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Animal House tells the wonderfully chaotic story of college fraternity misfits who battle with their dean and the rival fraternity’s president to keep their spot on campus. One death of a horse, "double-secret probation," multiple failed exams and a one-night stand with the dean’s wife later, the members of Delta Tau Chi get (spoiler alert!) expelled — and plot out an elaborate revenge.
This pic is often credited for inspiring the gross-out film genre, so, although it was released 40 years ago, its impact on cinema and comedy is still apparent today.
Now that the movie has reached its 40th birthday — it first hit theaters July 28, 1978 — The Hollywood Reporter breaks down what the principal actors have been doing since the fraternity members' expulsion from Faber College.
John Belushi, the actor who portrayed John “Bluto” Blutarsky, was no stranger to onscreen comedy. In the early 1970s, Belushi joined the cast of an improvisational theater troupe called The Second City. From there, he got involved with established humor magazine National Lampoon and starred in the magazine’s 1973 off-Broadway spinoff National Lampoon: Lemmings and then wrote, directed and acted on The National Lampoon Radio Hour.
Before portraying an alcohol-loving member of the Delta fraternity, Belushi played many roles as an original castmember of NBC's Saturday Night Live. During his four years on SNL, Belushi created many characters, including Samurai Futaba, a samurai with versatile interests; Pete Dionasopoulos, the owner of the mismanaged Olympia Cafe; and a member of soul revivalist band The Blues Brothers alongside Dan Aykroyd.
Just months after Animal House’s release in 1978, Belushi released an album with The Blues Brothers, and it went double platinum. He left SNL shortly after and focused on making films, including The Blues Brothers, with the same music-playing characters.
Belushi was found dead in 1982, less than four years after the release of Animal House. His death was ruled a drug overdose.
Tim Matheson’s acting career began long before he played the Delta fraternity’s resident ladies’ man, Eric “Otter” Stratton. Starting at just 13 years old, Matheson landed roles on shows including Leave It to Beaver and in the film Yours, Mine, and Ours starring Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda.
Matheson’s passion for comedy didn’t end with Animal House. In 1989, he and business partner Dan Grodnik bought National Lampoon, the humor magazine behind Animal House. He later sold it.
Matheson has remained in the entertainment field as both an actor and director. He acted alongside Animal House co-star John Belushi yet again in Stephen Spielberg’s 1941, and received two Primetime Emmy Award nominations for his role of President John Hoynes on The West Wing. He has also directed various episodes of shows such as Psych, Criminal Minds, White Collar and Suits.
Thomas Hulce, who played Lawrence “Pinto” Kroger, joined the comedy film coming from a theater background. He was in Equus on Broadway in the 1970s, and he took multiple theatrical roles leading up to Animal House.
Post-Animal House, Hulce has continued making a name for himself both onscreen and in theater. He was nominated for an Academy Award for best actor in 1984 for his portrayal of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in Amadeus, and for a best actor Golden Globe Award in 1989 for his portrayal of a garbage collector in Dominick and Eugene. Hulce also is an Emmy Award nominee and recipient, winning for his performance in the television movie The Heidi Chronicles.
In addition to his film success, Hulce stayed true to his roots and continued acting in theater. He appeared in various plays throughout his career, and he was nominated for a Tony Award in 1990 for his part in Broadway's A Few Good Men.
Stephen Furst was a pizza delivery man before he was cast as Kent "Flounder" Dorfman. Furst used to put his headshot in each pizza box he delivered, which is how Animal House’s producer Matty Simmons came to discover him.
Furst continued with acting after playing Flounder, as well as pursuing directing and producing. He reprised his character of Flounder on the ABC spinoff TV show Delta House, and he landed acting roles on various other TV shows and in movies, including the sci-fi series Babylon 5 and the animated Disney film The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea.
In addition to acting, Furst also produced multiple films, including My Sister’s Keeper, starring Alec Baldwin and Cameron Diaz, and Christmas in Homestead, which aired on the Hallmark Channel. He also directed several independent films, many for the Sci Fi Channel.
Furst died from diabetes-related complications in 2017.
Verna Bloom, the actress who played Dean Wormer’s party-loving wife, acted long before Animal House. A Massachusetts native, Bloom attended Boston University and graduated with a bachelor of fine arts. Starting in the 1960s, she appeared in more than 30 films and TV episodes, including Clint Eastwood’s High Plains Drifter in 1973.
Bloom no longer acts much, but since Animal House, she has had appearances on The West Wing and in the films The Last Temptation of Christ and The Journey of Natty Gann.
A veteran screen and stage actor, Donald Sutherland, who played Professor Dave Jennings, began his career with a series of small roles in British TV shows and films after dropping out of the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. After his breakout role in The Dirty Dozen, he moved from London to Hollywood. While in Los Angeles, Sutherland began dating Jane Fonda, who co-starred with him in the Academy Award-winning thriller Klute. He had many roles and was nominated for a BAFTA Award for best actor for his role in the horror film Don’t Look Now prior to joining the cast of Animal House.
After playing the pot-smoking professor, Sutherland returned to more serious roles. He played a sadistic warden in Lock Up with Sylvester Stallone; an elitist art dealer in Six Degrees of Separation with Will Smith; and an astronaut in Space Cowboys alongside Clint Eastwood, to name a few. More recently, Sutherland played Mr. Bennet in 2005’s Pride & Prejudice with Keira Knightley and main villain President Snow in the Hunger Games franchise.
Sutherland was a member of the 2016 Cannes Film Festival’s main competition jury, and in 2017 he was the recipient of an honorary Oscar.
Before John Vernon was watching over the members of Animal House’s Delta House as Dean Vernon Wormer, he was watching over the characters of George Orwell’s 1984 as the voice of Big Brother. In addition to this voice role, he also acted on Broadway in The Royal Hunt of the Sun and onscreen in such films as Alfred Hitchcock’s Topaz and Dirty Harry alongside Clint Eastwood.
Vernon's first villain-type role was actually before Animal House, when he played lead bad guy on the TV series Mission: Impossible. The typecasting didn’t end with Dean Wormer, either. In the 1980s, he appeared as the antagonist in several action films, including Chained Heat and Jungle Warriors.
Vernon also stayed with his Big Brother roots by continuing voice work. He voiced various characters in such animated efforts as The Incredible Hulk, Spider-Man and Batman: The Animated Series.
Vernon died from heart surgery complications in 2005.
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