In 1976 the creators of National Lampoon, America’s most popular humor magazine, decided to make a movie. It would be set on a college campus in the 1960s, loosely based on the experiences of Lampoon writers Chris Miller and Harold Ramis and Lampoon editor Doug Kenney. They named it Animal House, in honor of Miller’s fraternity at Dartmouth, where the members had been nicknamed after animals.
Miller, Ramis, and Kenney wrote a film treatment that was rejected and ridiculed by Hollywood studios—until at last Universal Pictures agreed to produce the film, with a budget of $3 million.
A cast was assembled, made up almost completely of unknowns. Stephen Furst, who played Flounder, had been delivering pizzas. Kevin Bacon was a waiter in Manhattan when he was hired to play Chip. Chevy Chase was considered for the role of Otter, but it wound up going to the lesser-known Tim Matheson. John Belushi, for his unforgettable role as Bluto, made $40,000 (the movie’s highest-paid actor).
For four weeks in the fall of 1977, the actors and crew invaded the college town of Eugene, Oregon, forming their own sort of fraternity in the process. The hilarious, unforgettable movie they made wound up earning more than $600 million and became one of America’s most beloved comedy classics. It launched countless careers and paved the way for today’s comedies from directors such as Judd Apatow and Todd Phillips.
Bestselling author Matty Simmons was the founder of National Lampoon and the producer of Animal House. In Fat, Drunk, and Stupid, he draws from exclusive interviews with actors including Karen Allen, Kevin Bacon, Peter Riegert, and Mark Metcalf, director John Landis, fellow producer Ivan Reitman, and other key players—as well as behind-the-scenes photos—to tell the movie’s outrageous story, from its birth in the New York offices of the National Lampoonto writing a script, assembling the perfect cast, the wild weeks of filming, and, ultimately, to the film’s release and megasuccess.
This is a hilarious romp through one of the biggest grossing, most memorable, most frequently quoted, and most celebrated comedies of all time.
About Matty Simmons
Matty Simmons was the producer of Animal House and founder and CEO of National Lampoon. He has produced nine other films, including the Vacation series, collaborated with such well-known writers as John Hughes and Judd Apatow, been a newspaper reporter and press agent, and written eight books, including several bestsellers. He currently writes for Reader’s Digest and other publications. He lives in Los Angeles.
As the publisher of National Lampoon and co-producer of its first movie smash, Simmons (The Credit Card Catastrophe: The 20th Century Phenomenon That Changed the World, 1995, etc.) worked with a wide variety of funny people and writers. Unfortunately, in these pages there are too few of them and too much of Simmons, who frames his account with his early years “as a very young press agent in the 1950s” through his launching of magazines for Diner’s Club and Weight Watchers, and culminates in an afterword that begins: “So, Animal House made me a film producer and for three decades people have been asking me what a producer does. I will tell you.” The author mainly shows himself to be a master of hyperbole, bathing every aspect of the production in superlatives: “It became more than a movie. Animal House changed comedy”; “casting, particularly of the young Deltas and Omegas, was superior to any comedy movie before or after Animal House”; its screenplay was “the tightest 110 pages of writing I had seen before or I have seen since.” Throughout the book, Simmons provides too little revelation about the shooting itself or insight into the talent involved. Instead, the text is padded with excerpts from dozens of reviews, summaries of outtakes and accounts of what those who participated did before the movie and where their careers have gone since. – Kirkus Reviews
Book review: “Fat, Drunk, and Stupid,” by Matty Simmons
The Washington Post Book Review – April 20, 2012 (Excerpt)
This time of year, my campus is flooded with prospective students and their parents. The fellows tend toward sports jerseys and cargo shorts, while the ladies favor midriff-revealing tops, skintight jeans and heels.
I am, of course, talking about the dads and moms. As one who remembers a day when men appeared in public in suits and ties and women looked a lot more like Mamie Eisenhower than Kim Kardashian, I’ve watched Americans get younger and younger over the years, and now Matty Simmons’s one-of-a-kind book goes a long way toward telling us how that happened. Simmons was the co-producer with Ivan Reitman of the iconic movie that is the subject of this memoir, which makes him at least partly responsible for the world view that says that life, at its core, is really just one big keg party.
The march backward from staid adulthood to giddy youth began when Little Richard and Elvis invented the teenager, and it’s a commonplace that George Lucas made us all want to be kids again with the “Star Wars” series. What’s been missing up to this point is a close look at the years between, and while Simmons’s book isn’t a coast-to-coast survey of popular culture in the ’70s, it does offer a unique look at the one movie that, more than any other, told Americans it’s okay to access your inner frat boy. In fact, it’s recommended. [Read the full article...]
Food Fight! ‘Fat, Drunk, and Stupid,’ by Matty Simmons
The New York Times Book Review – June 1, 2012 (Excerpt)
The script proposal, about a bunch of destructive, degenerate fraternity louts (our heroes) who battle a Nixonian dean and his minions in the supposedly innocent early 1960s, was so raunchy that only one studio would touch it, and only if the budget was kept low and the shooting schedule brief. Almost everyone involved was a Hollywood neophyte. Somehow, those unpromising elements coalesced into one of the most successful and influential comedies ever made.
How did it happen? Matty Simmons, a co-producer of the 1978 megahit “National Lampoon’s Animal House” and longtime publisher of the magazine that spawned it, never quite answers that question. Nor does he quite put his finger on the movie’s enduring appeal, beyond the vague pronouncement that “the overarching moral of the screenplay was: There’s a lot of ‘bad’ in some of us and a little ‘bad’ in all of us.”
But he does have plenty of good stories to tell about how the movie was made, based on his own memories and those of others, and all are very entertaining, even if many have already been told elsewhere. And he does provide some clues. [Read the full article...]
THE BLEEDING HILLS A Novel by Wilfried F. Voss
I have fought a good fight,
I have finished my course,
I have kept the faith. - 2 Timothy iv. 7
The Irish War is officially a part of history, but not for Finnean Whelan, an IRA veteran of almost 40 years. British Intelligence has produced evidence that he is the mastermind behind a conspiracy to assassinate the First Minister of Northern Ireland. For Whelan this is not only a mission of revenge, but marks the beginning of a journey into the past and the return to the one true love: Ireland. [More...]
We are the only country that makes guns, including military-style assault weapons, available to anyone who wants to buy them. This is not freedom. It is a tyranny of death and destruction — a tyranny of which the National Rifle Association is proud. The Washington Post
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