Jeff Daniels Just Received a Rare Distinction in Honor of His Role in Cult Classic Comedy-Thriller 'Arachnophobia'

The name Jeff Daniels summons images of his iconic roles in comedy classics like Dumb and Dumber. But Daniels has been in showbiz for a long time, producing a deep resume of film credits. One of Daniels’ more notable roles in the ’90s includes the horror-comedy Arachnophobia. 

As the name suggests, the movie features dozens of scary spiders. There hasn’t been another horror-comedy combination since, and Arachnophobia‘s uniqueness has made it a cult classic to some. Recently, the spider flick returned to prominence again as Daniels received a rare honor from the science community.

‘Arachnophobia’ is a Jeff Daniels classic

The Arachnophobia movie that exists today wasn’t the director’s original vision. When Daniels signed on to the project, it was a run-of-the-mill horror film, according to Mental Floss. But funny-guy Daniels wanted to make a funny movie. The team modified the script and essentially reinvented the horror-comedy.

Daniels and his crew added the detail that his character, Dr. Ross Jennings, would have a fear of spiders. The upped both the comedy and tension in the movie, as Dr. Jennings attempts to investigate a spider-driven wave of death. 

Daniel’s changes made Arachnophobia timeless. Fans still love watching Dr. Jennings and exterminator Delbert McClintock, played by the beloved John Goodman, search for answers when the townspeople begin dropping dead. The culprit ends up being the offspring of a venomous Venezuelan spider. In real life, no such spider exists. But there were many real spiders involved in the production of Arachnophobia

More than 300 spiders acted alongside Daniels in ‘Arachnophobia’

Spiders make most people’s skin crawl. The bigger the spider, the bigger the scare. So the creators of Arachnophobia decided to utilize a big spider to put audiences on edge. In the movie, a spider enters the U.S. on the coffin of a photographer who died in Venezuela. Production needed the right spider for the part. Enter Big Bob. 

Named after Arachnophobia director Robert Zemeckis, the bird-eating tarantula was the only one of its kind in the U.S. The production team made Big Bob even scarier in his wardrobe. They gave him purple stripes and added some prosthetic bulk to his furry frame.

But Big Bob was just one little spider. As the name suggests, Arachnophobia needed a LOT of spiders. Some had bigger roles than others, like the spider who mated with Big Bob to create the poisonous offspring. The spiders actually had to audition, by going through a series of 10 tests to determine how creepy they were. 

Then, spiders had to be imported. The U.S. just didn’t have scary enough spiders for the production company. They imported spiders from abroad every few weeks. The 300 or so spiders needed special “passports,” or paperwork every time. 

Today, animators would likely use CGI to create the spiders. But Arachnophobia used real spiders, which made the movie infinitely better — and much harder to film. Spider-wrangler Steven Kutcher explained that spiders are hard to film with because “you can’t actually teach them to do anything,” according to Mental Floss. Instead, the wranglers used Lemon Pledge, a cleaning supply the spiders detest, to drive them into certain areas. 

Jeff Daniels now has a spider-killing worm named after him thanks to ‘Arachnophobia’ 

Famous for playing a character afraid of spiders, Daniels now has a spider-killing worm named after him, according to CNN. Dr. Jennings would be proud. The worm, known as a tarantula-killing worm, has been dubbed tarantobelus jeffdanielsi.

The species was discovered in California, where Arachnophobia took place. When Daniels found out about the worm’s unique name, he said in a press release, “When I first heard a new species of nematode had been named after me, I thought, ‘Why? Is there a resemblance?’”

Daniels isn’t the only actor with a piece of nature named after him. Leonardo DiCaprio has a plant named after him, according to Smithsonian Magazine. The newly discovered Cameroonian evergreen was dubbed Uvariopsis dicaprio

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