Steve Martin had one demand playing sadistic ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ dentist: No Fonzie

Steve Martin had one demand playing sadistic ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ dentist: No Fonzie

‘Little Shop’ fans, rejoice! The director’s cut of this classic musical will play in theaters for two nights in October.

USA TODAY

Steve Martin shook his hips and rattled the dental profession playing the sadistic, leather-clad dentist Orin Scrivello in the 1986 rock musical Little Shop of Horrors.

Director Frank Oz says Martin took little convincing to take the role, but had one insistence. Martin wanted to create his own character based on the off-Broadway play, keeping Orin Scrivello clear from the influence of the leather-clad star "The Fonz" from the popular TV series Happy Days (1974-1984).

As Little Shop of Horrors returns to screens Oct. 29 and 31 with Fathom Events, Oz recalls meeting Martin at his Los Angeles home to discuss the part.

"At the time, there was still leftover remnants of Fonzie from Happy Days," Oz tells USA TODAY. "And I remember Steve saying, ‘Look, I just don’t want to do Fonzie.’ And I said, ‘No problem. You do whatever you want.’ Steve’s a genius."

More: ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ returns to theaters with deleted, fantastically dark ending

Fonzie from ‘Happy Days’ played by Henry Winkler.

The resulting Orin Scrivello, DDS character from Martin had a distinctive Elvis vibe as he terrorized patients and his girlfriend Audrey, played by Ellen Greene.

"The character was always this sadistic dentist who rode a motorcycle and wore black leather. That’s not original Steve Martin," says Oz. "What’s original Steve is the addition of the Elvis stuff."

Oz gave Martin the greenlight to improvise, leading to some classic scenes, such as when Orin meets the man-eating giant plant Audrey II.

"I remember when he sees the plant the first time," says Oz. "There was the first (take), the second and then he ended with, ‘It’s biiggg.’ That cracked me up then, it still cracks me up."

Martin nailed the hilarious dentist song while inflicting patient pain and completed the role in a classic cameo with Bill Murray playing pain-loving Arthur Denton. In these ad-libbed moments, Martin played the straight-man to Murray’s antics.

"Steve was the constant in the comedy. He did the same thing that was written in the script. He had to. He’s the doctor. That allowed Billy to riff around him, Billy was all ad-lib," says Oz. "Billy gets the credit for the comedy. But actually, if it’s not for Steve’s constant comedic responsibility, Billy couldn’t do what he wanted."

It makes for unforgettable comedy for the Little Shop theater re-release to go along with an elaborate 23-minute ending that was cut from the original movie before its release in 1986.

Even respected members of the dental profession give it a thumbs up.

"The dentist I had at the time loved it," says Oz. "He thought it was hilarious."

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