Director John Landis hosted last week’s “The Wright Stuff II” festivities at the new Beverly Theater in West Hollywood introducing “American Graffiti” to a sold out crowd by reading and letter prepared by ringmaster Edgar Wright. Now that Landis is not directing the A-list blockbuster comedies he used to be known for, he would do well just touring the country charging admission to hear him tell his tales from a 30+ year career in the film trade. Here are a few random Landis (randis?) FunFacts revealed throughout the evening…
Joined by George Folsey Jr, Landis spoke of spending three and a half weeks writing inside the house in Martha’s Vinyard which was being shared by Spielberg and Dreyfuss during the Jaws shoot. Graffiti was in its re-release and Dreyfuss was basically getting any woman he wanted, according to Landis. Spielberg was naturally jealous, promoting him to approach Dreyfuss: “I’m the director! Why are you getting all the girls?!” Dreyfuss replied, “Steve, I have a 15 foot face!”
Landis spoke of how he first described the character of John Blutarsky to Belushi: “A cross between Harpo and The Cookie Monster. Total destruction but very sweet. John got it right away.”
On Mary Louise Weller’s (Mandy Pepperidge) nude scene: “It was the last time I had someone appear naked in one of my films without seeing what they look like first. She took that top off and it was like WHOA! I had never seen a pair of fake breasts before!”
On Harold Ramis: “He was mad at me. He wrote (Peter Riegert’s) role for himself. But I was like, Harold you look like you could be these kids’ father.” He went on to say that Ramis was not on set for most of the shoot as a result.
On how he convinced Chevy Chase from NOT appearing in the film: Landis explained that he was at a dinner and Chevy was deciding between doing Animal House and Foul Play. He told Chevy “If you do Foul Play, that’s like you’re Carey Grant. If you do my picture it’s just like SNL, where you’ll be competing against other comedians.” Chevy signed on to appear with Goldie right after.
On how he achieves the signature look of his comedies: “A 14 Lens up high.”
Perhaps most awesome of all his anecdotes was his Hitchcock story. When Landis was doing all his early comedies with Universal, he had the opportunity to eat lunch with Alfred Hitchcock himself “during the last three or four years of his life.” Landis told a tale of how Hitchcock was quite upset with a new Brian De Palma film being referred to as “Hitchcockian” and with De Palma’s lifting of shots from his films. Landis told Hitch, “It’s not copying, it’s more of an homage.” Hitchcock replied, “You mean FROMAGE.”
Landis took a shot at Todd Phillips (The Hangover director has been compared to the director in countless news stories over the years) – “Who is that guy who did Hangover? That guy – he copied shots right out of Animal House. You watch Animal House you’ll see he copies it shot for shot… now I know what Hitchcock was talking about.”
The Q&A went until approximately 1am, with Landis and Wright providing as many answers as fans had questions. When Wright was asked if he “lifted” Tim Matheson’s throwing the coat on the floor gag for Scott Pilgrim’s opening scene he said “maybe subconsciously – not deliberately – when I steal shit from John I admit it!”