You might know Ellen Greene from her roles as Syler’s Mom on “Heroes,” or as Vivian Charles on “Pushing Daisies”. But to fans of musical theater, she is, and will always be Audrey, the naive, loving, ditzy flower shop employee in “Little Shop of Horrors.” Decades after she made the role her own Off-Broadway, and the movie version – also starring Greene – was released in theaters, the film is finally being released on Blu-Ray in its original version.
In advance of the film’s re-release on October 9th, and premiere this weekend at the New York Film Festival, we chatted with Greene about the enduring legacy of the musical, as well as a huge tease about the future of Pushing Daisies.
“I’m grateful… I’m in awe,” said Greene, responding to the longevity of the fanbase for Little Shop. “Frank [Oz] is a genius that loves detail… He can be very funny, but he’s very serious about quality, and the people who worked on this film were the best of the best.”
Greene had nothing but praise for the rest of the crew, too, noting that even the wallpaper in her bedroom set showed an amazing attention to details. “In the Suddenly Seymour set, the grass was growing through cement!” said Greene. “It was as romantic as you could get.”
It was also an incredibly hard shoot, as Greene was on set for a grueling nine months, and Moranis – who co-starred as Seymour – was on set for ten months. But for Greene, it was the rest of the cast and crew that never really made it feel like work. “It was such a labor of love,” said Greene.
Then there’s the big change, of course… Original test audiences hated the ending for the film, which – spoiler – saw Audrey and Seymour killed by a murderous plant. So in went a new, happier ending, quickly filmed. “I saw the original ending at [writer] Howard Ashman’s house, on a tiny TV” said Greene, breaking into singing the “big enormous, twelve inch screen,” lyric from “Somewhere That’s Green.” Laughing, Greene continued that she was watching it with Ashman, Blair Brown, and her three year old son… And the kid was so scared watching it, he jumped behind them, hiding his eyes. But other than that one viewing, she’s never seen the “original” ending to the film.
Starting to get a little misty-eyed, Greene talked about how much she was looking forward to seeing the real ending in front of a big, huge audience the next night. “I can’t put into words, but it’s quite incredible,” said Greene. “The fact that Howard, and Alan [Menken] and I made magic for no money in a little room above a massage place on Fifth Avenue, everyone sweating during the run-throughs… But it was magical, and we knew it. And Frank [Oz] repeated that magic.”
“And now they’re honoring my dearest Howard at Lincoln Center,” said Greene, starting to break. “It’s a big deal. A big deal. And I think I’ll be choked up, as obviously I am right now.” For those of you who don’t know, Howard Ashman – long time partner of Alan Menken – passed away in 1991, right after completing work on Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.” Little Shop was the break-through show for the pair, which led to working on songs for some of the most popular animated films of all time.
Once things had calmed down a bit, we then chatted about taking a stage musical, and translating it to film. After playing to three walls and an audience for so long, was it difficult to switch onto a film set? Nope. “Film for me is easier!” said Greene. “It’s a family… I get very shy, and I get scared – I have stage fright! It was for Frank, and for Freddie Cooper working the camera, and for Bob Painter, who was lighting it, and they’re my family!”
Continuing, Greene noted that one bit that was very different was being able to walk with the plant puppet. “We had to walk at twelve frames per second,” said Greene. “So we’d look normal sped up, [Frank Oz] made me work with a screen and monitors, so I could learn to walk only forward. When you walk, you actually walk forward, then bend back… And that would have rocked the footage back and forth!”
As the fine folks at Warner Brothers started to give us the wrap up signal, we quickly asked about the chance of Pushing Daisies continuing, in any form. “Actually, there’s been talk of a version of it,” said Greene, before pausing. “I’m not supposed to say anything! A possibility… A possibility of stage. I would love for Vivian to exist again. And I’m about to go participate in Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal! I forgot about that.”
So sounds like we may see Pushing Daisies coming back soon, to a Broadway stage near you. From there? Maybe a film version… And then three decades later, a Blu-Ray with the original ending. Who knows?
Little Shop of Horrors: The Director’s Cut hits Blu-Ray on October 9th.