The National Lampoon movies were some of the funniest comedies released in the ’80s and ’90s. The franchise chronicled the vacation adventures of the crazy Griswold family. But underneath the funny family facade, there were lots of things that happened behind the scenes. Here are surprising facts about the National Lampoon Vacation franchise that will have you rolling off your seat!
Why The Cast Actually Hated Walley World
In the first film National Lampoon’s Vacation, the destination that the Griswold family is continually trying to get to is Walley World Amusement Park. The hype around this park mimics the obsession with amusement parks like Disney World, Busch Gardens, and Universal Studios.
You’d think the cast would enjoy filming off-set at an amusement park, but it wasn’t an easy shoot! There were a lot of roller coaster shots that had to be done and redone, which caused the cast a bit of trouble. The family, including Chevy Chase and Anthony Michael Hall, actually found out the hard way that riding the rides make them upset to their stomachs.
They Were Sickened By It
Dana Barron also found out while filming that the rides made her so sick that she had to take motion sickness pills to make it through the scenes. At least their shots of fear are genuine!
In an interview, Barron said, “I had to go on it so many times that I had to take Dramamine. I also had to sit down on a bench and they had to film without me.” It’s a well-known fact that the Walley World scenes were actually filmed at Six Flags Magic Mountain in California, home to more extreme roller coasters than you would find at Disneyland.
Now People Are Sickened By Chevy Chase
On all of his movies, as well as his television appearances, many of his co stars have said that Chevy Chase is extremely picky and demanding on set. Chase is said to demand food and alcohol on set, and also to be a perfectionist when it comes to getting the scene right.
But more so than his demands, Chase is known to be a rather unpleasant person to work with in general. On the set of SNL, for example, Chase was known to make disrespectful comments towards women and even a cast member that was openly gay. He also famously got into a fist fight with Bill Murray.
One Of Many To Stick It To His Ego
Because Chevy Chase was notoriously hard to work with, it’s a surprise that people were ever willing to work with him at all. But around the time that National Lampoon’s Vacation was being made, we suppose that Chevy Chase’s ego wasn’t as inflated.
Apparently, there were times that he had to be put in check during filming. The scene in which the Griswold’s are leaving for their trip had to be reshot multiple times. With each new take, Chase was visibly getting more and more upset, eventually throwing a suitcase at director Harold Ramis. Ramis saw this coming, caught the suitcase,”[and] then I got really righteous and yelled at Chevy in front of everybody,” Ramis recalled in the DVD commentary.
Anthony Michael Hall Ditches The Family
Anthony Michael Hall plays the Griswold son, Rusty Griswold in the first installment of the National Lampoon series and franchise. John Hughes, who wrote the first National Lampoon Vacation installment thought that Hall was perfect, telling People in 1984, “For him to upstage Chevy, I thought, was a remarkable accomplishment for a 13-year-old kid.”
Hall would later star in two other John Hughes classics, The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles. Hall didn’t rejoin the cast because of money disputes over his contract and because he believed that if he took the role he would be typecast. Instead, he took a role in the film Weird Science.
But Weird Science Was Even Worse
Weird Science is definitely a cult classic film, but not in the way that Anthony Michael Hall wanted! Weird Science was widely a hit or miss for critics and movie audiences alike. Many people thought that it wasn’t one of John Hughes’s greatest films.
Although some jokes were funny, the plot overall was a little too ridiculous. Also, the film reinforced the idea that Anthony Michael Hall was only capable of playing the awkward teenager. His filming opportunities began to dwindle after that since movie studios mostly only saw him as the awkward, yet endearing teen.
Most Of These Movies Were Improvised
In Saturday Night Live and Chevy Chase fashion, most of the National Lampoon movies are ad-libbed or improvised. You can see an example of this in the first Vacation movie.
In the scene where Clark Griswold is pulled over by a highway patrol officer because the dog was attached to the back of the bumper, you can notice Chevy Chase and actor James Keach trying to stifle laughter through their lines. It is said that over half of the material that is used for National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation was created right on the spot by Chevy Chase.
She Was Too Nice For The Role
Actress Imogene Coca played the infamous Aunt Edna in the first movie, National Lampoon’s Vacation. If you recall, Aunt Edna is a rather unpleasant relative that tags along on the Griswolds’ family road trip. It actually took a lot of coaxing on the filmmakers’ parts to get Coca to play the role.
When she was first approached for the role, she was hesitant to sign on because she thought that the character’s lines were a bit abrasive and she had trouble coming to terms with playing such a mean character. Chevy Chase even once said that Coca “was one fo the sweetest ladies in the world.”
Dana Barron Was Cut Out
Since Anthony Michael Hall isn’t in the second Lampoon film, Dana Barron was also cut so that the casting looked purposeful. This is why Dana Hill is cast as Audrey and Jason Lively is cast as Rusty Griswold. The joke took off and no one missed Anthony Michael Hall!
The only person who was upset over this casting change, however, must have been Barron, who was dismayed to have been cut off from her on-screen family. Barron at least was able to reprise her role 20 years later in the television movie spin-off, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie’s Island Adventure.
Dana Hill Was Sick During Filming
Dana Hill, who plays Audrey Griswold, couldn’t film some of the scenes due to her battle with Type 1 Diabetes. During her nightmare scene in the film National Lampoon’s European Vacation, her character eats many sugary foods.
Hill was to be careful not to swallow any of the food because it was extremely life threatening. Hill was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at the age of ten and it changed her life. Her physical abilities were diminished and her growth was stunted, which was why she was able to play roles that were younger than she actually was. Later in her career, Hill fell into a diabetic coma that led to a stroke. She passed away in 1996 at the age of 32.
Filmed For Different Audiences
The first Vacation movie actually had to be shot a few different ways to account for cussing. In the DVD commentary, Ramis recalls that every time they shot a scene with foul language, they immediately reshot the scene sans bad words.
This was to account for the movie being broadcast on television, where virgin ears might get the wrong idea about what is and isn’t acceptable to utter in public. The scene in which Clark Griswold finally erupts and goes off on his family was shot three different times! But Ramis notes that nothing was better than letting Chase use all the cuss words he wanted.
It Wasn’t Supposed To End That Way
Warning, this next one is a spoiler! If you’ve seen the National Lampoon’s Vacation, then you know that the Griswolds finally arrive at Walley World only to discover that it is closed. The Griswolds then manage to hijack the park with the help of a security guard, played by John Candy.
But this wasn’t how the movie was supposed to end. In the original script, after the Griswolds discover that Walley World is closed, they drive to Roy Walley’s house and hold him hostage. This ending wasn’t received well by test audiences, who felt that the original ending cheated the movie of its primary goal.
Daisy Mabel Was Played By The Director’s Favorite
Daisy Mabel is a character in National Lampoon’s Vacation who was random, but also completely hilarious. Mabel is Cousin Eddie’s toothless daughter who is adorable, yet slightly terrifying. She was played by director Harold Ramis’ daughter Violet Ramis.
Daisy Mabel’s character is born without a tongue, which is why she’s generally silent throughout her parts in the film. It must have been an easy fix for Harold Ramis to ask his daughter to do it, especially if he wasn’t sure she was bound to act at the time. Although she has a few more acting credits to her name, she never really pursued acting in her later life.
Funnyman Harold Ramis Leads The Franchise
Harold Ramis signed on to direct the first movie, National Lampoon’s Vacation. The comedy director was a fine choice for the movie since Ramis was already known for his work as a comedian. Before that, he had already worked on other comedy classics.
In addition to writing the script for National Lampoon’s Animal House, Ramis also co-wrote Meatballs, starring Bill Murray. Murray became a close collaborator with Ramis and the two worked together on Caddyshack, which was Ramis’s directorial debut. Ramis declined to direct National Lampoon’s European Vacation because he was working on his next big hit, Ghostbusters.
Ramis Knows How To Admit When It’s Wrong
Harold Ramis worked extensively with Chevy Chase to rewrite John Hughes’ original short story, “Vacation ’58,” for the big screen. However, there are some parts of the movie that Ramis regrets having added.
Ramis has gone on record as saying, “This is probably the most politically incorrect sequence I’ve ever shot,” in reference to the scene where the Griswolds take a wrong exit and end up in the ghettos of St. Louis. Ramis says that he’s not sure he’d even include the scene if they were making the movie in the present day, saying that it “dehumanized everyone involved.”
Do You Know What A Griswold House Is?
It’s not every day that a movie has the power to really create a serious impact on American society. The term “Griswold House” now means to describe a home that has way too many Christmas lights and decorations on during the holidays.
This is taken from the movie National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. While many homes featured in Christmas movies are actual houses, the Griswold home in the second National Lampoon installment is just a house on a Waner Bros. backlot. The house has actually been altered for use in other films. If you wanted to recreate your own Griswold House, it would probably cost you a pretty penny in electricity bills.
The Earthquake No One Cared About
It’s not unusual for earthquakes to strike in California and this was just the case while they were filming National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. A minor earthquake wasn’t enough to postpone filming or even try to redo the shot since apparently the filmmakers just worked right on through it.
The earthquake can actually be seen in the movie if you look hard enough. In the scene where Aunt Bethany enters the Griswold home for the first time, there is a slight shake of the camera. This was when the earthquake happened and the fact that you see no reaction from the actors goes to show that they didn’t think anything of the earthquake either!
SNL Was A Huge Influence
Not only is Saturday Night Live’s brand of humor an inspiration for this movie, but many different Saturday Night Live actors appear in the films. Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Brian Doyle Murray, and of course Chevy Chase, all got their start on SNL before acting in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
John Candy also received $1 million dollars for his guest appearance in National Lampoon’s Vacation. Candy’s role as the Walley World security guard was abruptly added to replace the original ending of the first movie since test audiences didn’t respond well to the idea of holding the Walley World owner hostage and making him entertain the Griswolds after they discovered that the theme park was closed.
John Hughes’ Was The Inspiration
The inspiration for the films came from all different places, but the first two National Lampoon’s Vacation movies would not have been possible without the short stories of John Hughes, who would later go on to create other ’80s classics such as Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Sixteen Candles, and The Breakfast Club.
Hughes was working at as an advertising copywriter when he eventually contributed work to the National Lampoon comedy magazine. His two most popular short stories to have been published are “Vacation ’58” and “Christmas ’59,” which inspired National Lampoon’s Vacation and Christmas Vacation, respectively.
But He Was Not A Fan Of Sequels
Although John Hughes provided the inspiration and wrote the screenplay for National Lampoon’s Vacation, he wasn’t too keen on any sequels that were obviously bound to happen following the first movie’s success. The only other Vacation movie that he had a hand in making major contributions to was the third one, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
Hughes has said in an interview, “[The] studio came to me and begged for another one, and I only agreed because I had a good story to base it on. But those movies have become a little more than Chevy Chase vehicles at this stage.” He goes on to say that people think he’s responsible for the turns that the Vacation franchise took, although he was only really involved in two of them.
The Origins Of National Lampoon
As you know by now, National Lampoon is a significant moniker in the Vacation movie franchise. But there are no significant references to it in the actual movies. So where does National Lampoon come from? Well, National Lampoon is an American humor magazine that was popular during the ’70s and ’80s.
The magazine featured many comedic articles and stories that often served as inspiration for a film. The National Lampoon films are actually spin-offs of the magazine, the first one being 1978’s National Lampoon’s Animal House. But don’t be mistaken, Animal House really has nothing to do with the Vacation movies.
They Are Their Own Entity
After the enormous success of Animal House, there was a desire to create another success using a story from National Lampoon. Thus, they were drawn to John Hughes’ “Vacation ’58,” which was published in a 1979 issue of the magazine.
National Lampoon’s Vacation was a huge success and only took off from there, spawning National Lampoon’s European Vacation and Christmas Vacation, respectively. The fourth and fifth movies, Vegas Vacation (1997) and Vacation (2015) are the only films in the Vacation franchise to not be attached to the National Lampoon name.
Chevy Chase Kept The Props
In the DVD commentary in 2002, Chevy Chase states that he kept many of the props that he liked. He states that he kept the complete, “Pig In A Poke” pig costume, and the Walley World sweatshirt that he wears throughout all three movies. A lot of the times he kept the props or wardrobe simply because it was his own stuff. That’s right, Chevy Chase would often wear his own clothes and bring his own props while filming the Vacation movies.
For European Vacation, Chevy Chase wore much of his own clothes for Clark Griswold’s wardrobe and he even brought his own camcorder from home for Clark Griswold to use in the movie.
Chevy Chase and Amy Heckerling Hated Each Other!
It’s not surprising that sometimes coworkers don’t get along, but these two really did not get along. Amy Heckerling, who directed Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Clueless, was also the director for the film National Lampoon’s European Vacation and was said to be extremely demanding when it came to the cast—but it’s no secret that Chevy Chase was the same way, which is why they butted heads.
In an interview with Flavorwire, Heckerling recalled what it was like to work with Chase: “It was not a marriage made in heaven… I was not very happy. It sort of inspired me to want to stay home and write. I couldn’t go on the set unless I know I had in my hand a physical ticket to New York, so that I could just go at any time.
There Was Supposed To Be An Australian Vacation
After the immediate success of European Vacation, Chevy Chase and Eric Idle began to draft some ideas for the upcoming National Lampoon’s Australian Vacation. Apart from some kangaroo and shark jokes, there wasn’t much material for the film and they put off filming. More recently, there were also rumors that Chevy Chase had worked up an entirely new script for a new Vacation movie.
He told Collider in 2011, “I’ve written an idea that would be basically like a ‘Swiss Family Griswold.’ There’s a cruise, there’s a fire on the ship, we think the whole ship’s on fire and we jump—it’s just a little fire—and we end up on an island where we meet Randy somewhere who’s been left there from an old Survivor series.
Chevy Chase Loves The Chicago Bears
Chevy Chase, who plays the father character Clark Griswold in the National Lampoon series, wanted his character to seem like the total dad dweeb. This includes being a huge, overzealous football fan.
Chevy Chase’s character throughout all three movies in the franchise wears the same navy Chicago Bears hat. The fact that the Griswolds are from Chicago and Chase makes it a point to wear the Bears hat in all four movies implies that Clark Griswold is your typical dad. Dads are usually very loyal to their city and their teams!
Chevy Chase’s Skyrocketed Career
Chevy Chase, back in the eighties was one of the biggest comedic stars and writers. Chase first got his start on the hit show Saturday Night Live and was its biggest stand-out actor. He was actually noticed by Lorne Michaels while they were both in line for a Monty Python show.
Michaels hired Chase as a writer for SNL for one year, but in that time Chase convinced Michaels to let him appear on the show. After he suddenly broke his contract and left the show, Chase went on to star in other hits like Caddyshack, Deal of The Century, and the National Lampoon Vacation franchise.
What He’s Up To Today
After the peak of his career in the ’80s, Chevy Chase’s star power began to dwindle. He turned down a lot of major roles (Forrest Gump and The Santa Clause, to name a couple) and missed out on a lot of opportunities to revamp his career after a lot of unsuccessful films throughout the ’80s and ’90s.
Most recently, Chevy Chase makes cameos as himself, but also has been seen in a recurring role on the show Community, where he plays the senile Pierce Hawthorne, a moist-towelette tycoon. He also had an appearance in 2015’s Vacation, a reboot of the National Lampoon Vacation franchise, in which he reprised his role as Clark Griswold.
Randy Quaid as Cousin Eddie
Another former SNL cast member played a memorable role in the Vacation films. Actor Randy Quaid portrays Cousin Eddie in National Lampoon’s Vacation and Christmas Vacation. Quaid even led his own Vacation movie with the made-for-television spin-off, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie’s Island Adventure.
If you’re a huge fan of Cousin Eddie, then you probably remember his signature tongue clicks throughout the first Vacation movie. Quaid reportedly based this characteristic on a guy he knew from high school and was deliberate about where in the script he would include the sound.
He’s Actually An Acclaimed Actor
Not only is this guy hysterical as Cousin Eddie, but he is also an extremely talented actor. One of his first big breaks came in 1973 when he starred as a convicted Navy Sailor on his way to prison in The Last Detail. For that role, Quaid was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor, and the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.
Quaid’s acting talents were fully recognized by 1987 when he won the Golden Globe for his role as President Lyndon B. Johnson in LBJ: The Early Years.
People Still Regard Him As Cousin Eddie
Even though Randy Quaid’s performance as Cousin Eddie has since become a thing of the past, this niche role is something that fans still recognize him for. He has told the Los Angeles Times in 1989, “I did the first movie six or seven years ago, and I was amazed… People still come up to me and quote lines from that part. I get a lot of recognition from that role—probably as much, if not more, than any other.”
Despite Quaid’s ability to play serious roles, it’s funny that this role is the one that he is the most known for. At least he wasn’t typecast for it!
Beverly D’Angelo’s Career Breakthrough
Beverly D’Angelo already made a name for herself as an actress with hits like Hair and Annie Hall, but her career breakthrough came with National Lampoon’s Vacation, in which she played matriarch Ellen Griswold. She says that she initially didn’t think the movie would take off and was surprised when it actually did.
She told AV Club, “It was kind of conceived as being a successful movie, but along the lines that Animal House was successful. But this was mainstream and everybody was like, ‘I’m just like Ellen.’ ‘Oh, my husband’s like Clark.’ And I thought it would go away. It never went away, and to this day, it hasn’t gone away, so I thank god that I did that.”
D’Angelo Can Handle Chase
With Chevy Chase’s reputation around Hollywood, it’s a wonder how Beverly D’Angelo could stand to play his wife in all of the main Vacation movies, but D’Angelo and Chase are actually good friends. She told AV Club, “[Not] only is my friendship with Chevy Chase tried and true, and when I say tried, I mean tried. We’ve gone through so many things together. We tried to do a TV show a couple years ago. It was a nightmare. I was so mad at him when we were shooting the pilot. And it was over, and it was like, thank god, now I can go back to loving him. That’s a long-term friendship.”
Anthony Michael Hall Is A Brat Pack Member
Anthony Michael Hall plays Rusty Griswold in National Lampoon’s Vacation but left the franchise to film Weird Science. Hall is a key member of the 1980’s “Brat Pack,” always taking on the nerd or geek role in movies, despite the fact that he chose not to reprise his role as Rusty for fear of being typecast as such.
He had iconic role choices in Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club. Because Hall decided to leave the Vacation franchise, the producers changed Rusty’s for every movie. Rusty has also been played by Jason Lively, Johnny Galecki, Ethan Embry, and Ed Helms.
Following His Movie Father’s Footsteps
Did you know that Anthony Michael Hall would eventually follow in Chevy Chase’s footsteps as a cast member on Saturday Night Live? Hall was 17 when he was cast in the 1985-86 season of SNL and to this day holds the title of the youngest cast member in the history of the show.
In an interview with Dan Epstein of The Dead Zone, Hall recalled year on the show: “It was far more competitive and aggressive [of an] environment that I thought it would be… My year there, I didn’t have any breakout characters and I didn’t really do the things I dreamed I would do, but I still learned a lot, and I value that.”
Dana Barron Got Left Behind
Dana Barron was cast as the original Audrey Griswold but was also let go from the franchise because of Anthony Michael Hall’s departure. She was saddened to have to leave such an amazing cast, saying in an interview, “Anthony Michael Hall was doing very, very well in different films at the time… when they wanted to do [European Vacation]… he said no, which made me so sad because I basically had my bags packed, waiting by the door and then the director at the time said, ‘Well, just get two new kids, we can’t have an old kid and a new kid, it’ll look strange’ …So I was waiting and waiting and waiting by the phone and they went on and filmed without me.”
Being Cut Sunk Her Career
After being dropped from the National Lampoon’s Vacation franchise, Dana Barron had to move on and focus on other projects. She turned her attention to soap operas and other television shows such as One Life to Live, The Magnificent Seven, and Beverly Hills, 90210.
Later in her career, she had guest spots on The Equalizer, In the Heat of the Night, Murder, She Wrote, and Babylon 5. She even won a Daytime Emmy in 1989 for her appearance on No Means No. But other than that, not much else has been seen from actress Dana Barron.
Supermodel Christie Brinkley Stuns In Red
Supermodel Christie Brinkley was on the brink of her modeling career when she took her first acting gig on National Lampoon’s Vacation. Brinkley starred as “The Girl in the Red Ferrari,” the object of Clark Griswold’s fantasies throughout the road trip, which culminates in a steamy, yet failed encounter at a motel pool.
Although Brinkley was only in a handful of scenes from the whole movie, she reportedly traveled with the cast and crew for much of the duration of filming. She was reportedly supposed to appear in the movie completely nude, but after refusing, she and the filmmakers came to a compromise in which she’d only have to strip down to her skivvies.
She’s Still An Ageless Beauty
Brinkley reprised her role as “The Girl in the Red Ferrari” for the fourth movie, Vegas Vacation. In that film, Clark Griswold spots his dream woman but realizes she is now a mother and possibly married.
Christie Brinkley is one supermodel that is known to have aged gracefully and to have had an extensive modeling career. When she first started modeling, CoverGirl offered her a 25-year contract, the longest modeling contract on record. Nowadays, Brinkley’s modeling and acting career have calmed down and she is an animal rights activist, primarily working with PETA.
Vacation Gets Revamped
In 2015, directors Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley made a soft reboot of the Vacation franchise with their new film, Vacation. It is the fifth film in the series and the second one to be released without its name attached to National Lampoon (the first was 1997’s Vegas Vacation).
The 2015 film follows a grown up Rusty Griswold, played by Ed Helms, as he embarks on a family road trip to Walley World emulate the vacation he experienced as a child. The film pays homage to its predecessors in many ways, but perhaps the best is when Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo reprise their roles as Clark and Ellen Griswold!