The greatest of Ramis’ “Animal House” ambitions was to direct — which, coincidentally was producer Ivan Reitman’s ambition as well. Retiman’s résumé wasn’t blow-your-doors-off impressive, but at least he’d directed the low-budget horror film “Cannibal Girls” (starring then-unknown Eugene Levy and Andrea Martin) and produced David Cronenberg’s “Shivers.”
Aside from his Lampoon credits and involvement in the just-launched “SCTV” sketch comedy show, Ramis couldn’t compete with Reitman’s experience. Then again, Reitman couldn’t touch the industry connections that Ramis had been amassing since working as a gofer on “Kelly’s Heroes.” But neither could touch the ultra-savvy John Landis’ bona fides, who had just come off directing “The Kentucky Fried Movie.” Neither Ramis nor Reitman wound up with the gig.
Ramis quickly shifted his aspirations to acting in the movie he’d co-created. As he explained to “Fresh Air” host Terry Gross in 2005, “I auditioned for [Boone], the part that was played by Peter Riegert, and he was great in the film. I have no problem with Peter Riegert, but I didn’t get the part, and having already been a professional actor for several years, I didn’t want to be an extra in the film I’d written.”
Dispirited that he didn’t get the role, Ramis lit off for Greece. “I wasn’t even sure that the movie had started shooting till I got a letter from Chris Miller saying that the movie was being shot and was going very well. Then I returned to the States to see one of the early edits of the film, and I thought John had actually done a very effective job on it.”