Forty years after its release, National Lampoon’s “Animal House” is still regarded as one of the best comedies of all time and a quintessential movie for college-bound students.
The film, which originated from short stories published in National Lampoon magazine, sits tall at No. 36 on AFI’s Funniest Movies list and has been preserved in the National Film Registry.
‘ANIMAL HOUSE’ ACTOR STEPHEN FURST DIES AT AGE 62
However, nobody at the time realized what “Animal House,” which follows a group of rowdy fraternity brothers at the fictional Faber College in 1962, would become.
“[Universal] didn’t really want to make this movie,” Tim Matheson, who played Eric “Otter” Stratton, told Page Six in a recent interview. “Sean Daniel was the young studio exec at the time and he just kept hammering them on this. The studio offered it to, like, five other directors from John Schlesinger to just all the wrong people, and they all turned it down.”
Finally, John Landis signed on to direct the project. Harold Ramis and National Lampoon magazine writers Doug Kenney and Chris Miller originally wrote Matheson’s part for Chevy Chase, while D-Day was written for Dan Aykroyd and Bluto for John Belushi (who would go on to play the part). But Landis wasn’t interested in having an entire cast of “Saturday Night Live” members.
“The studio fought him long and hard on that and he prevailed,” said Matheson, 70. “They had a lunch with Chevy, and Landis kept saying all the wrong things [on purpose]. He said, ‘Oh Chevy, it will be just like ‘SNL.’ You’ll be one of 10 people in the movie and it’s an ensemble. Now, if you do [‘Foul Play’] with Goldie [Hawn], it’s just you and her and it won’t be as fun.’ Chevy walked out of there going, ‘I’m not doing that movie.’”
The hunt for a new Otter began, but the studio also wasn’t interested in having Matheson audition. Matheson said at that point in his career, following a stint on “Bonanza” and “The Quest,” he’d been typecast as a cowboy.