Pop Culture | Movies | 80s
15 Totally Cool Facts About 'The Blues Brothers'
When the Blues Brothers made their debut on SNL nobody had any idea what to make of them, but by the time Jake and Elwood made the jump to the big screen they had no shortage of fans.
Their classic comedy adventure still makes us laugh almost 40 years later, but we bet you never realized these 15 facts about the movie.
1. Dan Aykroyd saved Carrie Fisher's life, then popped the question
Aykroyd and the late Star Wars actress hit it off on set and became an item. But after Aykroyd saved Fisher's life, he decided to take their relationship to the next level.
"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."
Sadly, the couple split up before they made it to the altar.
2. The movie wasn't an instant hit
In their review, Newsweek panned the movie was "desperately unfunny," while the LA Times called the project "a $30 million wreck." (They were kind of right, but more on that later.)
There were even boycotts by movie theaters in the South, where exhibitors said the comedy was too long and "a black movie" that whites wouldn't watch.
Jokes on them, because the movie grossed $115 million.
3. Paul Shaffer was kicked out of the Blues Brother Band for treason
David Letterman's band leader was an original member of the band, until John Belushi found out he was working on another project by an SNL star. Shaffer was also performing in Gilda Radner's Gilda Live, and Belushi couldn't stand the disloyalty.
"Shaffer is out," Belushi wrote in a memo, "he will never be a Blues Brother."
4. The prison scene turned violent
When Jake is released from prison at the start of the movie, a helicopter crew was used to film overhead shots. The prison's guards actually opened fire on the chopper, thinking it was some kind of escape attempt.
5. There's a few famous faces hiding in the movie
Keep your eyes peeled for these cameos and young stars the nest time you watch the movie.
The officer who hands back Jake's belongings is Frank Oz, the Dark Crystal director who also played Ms. Piggy and Yoda.
Director Steven Spielberg is the tax assessor.
The young woman in the Triple Rock Church choir is singer Chaka Khan.
Paul Reubens (Pee-wee Herman) has a small role as a waiter.
And the movie's director, John Landis, is the police officer in the upside-down car (the one with the mustache).
6. People thought the car chases were real
The movie was shot on the streets of downtown Chicago, and aside from shooting on Sunday mornings when traffic was quiet, the rest of the city kept up business as usual. That means the police were swamped with calls about the crazy stunts people were seeing.
7. All the car stunts sent the film $10 million over budget
The crew wrecked 103 cars during shooting, which was a world record at the time. It took a team of 40 stunt drivers and a fleet of 60 retired cop cars to pull off all the stunts. Those included dropping a car off a 150-foot ramp and speeding up to 118 miles per hour on city streets.
When producers told Landis he had a $17 million budget before filming began, he joked, "I think we've spent that much already."
8. The original script was 324 pages long
For context, one page of a movie script works out to about one minute of screen time. By that metric, Dan Aykroyd's original script (called Return of the Blues Brothers) would've been over 5 hours long. Can you tell it was his first time writing a script?
Director John Landis whittled the script down to a tight two and a half hours in just three weeks.
9. The crew built a working mall for that famous scene
The Dixie Mall in Harvey, Illinois was empty when the crew rented it. They had to build 32 full-sized stores to make the building look realistic, before trashing everything all over again.
10. One Blues Brother was paid twice as much as the other
You can chalk it up to the success of Animal House, but it still feels unfair that Belushi made $500,000 for the movie while Aykroyd was paid just $250,000.
11. There was A LOT of cocaine on set
John Landis revealed he actually budgeted for cocaine for the actors to use during the movie's night shoots, but Belushi used the most by far.
At one point the director had to flush a pile of coke down the toilet to prevent Belushi from using it. The actor was simply being handed vials of drugs on the streets of Chicago by his adoring hometown fans.
At one point, Belushi wandered into a home near the set in a stupor. When Aykroyd went to retrieve him, the house's owner said. "Oh, you mean Belushi? He came in here an hour ago and raided my fridge. He’s asleep on my couch."
12. Belushi was also injured during the grand finale
The actor seriously injured his knee trying to use a kid's skateboard before shooting the scene. Landis found the city's "top orthopedist" to wrap his knee up and give him a shot of something. It must've worked, because he pulled off those cartwheels.
13. And the crew nicknamed him "The Black Hole"
The actor had an uncanny talent for losing his sunglasses between takes, and went through hundreds of pairs during the shoot.
14. The movie gets the Vatican's seal of approval
Apparently his holiness approves of Jake and Elwood's mission from God. For the movie's 30th anniversary in 2010, the Vatican newspaper, l'Osservatore Romano, called the movie a Catholic classic, and recommended it for viewing by all good Catholics.
15. There were 13 different Bluesmobiles on set
Each one was outfitted for different stunts, including a car designed to fall apart. Aykroyd's brother-in-law still owns one of the original cars. The Bluesmobile is a 1974 Dodge Monaco.
I still love this movie, do you?