The Film That Killed Belushi The Film That Killed Belushi
Atuk has claimed the lives of several comedic actors such as John Belushi, John Candy and Chris Farley. But is it really cursed? The Film That Killed Belushi

John Belushi was 33 when he died of a drug overdose in a bungalow in Hollywood in March of 1982. In a short period of time in the late 70s, Belushi became a household name. Saturday Night Live would not have become the phenomena it did without the likes of him, Gilda Radner, Dan Aykroyd, and Chevy Chase. Belushi owned it in Animal House and The Blues Brothers and he was slated to co-star with Aykroyd in two movies: Spies Like Us and Ghostbusters – parts that ultimately went to Chevy Chase and Bill Murray, respectively. He had written his own screenplay (Noble Rot) with former SNL writer Don Novello and really could have been one of the biggest stars of the 1980s. Unfortunately, he read a “cursed” script called Atuk that has claimed the lives of at least five actors who have been attached to it.

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Okay, maybe it wasn’t the cursed script that did him in. Doing speedballs at the rate he did them at more than likely was the real cause. But Atuk remains a fascinating part of cinematic lore despite scriptwriter Tod Carroll’s insistence that his words aren’t killing the comedic actors who read the screenplay.

Atuk, the Inuit word for grandfather, is a yet-to-be-filmed screenplay adaptation of the novel The Incomparable Atuk by Mordecai Richler. The story revolves around an Inuit hunter who must learn to adapt to the culture of a big city and faces the challenges of greed and other vices. In the screenplay, the main character, which Belushi was set to play, is an Alaskan who moves to New York City. Months after reading the script, Belushi died.

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But the project didn’t die when Belushi did. Six years later, the film went into production with Sam Kinison in the lead. Kinison was difficult to work with and essentially tried to rewrite the script. After eight days of filming, Kinison quit the film. Four years later a drunk driver killed him in a head-on car accident.

The story still doesn’t end there. John Candy was the next actor who showed interest in the role. He died of a heart attack in 1994. A few years later, Chris Farley read the script. Belushi had been an idol of his and this would have been a great way to pay tribute to him. But Farley enjoyed food, cocaine and morphine and died of an overdose in 1997. In attendance at Farley’s funeral was one of his best friends, Phil Hartman. Hartman had read the Atuk script with Farley and was slated to have a co-starring role in the movie. Six months later, Hartman was shot and killed by his mentally unstable wife.

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Hollywood is not in shortage of films thought to be cursed. Films such as The Exorcist, Poltergeist, The Crow and The Omen all have some link to odd deaths and occurrences on the set thought to be the work of some unknown force. But while Atuk may stand out as the most curious of them, due to the magnitude of the stars who died and were associated with it, the film might be the easiest to explain. It all starts with the original casting of Belushi. He was a larger than life person in both personality and stature. If he was tied to the lead role it only makes sense that anyone else who would do the movie would have to be of a similar disposition. Guys like Kinison, Candy and Farley fit that bill so it makes sense they would all be approached about the role. And while Kinison was killed in an accident, he also had a penchant for eating, drinking and doing drugs. So it stands to reason he too could have met the same fate as the aforementioned actors attached to Atuk. Just saying, being overweight and addicted to cocaine does not come as a result of reading a screenplay. So while Atuk is an interesting footnote in film history it is probably not cursed. But let’s test out that theory. Does anyone have Michael Bay’s number handy?

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Dan Milcz

Dan is a co-host of the Movies and Stuff podcast found here on this great site. He's a father, husband, and lover of beer. His favorite film is Dr. Strangelove and favorite author is Kurt Vonnegut. Contact me via email: [email protected]

  • Stalkeye

    [email protected] anyone have Michael Bay’s number handy?
    I wasn’t surprised when I first heard of Kinison’s death (Karma for all those AIDS jokes, perhaps?) and like you said, if it wasn’t the accident, then obviously the drugs and his poor dieting habits would have done the fucker in.

    I was really shocked at the Death of Brandon Lee during the filming of The Crow. As a Bruce lee fan, that unfortunate incident hit me right in the gut and not to say that it was too much of an coincidence. A friend of mine still think it was the Triads. (??)

  • Stalkeye

    And took a Shit on the floor afterwards. That Pig wasn’t house trained, it seems.

  • Stalkeye

    Yup. Bluto was his only damn acclaim to fame.
    “I Might as well join the Fucking Peace corps”!
    That scene gets me everytime.

  • Stalkeye

    I also gotta give it to Thomas Hulce with that Devil/Angel scene.

  • Stalkeye
  • Stalkeye

    After witnessing some of Paul Blart-Mall Cop, yup it’s his turn at the bat.

  • Tarmac492.1

    I’m only 13. Try getting that shit to play.

  • Stalkeye

    Hulce’s character did the right thing but his Devil’s reaction was goddamn funny!!

  • Stalkeye
  • Orcus

    Meh. Maybe if alcohol was involved

  • Stalkeye

    And some Weed.

  • Orcus

    That would cost money, a paper bag is free

  • Stalkeye

    Orcus is right. Orrrrrr, you can just flip her around where you dont have to see her face…or what’s left of it.

  • Orcus

    “Oooooh, Orcus has sinned”
    Well…yeah

  • Tarmac492.1

    The original Paul Blart had something going for it in the first half, fat loser who has a kid loves him.vice versa trying to get him laid and he likes a chick out of his league–it had funny moments and was sweet and then it had to turn into a Die Hard ripoff. Sad.

  • You guys stay classy! 😉

  • Orcus

    Orcus not mentioned tapping that saggy ass and watching the pudding like ripples flap back and forth

  • I am glad you spared us with that description.

  • Orcus

    No worries. At least Orcus did not describe his barbed penis as a Weapon of Ass Destruction

  • Tarmac492.1

    She was from Massapequa. True story my 9th grade Earth Science Teacher was named Hahn. Nerd of Nerds the dude was. Awesome, awesome funny teacher who had crazy nerd humor. The news kept knocking on his door during the whole scandal and he was like, umm, no we are not related. Like if Stephen Hawking was related to Paris Hilton.

  • Stalkeye

    He took one for the team!

  • CurseofZodLovesMaude

    Impotent and paranoid! Give me more!

  • CurseofZodLovesMaude

    Nope. It got great write ups and turned a profit.