Paramount

Can We Talk About…? Anjelica Huston’s Iconically Campy Morticia Addams

"The Addams Family" matriarch is mysterious and spooky, and all together fabulous. Snap, snap.

Can We Talk About…? is a weekly series that feels targeted.

The Addams Family have been around in one form or another since their debut in The New Yorker in 1938, when they appeared as a cartoon created by Charles Addams. Since then, every generation has grown up with some iteration of these sinister kooks, whether it was the 1960s television show; the 1970s cartoon; the 1990s films, video games, and books; or the 2000s musical.

So naturally (or supernaturally) the all together ooky clan are back yet again in a new animated film featuring the voices of Oscar Isaac (Gomez), Charlize Theron (Morticia), Chloë Grace Moretz (Wednesday), Finn Wolfhard (Pugsley), Nick Kroll (Uncle Fester), and Bette Midler (Grandmama). Still, the two films from the early ’90s—1991’s The Addams Family and 1993’s Addams Family Values—remain my personal favorite thanks mostly to Anjelica Huston’s Morticia Addams.

Her Morticia was stunning, glamorous, and creepy, but still maternal. She was also the clear head of the family and thus HBIC. And she had the coolest demeanor and delivered the most withering lines.

Cher had originally wanted to play Morticia—which just seems like stunt casting, but still here for it—and Kim Basinger was all set in the role when she unexpectedly dropped out. Huston, a longtime fan of Morticia, was enthusiastic to portray the Addams matriarch, and used a close friend as inspiration for her portrayal.

“I was looking for a template on which to base Morticia Addams, a key to giving this potentially cartoon character some humanity,” Huston wrote in her 2014 autobiography, Watch Me: A Memoir. “I decided on my friend Jerry Hall, the beautiful Texan model, feeling that her kind, gentle disposition and utter devotion to her children [might] lend some warmth to Morticia’s chilly, unflappable nature.”

Filming The Addams Family was notoriously difficult because of delays and constant rewrites, as well as halts in production to address the health of multiple people in front of and behind the camera. Huston endured the brunt of it, calling it the hardest work she’s ever done physically for a movie.

To achieve Morticia’s supernatural slayage, Huston wore a metal corset and had to get daily gauze eye lifts, neck tucks, and fake nails. The eye lifts sound particularly awful.

As she describes in Watch Me, Morticia’s eyes needed to be slanted upwards at the sides, so an elastic strap was attached to the back of Huston’s head via fabric tabs glued at her temples, which pulled the corners of her eyes upwards; a second strap was added to balance the appearance of the lower part of her face with the upper. If she didn’t remove the bands at lunchtime, she’d get headaches and rashes, but removing them entailed hours of extra work, including reapplying her makeup and wig. The bands were touchy as well, so she had to learn to pivot and turn on her feet without moving her upper body or head so they wouldn’t snap.

“Come afternoon, I could be prone to a really good headache from my various bondages, and because I couldn’t lie down (in the corset) or rest, it was fairly exhausting,” Huston told Entertainment Weekly.

I tend to link Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman and Anjie Huston’s Morticia together in my mind because they were lurking around at the same time, between 1991 and 1993, and they were both so intriguing to my young, clearly gay mind. There are, of course, the aesthetic similarities—the slinky, sexy black ensembles and the pale, almost ghoulish, but still gorgeous palette with the red, red lips—but it was also their dark sense of humor, and, it turns out, the physical hell they both went through to pull it all off.

Though Pfeiffer was cruelly ignored come awards time, Huston scored a pair of Golden Globe noms for Best Actress in a Comedy for Addams Family and Addams Family Values. One of the rare sequels considered better than the original, Addams Family Values is also considerably gayer than the first. Now, let’s be queer, the first Addams Family is pretty gay, but we’re literally going to camp in the sequel.

Yes, that’s Christine Fucking Baranski. We’ve also got cameos from Nathan Lane and Cynthia Nixon. But the moment Joan Cusack comes bopping in wearing that blonde bob wig you know we’re in for some high-level faggotry.

The back-and-forth between Cusack’s Debbie (a black widow serial killer who sets her sights on Fester) and Huston’s Morticia is the stuff little gay boys’ dreams are made of.

All that said, if anyone can fill Anjie Huston’s eye lifts, it’s Charlize Theron (or Angelina Jolie, which, again: stunt casting), even if it’s only in animated form. Will she inspire young gays as Huston did? Probably, because Morticia is just that bitch.

Lester Fabian Brathwaite is an LA-based writer, editor, bon vivant, and all-around sassbag. He's formerly Senior Editor of Out Magazine and is currently hungry. Insta: @lefabrat