Warning: contains spoilers for Nia DaCosta’s Candyman
If you’ve seen Nia DaCosta and Jordan Peele’s new take on Candyman, you’ll know it’s a movie with a lot on its mind. Taking the ‘90s horror classic and providing a direct present-day follow-up to that story, it stars Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Anthony McCoy, an artist who rekindles the Candyman legend – and becomes the latest in the lineage of names absorbed into this particular bogeyman’s legacy. But if it’s Adbul-Mateen II who takes centre stage this time around, there is an appearance from original Candyman Tony Todd too in the final reel – one which DaCosta felt was vital to her movie.
Speaking on the Empire Spoiler Special Podcast – head here for more details on how to listen – she spoke about bringing the legendary performer back at the end of the film. “We definitely knew Tony Todd would be involved in a very specific way – which is basically what we did,” she says, explaining it was all about finding “the best way” of bringing him back into the fold. “What’s so interesting is everyone’s like, ‘You have to bring him back, and bring Helen back.’ And it’s like, well, they both aren’t allowed to age, because they’re both ghosts. So that’s immediately the trickiest thing about it.”
Ultimately, the work-around came through evolving the idea of Candyman itself – that the figure is not just Tony Todd’s Daniel Robitaille, but an amalgamation of the stories of several Black men through American history, multiple of whom appear in the final moments of the film as Anthony becomes the legend’s latest incarnation. For DaCosta, it was important for Todd’s appearance to have real meaning. “The bad version is some weird cameo, like, ‘He’s a guy buying art in the gallery!’,” she laughs. “It’s like, no – Tony Todd is Daniel Robitaille, is Candyman, and so we knew that’s what he had to be in the film.”
The idea of the Candyman myth encompassing the stories of several different Black men through the ages was one that developed across the scripting process. “The original script I don’t think had that kernel of an idea in it,” says DaCosta. “But what it did have was the idea that Anthony himself would become Candyman at the end of the film. That really spoke to me. I was like, ‘Oh that’s so great, because I really want to talk about the fact that these people we make into martyrs or monsters are humans first of all.’ […] At least for me, it was about making sure we talked about the fact that this was cyclical and that history repeats itself, and this isn’t just an incident that happened to one guy named Daniel Robitaille. It’s actually an environment in which we live that allows for these things to happen over and over again.”
Listen to Empire’s full spoiler-filled Candyman interview with Nia DaCosta on the Empire Spoiler Special Podcast – sign up here to listen, and catch the regular Empire Podcast every Friday. Candyman is out now in UK cinemas.