One of the charms of the legendary film Animal House is the relative anonymity of the cast. John Belushi aside, most of the actors were unknowns at the time filming for the classic comedy commenced, and even today, most of the actors who appeared in the film aren’t exactly famous. I’d count John Belushi but he’s, you know, dead from doing cocaine.
Even before Animal House was produced, the script was something of a hot commodity, and the studios had ideas for who they wanted to play classic characters such as Otter, D-Day, Boon, etc. Belushi, by the way, was always the first choice for Bluto.
The Globe and Mail recently spoke to Animal House producer Ivan Reitman, director John Landis, and actor Peter Riegert (Boon), about the making of the film and the various casting choices they encountered.
On who the studio wanted to play Otter:
Riegert: “Universal wanted to use Chevy Chase and Bill Murray and whoever. I think it was Landis who said, ‘I’m not making a SNL film.’ He was the one who said Belushi belongs in it, but that we can’t have everybody from the show.”
Landis: “The studio desperately wanted Chevy for the role of Otter, but I did everything I could to sabotage that. We’re having lunch with Ivan and producer Matty Simmons and a guy from the studio and Chevy, who was very hot at that moment. He was considering a Colin Higgins movie called Foul Play, starring against Goldie Hawn, so everybody was doing their best to flatter him and tell him how important it was for him to do Animal House. But I would say things like, ‘Yes, Chevy, in Animal House you’d be part of an ensemble. You don’t have to carry the movie.’ Ivan was kicking me under the table, but I kept it up. ‘Chevy, in Animal House, it would be a comedic role as a lady-killer. In Foul Play, you’re just a Cary Grant.’ I still wince from Ivan kicking me under the table.”
Obviously, Tim Matheson ended up brilliantly portraying Otter, perhaps the greatest fraternity character in history, but Chevy Chase is an interesting choice. He was great in Caddy Shack, but who knows? Chase’s involvement in Animal House could have resulted in an entirely different film, and I can’t imagine that would have been for the better.
I have no idea who Bill Murray would have played, but even in the ’70s, he looked 40 years old, so I’m not sure he would have fit in a cast intended to be college students.
On other supporting roles:
Landis: The Bluto character was written for John Belushi. D-Day was written for Dan Aykroyd. Peter Riegert’s Boon part was written by Harold Ramis for himself. He wanted to play it, and, in fact, he’s probably still annoyed with me because I didn’t cast him.”
In case you forgot who Harold Ramis is, he’s probably best known for portraying Egon in Ghostbusters.
Unfortunately for Ramis, a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis where he was a member of ZBT, he had to simply settle for writing one of the greatest comedies of all time, instead of starring in it as well. And he also missed out on some hot(?) Karen Allen action.
Also, consider me pleased that Dan Akroyd didn’t land the part of D-Day, as this is what happened the other time somebody wanted Akroyd to play a military nut.
Burn in hell, Caddy Shack 2.
Despite almost casting some comedy legends in Animal House, Landis and crew ultimately made the right call on their casting decisions, and what resulted was pure gold.
[via The Globe and Mail]