Like Tiger Woods for golf or Elvis Presley for rock ‘n’ roll, National Lampoon’s Animal House single-handedly redefined the art of comedy and provided a quintessential model for future Hollywood projects. Following its release in 1978, Animal House spent eight weeks at box-office No. 1 and emerged as one of the highest grossing, most successful movie productions in the history of the entertainment business.
Today—and $600 million later—it remains one of the funniest movies to ever hit the big screen.
Fat, Drunk, and Stupid: The Inside Story Behind the Making of Animal House by producer Matty Simmons, recounts the film’s imperishable legacy.
“I wrote Fat, Drunk, and Stupid because I have constantly been amazed at the continued popularity of Animal House,” Simmons says. “People talk to me about it all the time, and I’ve always found it hard to believe that a movie released in 1978 would still be quoted and copied [today].”
Years before Animal House was even so much as a thought, Matty Simmons was living in New York City working as a press agent for local nightclubs and restaurants. However, as he details in the opening chapters of Fat, Drunk, and Stupid, it took but a few strokes of luck for his occupation to change and his career to flourish. From local press agent to company executive, he escalated up the professional hierarchy and eventually founded National Lampoon Inc., earning the title of CEO and propelling him ever closer to Animal House.
By 1975, Simmons had proven himself as a magazine, television, and Broadway musical producer. Despite Hollywood’s cruel and unpredictable reputation, he decided to embrace the challenges of the film industry, thus vowing never to allow the thought of failure to inhibit his vocational pursuit.
“Hollywood has a way of deflating egos. [However], it never entered my mind that I would remain a New York press agent forever,” Simmons remarked. “All my life, I’ve tried to reach up.”
Humorously appealing and utterly revealing, Fat, Drunk, and Stupid traipses through the development of Animal House and depicts how an unplanned trip through Hollywood resulted in one of the greatest American comedies of all time. Through personal stories and direct testimonies, Simmons reflects upon the days of production and engages his readers with on- and off-set humor from the Animal House undertaking. Complete with behind-the-scenes reports and exclusive cast and crew interviews, Fat, Drunk, and Stupid celebrates the success of Animal House with the unveiling of its incredible Hollywood saga.
Like all breakthroughs in filmmaking, Animal House experienced its share of difficulties and took time to evolve. In fact, as Simmons openly admits, the initial idea for Animal House received negative feedback and overwhelming disapproval from practiced Hollywood agents. Several networks and multiple Hollywood directors passed on the film’s script, and even when Universal Studios President Ned Tanen agreed to fund Animal House, he prefaced his proposal by saying, “I hate this treatment. … I’d never make this movie—except you’re the National Lampoon.” Thus, according to Simmons, the green light for production was offered somewhat unenthusiastically with Universal confining the crew to 32 filming days and $3 million in finances. However, with stories about luggage requirements and costume efficiency, Fat, Drunk, and Stupid explains how the Animal House team managed to overcome its financial concerns and turn a harshly criticized initial film script into an icon of the American cinema.
With the exception of John Belushi, Animal House cast members showed up on set with very little experience in the Hollywood spotlight. Many were struggling in the entertainment business, and some were even pursuing careers elsewhere. In Fat, Drunk, and Stupid, Simmons reveals the team’s recruiting tactics and explains the evaluation process he and director John Landis adopted to build their cast. He goes on to describe how well they interacted and how impressively they balanced work and fun, saying “It was Animal House during the day and a real-life animal house party room at night.” From fistfights to drunken romances and wild parties to harmless pranks, members of the Animal House team engaged in activities nearly as wild as those displayed in the movie, and Fat, Drunk, and Stupid recounts them all.
Because of the relationships that developed as a result of the Animal House production, many members of the cast and crew kept in touch and continue to meet at celebrations, awards ceremonies, and other social gatherings today. However, several members of the team have since passed away and Fat, Drunk, and Stupid honors them all, commemorating Belushi specifically with a special chapter tracing his illustrious career and recalling his wild, yet inspiring personality.
The legacy of Animal House extends far beyond Otter’s testimony or Bluto’s aggression against the guitarist, and despite an inauspicious start, sits perched atop the list of Bravo TV’s “100 Funniest Movies.” In what is Matty Simmons’ eighth book publication, Fat, Drunk, and Stupid rationalizes how a bunch of unknown actors came together to spearhead the movie production that will forever remain embedded in the culture of Hollywood and the roots of modern film comedy.