Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is a particularly iconic entry in the Star Trek franchise, as not only did it bring back Ricardo Montalbán’s Khan Noonien Singh over a decade and a half after the villain first clashed with the U.S.S. Enterprise crew in the Star Trek: The Original Series episode “Space Seed,” it’s also frequently considered to one of the best Star Trek movies. As it turns out though, The Wrath of Khan is also notable for its connection to the late Blues Brothers star John Belushi.
During a recent watch-party for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan hosted by Paramount on Cya Live, Mark A. Altman, Star Trek history buff and co-host of the Inglorious Treksperts podcast, mentioned how John Belushi visited the sequel’s set just hours before he passed away from a speedball overdose. As Altman put it:
Also an interesting story, one day John Belushi came to visit the set of Star Trek II. … He came because he wanted to perfect his [William] Shatner impersonation. So he came and watched Shatner on set all day. And that night, they wanted to have him sing and play The Blues Brothers at the wrap party, and they were going to ask him. And that night was the night he died of a drug overdose at the Chateau Marmont.
Of all the movies being filmed that John Belushi could have visited before he died, I would not have guessed that he peeked in on the making of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. It should be noted that Belushi died in the early morning of March 5, 1982, while The Wrath of Khan conducted principal photography from early November of 1981 to late January of 1982, but it’s possible that cameras rolled briefly again for pickup shots or reshoots, and that’s what Belushi got to witness.
Between watching William Shatner reprise Captain James T. Kirk for his second theatrical appearance and meeting up with actors Robert De Niro and Robin Williams separately that night, John Belushi’s final hours on Earth were certainly eventful. The Chateau Marmot, the hotel where Belushi was staying, is close to the Paramount Pictures lot, so it probably didn’t take much effort for him to get over there.
In addition John Belushi appearing as Jake Blues alongside Dan Aykroyd’s Elwood Blues in 1980’s The Blues Brothers, both actors are also famous for being among Saturday Night Live’s original cast members. Not only did they originate their Blues Brothers characters on the NBC sketch comedy series, but that’s also where Belushi had the chance to show off his William Shatner impression, as you’ll see below.
John Belushi is also remembered for playing John Blutarsky in 1978’s National Lampoon’s Animal House, Captain Wild Bill Kelso in 1979’s 1941 and Earl Kleese in 1981’s Neighbors, the latter of which was his final film role. He was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2004.
As for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, it opened on June 4, 1982 and an an opening weekend total of $14.3 million, which at the time was the largest opening weekend gross in history. Made off a $12 million budget, the sequel went on to collect $97 million worldwide during its theatrical run, and Star Trek fans would reunite with the Original Series crew for four more movies after that, along with William Shatner, James Doohan and Walter Koenig returning for 1994’s Star Trek Generations.
Fast-forwarding to the present, although the TV side of the Star Trek franchise is going strong on CBS All Access with Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Picard, the future of the film side is clouded in uncertainty. Star Trek 4 looks to be back on track with Noah Hawley in the director’s chair, but it’s unclear when that’ll move forward. There’s also the Star Trek movie that Quentin Tarantino pitched, which the filmmaker acknowledged he probably won’t direct, so it’ll be interesting to see if that gets off the ground.
In any case, keep checking in with CinemaBlend for more updates on Star Trek happenings, and keep track of what’s expected to hit the silver screen later this year with our 2020 release schedule.