- Publish Date
- Thursday, 16 June 2016, 11:48AM
It's been 36 years today since John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd brought their Saturday Night Live characters Jake and Elwood Blues to the big screen with The Blues Brothers. It made more than $115 million in theaters worldwide in 1980, even though director John Landis and its crew couldn’t identify whether the movie was a comedy, a musical, a classic, or an expensive disaster. We're taking a look back at some fascinating facts about the original movie.
- DAN AYKROYD WROTE THE FIRST DRAFT AND IT WAS 324 PAGES LONG.
In his first attempt at writing a screenplay, Aykroyd penned a script that was nearly three times the length of the average screenplay (given that one page usually equals one minute of screen time). It didn’t help matters that he had never read a screenplay before either. John Landis put together a shorter, filmable version in just three weeks.
- JOHN BELUSHI WAS PAID TWICE AS MUCH AS AYKROYD.
Belushi earned $500,000 for his work in the movie; Aykroyd received $250,000.
- THE SHOPPING MALL CAR CHASE WAS SHOT IN A REAL SHOPPING MALL.
The scene was filmed at the Dixie Square Mall in Harvey, Illinois, which was shut in 1979—before filming commenced. Though the mall never reopened, it was only (finally) torn down in 2013.
- 13 DIFFERENT BLUESMOBILES WERE USED.
All of the car chases and stunts were real. Forty stunt drivers were flown in every weekend to do the work. Sixty old police cars were purchased for $400 apiece. The filmmakers got permission to drive down Lake Street at speeds of over 100 miles per hour. After one take, Landis realised it just looked like he was speeding up the film, so he got stunt pedestrians to walk down the sidewalks to show just how fast the cars were really going. A ditch was dug so the cars in the big pile-up scene would flip when they hit it. One stunt driver drove off a 150-foot-long ramp. Amazing, only a few minor injuries were ever reported.
- ONE OF THE STUNT DRIVERS WAS JOHN WAYNE’S SON.
The Duke's youngest son, Ethan Wayne, began acting in 1970. But he supplemented his work in front of the camera with a handful of stunting stints.
- DAN AYKROYD AND CARRIE FISHER BECAME ENGAGED DURING FILMING.
The two were a couple, set up by Belushi, who became engaged after Aykroyd successfully administered the Heimlich maneuver on her. "I almost choked on some kind of vegetable that I shouldn't have been eating: Brussels sprouts," Fisher told CNN. "He saved my life, and then he asked me to marry him. And I thought ... wow, what if that happens again? I should probably marry him." (The wedding never happened.)
- FISHER WASN’T THE ONLY STAR WARS CONNECTION.
Frank Oz, known mostly for his work as a puppeteer, plays the corrections officer who returns Jake’s belongings in the very beginning of the movie. He was of course the man behind Yoda, who made his debut in The Empire Strikes Back, which debuted one month earlier, and was still number one at the box office when The Blues Brothers premiered.
- THE STUDIO WANTED ROSE ROYCE INSTEAD OF ARETHA FRANKLIN.
Universal Pictures wanted new acts like Rose Royce, the band behind hits like "Car Wash" and "I Wanna Get Next to You." But Aykroyd and company said no. Universal later generated a PR effort to get Franklin an Oscar nomination for her performance. The movie helped revitalise her career.
- PAUL REUBENS HAS A SMALL BUT VISIBLE ROLE.
The actor best known as Pee-wee Herman played a waiter at Chez Paul, before the band is fully back together.
- BELUSHI HURT HIMSELF ON A KID’S SKATEBOARD BEFORE FILMING THE BIG FINISH.
The filmmakers had to convince the “top orthopedist in town” to attend to Belushi over Thanksgiving weekend so that he'd be able to perform the cartwheels and dance steps required for the big finale.