Daniel Edward "Dan" Aykroyd, CM (/ËÃ¦krÉ"Éªd/; born July 1, 1952) is a Canadian actor, comedian, screenwriter and singer. He was an original "Not Ready For Prime Time Player" (cast member of Saturday Night Live), an originator of The Blues Brothers (with John Belushi) and Ghostbusters, and has had a long career as a film actor and screenwriter.
In 1990, he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for Driving Miss Daisy.
Aykroyd was born on July 1, 1952, at the Ottawa General Hospital in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. He grew up in the Canadian capital, where his father, Samuel Cuthbert Peter Hugh Aykroyd, a civil engineer, worked as a policy adviser to Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. His mother, Lorraine HÃ©lÃ¨ne (nÃ©e Gougeon), was a secretary. His mother was of French Canadian descent and his father of English, Irish, Scottish, Dutch, and French ancestry. His brother, Peter, also became a comedy actor. Aykroyd was born with syndactyly, or webbed toes, which was revealed in the movie Mr. Mike's Mondo Video and in a short film on Saturday Night Live titled "Don't Look Back In Anger." He was also born with heterochromia â" his right eye is green and his left eye is brown.
Aykroyd was raised in the Catholic Church, and intended to become a priest until the age of seventeen. He attended St. Pius X and St. Patrick's High Schools and studied criminology and sociology at Carleton University, but dropped out before completing his degree. He worked as a comedian in various Canadian nightclubs and ran an after-hours speakeasy, Club 505, in Toronto for several years.
Aykroyd developed his musical career in Ottawa, particularly through his regular attendances at Le Hibou, a club that featured many blues artists. He describes these influences as follows:
...there was a little club there called Le Hibou, which in French means 'the owl.' And it was run by a gentleman named Harvey Glatt, and he brought every, and I mean every, blues star that you or I would ever have wanted to have seen through Ottawa in the late '50s, well I guess more late '60s sort of, in around the Newport jazz rediscovery. I was going to Le Hibou and hearing James Cotton, Otis Spann, Pinetop Perkins, and Muddy Waters. I actually jammed behind Muddy Waters. S.P. Leary left the drum kit one night, and Muddy said 'anybody out there play drums? I don't have a drummer.' And I walked on stage and we started, I don't know, Little Red Rooster, something. He said 'keep that beat going, you make Muddy feel good.' And I heard Howlin' Wolf (Chester Burnett). Many, many times I saw Howlin' Wolf. As well as The Doors. And of course Buddy Guy, Buddy Guy and Junior Wells, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. So I was exposed to all of these players, playing there as part of this scene to service the academic community in Ottawa, a very well-educated community. Had I lived in a different town I don't think that this would have happened, because it was just the confluence of educated government workers, and then also all the colleges in the area, Ottawa University, Carleton, and all the schoolsâ"these people were interested in blues culture.
Aykroyd's first professional experience, which he compiled at the age of 17, was as a member of the cast of the short-lived Canadian sketch comedy series The Hart and Lorne Terrific Hour with Lorne Michaels, among others. He was a member of the Second City comedy troupe in 1973 in both Toronto and Chicago.
Saturday Night Live
Aykroyd gained fame on the American late-night comedy show Saturday Night Live, where he was a writer and the youngest member of its cast, a repertory company called "The Not Ready For Prime Time Players," for its first four seasons, from 1975 to 1979. Aykroyd brought a unique sensibility to the show, combining youth, unusual interests, talent as an impersonator and an almost lunatic intensity. Guest host Eric Idle, of Monty Python, said that Aykroyd's ability to write and act out characters flawlessly made him the only member of the SNL cast capable of being a Python.
He was known for his impersonations of celebrities like Jimmy Carter, Vincent Price, Richard Nixon, Rod Serling, Tom Snyder, Julia Child, and others. He was also known for his recurring roles, such as Beldar, father of the Coneheads family; with Steve Martin, Yortuk Festrunk, one of the "Two Wild and Crazy Guys" Czech brothers; sleazy late-night cable TV host E. Buzz Miller and his cousin, corrupt maker of children's toys and costumes Irwin Mainway (who extolled the virtues and defended the safety of the "Bag-o-Glass" toy, perhaps the retail leader of the "Bag-o" series of toys); Fred Garvin â" male prostitute; and high-bred but low-brow critic Leonard Pinth-Garnell. He also co-hosted the Weekend Update segment for one season with Jane Curtin, coining the famous catchphrase "Jane, you ignorant slut" during point-counterpoint segments.
Aykroyd's eccentric talent was recognized by others in the highly competitive SNL environment: when he first presented his famous "Super Bass-O-Matic '76" sketch, a fake T.V. commercial in which a garish, hyper-pitchman (modelled after Ron Popeil) touts a food blender that turns an entire bass into liquid pulp, "to [other writers and cast members] the 'Bass-O-Matic' was so exhilaratingly strange that many remember sitting and listening, open-mouthed ... Nobody felt jealous of it because they couldn't imagine writing anything remotely like it."
While Aykroyd was a close friend and partner with fellow cast member John Belushi and shared some of the same sensibilities, Aykroyd was more reserved and less self-destructive. In 1977, he received an Emmy Award for writing on SNL; he later received two more nominations for writing and one for acting.
In later decades, Aykroyd made occasional guest appearances and unannounced cameos on SNL, often impersonating the American politician Bob Dole. He would also bring back past characters including Irwin Mainway and Leonard Pinth-Garnell. During some guest appearances he resurrected The Blues Brothers musical act with frequent host John Goodman in place of Belushi. He became the second member of the original cast to host SNL in May 2003 when he appeared in the season finale. During his monologue, he performed a musical number with James Belushi similar to the Blues Brothers, but neither Aykroyd nor Belushi donned the famous black suit and sunglasses. On March 24, 2007, Aykroyd appeared as a crying fan of American Idol finalist Sanjaya Malakar (played by Andy Samberg) during Weekend Update. On February 14, 2009, he appeared as U.S. House Minority leader John Boehner. Aykroyd also made a surprise guest appearance, along with many other SNL alumni, on the March 9, 2013 show.
The Blues Brothers
Aykroyd was a close friend of John Belushi. According to Aykroyd, it was their first meeting that helped spark the popular Blues Brothers act. When they met in a club Aykroyd frequented, he played a blues record in the background, and it stimulated a fascination with blues in Belushi, who was primarily a fan of heavy rock bands at the time. Aykroyd educated Belushi on the finer points of blues music and, with a little encouragement from then-SNL music director Paul Shaffer, it led to the creation of their Blues Brothers characters.
Backed by such experienced professional R&B sidemen as lead guitarist Steve Cropper, sax man Lou Marini, trumpeter Alan Rubin and bass guitarist Donald "Duck" Dunn, the Blues Brothers proved more than an SNL novelty. Taking off with the public as a legitimate musical act, they performed live gigs and released the hit album Briefcase Full of Blues (drawn from the fact that Aykroyd, as "Elwood Blues," carried his blues harmonicas in a briefcase that he kept handcuffed to his wrist, in the manner of a CIA courier; Belushi originally carried the key to those handcuffs) in 1978, and were further popularized in a 1980 film. The Blues Brothers Band continues to tour today, featuring original members Cropper and Marini, along with vocalist Eddie Floyd.
Early in the incarnation of the Blues Brothers, Belushi joined the Grateful Dead on stage on April 2, 1980, for a rendition of "Good Morning Little School Girl" at the Capitol Theatre in Passaic, New Jersey that coincided with the Dead's appearance on SNL that weekend. Belushi sang the part usually carried by the late Dead band member Ron "Pigpen" McKernan.
Cherokee Studios in Los Angeles was a regular haunt for the original Blues Brothers in the early days of the band. Belushi and Aykroyd became fixtures at the recording studio, while fellow Blues Brother Steve Cropper called Cherokee his producing home. Whenever they needed a bass player, they were joined by another Blues Brother, Donald "Duck" Dunn. During this time, Cropper, along with producing partner and Cherokee owner Bruce Robb, worked on a number of music projects with the two comedians/musicians, including Belushi's favorite band Fear and later Aykroyd's movie Dragnet.
Aykroyd and Belushi were scheduled to present the Academy Award for Visual Effects in 1982, but Belushi died only a few weeks prior to the ceremony. Though devastated by his friend's death, Aykroyd presented the award alone, remarking from the stage: "My partner would have loved to have been here to present this, given that he was something of a visual effect himself." In an earlier appearance on the Today show, he referred to himself and Belushi as "kindred spirits." In the biography "Belushi," Aykroyd claims that Belushi was the only man he could ever dance with.
In 1992, Aykroyd, along with many other notable music and Hollywood personalities, founded the House of Blues with the mission to promote African-American cultural contributions of blues music and folk art. From 2004 until its sale to Live Nation in 2007, it was the second-largest live music promoter in the world, with seven venues and 22 amphitheaters in the United States and Canada. Aykroyd also contributes his voice to the weekly House of Blues Radio Hour, which he hosts in the character of Elwood Delaney aka Elwood Blues. This show is hosted in the United Kingdom (from 16 July 2012) on Jazz FM.
Today, the Blues Brothers still tour. Aykroyd still performs as Elwood back with Belushi's younger brother James Belushi, who plays "Brother Zee" on stage. They are most frequently backed by The Sacred Hearts Band.
Concurrent with his work in Saturday Night Live, Aykroyd played the role of Purvis Bickle, lift operator at the fictitious office block 99 Sumach Street in the CBC Television series Coming Up Rosie.
After leaving Saturday Night Live, Aykroyd starred in a number of films, mostly comedies, with uneven results both commercially and artistically. He co-starred with Belushi in three films, 1941, which was his American feature-film debut but was unsuccessful due to its lack of a central human focus, The Blues Brothers, and Neighbors. One of his best-received performances was as a blueblood-turned-wretch in the 1983 comic drama Trading Places; a notable flop was in the earlier 1941. Director Steven Spielberg received the brunt of the criticism, but Aykroyd's performance as an Army Sergeant was called uneven, being played alternately straight or completely manic with little reason for the changes.
Aykroyd originally wrote the role of Dr. Peter Venkman in Ghostbusters (1984) with Belushi in mind, but rewrote it for Bill Murray after Belushi's death. Aykroyd joked that the green ghost, later known as "Slimer," was "the ghost of John Belushi" and based on the similar party animal personality. Ghostbusters became a huge success for Aykroyd as a co-creator, co-writer, and one of the lead actors. The film's inspiration came from Aykroyd's fascination with parapsychology.
Aykroyd participated in the recording of "We Are the World" in 1985.
Aykroyd was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for 1989's Driving Miss Daisy. He was the second SNL cast member to be nominated for an Oscar, the first being Joan Cusack.
Aykroyd's directorial debut was 1991's Nothing but Trouble starring Demi Moore, Chevy Chase, John Candy and Aykroyd, sporting an oddly phallic prosthetic nose. The film was a critical and box office flop. Aykroyd's other films in the 1990s included Exit to Eden, Blues Brothers 2000, and Getting Away with Murder, all of which were poorly received. One rare exception was a well-received role as a rival hit man in 1997's Grosse Pointe Blank. In 1995, Aykroyd played the role of Ray Zalinsky in Tommy Boy, which also featured "Not Ready For Prime Time Company" alumni David Spade and Christopher Crosby "Chris" Farley.
In 1994, Aykroyd made a guest appearance in an episode of the sitcom The Nanny as a refrigerator repairman. In 1997, Aykroyd starred in the ABC sitcom Soul Man which lasted only one season. In the 2000s, Aykroyd's film appearances have tended to be small character parts in big-budget productions, such as a signals analyst in Pearl Harbor and a neurologist in 50 First Dates. In 2001, Aykroyd starred in the Woody Allen film, The Curse of the Jade Scorpion.
In February 2007, Aykroyd revealed that he would be providing voice-acting for a Ghostbusters III CGI project, though these rumours were clarified later, that the CGI project was a next-gen video game that was currently in production. In 2009, Aykroyd along with Harold Ramis, wrote and appeared in Ghostbusters: The Video Game, which also featured Bill Murray, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts, William Atherton, and Brian Doyle-Murray. On June 14, 2009, GameStop used an outgoing phone message pre-recorded by Aykroyd to invite pre-order customers to the launch event at 10 p.m.
Aykroyd wrote the liner notes for fellow Ottawa born blues musician JW-Jones' album Bluelisted in 2008.
In 2009, Aykroyd contributed a series of reminiscences on his upbringing in Canada for a charity album titled Dan Aykroyd's Canada. In the same year, Aykroyd and Chevy Chase guest starred in the Family Guy episode "Spies Reminiscent of Us," an homage to the film Spies Like Us in which both had co-starred. Spies was another film in which Aykroyd hoped to co-star with John Belushi, until Belushi's death. He also hosts the nationally syndicated radio show "Elwood's BluesMobile" formerly known as House of Blues Radio Hour under his Blues Brothers moniker Elwood Blues.
Aykroyd appeared in two February 2011 episodes of CBS's The Defenders, which starred Jim Belushi. This information was announced November 29, 2010. He also appeared on Top Chef Canada as a guest judge.
Aykroyd announced in February 2012 that Bill Murray would not appear in Ghostbusters III and said that the film was indefinitely suspended. Aykroyd said Ivan Reitman and Harold Ramis felt there had to be a way to do it without Murray.
On March 20, 2012, Aykroyd said he was beginning work on a script for a comedy that would also star Chevy Chase. It would be the first time Aykroyd and Chase have appeared together onscreen since 1991's Nothing But Trouble.
Aykroyd is a permanent resident of the United States although he maintains his Canadian citizenship. Aykroyd was briefly engaged to Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher. He proposed to her on the set of The Blues Brothers (1980), in which she acted out a spurned girlfriend of John Belushi's Jake Blues who was trying to kill both, but the engagement ended when she got back together with former boyfriend, musician Paul Simon.
In 1983, he married actress Donna Dixon, with whom he starred in the movies Doctor Detroit (1983), on whose set they first met, Spies Like Us (1985) and The Couch Trip (1988). They have three daughters, Danielle, Stella and Belle. He maintains his Canadian roots as a longtime resident of Sydenham, Ontario, with his estate on Loughborough Lake.
Aykroyd described himself (in a radio interview with Terry Gross) as having mild Tourette's syndrome that was successfully treated with therapy when he was a preteen, as well as mild Asperger's condition. This latter diagnosis is in doubt, however, due to Akroyd's claim that it was made several years before Asperger's was first included in diagnostic manuals.
He is a former reserve commander for the police department in Harahan, Louisiana, working for Chief of Police Peter Dale. Aykroyd would carry his badge with him at all times.
Aykroyd is the co-founder and part owner of Crystal Head Vodka, the official vodka of The Rolling Stones. He is also part owner of several wineries in the Niagara region and the company that distributes Patron tequila in Canada.
Aykroyd helped Dale start the Blue Line Foundation. They are redeveloping flood damaged lots in New Orleans and helping first responders buy them at reduced prices. Coastal Blue Line LLC, hopes to eventually rebuild 400 properties in New Orleans.
Aykroyd considers himself a Spiritualist, stating that:
- I am a Spiritualist, a proud wearer of the Spiritualist badge. Mediums and psychic research have gone on for many, many years.... Loads of people have seen spirits, heard a voice or felt the cold temperature. I believe that they are between here and there, that they exist between the fourth and fifth dimension, and that they visit us frequently.
His great-grandfather, a dentist, was a mystic who corresponded with author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle on the subject of Spiritualism, and who was a member of the Lily Dale Society.
Other than Spiritualism, Aykroyd is also interested in various other aspects of the paranormal, particularly UFOlogy. He is a lifetime member of and official Hollywood consultant for the Mutual UFO Network. Along these lines, he served, from 1996 to 2000, as "host" of Psi Factor: Chronicles of the Paranormal, which claimed to describe cases drawn from the archives of "The Office Of Scientific Investigation And Research." In 2005, Aykroyd produced the DVD Dan Aykroyd: Unplugged on UFOs. Aykroyd is interviewed for 80 minutes by UFOlogist David Sereda discussing in depth many aspects of the UFO phenomenon, and reveals specifically that they are blue, not green, but appear that way because of a filter.
On September 29, 2009, Peter Aykroyd Sr., Dan's father, published a book entitled A History of Ghosts. This book chronicled the family's historical involvement in the Spiritualist Movement, to which Aykroyd readily refers. Aykroyd wrote the introduction and accompanied his father on a series of promotional activities, including launches in New York and Toronto, an appearance on Larry King Live and various other public relations initiatives. Aykroyd also read the introduction for the audio version of the book.
He has been inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame. In 1994, Aykroyd received an honorary Doctor of Literature degree from Carleton University. In 1998, he was made a Member of the Order of Canada.