John Landis

Scen.: Timothy Harris, Herschel Weingrod. F.: Robert Paynter. M.: Malcolm Campbell. Scgf.: Gene Rudolf. Mus.: Elmer Bernstein. Int.: Dan Aykroyd (Louis Winthorpe III), Eddie Murphy (Billy Ray Valentine), Jamie Lee Curtis (Ophelia), Ralph Bellamy (Randolph Duke), Don Ameche (Mortimer Duke), Denholm Elliott (Coleman), Kristin Holby (Penelope Witherspoon), Paul Gleason (Clarence Beeks). Prod.: Aaron Russo per Cinema Group Ventures, Paramount Pictures. DCP. D.: 116’. Col.

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

Jeff Katzenberg at Paramount had a script called Black and White that was supposed to be with Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor. I read the script [later renamed Trading Places] and I immediately saw that it was a very old-fashioned and solid screenplay. It was written by Tim Harris and Herschel Weingrod. Paramount… asked me if I would use Eddie Murphy for Trading Places. I didn’t know who he was. I looked at some tapes of Eddie on Saturday Night Live. He was obviously extremely talented. I flew to New York to meet with Eddie and he was great. When I cast Dan Aykroyd opposite him, Paramount was not pleased. John [Belushi] had died and Danny had come up with this movie called Doctor Detroit for the first film starring just him alone. It did no business. Paramount felt that without John Belushi, Danny wasn’t a star. Jamie Lee Curtis was considered a ‘scream queen.’ The studio really did not want her either… She was smart and funny and sexy and I thought she’d be wonderful as Ophelia. That part is such a male fantasy, a stunning hooker with a heart of gold, and she made it work… I had such a great cast. Aykroyd is terrific. Since Eddie broke out to be such a gigantic star from that picture, I don’t think Danny ever got the credit he deserved. Because his performance is great. He anchors the movie. He plays Winthorpe as kind of an asshole. And at the end of the movie, even though he’s changed his perspective, he’s the same asshole he is at the beginning. He kept the integrity of that privileged jerk.

John Landis, In the land beyond beyond. A conversation with John Landis, in Giulia D’Agnolo Vallan, John Landis, M Press, Milwaukee 2007


John enjoys telling stories. He is, in fact, almost compulsive about it, gaining as much energy as he gives. He brings to mind the nonstop rhythm of the old vaudeville comedians, or the under-cranked, flickering antics of all Keystone-era comedies. John’s mind is always ten steps ahead of yours, as an audience, and as a friend. He’s non-linear: a rush of information and enthusiasm so contagious that quite often, after a visit to Landis-land, I find myself staying up late, re-reading books he mentioned or reviewing moments of movies he cited in passing. And, addictive as the man is, so are his comedies… His films are eminently quotable, immensely entertaining, and impossible to stop. Whenever they play on TV, I simply abandon anything I am doing in order to watch them all the way through, and – quite often – I simply get the urge to play them on DVD again and again. John has created at the very least a handful of modern classics that will forever represent the peak of comedy in the decades they were born; Trading Places accurately represents the corporate greed and Yuppie Generation, but it’s also deeply rooted in Lubitsch or Capra, and seems to reference the very premise of Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper. All of John’s films are like this… Landis is deeply rooted in the classics, but he definitely offers us the rock’n’roll version of them.

Guillermo Del Toro, Dying is easy, comedy is hard, in Giulia D’Agnolo Vallan, John Landis, M Press, Milwaukee 2007

Copy From

courtesy of Park Circus. Restored in 4K in 2020 by Paramount Pictures under the supervision of John Landis