynolds was announced to be developing a film based on the board game. The movie is expected to be written by Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese, who wrote the box-office smash Deadpool, which starred Reynolds. Jason Bateman (Arrested Development) is also involved.