A candid moment between David Bowie and his look-alike stuntman Nick Gillard on the set of ‘Labyrinth.’
As Halloween approaches I’ve become more and more convinced that this year will bring a cavalcade of David Bowie fans dressed as various personas developed by the Thin White Duke over his long career. Even yours truly is planning on “becoming Bowie” on October 31st and I’m so committed to my quest to look like Aladdin Sane that I’m planning on dying my hair bright red for the occasion. Now that’s dedication.
My month long homage to all things Halloween also includes watching as many horror films that I can fit into a 31-day period (which isn’t a huge departure as I’m actually a year-round die-hard horror film fan) and this year it seemed fitting to throw one of my favorite films into the mix: David Bowie as the unforgettable villain “Jareth” in the 1986 flick Labyrinth. Originally director Jim Henson was seriously considering at other musicians for the role—Mick Jagger, Michael Jackson and Sting (as well as David Lee Roth and Roger Daltrey)—that would ultimately go to Bowie. Henson also gave thought to the idea that the Goblin King should be played by one of his Muppets. According to folklore it came down to Jackson and Bowie and after receiving a handwritten letter penned from Henson along with an early version of the Labyrinth script Bowie became convinced that he should take the role.
As with other movies that have achieved the cult status that Labyrinth has, there’s a fair amount of great behind-the-scenes legends associated with the film. Such as the use of juggler Michael Moschen who was responsible for helping Bowie make it look easy to twirl a crystal ball, and actor Toby Froud who played adorable infant kidnapping victim “Toby” (and the bane of Jennifer Connelly’s teenage existence). Fround actually grew up to be a puppeteer of sorts himself, a natural move as his father Brian Froud was responsible for contributing to the design of the set and the inhabitants of both Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal.
Of course if you are of a certain age then you may even remember the massive marketing campaign that produced oddities such as Labyrinth-themed bubble gum (tastes like Hoggle?), a talking door knocker, and a bizarre hot pink phone card (released in Japan) with Bowie and Jennifer Connolly on the front. There was even a sweet belt based on the film that sadly never made it past the prototype phase made by Lee Jeans. The 80s were so goddamn weird and wonderful, weren’t they?
And now to the point of this post which is to show you some fantastic behind-the-scenes photos and promotional shots captured during (and shortly after) the filming of Labyrinth (which celebrated its 30th anniversary this past summer) especially ones of our departed hero who has perhaps inspired your Halloween costume this year. In other good news, a new nearly 200 page book Labyrinth: The Ultimate Visual History promises to take an exhaustively detailed look at every aspect of the film from rare artwork, concept sketches and equally rare photos taken on the set. You can pre-order it here. So in lieu of what wonders the book will reveal I hope you enjoy looking through the images in this post as well as a video of Bowie as “Jareth” and juggler Michael Moschen trying to make Bowie look like he can do mystical things with crystal balls that follows.
David Bowie as ‘Jareth (aka, ‘The Goblin King’ the star of the 1986 film, ‘Labyrinth.
Jareth and ‘Baby Toby.’
35mm contact sheet from ‘Labyrinth.
A fifteen-year-old Jennifer Connelly surrounded by some of Henson’s puppets.
Bowie with director Jim Henson and his crew.
Jennifer Connelly and ‘Ludo’ cuddling. Awww.
Jennifer Connelly as ‘Sarah’ on the set with life-sized puppets and their puppeteers.
The letter from director Jim Henson that convinced David Bowie to take the role of ‘Jareth the Goblin King’ in ‘Labryinth.’
Actress Jennifer Connelly and ‘Hoggle’ (voiced by actor Brian Henson and played by actor Shari Weiser).
Henson and Bowie.
‘Jareth’s’ mask and gloves worn by David Bowie in ‘Labyrinth.’
David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly practicing their dance routine for ‘Labyrinth.’
Another letter from Henson to David Bowie regarding the plan for the ‘Wild Things’ scene (the ‘Labyrinth’ screenplay was originally conceived by Monty Python member Terry Jones back in 1984 as cited by Jones in the 1993 book ‘Life Before and After Monty Python – The Solo Flights of the Flying Circus’)
Behind-the-scenes with juggler Michael Moschen and David Bowie on the set of 1986’s ‘Labyrinth.’
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
‘Labyrinth’ becomes a board game, complete with ‘Goblin King Jareth’ figure!
Jennifer Connelly auditions for ‘Labyrinth’, 1986