During filming, Stephen Brown got separated from the vehicle caravan and drove the Bluesmobile 100 miles west on Interstate 80, to Spring Valley, Illinois. When he stopped at a gas station for directions, he was arrested by local police for no registration (the plate was a prop), and no valid driver's license. A telephone call was made to the production. The Set Director was more concerned with the return of the vehicle than with the return of his actor.
John Belushi disappeared while filming one of the night scenes. Dan Aykroyd looked around and saw a single house with its lights on. He went to the house and was prepared to identify himself, the movie, and that they were looking for Belushi. Before he could, the homeowner looked at him, smiled and said, "You're here for John Belushi, aren't you?" The homeowner told them Belushi had entered their house, asked if he could have a glass of milk and a sandwich, and then crashed on their couch. Situations like that prompted Aykroyd to affectionately dub Belushi "America's Guest".
A world record 103 cars were wrecked during filming. The Junkman (1982) broke the record 2 years later, wrecking 150 cars and a plane. That record held for 2 decades, until over 300 cars were wrecked during the filming of The Matrix Reloaded (2003).
Some performers were not used to lip-syncing to pre-recorded songs, standard procedure for movie musicals. James Brown ended up singing his number live with a recorded backing (the rest of his choir was lip-syncing). John Lee Hooker's performance of "Boom Boom" was recorded live at Chicago's Maxwell Street Market. Aretha Franklin's performance is cut together from many, many takes, using the parts where her lip-syncing was actually in sync.
After the concert, the State Troopers chase the Blues Brothers back to Chicago. The scene in which several troopers' cars crash off the highway embankment was filmed at a closed section of Illinois State Highway 53 in Palatine, Illinois. They had trouble getting the cars to flip over when they went down the embankment, so they dug a hole into the embankment to help the cars flip over as they hit it.
The Bluesmobile drove under the elevated train line at 118 mph. The film crew got permission to clear the street for two 100+ mph passes. Stunt pedestrians were added after the first pass, to add realism.
The scene in which Henry Gibson taunts the assembled counter protesters, and leads his men in a pledge of allegiance to Adolf Hitler, was taken almost word-for-word from The California Reich (1975). Gibson introduces his Nazi group as the "American Socialist White People's Party", the acronym of which, ASWPP, is a diminutive of "ass wipe."
When Carrie Fisher is in the hair salon doing her nails, and reading the instruction manual for the flamethrower, the three pictures on the table are Fisher's character and Jake Blues. In every picture, Jake is wearing his sunglasses and hat.
Producers rented the Dixie Square Mall in Harvey, Illinois, for the mall chase scenes. The mall had been closed for over a year. Rumors spread in the community that the mall was being refurbished, and would be reopened after filming was complete. Universal was later sued for over $87,000 for failure to "return the mall to its original condition", something that had never been agreed upon. After years of political wrangling, the Montgomery Ward anchor store and mall power plant were demolished, while the rest of the dead mall rotted. The rest of the mall was finally torn down and cleared away in 2012.
When recording the soundtrack, Cab Calloway was needed to record his hit "Minnie the Moocher" in better quality than his original album. When he came into the studio, he was prepared to do the disco version, which had just been released. The filmmakers asked for the original version, which Calloway reluctantly gave them.
According to Dan Aykroyd, cocaine was included in the film's budget, to help the cast and crew stay awake during night shoots. According to Aykroyd, John Belushi enjoyed it the most, and felt that it enhanced his performance.
Before the falling Pinto scene could be filmed, the filmmakers had to get an "Air UN-worthiness certificate" from the Federal Aviation Administration for the car. This was done by conducting preliminary drop tests, to ensure that it would drop "like a brick" when dropped from a great height.
Just before the Bluesmobile crashes through the Toys"R"Us, a man asks if they have a "Miss Piggy", while holding up a a stuffed Grover toy. This is a nod to the cameo appearance by Frank Oz, the man who provides both Muppets' voices. The man with the toy is Gary McLarty, the Stunt Coordinator of this film, and of Animal House (1978).
The Bluesmobile has a Sam & Dave 8-Track in it, and their music ("Hold On, I'm Comin'") is heard in the scenes before the mall chase sequence. Steve Cropper, one of the lead guitarists in The Blues Brothers Band, as well as bass player Donald "Duck" Dunn, were members of Booker T. & the M.G.s, the backing band for Stax Records. The band played with Sam & Dave on all of their Stax releases.
When Cab Calloway originally recorded "Minnie The Moocher" in the 1930s, the chorus lyrics were simply "Ho-dee-hody" rather than the lengthened "Hody-hody-hody ho". In an interview, Calloway explained that one time when he was singing the song, he suddenly forgot the words, so he immediately shouted "Hody-Hody-Hody-ho!", and carried on the song that way. That proved to be more popular with fans than the original, so he had been singing it that way ever since.
Singer and guitarist Joe Walsh can be seen during the "Jailhouse Rock" sequence at the end. He still had long hair and a long mustache at the time, and is the first prisoner to jump up on a table and start dancing.
Paul Shaffer was an original member of the Blues Brothers Band, and was supposed to be in the film. According to Shaffer's memoir, he was also working on Gilda Live (1980), and John Belushi fired him for being disloyal to the band.
Dan Aykroyd's script was originally titled "The Return of the Blues Brothers" and was three hundred twenty-four pages. It was intended to be a two-part film. John Landis spent three weeks paring the script down.
The Bluesmobile is a 1974 Dodge Monaco. The vehicles used in the film were used police cars purchased from the California Highway Patrol, and featured the "cop tires, cop suspension, and cop motor, a 440-cubic-inch plant" mentioned by Elwood in the film. A total of twelve Bluesmobiles were used in the movie, including one that was built just so it could fall apart. Several replicas have been built by collectors, but one original is known to exist, and is owned by the brother-in-law of Dan Aykroyd. Dodge Monacos from 1974-77, including the upscale Royal Monaco, especially those which came with the A38 police option, are now considered collector's items. They have been used as replica Chicago P.D. and Illinois State Police cars, including Bluesmobile tribute cars. This has led to the scarcity of this generation of Mopar C-bodies, leading some replica squad cars and Bluesmobiles to use the Plymouth Gran Fury or Chrysler Newport instead. Universal Studios Hollywood has a replica Bluesmobile on the lot; it's a 1974 Dodge Coronet, since the Monaco has became so rare.
According to Dan Aykroyd, many theaters in the American South refused to show the film, because they felt that there were too many African-Americans in it. Aykroyd believes the film would have done even better at the box-office, if not for the racism in the American South.
The Springfield High School class of 1980, from Akron, Ohio, had a surprise in their yearbook, personal behind-the-scenes photos, while in character, of John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd on the set of the film. This turned out to be courtesy of Belushi's uncle, who was the owner of a photography studio in the city. As a personal favor, both agreed to appear in the shots with the family members for the advertisement and school supporter section of the yearbook, with one of the pictures showing Belushi holding an antique camera with a sign on it which reads, "Look mean, but smile!"
At the end, after the Universal Studios logo is shown, there is an ad for Universal Studios in Hollywood. Below "When in Hollywood, visit Universal Studios", it says "Ask For Babs." The same appeared in National Lampoon's Animal House (1978) (Babs is the Animal House character Babs Jensen), and it reappeared in Blues Brothers 2000 (1998) underneath a new Universal Studios Hollywood logo at the end of that movie.
The receipt stamped by the tax assessor clerk (Steven Spielberg) is #6829, dated August 9, 1979, and correctly reflects that five thousand dollars cash for St. Helen of the Blessed Shroud Orphanage was received from "Jake & Elwood Blues", with an address of 1060 West Addison, Chicago, Illinois. The receipt is signed "R.J. Daley", a reference to Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley, for whom the plaza, through which they drove (with the Pablo Picasso sculpture), was named.
Before Jake and Elwood go into the Soul Food Café, John Lee Hooker gets into an argument with his band about his writing "Boom, Boom" (seen in the Extended Edition DVD). Later, as Jake and Elwood leave the diner with Matt Murphy and Blue Lou, the argument can still be heard going on in the background. If you look closely, as the camera tracks Blue Lou darting into the Bluesmobile, the argument has escalated into a fight.
The line "They broke my watch!" occurs three times in the film, each time spoken or voiced over by a policeman on the losing end of a car chase with the Blues Brothers. The first line is in the shopping mall, the second is in the rollover ditch, and the third is in the pile-up under the elevated train line. The broken watch theme starts when Jake's broken watch is returned to him when he is released from prison at the beginning of the film.
Most of the chase scenes had to be filmed twice. The first times, pedestrians had been cleared from the area for safety reasons. However, the lack of reference made the chases look fake, as if they had been sped-up. They were then filmed again, with extras, to give a frame of reference.
In a scene restored to the DVD release, Elwood parks the Bluesmobile in a tiny Chicago Transit Authority storage shed underneath a bank of transformers for the CTA trains. Dan Aykroyd had written this as part of an elaborate scene showing the Bluesmobile being "charged up" by the transformers to explain how the car could perform its impossible stunts. John Landis discarded the complicated explanations, saying, "It's just a magic car!"
Elwood removes his hat three times in the film: when going to sleep in his room, to break the window to get into the Palace Hotel, and towards the end of the movie, when the Bluesmobile falls apart. His sunglasses are removed once in the scene where he quits his job at the glue factory factory "to become a priest". Jake is seen without hat and sunglasses for the opening sequence in the prison, until he is given them by the corrections officer. His face is not seen at this time. Later, he removes his sunglasses once, when he is talking to Carrie Fisher, but never removes his hat. In the DVD and cable versions, Elwood doesn't wear sunglasses when he quits his job.
The scene in which the band appears in a sauna, clad only in towels, is an allusion to the cover photo on the 1973 Blood Sweat & Tears music album "No Sweat", in which the band appears in a sauna in identical pose. Lou Marini and Tom Malone, two of the Blues Brothers Band members, were also in BST and appear in both sauna scenes.
The exteriors and many interiors at Daley Center were shot on-location, including the shot of the Bluesmobile plowing through the courthouse lobby. In a 1998 interview for Universal, John Landis credited mob help, for getting permission from the Cook County Board of Commissioners for this (alluding to the Board being mob-controlled at that time).
When Jake and Elwood are stuck in traffic, backed up by Nazi marchers, they ask a cop what is going on, and he tells them, "Those bums won their court case, so they're marching today." Elwood scoffs, "Illinois Nazis", and Jake agrees, "I hate Illinois Nazis." This is a reference to a mid 1970s incident, in which the National Socialist (abbreviated in German as "Nazi") Party of America planned a public demonstration in Skokie, Illinois (the population of Skokie was not only heavily Jewish, but also contained an unusually large number of Holocaust survivors). After the local governments provided various impediments to the Nazis' march, they eventually took the matter to the Supreme Court, which led to a 1977 decision (National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie) in favor of the Nazis' First Amendment right to Freedom of Assembly. The group subsequently did hold several Nazi rallies, but in Chicago instead of Skokie.
In the original script, The Magictones were Mexican immigrants. Also, The Blues Brothers Band was scattered across three states. Among their new lives: Willie Hall, a.k.a. "Too Big", is a drug dealer, Steve Cropper, a.k.a. "The Colonel", is a pool shark-turned-Hutterite, and Donald Dunn, a.k.a. "Duck", and Lou Marini, a.k.a. "Blue", work in different parts of security.
While at the phone booth, Elwood asks Jake "Who you gonna call?" This same line became the tagline for Ghostbusters (1984), which Dan Aykroyd wrote, and in which he starred. Furthermore, the part of Peter Venkman was initially written with John Belushi in mind, though due to Belushi's untimely death, it went to Bill Murray instead.
When John Belushi wasn't on-set, he went everywhere in Chicago. When he did, everybody was slipping him vials and packets of coke. That was in addition to what he could procure, or have procured, for himself, often consumed in his trailer, or at the private bar on-set he had built for himself, his longtime friends, the cast, and any visiting celebrities. Carrie Fisher, who John Landis had warned to keep Belushi away from drugs if she could, said almost everyone who had a job there also dealt, and the patrons could (and did) score almost anything there.
The record label president who offers the Blues Brothers a recording contract identifies himself as representing "Clarion Records, the largest recording company on the eastern seaboard." There actually was a Clarion Records, a budget label that was only in operation for a couple of years in the 1960s. However, it was owned by what had become, by the time of the movie, one of the largest American record companies: Atlantic Records, which in real life was not only a renowned blues, R&B, and soul label (home of many of the artists mentioned or featured in the movie), but which also released the Blues Brothers' albums, including this film's soundtrack.
The scene where Jake and Elwood are sneaking out of the concert into the tunnel, was actually filmed underneath Chicago in a defunct electric narrow-gauge railway system. The railroad was used to carry coal, and freight its ashes out of town. Later, one of the tunnels under a river was breached, and the tunnels flooded, filling most of the basements in downtown Chicago with riverwater.
In the public restroom where the Good Ole Boys' front man discovers the graffiti, and advertisement for the Blues Brothers' show at the Palace Hotel, the name "Rick Baker" can be seen written in red to the right of the illustration of Jake and Elwood. Baker was the Special Make-up Effects Artist for John Landis' first feature film, Schlock (1973). Following the Blues Brothers, Landis called on Baker's talents once again for An American Werewolf in London (1981) and Michael Jackson's long-form music video Michael Jackson: Thriller (1983).
John Candy orders three orange whips. This line was not scripted; Candy just improvised. While also a cocktail, Orange Whip provided refreshments for the crew, and Costumer Sue Dugan was daughter of the Director of Sales for Orange Whip, Kenny Dugan, who asked the brand be mentioned in the film.
The popularity of the film boosted the Ray-Ban Wayfarer, which was yet experiencing some renewed popularity, thanks to the rise of the "New Music" movement. From a few thousand sold through the mid 1970s, sales rose to eighteen thousand during 1981, partly because of the film, bringing the model out from the verge of withdrawal.
Over five hundred extras were used for the next-to-last scene, the blockade of the building at Daley Center, including two hundred National Guardsmen, one state and city police officers, with fifteen horses for the mounted police (and three Sherman tanks, three helicopters, and three fire engines).
The original trailer for the film contains scenes that were not included in either the original release or the Extended Edition DVD. Among these is a scene in which Curtis asks the Brothers "How are you gonna get $5,000 in eleven days without ripping off somebody?"
The bridge, off which the Illinois Nazis drive, during the car chase, was in downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It was a ramp as part of an interchange that had not been fully developed. Later, that ramp was torn down and replaced.
In the basement of the orphanage, Elwood reminisces about his youth, thanking Curtis for "singin' Elmore James tunes, and blowin' the harp for us down here". The song playing at the time is "Shake Your Moneymaker", by Elmore James.
Since the Bluesmobile is an ex-police car, it has the "radio delete" plate installed in the instrument cluster above the heater controls where the radio should be installed, but Elwood has installed an 8-track player in the center air conditioning duct instead. The 8-track playing when they get pulled over before the mall chase is "The Best Of Sam & Dave" (Atlantic Records # ATL TP 8218.
The interior for the Blues Brothers' concert was the Hollywood Palladium. Audience members were recruited through radio station promotion. The exterior was Chicago's South Shore Country Club, located at 7059 South Shore Dr., which was later purchased by the city, and reopened as the South Shore Cultural Center.
When Jake Blues is being processed for release from prison, the guards tell the clerk that Blues is from the "Maximum Wing, Block Nine", a reference to a song recorded by the Blues Brothers called "Riot in Cell Block #9."
Right before shooting the final scene, which required him to do all sorts of on-stage acrobatics, while performing at the Hollywood Palladium in front of an audience of hundreds of extras, John Belushi tried out some kid's skateboard, and fell off and seriously injured his knee. Lew Wasserman, the head of Universal Pictures, called the top orthopedist in Los Angeles, and made him postpone his weekend until he could shoot Belushi up with enough anesthetics to get him through filming.
Prospects for a successful release, did not look good. Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi had left Saturday Night Live (1975) at the end of the previous season, reducing their bankability. Belushi's fame had taken a further hit after the commercial and critical failure of 1941 (1979) at the end of the year.
The "Palace Hotel Ballroom", where the band performs its climactic concert, was at the time of filming a country club, but later became the South Shore Cultural Center, named after the Chicago neighborhood where it is located. The interior concert scenes were filmed in the Hollywood Palladium.
Dixie Square Shopping Center was used to film the shopping center sequence. Merchandise was purchased wholesale to stock shelves and whatever was not destroyed was returned. The sequence involved three hundred collisions, involving one hundred twenty cars, of which sixty vehicles were destroyed.
Universal kept trying to get the filmmakers to replace the blues and soul stars with more contemporary, successful acts like Rose Royce. John Landis stuck to his guns, but because he did, some large theater chains refused to book it into theaters in white neighborhoods.
When the Bluesmobile crashes through the widow of the record store, a cardboard cut out of Robin Williams is visible, promoting his new album "Reality...What a Concept!" Williams was the last famous actor John Belushi talked to on March 5, 1982, the night of Belushi's fatal overdose.
The boat going under the bridge that Jake and Elwood jump at the beginning of the film is the W.W. Holloway. She was originally launched in 1906, laid up on Dec 7, 1981 and scrapped in 1986. In the movie, she is wearing the paint scheme of Oglebay-Norton, the last shipping company to operate her.
On all DVD and Blu-ray releases, the credits end differently than originally shown. Universal's late 70s and early 80s "Produced at Universal Studios, California USA" card is shown, followed by the "Ask for Babs" shot. Once the "Ask for Babs" shot fades out, the song ends, and so does the movie. In the original 1980 theater and VHS versions, an MPAA R-rating card comes before the Universal logo and Ask for Babs shot. The song ends once the Ask for Babs shot fades out, but the audience is heard cheering and rooting loudly over a black screen for thirty seconds before the movie officially ends. The DVD and Blu-ray releases edit out the end cheering.
When John Candy picks up his phone and says "Get me troopers Daniel and Mount ," it's an homage to Thom Daniel and Sean Mount, two Universal Pictures executives who pushed their bosses to let John Landis make Animal House several years earlier. Both interviewed on the Animal House "Double Secret Probation" edition of the DVD.
The motor home driven by The Good Ole Boys is referred to as a "Winnebago". However, it is a Southwind, approximately a 1978 model, manufactured by Fleetwood. Winnebago is a manufacturer of motor homes, but has nothing to do with the Southwind company.
One one occasion, John Landis went in to John Belushi's trailer and found a gigantic pile of coke on a table inside, which he flushed down the toilet. Belushi attacked him when he came back, Landis knocked him down with a single punch and Belushi collapsed into tears (Landis denies this ever happened).
Bob's Country Bunker was a set built for the film on the backlot of Universal Studios. It stood for a while after filming was done, and was visible on the backlot tour, but was then torn down. Also located on the lake that was in front of Bob's, was the house used in The Great Outdoors (1988), which also featured Dan Aykroyd and John Candy.
The production used six Ford Pintos, four of which were wrecked, and 12 specially outfitted Bluesmobiles. Before the Pinto could be dropped 1,400 feet (120 stories) in downtown Chicago, Chicago officials and the F.A.A. required filmmakers to test drop two Pintos.
The film quickly surpassed its original budget, and back in Los Angeles Lew Wasserman grew increasingly frustrated. He regularly confronted Ned Tanen, the executive in charge of production for Universal, in person over the costs. Sean Daniel, another studio executive, was not reassured when he came to Chicago and saw that the production had set up a special facility for the 70 cars used in the chase sequences. Filming there, which was supposed to have concluded in the middle of September, continued into late October.
The choice of Marquette Park as the location where Elwood drives the Bluesmobile across a lagoon bridge, disrupting the Nazi demonstration, with the iconic line "I hate Illinois Nazis", is no accident. The National Socialist Party of America, led by Frank Collin, marched at Marquette Park on July 9, 1978. Incidentally, a documentary film about this incident, Marquette Park II (1978), contains about five seconds of footage of a young Rahm Emanuel, elected mayor of Chicago on May 16, 2011, protesting against the Nazi march.
Universal had planned a gala Chicago premiere, but in May 1980, Universal president Ned Tanen said "Things threatened to get out of hand. Universal has decided instead to donate $50,000 to charities, chiefly orphanages in Chicago." The film opened in Chicago at the Chicago Theater and 15 other Chicago-area theaters and drive-ins.
Elwood's license number, B263-1655-2187, unfortunately isn't for someone by the name of Elwood Blues. By dissecting the license number, you can find out information about the holder. Birthdate: July 1, 1952 (Dan Aykroyd's birthday). Gender: Male. First Initial: D. Middle Initial: E. Last Name: Starts with a B, followed by a guttural or sibilant (C, G, J, K, Q, S, X, or Z), followed by a short liquid (R), followed by a dental (D or T). The driver's license number turns out to be what Dan Aykroyd's license number would be, if he had obtained an Illinois license, simply substituting the leading "A" with the "B" for "Blues"; thus the number shown in the film is a "hybrid", and is an invalid Illinois number. The book "Blues Brothers: Private" by Judith Jacklin (Judith Belushi-Pisano) gives Elwood's birthday as December 6, 1953. Therefore, Elwood's driver's license number should have been B420-2105-3347.
When riding up the elevator at the courthouse, near the end of the movie, to the eleventh floor, the camera shows the buttons. They go eleven then thirteen, whereas many buildings do not have a thirteenth floor.
The premise of the underlying plot was somewhat unrealistic. It would be unlikely that a church-owned orphanage would have to pay a property tax bill since, in Illinois, as in much of the rest of the world, property owned by religious groups and other not-for-profit organizations is tax exempt. However, while the script was being written, a legislative proposal to tax such property was under consideration.
While the band mixed its 1978 album "Briefcase Full of Blues", a live recording of concerts, John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, and Manager Bernie Brillstein outlined the concept of the movie to Universal Studio Executive Sean Daniel in a telephone call. Based on the popularity of Animal House (1978) and Saturday Night Live (1975), Daniel offered the duo a movie deal. By March 1979, Aykroyd had written a 324-page screenplay titled "The Return of the Blues Brothers." When John Landis came on board in Spring 1979, after dropping out of The Incredible Shrinking Woman (1981), he helped streamline the script to a workable length.
The dive hotel Elwood and Jake go to looks just like the hotel room that Kirk Douglas was in when he was running from the bad guys in The Fury (1978). The scenes in the movies were in Chicago and next to the El trains.
After Jake and Elwood leave Bob's Country Bunker, they pass a billboard advertising the movie See You Next Wednesday. (It also appears on the cinema sign behind where the Nazi Pinto crashes through the road.) This is an easter egg co-writer and director John Landis slips into all of his movies.
The first line of dialogue that Jake (John Belushi) says is "Well thank-you. The day I get out of prison my own brother picks me up...in a Police car! " is a subtle homage to legendary comedy double act, Laurel & Hardy. Belushi and Dan Ackroyd were both big fans of Laurel & Hardy as children and as this film is also about a comedy duo of underdogs with a musical inclination, Ackroyd added the line into the script and Belushi deliberately said it in the style of Oliver Hardy to acknowledge the influence.
During the car chase in the mall, Jake and Elwood drive through a formalwear shop. The reflection of an Oldsmobile dealership is visible, with the last 4 letters "A S T O". This is likely a reference to DePasto Oldsmobile from Animal House.
In the scene when Jake and Elwood are questioning Mrs. Tarantino in the whereabouts of the two members of their band. They way they do it is sort of a Dragnet spoof. Dan Akyroyd who played Elwood would later appear as Joe Friday in the 1987 comedy Dragnet.