The nod for Best Movie Stunt for 1980 goes to the stunt team for Blues Brothers. The last 20 minutes of the film is one long car chase! 103 cars were wrecked during filming. At time of release, this was a world record, not beaten until 104 cars were wrecked in filming ‘Blues Brothers 2000 (1998)’. At one point the blues mobile really was driven 118 mph under the elevated train line in Chicago. They had to get special permission to do this.
Producers rented the Dixie Square Mall in south suburban Harvey, Illinois for the mall chase scenes. The mall had been closed for over a year. (False) rumors began in the community that the mall was being refurbished and would be reopened after filming was complete. Universal was later sued for over $87,500 for failure to make good on a deal to “return the mall to its original condition” which was never agreed upon. After years of political wrangling that saw only the the Montgomery Ward anchor store and mall power plant being demolished while the rest of the dead mall rotted unused, deals were finally struck that led to every part of the structure being torn down and cleared away in 2012. By the way, it’s the director, John Landis, driving the second police vehicle in this chase. He couldn’t pass up the opportunity to trash a mall.
In the final car chase scene, the production actually dropped a Ford Pinto, representing the one driven by the “Illinois Nazis,” from a helicopter at an altitude of more than a mile—and had to gain a Special Airworthiness Certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration to do it. The FAA was concerned that the car could prove too aerodynamic in a high-altitude drop, and pose a threat to nearby buildings. The shot leading up to the car drop, where the “Illinois Nazis” drive off a freeway ramp, was shot in Milwaukee, Wisconsin near the Hoan Bridge on Interstate 794. The Lake Freeway (North) was a planned but not completed 6-lane freeway and I-794 contained an unfinished ramp that the Nazis drove off. Several Milwaukee skyscrapers are visible in the background as the Bluesmobile flips over, notably the U.S. Bank Center.
The film used 13 different cars bought at auction from the California Highway Patrol to depict the Bluesmobile, a retired 1974 Mount Prospect, Illinois Dodge Monaco patrol car. The vehicles were outfitted by the studio to do particular driving chores; some customized for speed and others for jumps, depending on the scene. For the large car chases, filmmakers purchased 60 police cars at $400 each, and most were destroyed at the completion of the filming. More than 40 stunt drivers were hired and the crew kept a 24-hour body shop to repair cars. For the scene when the Blues Brothers finally arrive at the Richard J. Daley Center, a mechanic took several months to rig the car to fall apart. In the end, it was the most expensive sequence ever filmed in Chicago at over $3.5 Million. Blues Brothers was directed by John Landis for Universal Pictures.
Things to look up (go to IMDB page):
- John Landis
- Universal Pictures
- Blues Brothers