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Other than his performance as John Blutarsky in Animal House, John Belushi’s role as Joliet Jake in The Blues Brothers is quite possibly his most iconic. In that movie, he and Dan Aykroyd went from one wild antic to another while on their mission from God. And it sounds like John Belushi's antics continued behind the scenes as well, as he randomly disappeared from the set of The Blues Brothers one day.
Typically, when you’re an actor on a set, you’re expected to stick around until production has wrapped for the day. I guess John Belushi didn’t get that memo while working on The Blues Brothers. During a recent appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers, Dan Aykroyd shared a little story about John Belushi’s sudden absence, which occurred while they were shooting one of the movie's key scenes. Here's what Aykroyd said:
We were shooting at the Harvey, Illinois [Dixie Square] Mall, you know, that famous mall scene. It was an abandoned mall at the time… We were there at 3 a.m. shooting the mall scene and lunch had broken, and we went looking for John, couldn't find him anywhere.
John Landis directed The Blues Brothers, and I can only imagine how alarmed he and the crew must have been when hearing that one of their lead actors had disappeared. Plus, you have to remember that there were no cell phones in the late '70s, early '80s, meaning a simple text message was out of the question.
So Dan Aykroyd took it upon himself to hunt John Belushi down, even if that meant going out into a nearby neighborhood. He later said:
So I saw this path kind of leading out of the weed-strewn parking lot into a suburban neighborhood nearby, and, ‘I’ll just try that.’ I walked down this path, and I walked into the neighborhood. I looked and all the houses were dark. But halfway down one of the streets, there were lights on. And I thought, ‘Well, I don’t know. I’ve got an instinct here, and I’m going to try.’ And I knocked on the door, and the guy said, ‘Yeah.’ I said, ‘We’re shooting a movie over here.’ ‘Yeah, I know’ ‘And we’re looking for one of our actors.’ ‘Yeah, I know, Belushi. He came in here about a half an hour ago, he raided my fridge, he’s asleep on my couch.’ He’s the guest that never left.
The fact that John Belushi could meander into a stranger’s house, rummage through his fridge and then take a nap tells you something about both his celebrity and charm. At the time, he was one of the biggest comedians around, so his host probably didn’t think he could just say no to Belushi when he came knocking on his door.
Sadly, John Belushi’s career was cut short when he died on March 5, 1982 of a drug overdose, just a few years after filming The Blues Brothers. His legacy, however, has lived on in various ways, such as through Gemberling's portrayal of him in the Netflix comedy, A Futile & Stupid Gesture. Showtime is also releasing a documentary about his life entitled Belushi.
For a time, there had been buzz about a possible biopic about John Belushi’s life, with both Emilie Hirsch and Zach Galifianakis, at one time, being eyed for the lead role, but that project appears to have stalled. Until such a project is made, we’ll just have to remember him through great stories and documentaries. You can check out Belushi when it premieres on Sunday, November 22 at 9 p.m. ET on Showtime.