Talkin' about the 25th Anniversary DVD release with with John Landis, Dan Aykroyd, James Brown, Henry Gibson, and Producer Thom Mount
Movie PictureTo honor the 25th Anniversary of the Blues Brothers, Universal is not only releasing a Deluxe Edition DVD loaded up with more special features than you can fit into Elwood's briefcase, they also celebrated by hosting a groundbreaking public event on the Eve of the DVD's release. Broadcasting live via Satellite from the Mann's Chinese Theater in Hollywood, Hollywood's Master Storytellers showcase participated in one of the most wide-reaching DVD launches in the history of the medium. At 6:30 pm this past Monday, a Q&A panel discussion featuring John Landis, Dan Aykroyd, James Brown, Henry Gibson, and Thom Mount was beamed into 83 different movie theaters across the country. This special once-in-a-lifetime presentation was then followed by a first time screening of the film in High Definition and cinema surround sound.
Before the event got underway, a few selected members of the press were allowed to catch up with this wonderful group of people just outside the movie theater. I, personally, didn't get to spend too much time with them. And damn it, I couldn't understand one word that came out of James Brown's mouth. But it was a lot of fun getting to meet such a legendary crew. And it was awesome to relive the film, itself, on the big screen, despite the fact that it was being projected from a mounted DVD player instead of an actual film print. Watching it on a huge screen is something I've never gotten to do before, and let me tell you…That's where the film belongs. It has a scope that isn't easily contained within a 20 inch TV. It's too bad they're only showing it once. This is possibly the funnest summer movie I've seen this year, and it came out in 1980. They just don't make ‘em like this anymore. The film is completely CGI-free and pact to the brim with real-live cars and cops, and musicians. I had such a blast watching it for the first time in a long while, I actually think having to later see it on a tiny screen in my apartment might taint the experience. I'm not buying the DVD, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't.
To listen to the complete Q&A presentation that was shot through space and into every state on the map: CLICK HERE!
Dan Aykroyd wasn't able to attend Mann's Chinese Theater for this particular showing, but instead was beamed in via satellite from Toronto. Here are some of his musings about the Blues Brothers experience…
The Blues Brothers actually started well before Saturday Night Live, didn't it?
DanDan Aykroyd: It started when John came up to regroup for National Lampoon radio. One night we got together after Second City at my After-Hours club. We were playing Blues records, and it started there in 1973.
How did you bring this band together? And did you always call yourselves the Blues Brothers?
Dan Aykroyd: Howard Shore named us The Blues Brothers. Our first back-up band was Willie Nelson and Nicky Rafael. Our first gig was at the Lone Star Café on 5th Avenue in New York City. And we started out with the briefcase, the handcuffs, and the whole look and everything. Willie Nelson was most generous in giving us the opportunity to play. It really wasn't until Steve Cropper and Duck Dunn joined the band that the Blues Brothers became the Blues Brothers, a real musical act under their tutelage. There would be no Blues brothers if it weren't for Steve Cropper and Duck Dunn.
What was it like to first be opening for Steve Martin, and more importantly, what was the audience's response?
Dan Aykroyd: We were floored by Steve's generosity. It was wonderful that he'd let us do this. We were nervous, of course. We were bringing this from television, where it was a warm-up act. We had no knowledge of how it would sway in public. The reaction was quite phenomenal that first night. The audience thought what we were doing worked. It was just exciting to see me and John dance around. People liked it. It was full of humor and fun. And those Universal concerts were memorable, wonderful nights.
You had a three-hundred page first draft for the movie, right?
Dan Aykroyd: Yeah, I put it in a phone book cover.
John Landis: Danny, what was the writing credit on it?
Dan Aykroyd: It was "The Return of the Blues Brothers by the Script-O-Tron 3000." I wrote the sequel and the movie and crammed in all kinds of scenes, thinking we were going to do the sequel at the same time as the movie, like the Wachowski Brothers, or something. That was floated around as a concept. But then Landis got it. He was able to distill it into a shooting script that had a practical reality and could actually get made.
This movie set the world's record for most car crashes in a single film. Why did you guys decide to go so over the top with the car chases?
Dan Aykroyd: I think I might speak to that. We were all huge fans of Bullitt. At that time at Universal, Hal Needham and Burt Reynolds were doing the Smokey and the Bandit movies, and the stunt science of spinning cars and jumping off pipe ramps was something that was around a lot while I was there making 1941. So I was steeped in the science of the stunt world. So we wanted to use all of the stunt science that was available to really top these other guys that were doing these pictures before it. That was part of it.
What is your favorite John Belushi story from the set?
Dan Aykroyd: Well, the night we shot in Arby, Illinois, it was a night shoot, and we were there for several nights. It was shortly after lunch at about two in the morning, and we were looking for John. We couldn't find him anywhere. His trailer, craft services, anywhere. The production trailer, he wasn't anywhere to be found. I saw a path going through an abandoned parking lot of the mall there. We walked to a house that had a light on in this suburban part of the neighborhood. It was the only house that had a light on. Just on a whim I went up to the front door and knocked on the front door, and this guy comes to the door. He says, "Yes?" I told him I was with a film production crew looking for one of the actors. He says, "Oh, John Belushi? Yes, he's here. He raided my fridge and now he's passed out on my couch." I went into the house, and he was completely crashed out on the couch.
What did you call Belushi?
Dan Aykroyd: America's Guest. He could go anywhere.
Outside before the movie, I got a chance to meet the rest of the panel group real quick. First up was John Landis. I recently met him at this year's Comic-Con, where I told him I didn't care for the longer cut of the Blues Brothers film. He didn't appreciate my comments too much. And He remembered me here, tonight. I decided to ask him first about Masters of Horrors…
How do you respond to John Carpenter's accusations that you would most likely spend the entire series budget for Masters of Horror before the rest of the directors got a chance to shoot their episode?
JohnJohn Landis: That was John being funny. He's a man known for his comedies. John finished his already. And Joe Dante just wrapped his. We've done quite a few of them. I've done mine. And they're finished. They're being shown in October here. And they're being released theatrically in some countries.
The Blues Brothers is the first film they made from a SNL skit, right?
John Landis: You could call it that, because they preformed it on Saturday Night Live. But they don't own it. NBC doesn't own the Blues Brothers. It's owned by Dan Aykroyd and Judy Belushi.
When they made other SNL movies, do you think they looked to the Blues Brothers for inspiration?
John Landis: Well, it made a lot of money. I guess they did. It set the bar. Most of those movies are lousy, but some of them are very funny.
What is your favorite DVD?
John Landis: Of other people's movies? That's tough.
Which one do you go back too more often than not?
John Landis: There's a W. C. Fields movie called It's A Gift. I think its genius. I watch it every two or three months. You know what, I couldn't tell you. My wife and I just watched China Town. It was great. You know, they wouldn't make that movie now. I don't have a favorite. I like all kinds of stuff. I also like really good movies, but I can enjoy a really bad movie, too. I just saw Stealth. I laughed my ass off. What a piece of shit. The people I was with were demanding their money back. I was like, "Why? This is great!" It's so silly.
Do you think you'll be making any more documentaries?
John Landis: Yes, it was a good experience.
Do you have anything coming up?
John Landis: No, not necessarily.
Next up was producer Thom Mount, former President of Universal at the time the Blues Brothers was made…
Do you think, in this day and age, a movie as ambitious as the Blues Brothers could ever get made?
ThomMount: Sure. A movie this ambitious would get made in the Independent sector. It's not a studio movie.
But do you honestly think an Independent Director would actually be able to pull off the car scenes?
Mount: Absolutely. Sure. Especially with CGI help today. Actually, we could make this movie for a cheaper price today then we did back in 1980. We just don't have the will inside the studio system to do anything that's ambitious in a way that's artistic. We have a studio system that is run by a lot of very nice drones, and this is all scary, weird stuff. And not politically correct, you'll notice if you watch the movie again. If you want to see the movie again. That freaks them all out, and they have big corporations to answer to, and that accounts for ten percent of the annual profit. Why stick your neck out? It was a different day, then. I was president of Universal at the time. I reported to two guys. One was the Chairman of the company, and the other owned part of the company. That was it. I didn't have to talk to anyone else. We could just get the picture made, and go. We just did it.
What are you doing now?
Mount: Producing films. Which I've done for years and years and years. I just make movies nowadays. Mostly smaller ones, because they are on the Indie side. Because I have much more fun. I get to do what I want.
Next up was the Illinois Nazi himself, Henry Gibson…
I'm a big fan of yours, especially the Burbs.
HenryHenry Gibson: I still keep those bones in the back of my car.
How does it feel to still be associated with the Illinois Nazi Party? Has that ever caused any problems in your life?
Henry Gibson: No. But when we were making the picture, before I did that terrible, terrible pro-Nazi speech, we were standing in the park, getting ready to move to another part of the park. John was worried, only because of the Political Environment at that time, that some of the extras might mistake me for a legitimate Nazi. Before we did the scene, before we went to the actual set, John Landis went to great pains to explain to everybody that, "This is Henry Gibson. Whom you may remember from blah-blah-blah-and blah-blah-blah," He lists off all of these movies and things that I'd been in, and then he goes, "He's not really a Nazi. Are you Henry?" I said, "No." He said, "Prove it." So I then read one of the poems I did on Laugh-In. And they all said, "No Nazi would ever recite a bad poem like that."
So, you never had anyone mistake you for the real thing, then?
Henry Gibson: No, no I didn't. A couple letters, but nothing bad.
What has been the experience of being in this movie?
Henry Gibson: Oh, I loved it. I loved it.
Is it one of your favorites?
Henry Gibson: Oh, it certainly is. It's endured. And it has a cult following. It's shown every so often on television. And now people will get to enjoy it remastered with all the special features.
Which version do you like better? The original theatrical version or the cut that is 18 minutes longer?
Henry Gibson: That's like asking someone which child they prefer.
Last up was James Brown. I was going to transcribe our short conversation, but I honestly can not make out anything he is saying. If you do not believe me, go listen to the Q&A offered above. The man is indecipherable. Anyway, that's all I have to report on from the front lines of the Blues Brothers 25th Anniversary party. If you missed out on the screening near you, be sure to check out the new DVD. It contains both cuts of the film and a pretty good feature about John Belushi.
I guess I'll see you cats next at the 30th Anniversary Edition of the Blues Brothers party, where Universal will be pimping a digital injection of the film.
Dont't forget to also check out: The Blues Brothers