R.J. Cutler’s documentary uses oral interviews to provide an intimately personal portrait of comedy icon John Belushi. The ‘Belushi’ movie, which opens the Chicago International Film Festival, profiles the great Chicago-born actor and singer with the help of animation, tapes of vintage interviews and even his personal letters to his wife.
Take a moment to consider this sobering fact: John Belushi died 38 years ago. That it feels like yesterday is a testament to the lingering impact this comic legend has had on pop culture.
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What makes the film ‘Belushi’ particularly special?
The film Belushi particularly special for its extensive use of vintage audio interviews conducted with so many of Belushi’s loved ones, friends and associates, including his widow Judy, Dan Aykroyd, Lorne Michaels, Carrie Fisher, Ivan Reitman, Harold Ramis, Jim Belushi, Penny Marshall, John Landis and many others.
Fans will gain new insight into the comedian’s personal struggles, and people who’ve only seen his movies and sketches will certainly learn the depth of the man.
Show ‘Saturday night live ‘
John Belushi was one of the first performers on ‘Saturday Night Live’ .
Before ‘Saturday Night Live,’ John Belushi was a funny kid. When he auditioned for Saturday Night Live, he burned his bridge with Lorne Michaels. The show soon became a hit and Belushi became one of its breakout stars.
Belushi’s spiral into addiction is discussed in ‘Belushi’ movie
Michaels, talking about Belushi’s behavior starting with the show’s second season, says, “He was testing all his boundaries at that point.” Landis says (with unintentional irony) about the making of The Blues Brothers, “I don’t think we lost more than four or five days of shooting because of the drugs.”
Fisher, no stranger to addiction herself, comments that Belushi had conflicting feelings about his rise to superstardom: “He enjoyed it for a while, and then I think he felt hunted by it.”
The movies and the end
He made the move to the big screen with the hit comedy National Lampoon’s Animal House, directed by John Landis.
Animal House made him a movie star, and he introduced his musical side as the Blues Brothers on SNL. Filming 1941 during SNL really affected his performance, let alone the drugs he was still taking.
Even in stories where his habits interrupted production, people want to give him the benefit of the doubt. They were all genuinely concerned for his health.
In the months leading up to his death, he was reportedly spending about $2,500 a week on his habit, according to People magazine. He died due to an accidental overdose on March 5, 1982, at L.A.’s Chateau Marmont.
Home movie footage shot by Judy during a period of Belushi’s sobriety at the couple’s summer home in Martha’s Vineyard provides a poignant glimpse of the normal life he could have lived.
That his early loss left so much potentially great work undone makes the documentary as much elegy as tribute.
Someday, there will be a take on the life and work of John Belushi that is as fascinating, complex, and entertaining as he was. “Belushi,” however, is not quite that film.