Happy Birthday Dan Akyroyd!!
Legendary actor Dan Aykroyd turns 63 today, and to celebrate the great man’s birthday, Movies.ie have gone through his extensive back catalogue, and pulled together our favourite of his movie roles…
31 years ago, GHOSTBUSTERS burst onto movie screens around the world, and audiences fell in love with Dr. Peter Venkman, Dr. Raymond Stantz, Dr. Egon Spengler and of course, the loveable Slimer. Aykroyd played Dr. Raymond Stantz who, along with his two friends, set up a ghost removal service in New York City, and found that evil was waiting for its chance to strike.
Although a lot of the dialogue for the film was adlibbed on set, Akyroyd wrote the film along with Harold Ramis and Rick Moranis in an uncredited role. As well as this, Aykroyd’s character was the one who thought of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man at a crucial juncture in the film, which Gozer the Gozerian, a Sumerian shape-shifting god of destruction brings to terrifying life.
Until the release of HOME ALONE in 1990, GHOSTBUSTERS held the title as the highest grossing comedy of all time, and there are currently two reboots in the works; one starring Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig, and the other with Channing Tatum on board. ‘Bustin’ makes me feel good!’ indeed!
The year before GHOSTBUSTERS, Akyroyd starred with Eddie Murphy in TRADING PLACES. This beloved 80s comedy was directed by John Landis and tells the story of an upper-class commodities broker and a homeless street hustler whose lives cross paths when they are unknowingly made part of an elaborate bet to see what would happen if the two were forced to trade places.
The film was originally set to star Richard Pryor and gene Wilder, but when Pryor dropped out and was replaced by Eddie Murphy, Murphy asked for Wilder to be replaced so it didn’t seem like Murphy was just trying to emulate the older actor. TRADING PLACES was praised at the time of its release and has since become one of the most iconic comedies of the 80s. The Westin Hotel in Philadelphia even has a restaurant named Winthorpe & Valentine after the main characters in the movie.
THE BLUES BROTHERS
Four years before GHOSTBUSTERS, and three years before TRADING PLACES Dan Akyroyd worked with director John Landis on THE BLUES BROTHERS, which the two adapted from the SNL sketch of the same name and co-wrote together. Also starring John Belushi, THE BLUES BROTHERS is the story of Jake and Elwood Blues, who try to redeem themselves from their criminal pasts by save the Catholic Orphanage they grew up in from foreclosure.
THE BLUES BROTHERS is a musical comedy, and features songs by singers James Brown, Cab Calloway, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, and John Lee Hooker. As well as this, John Wayne’s son Ethan worked as a stunt driver on the film, helping to create the film’s iconic chase sequences.
GROSSE POINTE BLANK
Professional assassin Martin Blank (John Cusack) is depressed, disenchanted and bored with his work. It doesn’t help that his rival Grocer (Dan Aykroyd) is trying to change the hitman business, making them all work together. After a botched hit, Blank finds himself convinced to go to his high school reunion, since it coincides with a hit in his hometown, and he decides to reconnect with his high school sweetheart.
Aykroyd does not have a leading role in GROSSE POINTE BLANK, but his character is pivotal to the plot of the film, and his final confrontation with John Cusack as Martin Blank is a hilarious, gun toting joy. The film also has a nice nod to GHOSTBUSTERS, as Aykroyd recites from the Book of Revelations during the shootout.
DRIVING MISS DAISY
Adapted from Alfred Uhry’s play of the same name, DRIVING MISS DAISY is the story of the friendship that grows between the elderly and cantankerous Miss Daisy (Jessica Tandy) and her driver Hoke Colburn (Morgan Freeman). The film explores race relations in 1940s America, and was incredibly well received by critics.
Dan Aykroyd has another small but pivotal role in DRIVING MISS DAISY; as Miss Daisy’s son Boolie. It is Boolie who hires Hoke to drive his mother, and so even though the film is essentially a two-hander between Freeman and Tandy, the entire film is set in motion by Aykroyd’s character… And Aykroyd rocks a fantastic Southern accent for the film!
Honourable mention to the camp and over the top treat that is MY STEPMOTHER IS AN ALIEN, also starring the very young Seth Green and Alyson Hannigan, and Harry Shearer as the voice of Carl Sagan.
Words: Brogen Hayes