The 1980 musical comedy The Blues Brothers is remembered as a raucous, over-the-top film featuring great musical numbers.
But behind the scenes, the making of The Blues Brothers was fueled by rampant cocaine use, with a staggering budget set aside just for the drug.
When The Blues Brothers went into production in 1979, cocaine was considered a recreational drug used openly in Hollywood.
With its star John Belushi struggling with addiction, the filmmakers took the unprecedented step of allocating a specific budget for cocaine to keep the actor happy and productive.
This seemingly flippant decision provides a snapshot into the widespread casual cocaine use that pervaded movie sets at the time.
However, it also highlighted the growing dangers of addiction and foreshadowed tragedy for the film’s talented star.
The Blues Brothers cocaine budget ultimately represents the height of Hollywood’s loose attitudes and dangerous enabling of drug abuse among its artists.
A Hollywood Norm?
One of the stars of “The Blues Brothers,” Dan Aykroyd, shed light on the movie’s notorious cocaine budget in an interview with The Daily Beast.
He revealed that during the filming, cocaine was used as “a little motivation” for the cast and crew, especially during the many late-night shoots.
Aykroyd mentioned that it was used for “rewards and for night stimulation.” He further added, “I would say that every other crew in the city did something similar,” suggesting that such practices might have been commonplace in Hollywood at the time.
The Cocaine Connection
The film’s association with drugs is no secret. Director John Landis once mentioned finding a mountain of cocaine in John Belushi’s trailer.
However, Aykroyd went into more detail in his recent chat. When questioned about the film’s cocaine budget, which was highlighted in a 2012 Vanity Fair feature, Aykroyd explained that drugs were just one of the “miscellaneous purses” in the budget.
He stated, “That was a time when cocaine was a currency in America. It still is. It was commonplace.”
During nighttime shoots, cocaine was used as a “reward” to keep the cast and crew alert and motivated. Aykroyd added, “At that time, people were using it. So, there was money set aside to get through the nights and a little reward at the end of the nights for our hardworking crew.”
Aykroyd insisted that “The Blues Brothers” was not the only film indulging in late-night drug use.
He mentioned, “Steve McQueen was shooting another film there, (The) Hunter. I bet they were buying from the same dealer.”
Belushi, the brashest and seemingly most out of control, was known for his drug habits. However, he wasn’t the only one with a connection to drugs on the set.
The Impact on Performance
Reflecting on the past, Aykroyd clarified that cocaine had no role in the exceptional performances of his co-stars.
He said, “I was not a user, but unfortunately, John succumbed to a cousin of it,” referring to Belushi, who tragically passed away from a drug overdose in 1982.
Aykroyd praised Belushi’s performance in the film, calling it “flawless” and emphasizing his gestures and overall presence in the movie.
“The Blues Brothers” remains a cinematic masterpiece, but the stories from behind the scenes provide a glimpse into the darker side of Hollywood during the 1980s.
While the film’s cocaine budget has been a topic of discussion for years, it’s essential to separate the art from the artists and appreciate the movie for the joy and entertainment it continues to bring to audiences worldwide.