Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Just Make It 'Redeemably Funny' 'Animal House' Producer Tells Today's Comedies

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Just Make It 'Redeemably Funny' 'Animal House' Producer Tells Today's Comedies

Article excerpt

'Animal House' marks 35th year with tribute


TORONTO - When making a rowdy comedy, just make sure it's redeemably funny.

So goes the mantra of producer Matty Simmons, the co-founder of National Lampoon who also helped guide "National Lampoon's Animal House" to the big screen.

The 1978 frat comedy celebrates its 35th anniversary with a tribute at Toronto's TIFF Bell Lightbox on Thursday, where Simmons, director John Landis and Canadian producer Ivan Reitman will reunite to discuss the making of a comedy classic.

Ahead of the tribute, the 86-year-old Simmons chatted from Los Angeles about the film's rocky beginnings, its wild off-campus parties and the irredeemable humour of today.

The Canadian Press: This is yet another milestone for "Animal House." What do you think of the tribute?

Matty Simmons: We've had so many anniversaries, it's been so long. It's an amazing movie because the lifespan of the movie has been unprecedented -- there's almost no movie ever that's had the longevity of this movie. It still makes millions of dollars a year, it grosses millions of dollars a year in video and cable and foreign (sales), theatrical and everything else.

CP: It had a rocky start though, tell me about those early days.

Simmons: The chairman of the board at Warner Bros. film company said, "You're wasting your time, it'll never make a movie." And one way or the another I ended up at Universal and the head of the studio there hated it (but) finally said to me that because the Lampoon was so successful, "Well, we'll make this movie because of the name Lampoon. But can you make it for less than $3 million?" And I didn't have the slightest idea how much it would cost. And I was in his office and Ivan was with me and Ivan had made a couple of movies in Canada but the budgets were about $11. And I looked at Ivan and he shrugged and I turned to the head of the studio and I said "Absolutely, I guarantee it." And we made it for $2.8 million.

CP: I heard that Chevy Chase almost starred in the movie.

Simmons: Chevy had scored big on "Saturday Night Live" when we put "Animal House" together and he wanted to play Boon. …

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