Chevy Chase is, and always has been, a compelling comedic actor. He can play smug, and he can play charming; he can be a romantic lead, or a buffoon. His portrayal of Clark Griswold from the "Vacation" series is a bit of a melting pot of all of those components, going from loving family man in one scene to unhinged maniac in the next. And apparently, Chase can often be just as volatile when the cameras aren't rolling as his most famous character is when they are.
In short, Chase has a reputation for being kind of a jerk and is often difficult to work with. Just ask Dan Harmon and the cast of "Community," or even more famously, comedy legend and fellow "Saturday Night Live" alum Bill Murray.
But when director John Landis was getting set to helm 1978 classic "Animal House," Chase was also arguably the biggest star in comedy at that time, and the breakout performer on "SNL" thanks to his dry humor and leading man good looks. With that in mind, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise to learn that Universal, the studio that funded the very first feature film for the folks at National Lampoon, wanted Chase in the movie. Badly. So much so that according to Vanity Fair, "Landis was issued an edict from on high: hire Chase, or else."
That wasn't an edict that sat particularly well with Landis, who at the time was pretty much an unknown, having only directed a couple of low-budget indies. He didn't yet have the Hollywood clout he'd later accrue. If he was going to get his way, and avoid putting an actor in the film he really didn't want to work with, he'd have to get clever. So that's exactly what he did.
A Not-So-Useless And Future Gesture
Now, it wasn't hard to figure out why the studio would want a big star like Chase involved in the movie. Again, Landis was a relative unknown, and National Lampoon was not yet the Hollywood comedy institution it would become on the back of the massive success of "Animal House." So how could the young director wiggle his way out of this particular predicament? Turns out, it was pretty easy. Chase was already known to have a pretty big ego; It's part of why he left "SNL" after one season with an eye toward becoming a movie star, so Landis would simply use that ego against him.
Chase was in the middle of deciding whether to make "Animal House" or "Foul Play" alongside Goldie Hawn. When Landis met with some of the film's producers and Chase for lunch, he went in with a plan. As he told Vanity Fair:
"Chevy was just being impossible and they're all kissing his ass. So when it comes to my turn to talk, I said, 'Listen, Chevy, our picture is an ensemble, a collaborative group effort like Saturday Night Live. You'd fit right in, whereas in Foul Play, that's like being Cary Grant or Paul Newman, a real movie-star part. Don't you think you'd be better off surrounded by really gifted comedians?'"
It turns out, that was all it took. Ivan Reitman, one of the producers present at the lunch, was none-too-pleased, and "furiously kicked Landis under the table." But it was already too late. Chase decided to take the role in "Foul Play" and pass on "Animal House" before the check arrived, and the rest is comedy history.
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The post John Landis Was Desperate To Get Chevy Chase Out Of The Cast Of Animal House appeared first on /Film.