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‘Belushi’ director displays on the comic’s legacy: ‘His life was nothing if not advanced’

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John Belushi’s life story is the topic of the brand new Showtime documentary Belushi. (Photo: Richard McCaffrey/Courtesy of Showtime)John Belushi died of a drug overdose in 1982, however his comedian spirit lives on at any time when comedy lovers re-discover his work, whether or not it’s by way of basic episodes of Saturday Night Live or drive-in double payments of Animal House and The Blues Brothers. Contemporary viewings of the comic’s previous hits will also be a double-edged (samurai) sword, although. Even as you’re laughing at Belushi’s antics, you may also expertise a way of unhappiness as you discover indicators of the non-public demons that resulted in his early loss of life.“It’s tough to watch the moments in The Blues Brothers where you can see he’s not doing well,” admits R.J. Cutler, director of the brand new documentary, Belushi. “But he was also doing well for a lot of his life — a lot of the comedy you see in Animal House and Saturday Night Live was happening [without drugs]. I think you’re putting your finger on a great complexity, and his life was nothing if not complex.”Belushi performed Bluto Blutarsky within the 1978 comedy basic Animal House. (Photo: ©Universal/Courtesy Everett Collection)Premiering on Nov. 22 on Showtime, Belushi eschews standard-issue speaking head interviews for a collage of archival information footage, home films, classic scenes from the large and small display and new animated segments. All of this imagery is accompanied by the voices of Belushi’s household, mates and colleagues that had been preserved on tapes recorded by Tanner Colby, who printed the oral historical past Belushi: A Biography in 2005.Colby produced that e-book in collaboration with Belushi’s widow, Judith Belushi Pisano — one of many few folks that Cutler interviewed for the movie. “When I started working on the film, I wanted to get a sense of the stories that people had to tell,” he explains. “And I found most of what everyone had to say to be lost in the foggy haze of memory, as opposed to immediate and raw. It was like, ‘These are my stories about John Belushi that I’ve told 10,000 times. That’s not what I was looking for.”Fortunately for Cutler, Colby’s tapes had been full of the form of uncooked storytelling he knew would animate his documentary, whether or not it was Dan Aykroyd revisiting Belushi’s ultimate days or the late Carrie Fisher — who additionally famously wrestled with drug dependancy — discussing the excesses of the period in frank phrases. “The tapes had hundreds of hours of raw material. I was so struck by Jim Belushi talking about his big brother; so moved by Carrie Fisher’s insights into the nature of addiction; and so compelled by Dan speaking so beautifully about the nature of his relationship with John. It was all really, really exciting to me.”Story continuesCutler additionally drew on his personal childhood reminiscences of Belushi, who he remembers listening to for the primary time on the National Lampoon Radio Hour when he was 13 years previous. The future documentarian adopted the comic from Lampoon to SNL when it debuted in 1975. “Like so many others, my mind was blown,” he says of these not-ready-for-primetime early seasons of NBC’s late-night establishment. “I had never seen anything like it, and in the midst of it all was this guy, John Belushi. Everyone on the show was funny, but John was the kind of exposed wire that you couldn’t help but be attracted to, while also recognizing the danger in the anarchic spirit he represented.”But as we all know now, that anarchic spirit was fueled by an off-the-cuff drug behavior that grew more and more critical as Belushi’s star rose within the wake of Animal House’s blockbuster success. “I’m not saying anything particularly original here, but I think a lot of comedy comes from a place of pain, and finding ways to mitigate that pain is not uncommon,” Cutler says. “A lot of those guys were kids in the ‘60s when drug use was seen as recreational, and the implications for someone who was an addict were not completely understood. So recreational drug users who suffered from addiction didn’t necessarily know that they were setting themselves on a destructive path.”Belushi’s addictions got here to a head on The Blues Brothers, which celebrated its 40th anniversary over the summer time. Reflecting on the movie 4 many years later, Aykroyd instructed The Guardian that cocaine was omnipresent on the film’s Chicago set. “At the time, cocaine was a currency. For some of the crew working nights, it was almost like coffee. I never liked it myself but I wasn’t going to police others’ behavior,” he stated, including that the rampant drug use irritated the film’s director, John Landis. “Sometimes he didn’t know whether we were going to show up for work after the parties.”Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi in The Blues Brothers. (Photo: Universal/Courtesy Everett Collection)Landis is heard in Belushi commenting on the star’s off-screen habits. “There was a lot of indulgence and excess, even though John and Dan were at their peaks of life,” Cutler acknowledges. “The thing about John Belushi is that he was always reinventing himself, and trying something new. As a sketch comedian his greatest achievements were on SNL; as a comedic actor his greatest achievement was Animal House; and as a performance artist his greatest achievement were all the manifestations of the Blues Brothers.”As Cutler’s movie illustrates, Belushi did get clear within the wake of The Blues Brothers, and sought to reinvent himself once more, accepting more difficult roles in movies just like the darkly humorous Neighbors and the romantic comedy Continental Divide. But tough working experiences, adverse evaluations and Hollywood’s indifference to his ardour tasks contributed to the relapse that finally resulted in his deadly overdose. Asked the place he thinks Belushi’s profession may need gone had he lived, Cutler admits that he can’t predict what the comic’s present-day filmography would appear like. “People always ask ‘How would Wilt Chamberlin be if he was playing basketball today?’ Those are fun things to think about, but I’m not quite sure. I don’t know what John would be doing now.”Belushi’s legacy is arguably felt most strongly at SNL, which has seen quite a few Not Ready for Primetime Players anointed as the following John Belushi over the present’s 46 (and counting) seasons. And a few of these performers have maybe taken the comparability too far. Chris Farley famously felt a kinship with Belushi, and channeled each his onscreen anarchic spirit and his off-screen excesses. (Farley died of a drug overdose in 1997, fifteen years after Belushi’s passing.)“I don’t want to judge other people and what they may or may not have learned [from John],” Cutler says of performers like Farley. “I suspect their desire to see themselves in him is a desire to see themselves in one of the greatest comedic geniuses of all time. So I don’t think of this film as a corrective: The story we tell is a story about John, not about the lessons others may have taken from him. And John Belushi was John Belushi: a visionary who suffered from addiction at a time when the resources that are available now weren’t available. That’s what this film is about.”Belushi premieres Sunday, Nov. 22 at 9 p.m. on Showtime.Read extra from Yahoo Entertainment:

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