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12/10/2012 06:24 pm ET Updated Feb 09, 2013

Drugs, John Belushi, and the Making of The Blues Brothers

By Vanity Fair

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Image courtesy of Vanity Fair.

"We had a budget in the movie for cocaine for night shoots," Dan Aykroyd tells Vanity Fair contributing editor Ned Zeman of the careening, madcap production of John Landis's 1980 movie, The Blues Brothers, in which he starred alongside John Belushi. "Everyone did it, including me. Never to excess, and not ever to where I wanted to buy it or have it. [But] John, he just loved what it did. It sort of brought him alive at night -- that superpower feeling where you start to talk and converse and figure you can solve all the world's problems." From the impulsive and inspired 1979 movie pitch ("John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Blues Brothers, how about it?"), through the torturous journey of a project by turns musical, comedy, buddy movie, and bloated vanity proj­ect, Zeman chronicles the triumph of a film (and its stars) that often seemed beyond salvation.

In the feature, which appears in the January issue of V.F., Zeman uncovers the wild antics alternately plaguing and fueling the production:

"We took one look at each other. It was love at first sight." He tells Zeman that Belushi was "one of those people like Teddy Roosevelt or Mick Jagger. He was just one of those great charismatics who turned heads and dominated a room."

On Belushi's decision to put off going to rehab for his worsening addiction:

"I'm fine," Belushi told his wife Judy. "I can't stop now until I finish the movie. It'll be fine when it's over." For all the efforts of his friends and colleagues, Belushi was surrounded by enablers, according to Zeman, though Landis did his best to convert them: "For God's sake," he told Carrie Fisher when she arrived on set, "if you see John doing drugs, stop him."

On how bad it really was:

Zeman recounts how, one night at 3 ᴀ.ᴍ. while filming on a deserted lot in Harvey, Illinois, Belushi disappeared, which was not uncommon. On a hunch, Aykroyd followed a grassy path until he spied a house with a light on. "Uh, we're shooting a film over here," Aykroyd says he told the homeowner. "We're looking for one of our actors." The man replied, "Oh, you mean Belushi? He came in here an hour ago and raided my fridge. He's asleep on my couch." Aykroyd didn't call Belushi "America's Guest" for no reason. He awoke Belushi, saying, "We have to go back to work." The two walked back to the set as if nothing had happened.

For more from Ned Zeman on John Belushi and The Blues Brothers, visit VanityFair.com.

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