By 1987, Mel Brooks was already a legend. But with The Producers (1968), Young Frankenstein (1974) and Blazing Saddles (1974) all more than a decade behind him, the spoof master needed another hit to remain relevant. Spaceballs didn’t look the part when it first screened in theaters on June 24, 1987. The absurdist send-up of Star Wars and other space ranger flicks hit theaters a full decade after A New Hope and four years after Return of the Jedi.
But as it happens, America has an unending appetite for interstellar chicanery. The critics weren’t so keen on the movie, but audiences ate it up. And in the decades since its release, Spaceballs has settled in as an enduring cult classic. Which is why we’re spending this 30th anniversary marveling at some fun facts about the best space movie parody ever made.
1. Spaceballs was originally called The Planet Moron.
The title was changed to Spaceballs to avoid confusion the forgotten 1985 British comedy Morons from Outer Space
2. Before spoofing George Lucas’ Star Wars series, Mel Brooks asked for his blessing.
Lucas was on board, but made one request of Brooks: Don’t merchandise anything from Spaceballs, which could eat into his insanely lucrative Star Wars licensing plays. Brooks agreed, but mocked the idea in the movie.
3. Brooks says Bill Pullman was his first choice to play Lone Starr, but the studio wanted Tom Cruise.
“The studio fought me on that choice,” he said. "They wanted Tom Cruise or Tom Hanks—anybody named Tom who cost $2 million...That’s what’s wrong with this business. If you make it a ‘Tom’ movie, it’s no longer a parody, it’s a ‘Tom’ movie and you have to build scenes around him.”
4. But Pullman remembers it differently.
In a 2011 interview he said that Brooks told him Hanks and Cruise were his first choices. "I tried to get a Tom and I couldn't get him. I tried to get Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks, and I couldn't get them, so I got a Bill,” Pullman remembers Brooks saying. The director went on to tell Pullman that once he landed John Candy and Rick Moranis—two high profile comic actors of the era—it left him able to cast a nobody in the lead role.
5. In order to play the half-man, half-dog Barf, John Candy had to wear a 30-pound backpack with the batteries required to operate his radio controlled ears and other animatronics.
The radio-controlled ears were not the first choice. They were only developed after trying out a system that required the special effects coordinator to follow Candy around on cart with cables attached.
6. President Skroob’s name is an anagram of Brooks.
7. Brooks suffered serious health issues from playing Yogurt, the wise little alien based on Yoda.
Playing the character required him to wear gold makeup that gave him a “life-threatening rash” and kept him on his knees all day, which put the 60-year-old in a lot of pain.
8.Michael Winslow performed all of his own sound effects in this scene.
Brooks said the legendary sound effects master, who famously starred in Police Academy, trimmed $1,000 of the film’s budget by being able to make all these weird-ass noises.
9. After Spaceballs became a cult hit on home video, Brooks wanted to do a sequel.
He approached Moranis at one point with a pitch but they couldn’t make the financial particulars work. As recently as last month, he said that he was working toward the sequel, which have more studio interest because of the recent success of the latest Star Wars flicks. .
10. Just in case you missed it, that’s John Hurt parodying his own role in Alien in the Space Diner.