Released 30 years ago this week (on June 27, 1986), the fantasy film wasn't a hit at the time, but the Jim Henson-George Lucas collaboration became a cult favorite on home video. It also marked the first high-profile lead role for Jennifer Connelly, the last movie directed by Henson, and one of the few works from Henson's Creature Shop whose puppets were not cuddly, family-friendly Muppets. Celebrate the film's 30th with these facts straight from the goblin maze.
1. Monty Python's Terry Jones is credited with writing the screenplay, but it went through dozens of revisions at the hands of various script doctors, including Henson, Lucas, and comedy legend Elaine May, then on the eve of directing "Ishtar."
2. Among the teen actresses who auditioned for the lead role of Sarah were Helena Bonham Carter (before the filmmakers decided to make the character American), Laura Dern, Jane Krakowski, Sarah Jessica Parker, Mia Sara, Ally Sheedy, Marisa Tomei, and Maddie Corman. Eventually, the role went to Corman's "Seven Minutes in Heaven" co-star Connelly, who Henson said won him over the moment she walked in the door, as he felt she embodied Sarah's transition between girlhood and womanhood.
3. Jareth was supposed to be just another puppet until Henson decided the role would work better with a charismatic rock star in the part. Among the names tossed around were Michael Jackson, Mick Jagger, Prince, and Sting, before the filmmakers set their sights on Bowie. Henson hooked the "Let's Dance" singer by giving him a tape of "The Dark Crystal," showing him "Dark Crystal" artist Brian Froud's "Labyrinth" character designs, and offering him a free hand to compose the music as he saw fit.
4. "Labyrinth" wears its influences, which come from all over, on its sleeve. Maurice Sendak's children's books are acknowledged, both in the end credits and in the book collection in Sarah's bedroom. Jareth's outfit is modeled in part on the leather jacket worn by Marlon Brando's biker gang leader in "The Wild One."
And the dialogue between Jareth and his minions in the "Magic Dance" sequence owes a clear debt to a similar stretch of dialogue in the classic Cary Grant-Shirley Temple movie "The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer."
5. Hoggle, Sarah's gnome-like guide (above), was the most difficult character to animate. It took the carefully coordinated efforts of five of Henson's crew to make him work -- one performer inside the costume and four more controlling his facial movements (jaw, lips, eyelids, and eyebrows) via radio remote controls. Jim Henson's son, Brian, worked Hoggle's jaw and also voiced the character.
6. The film's choreography -- in this case, acting and movement coaching for the puppeteers -- is credited to Cheryl McFadden. A year later, she became famous as Star Trek: The Next Generation."
7. The entire forest set was built indoors, on a British soundstage. It involved 40,000 sprays of fake leaves, 850 pounds of real dried leaves, 120 truckloads of tree branches, 1,200 patches of sod, 133 bags of lichen, and 35 mossy bundles of "old man's beard."
8. Shortly after Bowie's death in January 2016, news came out that the Jim Henson company was preparing a reboot of "Labyrinth," to be scripted by "Guardians of the Galaxy" co-screenwriter Nicole Perlman.
She insisted that the project had been in the works since 2014, that the filmmakers were not seeking to capitalize on Bowie's recent passing, that the film was more a "continuation" than a reboot, and that "Labyrinth" had been her favorite film as a child, one whose legacy she promised to treat with "love and respect."9. Sarah's kidnapped baby brother, Toby, was played by Toby Froud, infant son of the movie's character designer, Brian Froud. Fittingly, Toby Froud grew up to be a creature designer and puppeteer for such imaginative fantasy films as "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe," "ParaNorman," and "The Boxtrolls."
10. "Labyrinth" cost a reported $25 million to make but returned only $12.9 million at the North American box office. Brian Henson has said the movie's box office failure depressed his father, but he did live long enough to see the film become a cult success on home video before his death in 1990.