The first day of filming saw 76 Chicago police cars racing across town in pursuit of the 1974 Dodge Monaco 440 known as The Bluesmobile. John Landis and his team filmed all the action scenes on Sundays and holidays during the early morning as that was when downtown was most vacant.
The original screenplay written by Aykroyd was entitled The Return of the Blues Brothers, and was a whopping 324 pages. It was also given the writing credit "Scriptatron GL-9000.”
Belushi put the film’s climactic concert scene, which sees Jake and Elwood performing dance moves, in jeopardy after picking up a serious knee injury. Ever the performer, he'd spotted a child riding a skateboard, asked to have a try and fell off it. A medical officer wrapped the knee and injected the star, who winced his way through the finale.
Originally a key part of the Blues Brothers Band, Paul Shaffer was fired before filming began. Belushi accused him of being ‘disloyal’ when he discovered Shaffer has been working on another project (Gilda Live). Shaffer is out,” read a memo written by Belushi. “He will never be a Blues Brother."
Not only did the film exceed its $17m budget by $10m during production, Universal were constantly told it wouldn't even be a success. Exhibitors warned that it was ‘a black movie and white people won’t see it’. The film went on to gross $115m, becoming one of Universal's biggest hits at the time and, naturally, a universally loved classic.
Belushi’s last film, 1941, was such a titanic flop that critics jokingly gave The Blues Brothers the working title 1942. which even inspired SNL writer Michael O’Donoghue to get in on the gag, distribute flyers which read John Belushi: Born 1949, Died 1941’.
Wondering how many cars were written-off during the crash-happy running time? 103. A world record at the time, later topped in 1998’s sequel Blues Brothers 2000 by one single car.
During one night filming around a deserted lot in Harvey, Illinois, Belushi, well known for his erratic and comical behaviour at the time, vanished from the cast and crew. Aykroyd, who often found himself looking after Belushi, went to the nearest house with lights on, asking the home owner for one of his actors. “Oh, you mean Belushi? He came in here an hour ago and raided my fridge. He’s asleep on my couch.”
Carrie Fisher might have had (crazed) eyes for Belushi on camera, but off set she and Aykroyd were a real-life couple, almost ending up getting engaged. According to the actress, Aykroyd even saved her life at one point, performing the Heimlich manoeuvre when she was choking on a Brussel Sprout.
Loved-up Aykroyd and Fisher were reportedly so close during the production that before Belushi filmed a kissing scene with Fisher, he walked around the set singing My Best Friend’s Girl. By twist of fate, Fisher guest-hosted the SNL episode the Blues Brothers first appeared in.
When the prison guards say that Jake Blues is from ‘Maximum Wing, Block Nine’ upon his release at the beginning of the film, it’s a direct reference to the previously released Blue Brothers’ song Riot in Cell Block 9.
Props to the prop handlers: there were 13 Bluesmobiles created for the film, each specially customized for very specific stunts. The most frequently used model had separate brakes on each tire, giving it even more control for spins where the stunt drivers needed it.
Look closely at the police radio on the Bluesmobile dash (unfortunately not visible in this photograph) and you may see that it has an Atlantic Records logo, also prominent on the band’s albums.
Unlike most musical movies, which heavily rely on lip-synching for the songs, some of the performers were uncomfortable with this and asked to sing live instead. James Brown was one such man, belting his tune out for real, as was John Lee Hooker when he performed at Chicago's Maxwell Street for a packed crowd.
The shopping mall famously wrecked by Jake and Elwood – not to mention the tailing fleet of Illinois State Police cars in hot pursuit – was the Dixie Mall in Harvey, Illinois. Completely empty, the film crew rebuilt it with 32 working stores which they promptly destroyed with glass-filled mayhem. John Landis couldn’t believe their luck when they found the 100-square-ft shopping centre. Oh, and the moustachioed state trooper who curses before his police car flips over? John Landis. And click here to see the LEGO version.