John Belushi is one of the most iconic comedians of all-time, mostly known for his time on Saturday Night Live and such movie roles as Jake in The Blues Brothers and John “Bluto” Blutarsky in National Lampoon’s Animal House.
Belushi was a pioneer on Saturday Night Live as one of the original cast members alongside such legends as Laraine Newman, Jane Curtin, Gilda Radner, Dan Aykroyd, Garrett Morris, and Chevy Chase. Belushi’s first film role was in Animal House, which was shot while the comedian was still a featured player on Saturday Night Live.
Besides his prolific comedy career, Belushi was known for his avid drug use, especially alcohol, heroin, and cocaine. This drug use was a cause for concern for the production team of Animal House, who did everything they could to help the talented actor avoid the temptation of the substances.
Belushi had a rigorous shooting schedule during the Animal House production, as he was still an active member of Saturday Night Live.
What is ‘Animal House’ about?
Considered one of the greatest comedies of all-time, Animal House follows the antics of the Delta Tau Chi fraternity house, which includes Belushi’s character John Bluto. The film was the first in Belushi’s tragically short career, and has become a cult classic mainly due to his iconic performance.
The film also stars Tim Matheson, Bruce McGill, Stephen Faust, Thomas Hulce, and Kevin Bacon in his first feature film. The plot of the film revolves around the college antics of the fraternity at the fictional Faber College.
The trouble-making brothers of the frat have gotten on Dean Vernon Wormer (John Vernon) last nerve, and he looks for a way to expel the group from the college, and place them into a harsh military school. The film features such iconic scenes as the Delta’s prank war with their Omega frat, a legendary food fight, toga party, guitar smashing, and Belushi’s rousing speech to inspire his brothers at the end of the film.
The classic comedy has become the inspiration of similar college-related films, many of which pay homage to Belushi and his frat’s wacky antics.
John Belushi’s career during the shooting of ‘Animal House’
At the time of Animal House being shot, Belushi was entering his third year on Saturday Night Live. The comedian was a main draw of the late-night show, as his over the top antics and physical humor was extremely popular amongst early fans of the show.
This hectic shooting schedule resulted in Belushi working nearly every day of the week, for many hours per day.
According to Mental Floss, Belushi shot the film on Monday through Wednesday and then was flown to New York to work on SNL from Thursday to Saturday. To preserve the comedian’s energy and well-being, the production team of Animal House did everything they could to keep Belushi away from his infamous drug habit.
Belushi’s experience with alcohol and drug use
Belushi was known for his excessive drug use while on SNL, a fact that the producers and director of Animal House, John Landis were well aware of.
Those in charge of the film wanted to protect Belushi from using substances while shooting the film, which was made somewhat difficult due to the plot of the comedy. During a famous scene in Animal House, Belushi’s character Bluto chugs a fifth of a Jack Daniels bottle of whiskey.
Since the team in charge of the movie did not want Belushi to drink or use drugs while on set, they came up with a safe replacement drink. That replacement liquid was tea, which has a similar look to brown whiskey.
The protective measure was effective for the filming of the movie, but it did not stop Belushi’s future substance abuse. Belushi continued to drink and use drugs throughout his tragically short life.
The legendary comedian died of an overdose on March 5, 1982, at the too-young age of 33.
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