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Behind-The-Scenes Stories From The Making Of 'Fried Green Tomatoes'

September 3, 2020 27.2k views12 items

Released in 1991, the film Fried Green Tomatoes is based on Fannie Flagg's 1987 novel Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. Audiences love the film for its nostalgia, heartfelt stories, and endearing characters. As the friendship between Idgie (Mary Stuart Masterson) and Ruth (Mary-Louise Parker) unfolds, shown in flashbacks as Ninny (Jessica Tandy) regales her new friend Evelyn (Kathy Bates) with their story, viewers are treated to a movie that features drama, comedy, and mystery.

Fried Green Tomatoes went on to receive two Academy Award nominations, one for Jessica Tandy as a supporting actress and another for its adapted screenplay. The success of the movie is rivaled by the triumphant efforts of the cast and crew in the making of Fried Green Tomatoes. From sensitive subject matter to insect swarms, Fried Green Tomatoes behind-the-scenes was full of challenges and opportunities alike. The results were, and continue to be, a testament to inspired storytelling, passionate friendships, and honoring the past.  

  • Even Though She Had Just Won An Oscar, Kathy Bates Was Feeling Down About Acting, But Jessica Tandy Inspired Her Again

    As Evelyn Couch in Fried Green Tomatoes, Kathy Bates depicts a discontented woman who finds a friend in Ninny Threadgoode, played by Jessica Tandy.

    The relationship built by the two women on screen is similar to the connection Bates made with her co-star off camera. Bates struggled with what to do after she won the Academy Award for Best Actress for Misery in 1991, aware that recipients of the prestigious honor often find it difficult to remain relevant in Hollywood. As she explored options for her next role, Bates read the script for Fried Green Tomatoes, drawn to the bravery of the women in the story. 

    Bates credits Jessica Tandy (also an Academy Award-winner, for Driving Miss Daisy in 1990) with reigniting her passion for acting during the filming of Fried Green Tomatoes. Bates watched as Tandy's acting ability - a "life force" - shone on set. With her own passion for acting fading, Bates visited the 84-year-old actress's trailer one day. Tandy greeted her with, "Oh, you've come to see the wise woman." Indeed, Bates had. 

  • Mary Stuart Masterson’s Stunt Double Quit When She Heard About The Bee Swarm Segment, So The Actress Handled That Scene Herself

    Mary Stuart Masterson, cast as Idgie Threadgoode in Fried Green Tomatoes, embraced the spirit of her strong-willed onscreen counterpart with gusto. While filming a picnic scene with Mary-Louise Parker (Ruth Jamison), the character of Idgie was supposed to put her arm into a tree filled with bees, extracting honey in the process.

    The task was planned for a stunt double, but the thought of being covered with bees caused Masterson's stand-in to quit. Masterson stepped up and decided to do the scene herself.

    According to the beekeeper who assisted with the scene, Norman Gary - AKA the Bee Wrangler - he watched in awe as Masterson reached her arm into the tree (a replica full of bees and a honeycomb). In his recollection, she never got stung. 

    Masterson, who now cultivates much of her own food at her rural home in New York, added two beehives to her property in 2017. Masterson noted, "I’ve always wanted bees, but ever since Fried Green Tomatoes I’ve felt like a sham."  

  • The Film’s First Screenwriter Wrote The Adaptation Of The Novel As A Film Musical

    After reading Fannie Flagg's book, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, Lisa Lindstrom (later an associate producer on the movie Fried Green Tomatoes) sent a copy to Jon Avnet, who was a producer with an eye on directing. Avnet signed on immediately after reading the manuscript. 

    Avnet approached Flagg to adapt the novel for the big screen. She declined, claiming she was "too close to it; I wouldn’t know who to feature and what parts to cut."

    She referred Avnet to her friend, Carol Sobieski, who wrote the first version of the screenplay. As the writer for productions like 1982's Annie, Sobieski offered up a musical take on the story. Avnet asked for changes, but when Sobieski took ill, Flagg stepped in to help. After her version failed to achieve Avnet's vision, he wrote another iteration. 

    In the end, it took three screenwriters over three years for a final script to come together. This paid off, however, as the screenplay was later nominated for an Academy Award.

    The idea of a musical version of Fried Green Tomatoes was revisited in 2005 when Broadway producer Jeffrey Finn optioned the novel to turn it into a stage production. Initially targeted for Broadway in 2007, the status of the project remains unclear. 

  • Mary-Louise Parker Got A Leech Stuck On Her Leg While Filming A Swamp Scene

    Mary-Louise Parker has numerous fond memories from the set of Fried Green Tomatoes. On Reddit, she opened up about how much she "loved that experience... loved making that movie," with the exception of one possible experience:

    I got a leech stuck to my leg in the scene where I had to dive in the swamp and a grip had to come over and burn it off with his lighter.

    According to extras from the Fried Green Tomatoes Blu-ray released in 2018, insects and critters were problematic for the cast and crew alike, especially as they filmed during the hot summer months in the American South.