Toga! Toga! Toga! On the 40th anniversary of its premiere, here are some fun facts about Animal House that’ll bring you right back to your college days.
1. THE MOVIE WAS ORIGINALLY ABOUT CHARLES MANSON.
The first draft of the screenplay by Harold Ramis and Douglas Kenney was entitled Laser Orgy Girls, and was about the cult leader and murderer in high school. The script was immediately rejected.
2. THE FINAL SCRIPT WAS THE RESULT OF A THREE-MONTH BRAINSTORMING SESSION.
During a cram writing session, the writers all contributed stories about their Greek life hijinks: Chris Miller of his time in Alpha Delta Phi at Dartmouth, Ramis in Zeta Beta Tau at Washington University in St. Louis, Kenney in the Spee Club at Harvard, and producer Ivan Reitman in Delta Upsilon at McMaster University.
3. THE FILMMAKERS HAD OTHER ACTORS IN MIND FOR THE LEAD ROLES.
They originally wanted Dan Aykroyd to play D-Day, Brian Doyle-Murray to play Hoover, Bill Murray to play Boon, and Chevy Chase to play Otter.
4. CHRIS MILLER'S REAL FRATERNITY PLEDGE NAME FOUND ITS WAY INTO THE FILM.
His pledge name, like Thomas Hulce’s character's in the movie, was “Pinto.”
5. DOUGLAS KENNEY HAS A BACKGROUND ROLE AS A FRAT BOY.
He plays Stork, the Delta brother everyone thinks is “brain damaged.”
6. YOU CAN THANK DONALD SUTHERLAND FOR THE MOVIE'S CREATION.
Universal Studios only greenlit the movie because Sutherland, who was a recognizable star, signed on to appear as Professor Jennings.
7. IT MADE JOHN BELUSHI A STAR.
Belushi had appeared on SNL for three years, but Animal House was his big screen debut. During the film’s production, he shot the movie Monday through Wednesday and flew back to New York to do SNL Thursday through Saturday.
8. IT WAS KEVIN BACON'S FIRST MOVIE.
Bacon plays Omega pledge Chip Diller.
9. FABER COLLEGE IS ACTUALLY THE UNIVERSITY OF OREGON.
It was the only school that would let the production shoot on campus.
10. THE OREGON DEAN ACQUIESCED TO FILMING BECAUSE OF A PREVIOUS MISSED OPPORTUNITY.
Years earlier, he had rejected the offer to have the production of The Graduate shoot on campus. Not wanting to let another go at Hollywood pass him by, he approved the production without reading Animal House’s script. He gave them such carte blanche that his own office was used to film Dean Wormer’s office in the movie.
11. THE STUDIO DIDN'T LIKE JOHN LANDIS'S CHOICE OF COMPOSER.
Landis tapped composer Elmer Bernstein to do the score because Landis was childhood friends with Bernstein’s son. At that point his career, Bernstein was known for scoring epics like The Ten Commandments and serious dramas like To Kill a Mockingbird, so the studio was skeptical he’d be a good fit for a gross-out comedy. They were won over after Landis had Bernstein score the comedy as if it were one of his serious dramas, thus playing up the absurdity of what happens onscreen.
12. LIKE ANY GOOD FRAT, DELTA TAU CHI HAS A LATIN MOTTO.
Delta’s motto is “Ars Gratia Artis,” Latin for “Art for art’s sake.”
13. BELUSHI DIDN'T ACTUALLY CHUG A FIFTH OF JACK DANIELS.
Contrary to rumors, it was iced tea—and not real whiskey—in the bottle that Belushi chugs after Delta is expelled from campus.
14. OTIS DAY CHANGE HIS NAME TO HIS CHARACTER'S IN REAL LIFE.
Actor DeWayne Jessie played Otis Day, the leader of the band at the Dexter Lake Club, and legally changed his name to Otis Day after gaining popularity following the release of the movie. He still tours with the band Otis Day and the Knights to this day.
15. ANIMAL HOUSE SPAWNED A SHORT-LIVED TV SPINOFF IN 1979.
Delta House, which aired on ABC, was cancelled after three months. Ramis, Miller, and Kenney wrote the pilot episode, while the actors who play Dean Wormer, Flounder, D-Day, and Hoover all reprised their roles. The show also featured the television debut of Michelle Pfeiffer, who played “The Bombshell.”
In the summer of 1984, nerds were mainly perceived as guys who wore pocket protectors and had tape on their glasses. But in Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs was inventing the type of nerd culture we’re familiar with today. Decades later, nerds rule the world.
Revenge of the Nerds starred then-unknowns Anthony Edwards, Robert Carradine, Curtis Armstrong, James Cromwell, Larry B. Scott, John Goodman, and Timothy Busfield. In the movie, the jock-filled Alpha Beta fraternity bullies the geeks on the campus of Adams College, so to fight back, they form a frat chapter under black fraternity Lambda Lambda Lambda (Tri-Lambs), and take down the jocks. The movie’s plot and title come from a magazine article published around that time about Silicon Valley innovators—who just happened to be nerds.
The film, which was budgeted at $6 million, only opened on 364 screens (it eventually expanded to 877). Somehow the movie had legs and grossed $40,874,452 at the box office and ranked as the 16th highest-grossing film of 1984. It was successful enough to spawn three sequels, none of which were as popular as the original. To celebrate Revenge of the Nerds' 35th anniversary, here are some geeky facts about the underdog comedy.
1. Greek officials at the University of Arizona objected to the movie being filmed on their campus.
The movie filmed at the University of Arizona, and involved the college’s Greek system. The Greek officials didn’t want the movie to be another Animal House, so they threatened to halt production. “We meet with the sororities, and we’re worried we’re about to deal with a bunch of feminists who are pissed because this is a fairly sexist movie,” the film’s director, Jeff Kanew, told the Arizona Daily Star. “I just say to them, ‘Look, I have kids, and I’ll tell you now, I’d let them see this movie. It’s about the triumph of the underdog, not judging a book by its cover. This is a good movie.’” The filmmakers won, and the Greeks allowed them to film there.
2. The set was one big party.
Ted McGinley—who played Alpha Beta honcho Stan Gable—told The A.V. Club: “I was so embarrassed to say Revenge Of The Nerds.” Kanew cast him because he saw him on the cover of a Men of USC calendar, sold at the University of Arizona bookstore. His good looks attracted “hot girls” from the UofA campus to watch the dailies with the cast and crew. “They had beer and pizza and sandwiches,” McGinley said. “I mean, you just don’t do that on movie sets. It was just so much fun, and I thought, ‘It can’t be better than this!’”
3. Curtis Armstrong knew it would be a good movie, even though his character wasn't fully fleshed out.
Curtis Armstrong filmed Risky Business but then was unemployed for a year before he got Revenge of the Nerds. “You have to realize the character of Booger in the original script was non-existent almost,” Armstrong toldEntertainment Weekly. “What was there was just, ‘We’ve got b*sh!’ and ‘Mother’s little d**chebag’—those kinds of lines. I was looking at it and thinking, ‘How do I take this and even begin to make it likeable or accessible?’”
With its strong cast, writers, and director, Armstrong said, “It has to be a good movie. But I wasn’t sure how it was going to be taken as opposed to Risky Business, which was sort of an art-house-type movie. This was very much broader and very much cruder, but it had a message that went beyond sex jokes.”
4. The scenes between Booger and Takashi were improvised.
The actors would bring ideas to the director and vice versa, creating a lot of improvisation in the movie. In one scene, Booger and Takashi (Brian Tochi) engage in a friendly game of cards. But unbeknownst to Takashi, Booger tricks him. “We ran and got our cots, and Brian and I were next to each other,” Armstrong toldEntertainment Weekly. “It wasn’t planned that we would be next to each other. It just happened that way.”
The production asked the guys to “come up with something” for them to film. “We had nothing at all!” Armstrong said. “We went to the prop people, and they had a deck of cards. And that’s where that scene [and Booger’s whole bit about taking money from Takashi] came from. And they liked it so much that, every time Takashi and I were in the room together, we would have to come up with something else.”
5. Lambda Lambda Lambda exists in real life.
On January 15, 2006, the University of Connecticut founded the co-ed social fraternity. It’s “unaffiliated with Greek Life” and is “dedicated to the enjoyment and enrichment of pop culture and to the brotherhood of its members. Tri-Lambs does not discriminate based on race, gender, religion, class, ability, gender identity, or sexual orientation.”
6. Booger's belch came from a camel.
In one of the film's more memorable scenes, Booger and Ogre compete in a belching contest. Booger takes a swig of beer and lets out a robust seven-second belch and wins the contest. But the effects were added in post-production. “I can’t even belch on command,” Armstrong told USA Today. “If you said to me, ‘Can you belch now?' I couldn’t do it.”
To make up for Armstrong’s dearth of gas, “They wound up finding a recording of a camel having an orgasm,” Armstrong said. “They took this sound and blended it in with a human belch.”
7. Curtis Armstrong wrote a bio for Booger, but it turned out to be about himself.
Because his character wasn’t fully developed, Armstrong wrote a one-page bio for Booger. Years later he re-read the bio and realized he and Booger had similarities. “I’d basically retold my life as Booger without even being aware of it,” Armstrong toldEntertainment Weekly. “[One detail] was that [Booger] used nose-picking and belching as a defense mechanism because [he’s] insecure. Now, mind you, I did not pick my nose and belch because I was insecure. However, I was insecure growing up. I didn’t have dates or anything like that; I was not good around girls. But I had other ways of defending myself other than being crude and picking my nose. When I look at it now with some distance, I realize all I was doing was writing about myself.”
8. A Dallas test screening almost killed Revenge of the Nerds.
The film tested well in Las Vegas—an 85—but when the Fox executives took the movie to Dallas, the number dipped. “You’re gonna send us to Dallas to screen a movie that celebrates nerds and in which the black guys intimidate the white football players?!” director Kanew told the Arizona Daily Star. The movie scored in the 60s, which caused Fox to cut marketing for the film and only release it on 364 screens. “I don’t really understand what happened, but it hung around and grew and grew and grew,” Kanew said.
9. Poindexter was originally named after a prop guy.
When Timothy Busfield auditioned for the movie, his character didn’t have many lines, so he had to read Lamar’s lines. At the time, the character was named Lipschultz, after the prop guy. All that was written for the character description was “a violin-playing Henry Kissinger.”
“There was one line Lipschultz had in the original, but our prop guy was named Lipschultz, and he didn’t like the fact that there was a nerd named Lipschultz, so they changed it to Poindexter,” Busfield said during a San Francisco Sketchfest Nerdsreunion. Busfield found Poindexter’s costume at a thrift store and showed up to the audition with his hair parted, and danced to “Beat It.”
10. The sequel to Revenge of the Nerds afforded Anythony Edwards a pool.
Anthony Edwards told The A.V. Club that he didn’t want to appear in Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise, but acquiesced because the producers talked him into it. He’s hardly in the film, but the money he earned afforded him a simple luxury. “I ended up with a pool in my backyard that I called the Revenge of the Nerds II pool,” Edwards said. “Not that I’m complaining, but they seriously overpaid me for my weeks of work on the film, so I used it to put in a pool.”
11. A remake (thankfully) got shut down.
After two weeks of filming in the fall of 2006, a Revenge of the Nerds remake stopped production. Emory University in Atlanta pulled out of filming, but according to Variety, the real reason was because a Fox Atomic executive “was not completely satisfied with the dailies.” The cast included Adam Brody and Jenna Dewan.
12. Revenge of the Nerds pushed nerdom into the mainstream.
“I’m not going to say Revenge of the Nerds was responsible for everything in nerd culture, but I do think you could make an argument that that attitude began with the last scene in Revenge,” Armstrong told HuffPost. “The last scene—the scene I probably love above all in that movie—we’re at the pep rally and come out in front of everybody as nerds, and encourage these people of different generations to join them in their nerdness. I get teary thinking about it, and you could certainly make an argument that that was the beginning of embracing nerd culture by everybody.”
While rumors of The Office getting a reboot have been swirling around for years, the outlook on that happening any time soon doesn't look good. But a reunion episode might just be possible.
Ellie Kemper, who played Erin Hannon in the beloved series, recently stopped by Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen to dish about the sitcom and her thoughts on whether it might be making a return to the small screen: "I would love there to be a reboot, but I don't think there will be. So, that's a sad answer," Kemper admitted. "But maybe like a reunion episode? That would be fun."
E! News reports that Kemper isn’t the only cast member that wants to get the band back together. Jenna Fischer, who played Pam Beesly, also thinks a reunion episode would be a hit. “I think it's a great idea," Fischer said in 2018. "I would be honored to come back in any way that I'm able to.”
A key player in the series' success, however, is not so enthusiastic about the idea. Steve Carell, who played the infamous Michael Scott, doesn’t think a revival would be well-received. "The climate's different," Carell toldEsquire back in 2018. "I mean, the whole idea of that character, Michael Scott, so much of it was predicated on inappropriate behavior. I mean, he's certainly not a model boss. A lot of what is depicted on that show is completely wrong-minded. That's the point, you know? But I just don't know how that would fly now.”