John Landis

On this date in 1950, American director, producer, screenwriter and actor John Landis was born in Chicago. Landis, who was born into a Jewish family, began his career working as a mailboy for 20th Century Fox. When Landis was only 21 he made his directorial debut with “Schlock” (1971), but it was 1978’s “National Lampoon’s Animal House” that brought him commercial success, grossing over $120 million domestically. Landis co-wrote and directed “The Blues Brothers” (1980), starring John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd. “An American Werewolf in London” (1981) won the Academy Award for Best Makeup.

In 1982 Landis was charged with involuntary manslaughter for the death of actor Vic Morrow and two child extras during the filming of “Twilight Zone.” Morrow and the extras, Myca Dinh Le, 7, and Renee Shin-Yi Chen, 6, were trapped beneath a helicopter when it crashed due to special-effect explosions that went off too close to the tail rotor. Landis was riding in the copter when it crashed and suffered injuries. He was eventually acquitted of the charges and the families settled out of court with the film studio.

Landis would go on to direct many more blockbuster films, including “Trading Places” (1983), ”Three Amigos” (1986), ”Coming to America” (1988), “Beverly Hills Cop III” (1994) and “Blues Brothers 2000” (1998, co-writer with Dan Aykroyd). Landis directed the music videos for Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” (1983) and “Black or White” (1991).

Landis has spoken about his atheism on multiple occasions. He and his wife Deborah Nadoolman, an Oscar-nominated costume designer, have two children, Max and Rachel.

Freedom From Religion Foundation