Animal House behind the scenes

Regular readers of TG know we’re big fans of Animal House, the 1978 comedy masterpiece that made John Belushi a star.

It was the highest grossing comedy of its time, and seeing it for the first time way back in the 70’s was a fond memory for many, myself included.

Now Matty Simmons, who founded National Lampoon magazine, and was also a producer on the film has written Fat Drunk and Stupid! The Inside Story Behind the Making of Animal House, which has just been published by St. Martins Press. 

As a report on the book in The New York Post tells us, Animal House wasn’t an easy movie to get made, and if it wasn’t made for cheap and didn’t have at least one big name, Donald Sutherland, it may have never been made at all.


In the book, Universal head of production Ned Tanen told Simmons, “Everybody is drunk, high or getting laid! I’d never make this movie!” 

In fact, the original script for Animal House was very tasteless, and director John Landis insisted that some of the really vile humor be eliminated, although plenty of edgy laughs still remained of course.


Animal House was indeed made for cheap, $2.8 million, and it was shot up at the University of Oregon in a quick schedule. Many directors passed on it before Landis got the gig, and Ivan Reitman, who co-wrote Animal House and went on to direct Ghostbusters said that Landis was the guy for the job because “The guy has our sensibilities. He probably has no respect for authority, very low morals, and roots for the underdog.”


When Animal House premiered in New York on July 24, 1978, Belushi showed up to the after party wearing his COLLEGE sweatshirt he wore in the film, Animal House was considered a “gross out” comedy at the time, by today’s standards it’s pretty mild, and as Roger Ebert wrote in his review, “The movie is vulgar, raunchy, ribald and occasionally scatological. It is also the funniest comedy since Mel Brooks made The Producers.”


Animal House was also the #1 movie in the country for two months, making $140 million, which would be over half a billion dollars today. Even as a young kid, I can remember the frenzy Animal House created, and much like the slobs triumphing over the snobs in the film, the success of the film was life imitating art, where a tiny, low budget movie that was barely on Universal’s radar was an enormous surprise hit. Who says fat, drunk and stupid’s no way to go through life?