John Belushi's performance in the cafeteria scene was entirely improvised. When he began piling food on his tray, Director John Landis urged the camera operator to "stay with him." The infamous "I'm a zit" gag was also improvised, and the reaction from the cast is completely genuine.
According to Landis, Universal Pictures President Ned Tanen objected so strongly to the Dexter Lake Club scene that he interrupted a screening of the film and ordered the scene be removed immediately, claiming it would cause race riots in the theaters. In response, Landis screened the film for Richard Pryor, who then wrote a note to Tanen which read: "Ned, Animal House is fucking funny, and white people are crazy. Richard."
The President of the University of Oregon only allowed this movie to be filmed on that campus because he decided he did not know how to read screenplays. In 1967 he had received the screenplay for a movie but had denied it permission to film there. That movie was The Graduate (1967) and he liked that movie so much that he decided he didn't want to miss another opportunity, so he allowed Animal House (1978) to be filmed on the University of Oregon campus. But he insisted that the college's name not be listed in the film's credits.
To prepare for their roles, the actors playing the Deltas went to a real frat party at the University of Oregon's SAE house (except John Belushi, who was working on Saturday Night Live (1975) that night). The real fraternity members did not like the actors being there and a brawl ensued. When Belushi returned to the set and heard about the fight, he had to be physically restrained from seeking revenge.
The movie concludes by describing each character's fate. Neidermeyer was "killed in Vietnam by his own troops." In director John Landis' segment of Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), some soldiers are overheard discussing "fragging Neidermeyer."
The hole John Belushi makes in the wall with the guitar is the only physical damage to the house the movie-makers made during the entire shoot. Instead of repairing it, the fraternity placed a frame around the hole with an engraved brass tag around the hole commemorating it.
Donald Sutherland was so convinced of the movie's lack of potential, that, when offered a percent of the gross or a flat fee of $75,000 for his three days' work, he took the upfront payment. Had he taken the gross percentage he would have been worth an additional $3-4 million.
Babs becomes a tour guide at Universal Studios. The credits for this and other John Landis films contain an advertisement for a tour at Universal Studios. The ad says, "Ask for Babs." As of 1989, Universal Studios no longer honors the "Ask for Babs" promotion, which was either a discount or a free entry.
During filming, John Belushi would often go to local nightclubs to check out the various bands. He was fascinated by a musician named Curtis Salgado. Salgado's sunglasses, harp playing and love of the blues inspired Belushi to form The Blues Brothers with fellow Saturday Night Live (1975) cast mate Dan Aykroyd.
A sequel was planned that would take place during the 1969 Summer of Love and involve the Deltas reuniting for Otter's wedding. But when More American Graffiti (1979) bombed at the box-office, Universal stalled the project. The project was scrapped for good when Belushi died in 1982.
After the first day's shooting of the homecoming parade, there was a heavy rain that night. The next day, the production crew rented a field-burning tractor that shot flames across the width of the street to dry it.
The Delta House actors partied together every night, but Director John Landis kept John Belushi separated from them by lodging him and his wife, Judith Belushi-Pisano in a house miles from the set. Belushi was a notorious partyer, and Landis wanted him to remain sober throughout the shoot. Belushi did host a few parties at the house, but stayed clean because he saw the film as a great career opportunity.
The actors who played the Deltas harassed the actors who played the Omegas off-screen as well to keep up the feelings of animosity between their characters. Mark Metcalf changed his hotel room to the one above Bruce McGill's where the Delta actors partied every night so his anger at their noise would help him get into character.
During their bonding week before filming, the seven Deltas partied a lot in their hotel. Bruce McGill actually stole the piano from the hotel's lobby and moved it into his room so that the group would have music.
John Landis had a budget of only $2.5 million, so to cut costs, the movie was shot almost entirely on the University of Oregon campus, including the student court scene and scenes in Dean Wormer's office. The only exceptions were the road trip scene and the parade, which was filmed in the nearby town of Cottage Grove, Oregon.
One bit that was written in the original script but never filmed included a parade bust that was destroyed at the climax of the film. The bust was of John F. Kennedy, the US President in 1962, and the gag was Kennedy's head was punctured in the same way the real Kennedy would be shot the next year. Director John Landis cut the idea because he felt the tone of the gag was wrong.
Chris Miller based the character of Pinto on himself, as Pinto had been his frat nickname. Dean Wormer was based on Richard Nixon and Miller's Dean at Dartmouth. "Flounder" had been the frat nickname of the person whom Bluto had been based on.
The final interrupting of the parade sequence was shot on the Universal back lot. This part of the lot had been used in several other films, but the section of road the parade ends up at is the same section that Robert Zemeckis used for the clock tower sequence in Back to the Future (1985). Every angle of this street is used, but never once do you see the front of the clock tower set. The only time you do see the tower is from the back end.
The scene where John Belushi is teaching everyone the "dirty lyrics" of The Kingsmen's 1963 song "Louie Louie" is based on an actual investigation conducted by the FBI from 1963 to 1965 in which the agency spent more than 2-1/2 years trying to "decode" the song because of the supposed profanity that was "hidden" in the muffled lyrics. After spending more than two years and tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars, the agency announced that it could find no "obscene" words in the song.
Verna Bloom said that her scene with Dean Wormer, where she is drunk and he is on the phone with the Mayor, was completely improvised because Director John Landis was unhappy with the dialogue written into the script.
Professor Jennings bites an apple while lecturing about good and evil in John Milton's "Paradise Lost." This is a deliberate gag reference to Eve's eating of the "forbidden fruit" from the Tree of Knowledge, a key event in "Paradise Lost," but the only thing lost is this gag on Jennings' students.
Harold Ramis wrote the part of Boon for himself to play, but John Landis felt Ramis was too old. Ramis was so disappointed that he refused to accept a smaller part Landis offered him. (Ramis was 32, Peter Riegert was 29).
In the scene where Hoover and Bluto are swearing in the new freshman, the book that Hoover is holding is actually an auto repair manual. According to the Animal House backstory, the fraternity's pledge book had actually been destroyed in a fire three years earlier.
After firing the crew hairdresser (who wanted extra time off), John Landis took the core Delta actors to a local barbershop and asked the barber if he could do early 1960's style haircuts. The man looked at the pictures and said it would be easy. He did all the actor's haircuts, one after another.
The bottle of whiskey that Bluto (John Belushi) chugs was actually colored tea. This was part of keeping Belushi away from alcohol and drugs. He was also excluded from the rest of the cast staying at Roadway Inn days prior to the shoot.
Niedermeyer's line "You're all worthless and weak, now drop and give me twenty!" was used in the Twisted Sister song "We're Not Gonna Take It" (Mark Metcalf appears in the video). In addition, the music video for Twisted Sister's "I Wanna Rock" features a high school student, clearly based on Flounder, being ridiculed by a teacher (Mark Metcalf again). At the video's conclusion, the principal (played by Stephen Furst) sprays Metcalf in the face with seltzer water.
The University of Oregon reluctantly allowed its campus to be used and gave the crew 30 days to complete filming. This meant that the cast and crew faced six-day work weeks and completed shooting with only two days to spare.
The noble brass theme heard when the Faber campus is first shown is an excerpt from Johannes Brahms' "Academic Festival Overture". This melody is based on a German student drinking song called "We have built a stately house".
The original script called for Flounder (Stephen Furst) to be admitted to the fraternity only if he told one of Larry Kroger's (Tom Hulce) secrets. Flounder blurted out, "He's got spots on his weenie!" Later, during the naming of the pledges, when Larry asks why his Delta name is Pinto, the entire fraternity drunkenly yells, "'Cause you got a spotted dong!"
John Landis sacrificed his heavy beard and much of his hair to appear in the film as a cafeteria dishwasher who catches Bluto mooching and tries, unsuccessfully, to stop him. The scene was filmed, but despite his personal sacrifices, Landis eventually also sacrificed the scene.
The core group of Deltas (D-Day, Otter, Boone, Hoover, Flounder, Bluto and Pinto) actually traveled up to the filming site a week early, at director John Landis' request. He wanted the group to emotionally bond so that their friendship would look genuine in the film.
Sean McCartin, who played the "Lucky Boy" whose wish for a Playmate "magically" comes true, went on to become a pastor at a local church in Cottage Grove, Oregon. A newspaper headline about his story announced "'Lucky Boy' Still Thanking God."
During interviews conducted for the 30th anniversary of this film, Karen Allen revealed some interesting trivia about her nude scene. Director John Landis wanted her to bare her bottom in the film, and she was very reluctant to do so. Donald Sutherland stepped in and offered to bare his as well. Allen said, "I thought he was so sweet to do that, so I sort of let go of my objections and said, 'Okay, if Donald Sutherland is going to bare his bottom, by golly, I'll bare mine too!'"
The interior scenes of the Delta house were filmed in a Sigma Nu fraternity. The exterior of the Delta house was a dilapidated house from the 1800's that was torn down in the mid 80's. The sorority house's exterior is the real exterior of the Sigma Nu house that was used for the interior scenes.
In 1974, the humor magazine National Lampoon published a parody called 'National Lampoon's 1964 High School Yearbook.' While the Yearbook's continuity is unrelated to 'Animal House,' a senior named Larry Kroger is the owner of the reader's copy of the Yearbook, and Mr. Vernon Wormer is listed as the school's gym teacher and civics instructor. Also, the dead coed in 'Animal House' is named Fawn Liebowitz; Faun Rosenberg was another senior featured in the Yearbook.
Originally, Harold Ramis and Doug Kenney's idea was titled "Laser Orgy Girls", a comedy about Charles Manson as a high school student. Producer Matty Simmons suggested that the setting be changed to college and the content to be toned down. Ramis also incorporated ideas from an earlier treatment he wrote titled "Freshman Year" based on his experiences in college.
The movie was set to be filmed at the University of Missouri until the president of the school read the script and refused permission. It was filmed at and around the University of Oregon in Eugene instead.
Although the film takes place in Pennsylvania, a Tennessee flag is shown in the courtroom. This is because the set decorator was unable to find a large enough Pennsylvania flag for the scene, and the blue Oregon state flag wouldn't work because it had "State of Oregon" text on the upper part. So the set decorator used the most generic flag he could find, which turned out to be the Tennessee state flag.
The characters of Stork and Hardbar were created to give Doug Kenney and Chris Miller a reason to be on set, and had come from different portions of a deleted character named Mountain. Hardbar was named after a real frat brother of Miller's who masturbated excessively.
As this was Kevin Bacon's first role, when he went to the premiere, he wasn't allowed to sit with the rest of the cast because the ushers didn't believe he was in it. He had to sit in the back with everyone else.
The Delta House actors were brought to the set five days before the Omega House actors to get into character, in an intentional effort to cause cliques to form. Barry Levinson would use this tactic years later with the principal cast of Diner (1982).
The original script included a scene of "competitive projectile vomiting" which Flounder was to fail at repeatedly. Later, after Flounder throws up "on" Dean Wormer, Boon congratulates Flounder on his technique.
A scene that was cut was Pinto being entertained by Boon and Hoover by telling tales of legendary Delta House frat brothers from years before. The past fraternity brothers had names like Tarantula, Bulldozer, Giraffe, and his girlfriend, Gross Kay.
There was a certain amount of friction between John Landis and the writers early on because Landis was a high-school drop-out from Hollywood and they were college graduates from the East Coast. Harold Ramis remembers, "He sort of referred immediately to Animal House as 'my movie.' We'd been living with it for two years and we hated that".
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
Many first-run theatrical releases included shots of a topless Clorette after she unhooks her bra and passes out drunk. Later in the film, she admits that she is "only 13." By the time home video became widespread, some American obscenity laws forbade showing minors nude in sexual situations, "actual or depicted." The latter term was meant to describe illicit composite images, but could also be construed to mean acting. The actress was 18 at the time of filming, but when her character announced her age to be 13, a legally problematic situation arose and, as a result, her bare breasts are absent from nearly all home-use copies of the film.