Downplayed when it comes to the members of the Blues Brothers band. All the members are very well-known in the music industry and pretty much everyone in the world has come into contact with their work in some way, but if you hadn't seen the film you'd have no idea what they looked like. For example, Tom "Bones" Malone has worked as a sound technician, a composer, a studio musician and a producer. His resume has over 200 musicians and bands on it, including Aerosmith, Diana Ross, 50 Cent, and Frank Zappa, and the rest of the band has similar-looking resumes.
Backed By the Vatican: While not so during the production of the movie, in recent years they have admitted to finding it a good, religious movie.
The Character Died with Him: John Belushi as Jake Blues and Cab Calloway as Curtis. Possibly John Candy as Burton Mercer, too, although that one isn't confirmed. Fittingly, the sequel is dedicated to these three actors.
Dueling Shows: Came out the same day as Can't Stop The Music, the movie starring The Village People. If you don't know which one won that fight, you probably shouldn't be surfing the Internet unsupervised.
Fake American: Canadian-born Dan Aykroyd does a spot-on Chicago accent.
The band's lead guitarist and bassist in the first movie are none other than Steve Cropper and Donald "Duck" Dunn, two members of the Stax-Volt house band who did instrumental music as Booker T And The M Gs. The band backed (and in Cropper's case, often co-wrote material for) the likes of Otis Redding, Sam And Dave, Wilson Pickett, and many other pioneers of Memphis soul music whom the Blues Brothers covered and paid homage to through the film.
Product Placement: An extremely subtle one: John Candy's line asking for an Orange Whip. While also a cocktail,note One ounce rum, one ounce vodka, four ounces orange juice and two ounces cream, shaken and served over ice Orange Whip provided refreshments for the crew, and the costumer, Sue Dugan, was daughter of the director of sales for Orange Whip, Kenny Dugan, who asked the brand be mentioned in the film.
Troubled Production: While it's obvious from all the on-screen mayhem why the movie cost so much to make (they actually dropped the Ford Pinto from a mile up, requiring a special FAA permit), there were a lot of other issues that aren't obvious on screen, as this ''Vanity Fair'' article showed:
Universal won a close bidding war with Paramount for the project, and of course they were overjoyed to have John Belushi, coming off a year when he'd starred in both a top-grossing film and a top-rate TV show and had a number one single. But they didn't have a script. After an experienced writing partner was unable to help him, Aykroyd, who'd never even read a movie screenplay before, much less written one, took his time writing it. He delivered a 324-page monstrosity formatted more like free verse. Landis spent two weeks just cutting it down and converting it to something filmable.
The script was finished but the studio and the creative people hadn't settled on a budget. After the first month of filming in Chicago, where Landis kept Belushi under control and things went well, they finally saw it. "I think we've spent that much already," producer Robert K. Weiss half-joked when he saw that it was $17.5 million.
And then things went to hell. Belushi went everywhere in Chicago when he wasn't on set—and when he did, everybody was slipping him vials and packets of coke. That was in addition to what he could procure, or have procured for, himself, often consumed in his trailer or at the private bar on set he had built for himself, his longtime friends, the cast and any visiting celebrities. Carrie Fisher, who Landis had warned to keep Belushi away from drugs if she could, said almost everyone who had a job there also dealt, and the patrons could (and did) score almost anything there. Dan Aykroyd, who unlike Belushi or Fisher kept his use under control, says there was money in the budget set aside for coke for night shoots.
After Belushi's late nights partying, he'd either be really late for unit calls, tanking almost a whole day's worth of shooting, or only an hour or two late ... but then he'd go back to his trailer and sleep it off. One night, he wandered away from the set to a nearby house, where Aykroyd found him conked out on the couch after he'd raided the owner's fridge. On another, Landis went in to Belushi's trailer and found a gigantic pile of coke on a table inside, which he flushed down the toilet. Belushi attacked him when he came back, Landis knocked him down with a single punch and Belushi collapsed into tears.
Meanwhile, there was Executive Meddling to deal with. Fuming about the skyrocketing cost of the movie, Universal kept trying to get the filmmakers to replace the blues and soul stars like Aretha Franklin and Cab Calloway in the case with more contemporary, successful acts like Rose Royce. Landis stuck to his guns, but because he did, some large theater chains refused to book it into theaters in white neighborhoods.
The production returned to Los Angeles for the last month of shooting, already way behind schedule and over budget. Fortunately Belushi calmed down and got it done. But right before shooting the final scene, which required him to do all sorts of onstage acrobatics while performing at the LA Palladium in front of an audience of hundreds of extras, he tried out some kid's skateboard...and fell off and seriously injured his knee. Lewis Wasserman, president and CEO of Music Corporation of America, Universal's then parent company, called the top orthopedist in LA and made him postpone his weekend until he could shoot Belushi up with enough anesthetics to get him through filming
Fortunately the movie was a box-office smash that has since become a Cult Classic.
What Could Have Been: Dan Aykroyd's original script was said to have been over 300 pages long, roughly the size of a phone book, since in his zeal over writing his first official screenplay, he ended up writing not just a single film but two films - the first film and a sequel that he called The Return of the Blues Brothers which in at least one documentary he described as "the Bible of the Blues Brothers" containing various bits of back story on all the characters and where they came from, but it was deemed too long and thus was scaled back. A similar thing would happen with Aykroyd's other famous property, Ghostbusters.
The original script reportedly included special recruitment scenes for each band member. These scenes and many others cut from the original script are in the novelization of the film.
Legend has it that, as a gag, Aykroyd actually dressed up his first draft to look like a phone book when he turned it in.
Word Of God: The novel, which is based on the original screenplay (which bares only a slight resemblence to the final version), expands on some points, such as what Elwood was doing between Jake getting locked up and the beginning of the film (he worked in a aerosol can factory as a maintenence guy, which is how he got that glue can. In a deleted scene, in fact, he is shown working at the factory on the assembly line, before going to his boss's office to tell him that he's quitting to become a preacher).
The mall chase scene took place at Dixie Square Mall in Harvey, Illinois, a shopping mall in the Chicago suburb of Harvey that had already gone out of business in 1979 due to excessively high crime. The filmmakers set up fake storefronts within half of the mall (for instance, the Toys "R" Us seen in the film was actually a Walgreens). After filming finished, the building was left abandoned for thirty years before finally being demolished in 2012.
A number of residents of Harvey tried to sue John Landis for $75,000 for failing to make good on promises of reopening the Dixie Square Mall, which he never made. The suit was thrown out of court.