Tales of a stunt driver in ‘The Blues Brothers’

Blues Brothers
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Forty years in the past, former Saturday Night time Stay stars John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd introduced considered one of their hottest SNL skits to the silver display screen: The Blues Brothers. The duo already had successful document, Briefcase Filled with Blues, protecting private rhythm and blues favorites as alter-ego characters “Joliet” Jake and Elwood Blues.

The movie has gone on to each fashionable and cult standing — and nonetheless feels simply as gritty and humorous 4 a long time later.

From the standpoint of a “automobile film,” it’s extra of a musical. From the standpoint of a “car-chase film,” it’s just about on track.

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The plot follows “Joliet” Jake Blues (Belushi), simply paroled from jail, who has been instructed to hunt redemption. Alongside together with his brother, Elwood (Ackroyd), they collect up their previous bandmates and attempt to increase $5,000 to save lots of the Catholic orphanage the place they grew up.

They go on a “Mission from God” and a musical journey that uncovered a brand new technology to a number of the best rhythm and blues musicians who ever lived: Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, John Lee Hooker, Chaka Kahn and Cab Callaway. Set in Chicago circa-1979, the movie’s backdrop exhibits the “Metropolis of Large Shoulders” in its uncooked city state.

” …and right here’s your receipt… click on, click on, click on…” | IMDB picture

The automobile stunts and epic last chase within the film concerned the crashing of greater than 60 studio-prepared automobiles. Most of them had been used up Chicago Police cruisers bought for between $200 and $400 every. On the time, it was a motion-picture document for such destruction – solely to be outdone by the sequel, Blues Brothers 2000, 20 years later.

Levy, The Last Open Road writer and notorious “trip mooch,” was on the set for 3 days as a stunt driver.

Two authors: Tom Stahler interviews Burt Levy in 2011 | Base Zero picture

“They didn’t wish to pay union stunt cash to all of the folks driving all these automobiles,” he mentioned. “I really heard about it from the man that owned Loeber Motors in Chicago. He mentioned, ‘I perceive they’re on the lookout for drivers. Are you able to advocate anyone?’

“I mentioned, effectively, you recognize the Midwest Council, a neighborhood racing membership and a few SCCA instructors is perhaps simply what they’re on the lookout for. They put the phrase out.”

Levy, clearly by no means one to show down a possibility to drive, significantly in one thing as attention-grabbing as this, threw his hat within the ring. However there was nonetheless a check.

“New Oldsmobiles are in early this yr…” On the Dixie Sq. Mall | IMDB picture

“I overlook how I did the appliance, however they mentioned, ‘yeah come on in’ and me and one other man drove there. A man I met and have become sort of pleasant with was an ex-California motocross racer named J.N. Roberts.”

After profitable quite a few AMA desert races and championships within the late 1960s and early 1970s, Roberts was mentored by legendary stuntman and Stunts Unlimited founder Hal Needham and have become a really in-demand stunt rider and driver. He was the stunt coordinator on the Blues Brothers.

“They gained’t catch us. We’re on a mission from God.” | IMDB picture

“We get to Dixie Sq. Mall (the setting for the film’s well-known indoor automobile chase, deserted for a lot of years) and at that time they hadn’t dolled it up in any respect for the film, so it was in horrible disrepair. They’d a few these crappy previous cop automobiles and also you get in it with the stunt coordinator — and I occur to get J.N. Robertson. He simply appeared bored. He had a newspaper on his lap and a half a sandwich,” Levy remembers.

“(Roberts) mentioned ‘OK I need you to do what I let you know to do once I let you know to do it. Don’t do something till I let you know to do it. Head off full pace towards that method.”

“The pavement is all sort of cracked concrete with the grass rising up between the cracks. At 50-60 miles an hour I might really feel the shake via the steering wheel and thru the chassis.

“Do you’ve gotten Miss Piggy?” | IMDB picture

“Now we’re going about 90 and I’m trying on the tree line on the edge car parking zone and it’s coming towards us. It’s not hazard time but, however then I begin to marvel if he’s going to say one thing. Should you watch for him to say ‘OK. Hit the brakes,’ you’re in. That was the check. I bear in mind there have been two guys from the MG Membership, they each had “rubber bumper” automobiles and string again driving gloves. They didn’t make the reduce.”

Levy simply received his large break in present enterprise!

“As soon as I made the reduce, I went all the way down to arrange an appointment to go all the way down to this constructing they purchased. It was a rat-infested, vacant manufacturing unit constructing on the Close to West facet. Then they fitted me for uniform and a cap and every part else and gave me a schedule.

“…and it’s women’ night time… tonight on the Palace Resort Ballroom…” | IMDB picture

“So (in keeping with the schedule) I received to get down there at 5 within the morning get the outfit on and I’ve to cowl the Mars lights with these little burlap sacks since you’re not allowed to drive via city with them on. Then we’d caravan over to that large lot the place the Eisenhower (expressway) dumps into downtown — an enormous grass lot — and also you sit in your ass. And then you definately sit in your ass some extra.

“In the meantime, the director, John Landis, would all the time stroll round trying dazed. He all the time wrapped one arm excessive of his head and scratched the alternative ear whereas he was considering.

Director John Landis units up a scene. Dan Ackroyd sits off to the suitable | IMDB picture

“We might wait for two to three hours after which they get a shot arrange. Then they might ship us off to Decrease Wacker Drive in a protracted line. After some time they realized by that time that I used to be prepared to slip the automobile round a little bit. So that they put me, for 2 of the pictures, second in line behind the precise stunt driver. They’d decrease the tire pressures on the again of his automobile so it could actually slide rather a lot after which forward of us can be the Bluesmobile. Within the Bluesmobile there have been two stunt guys dressed as much as appear like (Jake and Elwood).

“In addition they had this factor that was like a pickup truck with the Bluesmobile primarily the place the mattress can be, not even touching the bottom, and that’s the place they might do the pictures via the windshield the place you’d really see Belushi and Aykroyd with all of the automobiles chasing them. Once they weren’t in an precise shot you by no means noticed these guys. They’d go into their trailers and (makes a sniffing noise).”

Flying down Decrease Wacker Drive on the again of the digital camera truck. | IMDB picture

In 1980, the movie went $10 million over price range, costing Paramount $27.5 million (equal to roughly $85.5 million at the moment). There have been a myriad of causes: the high-profile stars; the frilly units, together with the defunct Dixie Sq. shopping center on the South Facet of Chicago that was outfitted then nearly destroyed from an indoor automobile chase (then abandoned by producers); and over 500 extras for the climax at Daley Middle. This included 200 Nationwide Guardsmen, 100 state and metropolis cops, with 15 horses, tanks, helicopters and hearth engines; then there was the forged’s cocaine use, however.

Levy recollects, “I believe one of many coolest issues had been the lunches. They introduced their very own catering from California. Everyone breaks for lunch besides whoever is organising the following shot and there’s roast duck, prime rib, chilly poached salmon — it was like a Highland Park Bar Mitzvah!

“Orange Whip? Orange Whip? Three Orange Whips!” The legendary John Sweet | IMDB picture

“The opposite cool factor was the digital camera automobile. It had really been constructed for the film Bullitt. They known as it the ‘Bullitt automobile.’ It was constructed by Max Balchowsky, the man that constructed the Previous Yeller automobiles. He took care of a number of automobiles and modified a number of automobiles for Hollywood folks.

“For the Bullitt automobile, he had taken a 427 Corvette chassis with the operating gear and every part. As you are able to do with Corvettes, he unbolted the entire physique after which he bolted a dune buggy physique on it after which put digital camera mounts throughout it elsewhere.

“I couldn’t imagine the one digital camera mount; it was like a cow catcher on the entrance. I imply it was low on the entrance of the automobile and there was a little bit fiberglass seat such as you would discover in an elementary classroom mounted on this tubular construction that they constructed with a stirrup.

“The cameraman sat with the mount proper between his legs and the stunt driver drove via Decrease Wacker at pace, lacking the concrete stanchions there by inches. I really went to him and I mentioned, ‘how do you do it?’ He says, ‘Simple. I simply by no means let my eye come up from the eyepieces. So long as I preserve it within the eyepiece, I’m in a film. I’m not in actual hazard.”

Levy had a number of enjoyable and was requested if he needed to movie some extra within the film. His good friend via racing, Mike, determined to remain on and requested why Levy didn’t wish to proceed?

“I’ve received to get again to work,” he replied. “I can’t stay on $38 a day.”

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