Question: I know where John Belushi is these days, but what about all of the other actors from Animal House? Like Tom Hulce, Tim Matheson, Karen Allen, Peter Riegert et al.? — Beverley
Ausiello: National Lampoon's Animal House (1978) may be a slob comedy, but it's the über-slob comedy and director John Landis assembled a flat-out astonishing cast. John Belushi is, of course, no longer with us, but most of the rest of the film's principal players have prospered. Let's start with Tom Hulce and Stephen Furst. who played hapless freshmen Pinto and Flounder, the newest pledges at the raucous Delta House, where they get a hell of an education. Hulce's movie career peaked in the 1980s with his Best Actor Oscar nomination for Amadeus (1984), but he continues to work in movies, TV and theater, and in 1995 he earned an Emmy for his performance in Wendy Wasserstein's The Heidi Chronicles. In 1998 Hulce co-directed an ambitious eight-hour adaptation of John Irving's novel The Cider House Rules that played venues across the U.S., from L.A.'s Mark Taper Forum to the Atlantic Theater in New York City (the book was later filmed, but that adaptation wasn't based on Hulce's production). Hulce also does occasional animation voice-over work, most recently voicing Quasimodo in Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996) and its 2002 sequel. Portly Stephen Furst has worked steadily since Animal House, especially on television, where he did a five-year stint (1983-88) as Dr. Elliot Axelrod on St. Elsewhere; he also played Vir on Babylon 5 for the show's full 1994-98 run. Furst, who has adult-onset diabetes and lost a great deal of weight in the '90s as a part of a program to manage his condition, is a representative of the American Diabetes Association and served as national spokesman for the American Heart Association's "The Heart of Diabetes" campaign; he also created several diabetes-education projects. Furst's son Nathan, 26, acted briefly as a child and now composes film scores; his son Griff, 23, acts occasionally and played drums for the now defunct L.A.-based rock band BlindCide.
Of the Delts, Tim Matheson — the smooth ladies' man, Otter — was a successful child actor with dozens of credits to his name before Animal House, including the voice role of Jonny Quest in the popular animated TV series. Matheson continued to work just about nonstop after Animal House, amassing credits in dozens of TV movies. Matheson has also tried his hand at directing and producing, most recently on TV's Cold Case series. In 2002 he returned to the National Lampoon fold: In Van Wilder, he played the father of campus lothario Ryan Reynolds. In real life, Matheson has two teenage daughters and a young son. Bruce McGill's handlebar-mustached D-Day is probably best remembered for roaring down the Delta House stairs on his motorcycle — the indoor stairs. McGill had only one other movie under his belt when he made Animal House, but has since amassed dozens of movie and TV credits, most recently a supporting role in Michael Mann's Collateral (2004).
Peter Riegert made his movie debut as Boon, whose smart, sexy girlfriend — Karen Allen — leaves him for one of their professors (Donald Sutherland). Riegert's post-Animal House career has been a solid one, including such cult favorites as Local Hero (1983) and Crossing Delancey (1988). Animal House was also Allen's first movie; she quickly graduated to stardom as Marion Ravenwood, Harrison Ford's feisty love interest in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). Allen backed out of the limelight after Raiders, opting to work in theater and on independent films rather than trying to parlay her Raiders fame into superstardom; she became a mother in 1990 and devoted a great deal of her energy to child rearing. Over the last several years Allen has been seen in more-high-profile films, including The Perfect Storm (2000) and the Oscar-nominated In the Bedroom (2001). Allen is sometimes confused with fellow '80s brunets Margot Kidder, who has been plagued by well-publicized emotional problems, and Brooke Adams, who's married to Tony Shalhoub of TV's Monk. Sutherland was, of course, a veteran actor long before he played Animal House's pot-puffing Professor Jennings, but he's notorious for having thought that the movie had so little commercial potential that when offered his choice of a modest fee or a percent of the film's gross, he took the fee. Oops. Sutherland's son, Kiefer, who was 11 when Animal House was made, is now a star in his own right.
Foremost among the snooty Omegas are James Daughton and Mark Metcalf, who played, respectively, world-class brownnoser Greg Marmalard and the loathsome Doug Neidermeyer. Both have worked regularly but nowhere near as steadily as, say, Matheson and Furst; Daughton and Metcalf both made cameo appearances in the Animal House-inspired Sorority Boys (2002), as did Furst and John Vernon, Animal House's Dean Wormer. Metcalf's most notable recent role was übervampire "The Master," whom he played on several episodes of cult TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer and one of crossover series Angel. Of all the Omegas, the one who really made good is Kevin Bacon, yet another actor who made his movie debut in Animal House — he's new Omega pledge Chip Diller, who takes his paddling like a man and asks, "Thank you, sir, may I have another?" Bacon subsequently made so many and such diverse features that he became the centerpiece of the "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" game. Bacon also plays in a band with his brother and is married to actress Kyra Sedgwick; they have two children.
Finally, the Omega girls: Martha Smith, who played snooty sorority princess Babs Jansen (she winds up stripped to her underwear at the climactic parade), had already achieved a measure of fame as a Playboy Playmate when she appeared in Animal House. She only made a handful of films but did lots of television work, including a stint on the daytime soap opera Days of our Lives, a regular role on Scarecrow and Mrs. King (1983-87) and a part on the 2003 miniseries Kingpin. A singer as well as an actress, Smith began performing seriously in the late 1990s. She's married to musician Keith England, onetime member of the Allman Brothers. Mary Louise Weller, who played Greg's girlfriend, Mandy Pepperidge, the beauty through whose window Belushi's Bluto peeps, did little after Animal House. Weller, who trained with the U.S. equestrian team as a teenager, appeared in a handful of movies and some plays, wrote a theater piece called Four Alone, which was produced at the Greenhouse Theater in Pasadena with the help of a National Endowment for the Arts grant, and tried unsuccessfully to produce a film about the life of jockey Mary Bacon, based on her own screenplay. In 1986, she owned several horses and was riding competitively, but that's the last mention I've been able to find of her.