To prepare for their roles--and despite being warned against mixing with the students--the cast of the Deltas (except John Belushi, who was in New York City working on Saturday Night Live (1975)) accepted an invitation from some girls to a real frat party at the University of Oregon's SAE house. The real fraternity members treated them with hostility and a brawl ensued, started by James Widdoes when he threw a cup of beer at some drunk football players. Widdoes ended up losing a few teeth and Bruce McGill received a black eye. When Belushi returned to the set and learned of the fight, he had to be physically restrained from seeking revenge.
As this was Kevin Bacon's first role, when he went to the premier, 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.
According to John 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."
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.
The hole John Belushi makes in the wall with the guitar was the only physical damage incurred to the house during the entire production. Instead of repairing it, the fraternity placed a frame around the hole with an engraved brass tag to commemorate 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 dollars for his three days' work, he took the upfront payment. Had he taken the gross percentage, he would have been worth an additional three to four million dollars.
After firing the crew hairdresser (who wanted extra time off), John Landis took the core Delta actors to a local barber shop and asked the barber if he could do early 1960s-style haircuts. The man looked at the pictures and said it would be easy. He did all the actors' haircuts, one after another.
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.
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."
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--who eventually played Boon--was 29).
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 member Dan Aykroyd.
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 John Landis was unhappy with the dialogue written into the script.
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 this film to be filmed on the University of Oregon campus. However, he insisted that the college's name not be listed in the film's credits.
During interviews conducted for the 30th anniversary of this film, Karen Allen revealed some interesting trivia about her nude scene. 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 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 1963-65 in which the agency spent more than 2-1/2 years trying to "decode" the song, based on complaints by religious and conservative groups that "profanity and obscenity" aimed at teenagers 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.
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.
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 U.S. 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. John Landis cut the idea, because he felt the tone of the gag was wrong.
The Delta House actors partied together every night, but John Landis kept John Belushi separated from them, by lodging him and his wife, Judith Belushi-Pisano, in a house a few miles from the set. Belushi was a notorious partier, 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.
A sequel was planned that would take place during the 1969 Summer of Love and involve the Deltas reuniting for Otter's wedding. However, when More American Graffiti (1979) bombed at the box-office, Universal stalled the project. It was scrapped for good when John Belushi died in 1982.
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".
Producer Ivan Reitman's original choices for the roles of Boon and Otter were Bill Murray and Chevy Chase. However, John Landis did not think Chase was right for the part, and convinced him to star in Foul Play (1978) instead by telling him that it was an ensemble film. The role went to Tim Matheson, who later starred with Chase in Fletch (1985). Chase has said that he regrets not doing the film.
Professor Jennings bites an apple while lecturing about good and evil in John A. 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.
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 be toned down. Ramis also incorporated ideas from an earlier treatment he wrote titled "Freshman Year", based on his experiences in college.
The University of Oregon reluctantly allowed its campus to be used, and gave the crew thirty 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 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 1800s that was torn down in the mid-'80s. The sorority house's exterior is the real exterior of the Sigma Nu house that was used for the interior scenes.
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.
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.
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.
The bottle of whiskey that Bluto chugs was actually colored tea. This was part of keeping John 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.
Chris Miller based Pinto on himself as a Dartmouth sophomore, as "Pinto" had been his frat nickname, whereas he saw Boon (created initially by Harold Ramis) as an older and wiser version of himself. Dean Wormer was based (more or less) on Richard Nixon. "Flounder" was the frat nickname of a "Charles Laughton-like rich guy" from Tulsa who was nothing like the film's Flounder, aside from the drinking. Bluto was a pastiche of several fellow frats of Miller's, mostly three nicknamed "Alby", "Seal" and "Bags".
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.
John Landis had a budget of only 2.5 million dollars, so to cut costs, the movie was shot almost entirely on the University of Oregon campus in Eugene, 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.
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, who played Niedermeyer, 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 (Metcalf again). At the video's conclusion, the principal (played by Stephen Furst) sprays Metcalf in the face with seltzer water.
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, Boon, Hoover, Flounder, and Pinto) actually traveled up to the filming site a week early, at John Landis' request. He wanted the group to emotionally bond, so that their friendship would look genuine in the film.
During an A&E documentary on the 30th anniversary of the movie, it was revealed that when Bluto takes Charming Guy's guitar and smashes it, the scene was completely improvised from the script. The terrified reaction from the actors is genuine.
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.
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.
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!"
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.
There was a certain amount of friction between John Landis and the writers early on, because Landis was a high-school dropout 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 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.
The scene of a stressed-out Chip Diller screaming "All is well" at the parade has become something of an internet meme, used to satirize stubborn refusal to accept the facts of a wrong-headed policy or obviously deteriorating situation.
P.J. O'Rourke blames this movie for the decline and fall of the "National Lampoon" magazine. After the immense success of the movie at the box-office, various Hollywood studios and producers began to offer jobs to the best Lampoon writers. When they realized they could make much, much more money writing movie scripts, than writing for the Lampoon, they left for Hollywood. O'Rourke noted that many of the projects these writers worked on, never amounted to much, which hurt the writer's careers as much as the magazine.
The writers chose 1962 as the setting because they saw it as "the last innocent year . . . of America", and the homecoming parade that ends the film as occurring on November 21, 1963, the day before President Kennedy's assassination.
The film was inspired by co-writer Chris Miller's short stories in "National Lampoon", drawn from his experiences in the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity at Dartmouth (where he graduated in 1962). "Animal House" was the fraternity's real-life campus nickname, earned after an upper-class member shot a chicken from a second-floor window, as some fellow Adelphians chased it, with the intent to kill and eat it.
In the original script, Flounder and Sissy fall asleep during the toga party--another sign that Flounder wasn't cool. (The scene was apparently never shot, but one publicity still photo shows them snoozing on a couch.)
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.
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).
Among the marching bands performing in the parade scene is the Sheldon High School band (white and green uniforms) and the Churchill High School band (dark blue, red trim) of Eugene, Oregon. They each got one hundred dollars for their efforts.
Other than John Belushi's opening yell, the food fight was filmed in one shot, with the actors encouraged to fight for real. Flounder's groceries handling in the supermarket was another single shot. Stephen Furst deftly caught the many items John Landis and Tim Matheson threw at him, amazing Landis. By filming the long courtroom scene in one day, Landis won a bet with Ivan Reitman.
The original version of the movie was 175 minutes long. Among the scenes deleted were more with Bluto, including a scene where a dishwasher (played by John Landis) tries to stop him from eating all the food, and gets pulled across the table and thrown on the floor while Bluto says, "You don't fuck with the eagles unless you know how to fly" and an extended version of the scene where Bluto pours mustard on himself and starts singing "I Am the Mustard Man."
The clip where Otis Day and the Knights perform "Shout" has, for several years, been shown on the Autzen Stadium jumbotron immediately after the third quarter at every U of O home football game, with thousands of fans singing along.
Chris Miller based much of the story on his experience as a frat at Dartmouth College. Dartmouth's sister school is Mount Holyoke College, of whom Emily Dickinson is its most famous alumnus--thus the name "Emily Dickinson College" where Otter and his friends find their dates, though Bennington College was what Miller had in mind.
The actual house depicted as the Delta House was originally a residence in Eugene, the Dr. A.W. Patterson House. Around 1959, it was acquired by the Psi Deuteron chapter of Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity and was their chapter house until 1967, when the chapter was closed due to low membership. The house was sold and slid into disrepair, with the spacious porch removed and the lawn graveled over. At the time of the shooting, the Phi Kappa Psi and Sigma Nu fraternity houses sat next to the old Phi Sigma Kappa house. The interior of the Phi Kappa Psi house and the Sigma Nu house were used for many of the interior scenes, but the individual rooms were filmed on a soundstage. The Patterson house was demolished in 1986. The site is now occupied by Northwest Christian University's school of Education and Counseling. A large boulder placed to the west of the parking entrance displays a bronze plaque commemorating the Delta House location. The parade scene takes place in downtown Cottage Grove, Oregon on Main Street.
The film's budget was so small that during the 32 days of shooting in Eugene, John Landis had no trailer or office, and could not watch dailies for three weeks. His wife Deborah Nadoolman purchased most of the costumes at local thrift stores, and she and Judith Belushi-Pisano--John Belushi's wife--made the party togas.
John Landis and Bruce McGill staged a scene for reporters visiting the set where Landis pretended to be angry at Bruce for being difficult on the set. Landis grabbed a breakaway pitcher and smashed it over McGill's head. He fell to the ground, and pretended to be unconscious. The reporters were completely fooled, and when Landis asked McGill to get up, he refused to move.
Universal Pictures turned down composer Elmer Bernstein's repeated request for additional money to produce a stereophonic soundtrack. This film remains one of Bernstein's few movie scores to be produced originally on mono format.
John Landis said that he landed the director's job during post-production of The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977) after meeting with then studio executive Sean Daniel--later a producer on "Animal House"--who saw the first cut. Landis was unaware that it was his script doctor who suggested to Daniel, her then boyfriend, about hiring him for the job.
John Landis worked with John Belushi on his character, who "hardly had any dialogue". They decided that Bluto was a cross between Harpo Marx and the Cookie Monster. Despite Belushi's presence, he was considered a supporting actor, and Universal wanted another star.
When the film was released, John Landis, James Widdoes, and Karen Allen went on a national promotional tour. Universal Pictures spent about 4.5 million dollars promoting the film at selected college campuses, and helped students organize their own toga parties. One such party at the University of Maryland attracted some 2,000 people, while students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison tried for a crowd of 10,000 people, and a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Though Dean Wormer's power-grab through a "little known codicil" was meant to evoke Richard Nixon, it is not altogether clear that Wormer himself was based on any real person. Chris Miller once noted that "Nixon was Dean Wormer", but only as an emphatic contrast to his real-life dean at Dartmouth (Thaddeus Seymour) not being like Wormer at all. Regarding any other parallels with Nixon, it is worth noting that almost all the illegal activity depicted in the film is perpetrated by the Deltas.
The "Animal House" book was illustrated with pics from the various scenes. There were several inconsistencies between it and the film. Greg is played by two different actors, there are scenes of studying for mid-terms with Stork using a slide rule like a drawn pistol, D-Day reciting poetry to a skull, et cetera, and Bluto being a VP at GM, not a Senator. Another difference was that when Bluto was peeping through the sorority house windows, it was from a tree instead of a ladder.
After her scandalous tryst, Mrs. Wormer is packed off to "vacation" in Saratoga Springs, NY, presumably to "dry out". However this is almost certainly an inside joke by Chris Miller for his fellow Dartmouth alumni. In his recollections of college life that had earlier inspired the film, Miller writes of a row of whorehouses sometimes patronized by Dartmouth men in that city. But what this reveals about Mrs. Wormer's Saratoga Springs backstory can only be speculated on by those not in on the joke. (Babs' gossip to Greg at the hearing might be a clue: "I just bet it was that Eric Stratton!")
Donald Sutherland in a 1981 interview with the New York Times, stated that he disliked working with a director more than once, and that after making Fellini's Casanova (1976) with Federico Fellini, it would be five years before he would even go to dinner with him. John Landis must have been the exception to this rule, as he made Animal House (1978) and The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977) with him, within two years of each other.
One of the characters has a last name of Kroger (played by Tom Hulce), and is caught shoplifting at a supermarket by the clerk Clorette DePasto (Sarah Holcomb). Kroger is the name of a large grocery store chain in the Midwest.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
The movie concludes by describing each character's fate. Neidermeyer was "killed in Vietnam by his own troops." In John Landis' segment of Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), some soldiers are overheard expressing regret for killing Lieutenant Neidermeyer.
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.
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 thirteen." 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 eighteen at the time of filming, but when her character announced her age to be thirteen, a legally problematic situation arose and, as a result, her bare breasts are absent from early home-use copies of the film.