35 Trivia Tidbits About ‘The Great Outdoors’ on Its 35th Anniversary
Back in the later days of the 1980s, Howard Deutch and John Hughes teamed up (again) to do another comedy film with legends John Candy and Dan Aykroyd starring as their leading funny men. The Great Outdoors (1988) has since enjoyed a cult following, with the movie serving as a fond memory for the townsfolk of Bass Lake, where filming took place. To celebrate the quirky comedy’s 35th anniversary, here’s a bunch of facts about the movie that shot the fluff off a grizzly bear’s butt...
The Most Famous Bear in Cinematic History
Bart the Bear was an on-screen legend who built an impressive filmography for an animal of his, er, stature. His film work includes classics like White Fang, Homeward Bound, Legends of the Fall, The Edge and 12 Monkeys. He also made an appearance at the 70th Academy Awards ceremony.
Candy Grew a Big Beard For the Part
When Candy arrived on set to start filming the movie, he surprised everyone with a bushy beard he had grown for the role. The producers, however, were worried that people would struggle to recognize him underneath all that face fluff and asked him to shave it off.
There’s a ‘Star Wars’ Easter Egg
It Was Annette Bening’s Film Debut
Originally a successful stage actress who was nominated for a Tony Award and starred in plays like Macbeth and Pygmalion, Bening’s transition to movies would kick off with The Great Outdoors and later win her a Screen Actors Guild Award for her performance in American Beauty.
The Loon’s Nest Was Built on the Universal Studio Lot
Candy and Aykroyd Were Friends Long Before They Both Became Comedians
Candy told Bobbie Wygant that he and Aykroyd knew each other back when Aykroyd made a living driving a postal truck, and Candy was selling paper napkins in Toronto.
The Set Was Also Used in ‘The Blues Brothers’
Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel Did Not Like the Movie
The film received mixed to negative responses from critics in general, and both Siskel and Ebert gave it the thumbs down. Siskel said, “This picture stinks all the way through,” while Ebert stated he was shocked that a movie starring Aykroyd and Candy failed so miserably (in his eyes).
The Lodge Where It Was Filmed Burned Down
Ducey’s Bass Lake Lodge was used to film the fictional Lake Potowotominimac. Shortly after the movie wrapped production, a kitchen fire caused the lodge to burn down. A new lodge was built three years later, a mile away from the original location.
The Line That Mirrors ‘Ghostbusters’
In Ghostbusters, when the gang catches a Slimer, Aykroyd yells, “We got it!” He does the exact same yell when Roman and Chet try to catch that bat in the cabin.
The Original Script
According to Steve Welch, the president of the Bass Lake Water Company, who was present for the film’s production, the original script had a different redemption scene for Roman. “One interesting thing of note is in the original John Hughes script, which we were able to read before the filming, this action scene was originally written as the twin girls hooking a giant fish and being towed around the lake in a small rowboat until Dan rescued them,” he explained. “We saw them testing a mechanical fish in the lake for several days, and when they could not get it to work correctly, the scene got re-written.”
The Fake Trees
The scene where Chet and his family arrive at the lake and find themselves unable to open a car door without hitting a tree needed, well, more trees. The crew had to set up a bunch of fake, short trees that were around 10 feet tall to get the effect.
Bart the Bear Hated That Head Piece
According to Deutch, Bart wasn’t always the easiest to work with, and it took several days to get the bear scenes right. This was mainly due to the fact that Bart did not care for that headpiece and would walk away every time they fitted it to his head.
The Waitress Was the Voice of a Famous Chuck E. Cheese Character
Nancy Lenehan, who played the waitress in the movie, was the voice of Helen Henny of the Munch’s Make Believe Band at the Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theater restaurants. Lenehan played the character from 1983 to 1991.
The Original Trailer
Two theatrical trailers were released, with one featuring some scenes that wound up getting cut. There’s the part where Chet talks to a moose head, and there’s a scene where Aykroyd unleashes some ungodly sounds that resemble belching.
Chevy Chase Almost Played Roman
Hughes’ original choice for the part of Roman was Chevy Chase — mainly because he wanted to reunite Chase and Candy following the success of National Lampoon’s Vacation. Chase, however, was already committed to Funny Farm.
Bill Murray Was Also Considered for the Part of Roman
When Hughes couldn’t get Chase to do The Great Outdoors, he considered casting Murray as the sketchy Roman, but Murray was taking a break from acting at the time. Candy was the one to suggest Hughes get Aykroyd, and that was that.
It Was the Writer and Director’s Third and Final Collaboration
Before doing The Great Outdoors together, Hughes and Deutch did Pretty in Pink and Some Kind of Wonderful with Hughes writing and Deutch directing.
’The Blues Brothers’ Soundtrack
There’s a song in the movie called “Dragboat” by The Elwood Blues Revue, the band that carried on from The Blues Brothers after John Belushi’s death. “Land of a Thousand Dances,” also performed by the band, pops up in the bar scene, and the soundtrack features several songs from Aykroyd’s band’s discography.
The Locals Joined in During the Movie’s Final Scene
While the locals were roped in to play extras in many of the outdoor scenes, they all came together to boogie with the cast in the movie’s final scene. “The dance scene at Ducey’s Bar was so much fun,” Rhonda Salisbury (who worked at The Pines Resort in Bass Lake back then) said. “Dan Aykroyd was hilarious, as was Annette Bening. We had so many locals and extras dancing around. It was a blast, and the cast really interacted with the locals.”
The Actress Who Played Cammie Is a Harvard Graduate
Lucy Deakins enrolled at Harvard University the same year The Great Outdoors was released. She studied comparative religion and graduated in 1994. In 2007, she graduated from the University of Washington School of Law and is now a practicing attorney. We bet her two-time stint (1993, 2002) on Law and Order had something to do with it.
The Original Title
Aykroyd and Candy Filmed Cameos for Another Hughes Movie
During the production of The Great Outdoors, Hughes was also working on his other film, She’s Having a Baby. He got both Aykroyd and Candy to join the list of actors sharing advice on baby names, and it’s clear that both of them shot the cameos while on the set of The Great Outdoors.
It Was Pretty Cold on Set
Despite the movie taking place during summer, The Great Outdoors was shot during fall, and it got pretty cold at times, especially during the water scenes and the night shoots.
It Features One of Cinema History’s Most Memorable Eating Scene
The Actor Who Played the Youngest Ripley Is Now a Writer for ‘The Christian Post’
Following a medical emergency and a mental-health crisis later in his life, actor Ian M. Giatti (who played young Ben Ripley) went from atheist to evangelist, becoming a ministry leader and publishing his own books. He now writes for The Christian Post.
The Bass Lake Townsfolk Got a Special Premiere of the Movie
Due to the fact that the film was the product of great local effort, the town got its own special screening of the movie at the Ponderosa Pines Theatre.
The Poster Resembles a British Magazine
The official movie poster for the film was modeled after the British magazine, The Great Outdoors.
It Did Only Okay at the Box Office
Made on a $24 million budget, the film grossed $6,121,115 during its opening weekend and ended up bringing in $43,455,230 worldwide. However, like some lucky theatrical bombs of the era, the film found success and a cult status when released on home video and cable.
Someone Turned the Movie into a Horror Trailer
Focusing on Roman’s creepy twins, the abandoned mine and every possible scary shot in the film, the YouTube account called IMPORTSOCIETY fashioned a horror trailer with the famous Halloween theme dubbed over.
The Film Was Criticized for Its PG Rating
The DVD Combo Special That Contained an Inadvertant Blooper
A John Candy DVD collection was released featuring Uncle Buck, The Great Outdoors and Going Berserk. On the back of the DVD was a description of all three movies, with Candy’s character Chet Ripley mistakenly credited as Chet Adley.
The Raccoon Scenes Are Still Hilarious
Raccoons being able to read license plates and understand the true meaning of fine cuisine? Not only is the joke funny, but the whole subplot of these animals commenting on humans could easily just have its own spin-off.
Aykroyd Wants to Do a Sequel
During an interview with The Hollywood Reporter in 2021, Aykroyd revealed that there are plans for a sequel. “Howie and I are working on the sequel, called The Great Outlaws. I am looking for the Candy figure,” Aykroyd said. “There are some really interesting names, but I can’t say who. Howie and I are tickled to bring back Roman as a Ponzi scheme guy who victimizes a federal agent. Who knows? If I find the right partner…”