While horror icons like Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees were created in the ‘80s, one of the most famous werewolf movies was also released in that decade. John Landis may be recognized for his comedies like The Blues Brothers and National Lampoon’s Animal House, but the director is also respected in the horror genre thanks to An American Werewolf in London.
The film stars David Naughton and Griffin Dunne as two college students that are attacked by a werewolf while touring Britain. Landi's film is one of the most well-known werewolf movies ever made thanks to its unforgettable werewolf transformation scene, but other things about it might be unknown to even the biggest horror buffs. Here are 10 things you probably never knew about An American Werewolf in London.
10 It Was The First Film To Ever Win An Oscar For Best Make-Up
In recent years, films like Vice, Darkest Hour, and Suicide Squad won the Academy Award for Best Makeup and Hairstyling, but the category was actually created back in the ‘80s. The first person to win the award was Rick Baker for his work on An American Werewolf in London.
The film went up against the forgettable Heartbeeps, which had some interesting makeup from Stan Winston. In the years since then, the category has been a part of every Oscars ceremony and two films have even won Honorary Awards: 7 Faces Of Dr. Lao (1964) and Planet of the Apes (1968).
9 Dr. Pepper Commercials Helped David Naughton Win The Lead Role
Naughton acted prior to An American Werewolf in London, but his role as David Kessler was no doubt the biggest role of his career. Before this role, Naughton had small roles in TV series like Planet of the Apes and Makin’ It, but he was also known for being in Dr. Pepper commercials.
Previously, he appeared in commercials for the soft drink for four years, which he says helped him land his career-making role. Landis apparently hired him after one interview and Naughton revealed that it was because Landis had seen him in the Dr. Pepper commercials.
8 Naughton Was Actually In The Cage With Real Wolves
An American Werewolf in London is known for its incredible practical effects, but one scene used live wolves. After he transforms back into a human, David finds himself in a zoo's wolf exhibit. Real wolves were used and David Naughton was really naked.
The wolves were already fed, but that didn’t make the situation any less frightening. Although he wanted to get out of the cage quickly, he had to leave the cage slowly because the trainers told him to not make any sudden movements. The trainers were also female, which predictably made Naughton even more uncomfortable.
7 Naughton’s Mom And Dad Came With To The Premiere
Naughton was thirty years old when An American Werewolf in London premiered, but his parents still accompanied him to the opening. When asked for their opinion, they had a tough time answering.
He later explained, “Yeah, they got over it eventually, but it was the initial surprise of having your son involved on the screen. I couldn't even say if they liked the film or not. They were just in shock. I thought, well, that was successful then, we accomplished our mission.”
Griffin Dunne’s mother was also deeply disturbed, likely because she saw her son as a decomposing corpse throughout the film.
6 Rick Baker Passed Up Working With Steven Spielberg
Following the failure of his comedy 1941, Spielberg started working on a new alien film based on research done for Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Without reading a finished script for a film called Dark Skies, Baker created a monstrous design for the alien.
After getting sidetracked with Raiders of the Lost Ark, Spielberg returned to working on Dark Skies and wanted to make it more light-hearted. Irritated that his work was going to be thrown out and the fact that he was working on An American Werewolf in London, Baker passed on continuing with E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.
5 The Title Could Have Been An American Werewolf In Paris
While many movies film on location nowadays, it was tough for An American Werewolf in London to shoot in England. John Landis was able to get a work permit for himself, but it was tougher for Naughton and Dunne. The British Trade Union wanted Landis to hire two British actors for the lead roles, but Landis wanted Americans to play the American roles.
Naughton revealed that Landis considered titling the film An American Werewolf in Paris to avoid the red tape. Eventually that movie came to fruition, however Landis wasn’t involved with 1997's An American Werewolf in Paris.
4 Dan Aykroyd And John Belushi Almost Starred
Despite pushback from the British Equity, Naughton and Dunne starred in An American Werewolf in London, but that almost didn’t happen. Executives from PolyGram wanted Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi in the lead roles, but Landis wouldn’t go for it. Landis wanted to cast newer actors in his film, plus Aykroyd and Belushi were already busy filming the movie Neighbors.
Upon the film’s release, people thought the film would be a comedy given Landis’ previous work. Many were shocked when it turned out to be scary, which would have been even more shocking if Aykroyd and Belushi headlined it.
3 Michael Jackson Wanted Rick Baker For Thriller Because Of This Movie
While Landis was making a name for himself in the 80s, Michael Jackson had already become a superstar in the music industry. After Jackson saw An American Werewolf in London, he wanted Rick Baker to do the special effects for his music video Thriller.
The short included several zombies, which Baker created for the music video, but it was also directed by John Landis. Michael Jackson’s Thriller would mark Landis' first-ever directing gig for a music video, but would work with the King of Pop again in 1991 for the music video of the song Black or White.
2 John Landis And Rick Baker Both Have Cameos
Landis and Baker had their hands full with An American Werewolf in London, but they still found the time to cameo in the film. Landis appears towards the end as a man who is thrown through a window after being hit by a car.
Baker, on the other hand, has a more memorable role as one of the Nazi werewolves during David’s nightmare. He plays the Nazi werewolf who cuts David’s throat open. The two were some of the most important people to work on the movie, so it’s not that surprising that they were able to get bit roles.
1 Rick Baker Almost Worked on The Howling
For years, Landis talked about making An America Werewolf in London. Baker was always on board for the project, but at one point he got tired of waiting and decided to work on The Howling instead.
The director was reportedly furious that Baker had taken some ideas for his movie to The Howling, though Baker later gave in and worked on Landis’ picture instead. Rob Bottin took over for the special effects on The Howling, but a lot of the designs still looked incredibly similar to those used in Landis' werewolf feature.