The Last Days Of John Belushi: The SNL Star's Tragic End

By | June 21, 2019

John Belushi was a force of nature, a comedic genius whose wild energy and larger-than-life personality made him a beloved icon on Saturday Night Live. But behind the scenes, Belushi's life was a turbulent whirlwind of success, excess, and inner demons. As his fame skyrocketed, so did his struggles with addiction, leading to a heartbreaking and untimely end. In his final days, the laughter that once filled rooms was overshadowed by a darkness that even his closest friends couldn't penetrate. This is the poignant story of a star whose light burned too bright and too fast, leaving an indelible mark on comedy and a legacy tinged with tragedy.

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John Belushi in January 1981. Source: (Photo by Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

Despite his infectious comic persona John Belushi, veteran of Saturday Night Live and star of Animal House and The Blues Brothers, lived a drug filled, depraved life in the spotlight. By all accounts he was great guy, but in the grips of drugs and alcohol he spiraled out of control and went into a darkness from which he never returned. His final week plays out like a Fellini film, with strange characters keeping the star up at all hours of the night as he navigates the streets of Hollywood in a drugged out haze.

Belushi was at the height of his career in 1982, which is a dangerous place. Everyone wants to be your friend, and nobody wants to tell you no. Belushi needed someone to tell him to take a break, step away from the party, or at least show down. Much of his final week was spent on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip and in the Chateau Marmont, the decrepit, dank castle where celebrities once went to hide out and get up to no good. 

Belushi Was Trying To Take Control Of His Career

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The sole reason that Belushi was in Los Angeles and not in New York, or on his home turf of Chicago, is that he was trying to hammer out a deal with Paramount. At the time they wanted him to star in an adaptation of The Joy of Sex. A couple of his recent, more personal films had failed at the box office and the studio was looking for a hit. Belushi wanted them to fund a production called Noble Rot that he was working on with his writing partner, Don Novello (better known as the character Father Guido Sarducci).

Belushi's agent, Bernie Brillstein, told Rolling Stone in the aftermath of the comic’s death: 

He was unhappy that Paramount didn’t jump up and down over the script. John was a very definite guy. He wanted immediate approval.

At some point, Paramount and Belushi reached a deal over Noble Rot. They paid him more than $10 million to appear in four films in two years, and one of them was set to be his passion project. In spite of getting what he wanted, Belushi was unhappy with the strings attached to his deal and was rethinking the entire concept of stardom.