How Movie Vomit Is Really Made

Vomit. Barf. Puke. Upchuck. Yes, vomiting is as gross as it is funny — at least depending on the situation. If you've got some horrible food poisoning and will never, ever touch tainted chunky peanut butter again, then vomiting isn't the most pleasant of experiences. One year later, though? Maybe you can laugh about it, and also eat peanut butter again. And that ridiculous, explosive spray of projectile vomit we've all seen in movies and shows? It's always hilarious, in no small part because it's so over-the-top.

Of course, actors who vomit in movies aren't actually vomiting — not unless they go in for some truly punishing method acting. Barring such extremes, or a fake spew of CGI-rendered paste hosing all over the place, there are actual, honest-to-goodness methods behind making movie vomit. Movie vomit is a prop that specialists mix together, maybe connect to some tubes, and engineer into a burst of clotted brown. Insider has a fun, sticky mini-documentary about the whole process on YouTube. 

Entertainment Weekly talks about some different varieties of movie vomit like the blup, a "mouth-sized portion of ... oatmeal or mashed-up spaghetti" held in an actor's mouth until the right moment. Cue the blup, and ... blup! Out it blups. According to special effects supervisor Michael Lantieri, a scene of extensive vomiting might include ingredients like "Boston baked beans mixed with a little bit of oatmeal and some fake blood and some pea soup." There are also different deployment methods, like plungers, tubes, and of course, shirt sleeves.

The right substance for the job

Before actors get down to chucking up, a team's got to stir together some sludgy gruel to play the part of hurled barf. On Entertainment Weekly, special effects coordinator Danny Cangemi discusses all the various ingredients used to simulate partially digested chow, some of which we've already mentioned. Often, a production team uses real food products, which presumably can help sell the whole thing while also not being too disgusting for the actor and all parties involved (despite looking rather disgusting). A good, gooey go-to, as Cangemi explained, is milk, oatmeal, spaghetti, and chopped hard-boiled eggs.

However, Cangemi said that it's not possible to use actual food in certain cases, like during a vomit-spewing scene in a cockpit for 2015's "The Brink." The vomit would have gotten stuck on equipment. "The last thing you'd want to have is something in a nook or a cranny that you couldn't get to, like behind the dashboard or something," Cangemi said. "The next day you'd have this rancid smell." 

So, Cangemi's team turned to Blaire Adhesives, a company that specializes in fake slime, blood, oil, and more, all of which are safe for contact with human skin and rinses off. Cangemi added to the company's product some yellow sponges cut up small enough to look like hard-boiled egg chunks. Then they added green sponges that looked like peas, perhaps an homage to Linda Blair's split-pea soup throat spout from 1973's "The Exorcist," as Do You Remember? describes. 

The mechanics of maximum distance

As soon as the fake puke is ready for action, how does a special effects team actually deploy it? Like we mentioned, there's the blup, which puts the onus on the actor to hold some slop in their mouth until called to hurl. Projectile vomit, however? That's a differently-hosed beast. TV Overmind explains one of the most time-tested fake vomit methods: the puke sleeve. The puke sleeve can't be pulled off wearing a T-shirt or tank top because it involves a maneuver you might have noticed on-screen: Lifting a sleeve to the face as a bunch of chuck gets slopped into a receptacle. This might be done while keeping the shot in profile — to the side — so the viewer doesn't see the hose up the sleeve. 

Keeping a shot in profile can also be used to geyser some goo without a puke sleeve — just a strategically placed nozzle. For this think of the Mr. Creosote dinner scene from "Monty Python's The Meaning of Life," watchable above. If any scene in cinema does the profile puke correctly, it's this one. Entertainment Weekly says that special effects teams might put such puke in a big plunger and just pump away. 

And of course, there's the vomit fake out: Lifting a purse, bag, or something else to the face and pretending to emit a bowels-deep chonker. In that case, it definitely falls on the actor to sell the whole nausea thing.