John Belushi


  1. Donald Pleasence, Halloween, 1978.  
    The Hitchcock fan a and auteur John Carpenter searched high and low for his shrink, Dr Sam Loomis: Peter O’Toole and the Hammer horrors, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee versus Charles Napier, Lawrence Tierney, Abe Vigoda. The $300,00 shoestring budget couldn’t afford any of them! Same for the kinda obvious Lloyd Bridges, David Carradine, Kirk Douglas, Steven Hill, Walter Matthau… and such off-the-wall surprises as John Belushi, Mel Brooks, Yul Brynner, Edward Bunker, Sterling Hayden, Dennis Hopper, Kris Kristofferson… and Dick’s brother, Jerry Van Dyke. Pleasence said he only made the film because his daughter told him to! She’d loved Carpentor’s Assault
    on Precinct 13 He also told Carpenter he’d never read the script, nor Loomis. “Only later,” said Carpeeter, “after [we] became close friends, did I realise he was finding out how much I loved the movie I was making.” Incidentally, Loomis, incidentally was named after John Gavin’s character in Psycho; his screen lover was Janet Leigh, mother of Carpenter’s heroine, Jamie Lee Curtis. So it flows.

  2. Christopher Atkins, The Blue Lagoon, 1979.     “Too funny” to bethe shipwrecked Richard – on a desert isle with Brooke Shields. (That would have been kinda ugly).
  3. Bill Murray, Where The Buffalo Roam, 1980.      Predictable Hollywood choice for gonzo journalist Hunter Thompson.
  4. Dudley Moore, Arthur, 1980.         The suits wanted a US star. New auteur Steve Gordon wanted Dud. Gordon won, made a big hit, but never a second film – he died at 44 in 1982. Belushi had passed, scared of being typed as a drunk (surely the least of his troubles!). Orion Pictures’ other choices for the titular rich man-child were: Jeff Bridges, Chevy Chase, Steve Martin, Bill Murray, Robin Williams… and quite ridiculously, James Caan, Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino (that would have been tough going!), Robert Redford, Sylvester Stallone, John Travolta. Enough for an Arthur XI soccer squad – and one reserve. Moore based his Arthur on his ex-comedy partner. Peter Cook.
  5. Griffin Dunne, An American Werewolf in London, 1981.    The studio wanted a titular Belushi with pal Dan Aykroyd as his pal. No way, said director and general know-all John Landis.
  6. Michael Keaton, Night Shift, 1981. Belushi passed (tooAnimal House?) and then ODed during the shoot of actor-turned-director Ron Howard’s first major Hollywood (ie non-Roger Corman) movie. Ron tested 40 of almost 200 actors for Bill Blazejowski, running a hooker call-out service from the city morgue!   Eight of them (Mickey Rourke, Kurt Russell included) read scenes with Howard’s Happy Days co-star, Henry Winkler, already given the choice of “Blaze” or his boss, Chuck Lumley.
  7. Dan Aykroyd, Neighbours, 1981.      The brothers Blue were cast as expected. Belushi as  the macho loudmouth Vic and Aykroyd as the mild mannered Earl. They promptly switched roles to play, this once against type. Killing the movie…  rescued from Sylvester Stallone and John Candy
  8. William Conrad, Police Squad, TV, 1982.      Every week,a Special Guest Star was killed in the opening credits: Robert Goulet, Lorne Greene, William Shatner,… and Belushi, trapped underweater inconcrete shoes. As he ODied before the epsiode was screened, he was cut and replaced by William Conrad being stabbed and thrown from a car. John would never have agreed…
  9. Larry Rapp, Once Upon A Time in America,  1982.   After his epic about the West, Sergio Leone planned another on the East – based on The Hoods, “an autobiographical account” of New York Jewish gangster Harry Goldberg.  The maestro interviewed “over 3,000 actors,” taping 500 auditions for the 110 speaking roles.  Belushi ODed before auditions began. .Joe Pesci recommended Rapp, after they worked  together in Dear Mr. Wonderful, 1982.

  10. Bill Murray, Ghostbusters, 1983.    The paranormal was, said Dan Aykord, his family’s business. That and having stayed in a house haunted by Mama Cass Elliott inspired his dark, futuristic update of such 40s’ comedies as Bob Hope’s Ghost Breakers and the Bowery Boys as Ghost Chasers –  penned for John Belushi, Eddie Murphy and himself. Dan was actually writing a line for John when hearing about his shock death. (He said Slimer was John‘s ghost). Murphy was busy – policing Beverly Hills – as the script was totally respun and/or improvised. Frank Price, who famously turned down ET at Columbia, OKed the film after asking  Ivan Reitman: How much? The director  weighed  the script in his hand. “Feels like a $25m movie to me.”  OK!  He rushed shooting for a summer  release  without every clearing the rights of the title! That belonged to Universal – and guess who was the new boss there, agreeing to the title being used. None other than Frank Price! (He’d been sacked by Columbia in mid-shoot and literally picked up by Universal… to thank him  for passing on ET?)  When Chevy Chase,  Steve Guttenberg, Tom Hanks, Michael Keaton, Robin Williams refused Dr Peter Venkman. “Billy” took over – as long as Columbia backed his Razor‘s Edge re-tread. It did. And it flopped. 
  11. Cameron Dye, The Joy of Sex, 1983.   He repeatedly rejected the idea of concocting a film around Alex Comfort’s sex manual – probably after hearing how the Paramount suits planned a poster of him in a nappy (diaper). They didn’t care about scripts or stars – the title was their star. Finally, he agreed, tried rewriting it as Noble Rot(?), and was due for a meeting with the Paramount top brass when his agen, Michael Ovitz, answered his phone and immediately cancelled the meet. Studio chief Michael Eisner started yelling: “How could you do this to me…? What the hell is going on?” Ovitz: “John’s dead!” Eisner: “Another of your agent tricks. Can’t you come up with something better than that?” Ovitz: “Michael, I’m serious. John’s dead.”
  12. Dan Akroyd, Nothing Lasts Forever, 1984.      Apt title.   After John’s OD, the part went to his Blues Brother.
  13. Chevy Chase, Spies Like Us, 1985.  Unkindest cut of all as John never got on with Chevy – the more popular (and handsome) of the Saturday Night Livers. Belushi ODed soon after director John Landis had announced he’d join his blues brother Dan Akroyd as not so much spies, as decoys. (Idem for the movie). As per usual, Landis crammed director pals into, er, cameos:  Michael Apted, Martin Brest, Larry Cohen, Terry Gilliam, Frank Oz, Sam Rami… even the great political film-maker Costa-Gavras… in his second Landis cock-up in 20 years!

  14. Martin Short, !Three Amigos, 1986. 
    Writer-producer-star Steve Martin’s idea in 1980.Except he never thought he could swing both Blues Brothers (Belushi and      Dan Aykroyd). And, anyway:  “Do I want to  work with Belushi for a year?”  Short  called himself the cheap amigo.   A funny movie, said director John Landis. And not only because his trio couldn’t ride horses.

  15. James Belushi, About Last Night…,  1986.      Due for Belushi and Aykroyd  untilJim, who had been in the David Mamet play, Sexual Perversity in Chicago told John that, sorry, man, butJim had no wish to be compared to John.
  16. John Heard, Home Alone,  1990.   An astonishing 37 stars (Harrison Ford,Jack Nicholson, Jessica Lange, Michelle Pfeiffer, etc) were considered for the forgetful parents – nothing roles in a film written for and duly stolen by the stranded kid, Macauley Culkin.
  17. Benicio Del Torro, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, 1998.      Dan Aykroyd andBelushi were set to be Hunter Thompson and Dr Gonzo. Tragically, Belushi took too much of what Thompson called “andrenichrome” and never matched Gonzo:“Too weird to live, and too rare to die.”
  18. Daniel Day-Lewis, Gangs of New York, 2000.    What was he smoking ?   Believe it or not, Ripley, directing ikon Martin Scorsese first envisaged the movie in 1978 with Blues Brothers, Belushi and Dan Akyroyd as the fearsome Bill “The Butcher” Cutting and the young Amsterdam Vallon. If poor Day-Lewis couldn’t avoid being unintentionally hilarious, Belushi would have been guffaawd off the screen. All that prevented such absurdity was Belushi’s tragic death, thought to be an OD until proved to be (involuntary) manslaughter by ex-groupie Catherine Evelyn Smith  injecting him up to 20 times with a speedball of coke and heroin. She got three years’ jail, released after 15 months. arty had also juggled with Mel Gibson-Willem Dafoe…  Malcolm McDowell-Robert De Niro… and, finally, Leonardo DiCaprio-Daniel Day Lewis.





 Birth year: 1949Death year: 1982Other name: Casting Calls:  18