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Fellowship of the Blues

2 Sep, 2005 By: Jessica Wolf

Director John Landis and music legend James Brown

Making The Blues Brothers 25 years ago was an energetic summer of fun, agreed the film's creators who gathered last week to celebrate the Aug. 30 DVD release of Universal Studios Home Entertainment's The Blues Brothers: 25th Anniversary.

Director John Landis, music legend James Brown, Blues Brothers musician Steve Cropper, actor Henry Gibson, former Universal VP Thom Mount and, via satellite, Dan Aykroyd, star and co-writer of the seminal musical comedy, were on hand in Hollywood to reminisce.

Hosted by Hollywood's Master Storytellers, the conversation was broadcast in 83 theaters across the country — including one in the home of the Blues Brothers, Chicago — through National CineMedia.

The stars revisited the Blues Brothers' roots as a performing act, opening for Steve Martin and Willie Nelson before becoming the classic “Saturday Night Live” sketch.

Aykroyd was quick to offer credit to Landis for cutting down the actor's original 300-page script for the film.

“Danny had basically written a 45-minute movie for every member of the band,” Landis joked.

Aykroyd hailed Cropper and the other “real” musicians who made up the meat of the music group as a big reason for the Blues Brothers' enduring popularity. Cropper still performs with the Blues Brothers band.

Part of the thrill of working on the movie, Landis and Aykroyd said — adding that the late blues lover John Belushi would wholeheartedly agree — was working with the R&B greats who pepper the film, including Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Cab Calloway, John Lee Hooker and James Brown.

Brown said he was at the time worried about his dance moves looking blasphemous in his preacher robes. The singer joked with Landis, recalling how the young director broke him in to the world of moviemaking and kept him on that track.

The musical comedy is also known for its extensive and outlandish car stunts. It still holds the record for the most cars destroyed for a single film.

Most of that can be attributed to Aykroyd, Landis said.

“There's a lot of Danny in Elwood,” Landis said. “He's a real leadfoot motorhead, too.”

Mount recalled his personal hell at the studio that summer as the Blues Brothers budget continued to escalate with costs for the elaborate stunts, attracting media attention.

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