John Landis at the Blues Brothers 25th Anniversary
|Born||3 August 1950|
John Landis (born August 3, 1950 in Chicago) is an American movie actor, director, writer, and producer. Although he is mostly known for his influential comedies, Landis has also done many horror related projects.
His career began as a teenager, working as a mailboy at 20th Century Fox. He starred in Schlock (1976), which he also wrote and directed, and also directed The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977) and National Lampoon's Animal House (1978). In 1980, Landis directed The Blues Brothers (which he co-wrote with Dan Aykroyd) and then An American Werewolf in London, which he also wrote, in 1981. American Werewolf was perhaps Landis's most personal project, a film which he had been planning to make since 1969. Landis also directed the opening teaser and first segment of Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983). That same year saw another Landis-directed film, the Prince-And-The-Pauper style comedy Trading Places, starring Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy.
Landis also directed the classic Michael Jackson music videos "Thriller" and "Black or White".
During the filming of Twilight Zone, actor Vic Morrow was decapitated and two child extras, Myca Dinh Le and Renee Shin-Yi Chen, were killed by a helicopter. The parents of the children sued. At trial, prosecutors attempted to show that Landis was reckless and that he had violated laws relating to child actors by not telling their parents and others about the children's proximity to explosives and helicopters and the hours they could work. He was also accused of negligence in his directions to the crew regarding the use of the helicopter. Landis was acquitted.
Vic Morrow’s daughters, Carrie Morrow and actress Jennifer Jason Leigh, also sued and settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.
Because Landis's list of credits in the late 1970s and 1980s include so many beloved classics and crowd pleasers, many peers and film buffs consider him a comedy giant. However, the 1990s saw a string of box office and critical failures from which Landis's career has yet to recover. Beverly Hills Cop III, directed by Landis in 1994, scored a mere 9% positive rating at the Rotten Tomatoes website.
His more recent "00" era work has taken him in a much different direction. His episode of Masters of Horror, "Deer Woman" (co-written by his son, Max Landis) is more in line with his earlier, more well-received films, and Slasher is a scathing documentary detailing the life of a shady used car salesman whose humanity and failings are revealed along with fascinating aspects of the auto business.
One of Landis' trademarks is to insert references to a fictional film called See You Next Wednesday in movies he directs. The line is from Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey as the final goodbye from Frank Poole's parents on the video from them he is watching. Also, for the films he directed for Universal Pictures (Animal House, The Blues Brothers, An American Werewolf in London), there is the famous "Ask for Babs" promo (referring to the character, Babs, in Animal House) for Universal Studios Hollywood, shown at the end of the credits; of course, contrary to popular belief, there was no such promo and it was just an in-joke by Landis. Many of his films feature references to the Oldsmobile. In almost all of his films Landis includes cameo appearances from Muppeteer/film director Frank Oz. He considers Oz a good luck charm. Landis casts famous film directors in cameo appearances in almost all of his movies.
Several of Landis' film break the fourth wall. In Animal House, Bluto turns to the camera while peeking through the girls' window. In Trading Places, Billy Ray Valentine shares a glance with the audience while being patronized by the Duke brothers' explanation of commodities markets. In An American Werewolf in London, David stares for a moment into the camera during his first transformation.
Landis was played by Jon Snyder in the 1989 film version of Bob Woodward's book Wired: The Short Life and Fast Times of John Belushi.