It's possible the Blues Brothers duo really was "on a mission from God," considering everyone involved walked away from the 1980 movie alive. In addition to its music and comedy, The Blues Brothers will long be remembered for epic car chases inside shopping malls and a pileup of cop cars that once set a world record. Considering it's one of John Belushi's greatest films, it's not surprising the Blues Brothers behind the scenes were just as crazy as what audiences see on the screen.
Elwood and Jake Blues were created by Saturday Night Live alums Dan Aykroyd and Belushi, and after scoring a record contract, they decided to turn their characters' story into a movie. Comedy guru John Landis was asked to direct and big name music stars such as Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin were cast as characters in the film.
Despite all it had going for it, Belushi's drug problems and expensive non-CGI special effects almost sunk the film. It's remained one of the most beloved movies of the 1980s, inspired a sequel, and is responsible for House of Blues, but what filming The Blues Brothers was like was almost as horrifying as 300-car pileup.
John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd together made for a zany (if not frustrating) team, even going so far as stealing Nazi SS officer uniforms from the wardrobe department and taking a joyride down the freeway. However, it was Belushi's crazy, drug-fueled behavior that almost destroyed The Blues Brothers. He was known to frequently wander away from the set, and disappeared one night while filming in rural Illinois. Aykroyd set out to find him and noticed a nearby house with a light on. After knocking on the door, he was told Belushi had shown up at the house, raided the fridge, and then passed out on the couch. Aykroyd woke Belushi up and they returned to work as if nothing had happened.
According to Dan Aykroyd, there was "budget in the movie for cocaine for night shoots." Although he admitted to partaking occasionally, John Belushi's drug habit was one of the movie's biggest problems and it was inevitable that he and director John Landis would eventually come into conflict over it. Upon entering Belushi's trailer, Landis discovered a mound of cocaine on a table that rivaled the amounts seen in Scarface.
Realizing it would cost Belushi a lot of money, Landis flushed it and was about to leave when the actor returned and freaked out. After a short scuffle, Belushi broke down and the two hugged and cried together. This acted as a turning point during Blues Brothers' production since although they couldn't shut down the movie so Belushi could go to rehab and replacing him wasn't an option, filming went more smoothly after the confrontation.
Dan Aykroyd met Carrie Fisher on the set of Saturday Night Live when she appeared as a guest host in 1978, and they were reunited on the set of The Blues Brothers a few years later. She played the role of John Belushi's crazy girlfriend and he set her up in real life with Aykroyd. They began dating while they were filming and later Aykroyd saved Fisher's life when she was choking on a Brussels sprout. "He thought I was laughing, and then he saw that I was dying, and he did the Heimlich maneuver, and then like 10 minutes later he asked me to marry him, and I thought, 'I better marry him. What if that happens again?'" Fisher said. She and Aykroyd were engaged briefly until she decided to return to her former lover Paul Simon, whom she eventually married.
As big a drug problem as he had, John Belushi was aware it would kill him if he didn't do something to stop it. Most of his friends tried to help, such as Dan Aykroyd who once smashed a wristwatch as a violent metaphor for Belushi's downward spiral. Carrie Fisher was told by John Landis, "For God’s sake, if you see John doing drugs, stop him." Belushi was reluctant to enter rehab before the movie was finished and due to the unfortunate plentifulness of cocaine at the time, fans and unconcerned co-workers acted as suppliers.
"Every one of those guys wants to tell his friends, 'I did blow with Belushi,'" recalled Smokey Wendell, whom Belushi hired as a bodyguard of sorts to keep him away from drugs. Wendell was a former agent in the Secret Service and had helped The Eagles's Joe Walsh sober up. Having to watch Belushi like a hawk took a toll on Wendell and he eventually resigned. Although he was re-hired about a year later, Belushi died of an overdose before he was back on the job.