A flute with no holes is not a flute—and a sports world with no Caddyshack, well that seems unthinkable. Three decades after the golf classic's release, SI catches up with the cast and crew
This is an article from the Aug. 2, 2010 issue
In the summer of 1980, a group of overeducated, authority-defying comedy writers from the Second City improv troupe and National Lampoon magazine delivered perhaps the funniest sports movie ever made. Today, anyone who's ever shanked a tee shot, chunked a wedge or blown a gimme putt can quote the movie by heart. Over the past three decades, the little $6 million film has become a pop culture phenomenon, adding tens of millions in rentals and DVD sales to its $40 million box office take. It can be found in any pro sports team's clubhouse or on its charter plane. But it wasn't a Cinderella story out of the gate. The 11-week shoot was plagued by clashing egos, spiraling drug use and a first-time director who had no clue what he was doing. In fact, the film was mostly made up as it went along. Despite all the chaos, or perhaps because of it, the movie has become a classic, beloved by snobs and slobs alike—a fact that surprises no one more than the merry pranksters who made it. To celebrate its 30th anniversary, SI revisited the members of Bushwood Country Club for a look back at the making of Caddyshack.
"Be the ball."
Harold Ramis (cowriter, director): I'd written Animal House with Doug Kenney and Chris Miller. Doug was one of the founding editors of National Lampoon. I think the feeling in Hollywood was that we had introduced a new kind of comedy. To us, it wasn't new because that's what we'd been doing at Second City, but it was new to the movies.
Jon Peters (executive producer): I was living with Barbra Streisand, and I'd just produced A Star Is Born. I saw an early screening of Animal House and thought it was a breakthrough. So we grabbed Harold and Doug and brought them in to pitch ideas.
Mike Medavoy (cofounder of Orion Pictures): I was in my office one day, and Harold came in with Jon Peters and pitched a movie about the American Nazi party marching in Skokie, Illinois. I thought, Oh God, I don't think I find that as funny as you guys do.
Ramis: Jon Peters led me to believe that Medavoy would do the Skokie idea. But Medavoy said, "I've been thinking about it and if we had one bomb threat on a theater, it would shut the movie down. Come up with something else." In the meantime, Doug and Brian Doyle-Murray had started talking about a country club comedy because Brian and his younger brother Bill had been caddies. They invited me to join them. I was a Jewish kid with no money. No one I knew played golf.
Bill Murray (assistant greenskeeper Carl Spackler): I started as a shag boy at Indian Hill outside Chicago when I was 10, which means a guy would hit balls and you'd run out and collect them. You were basically a human target. Eventually, you worked your way up to caddie.
Ramis: There were six Murray boys in the family, and we modeled the Noonans after them in Caddyshack. I remember the first time I met Bill. Brian and I were in Second City together and he said, "Why don't you come up and have dinner at my mother's house?" And we stopped off at the golf course. Bill had just graduated from high school, and his job at the time was running the hot dog stand on the 9th hole.
Medavoy: What was the Caddyshack pitch like? It was funny. It was a cast of characters in a country club where you have these uppity snobbish people against the slobbish people. I said, "O.K., let's get the script." And they went off and did it.
Ramis: Doug Kenney and I bonded on Animal House. He was the smartest guy I'd ever met. We spent eight hours a day, five days a week, for three months writing. That's a lot of time in a room. We wrote Caddyshack the same way—the three of us: Doug, Brian and I in a room together for three months. They gave us an office on the Warner lot in L.A. It was like The Dick Van Dyke Show: One types, one paces, and one lies on the sofa.
Mark Canton (executive in charge of production): I'd just started working for Jon Peters, and Caddyshack was the first thing that came along. The script was probably about 200 pages, and my job was to help to take this overly large but brilliant document and turn it into a 100-page screenplay. It looked like a novel.
Ramis: With any big movie, you need a million-dollar player—so that was Chevy. We kind of wrote the character of Ty Webb with him in mind.
Chevy Chase (eccentric millionaire golfer Ty Webb): Bill replaced me on Saturday Night Live. Part of the reason I left after the first season was I wanted to marry this girl who everybody knew was the wrong one except me. It didn't last. But everyone from SNL came out for the wedding, and John Belushi got so drunk he started making out with my mother. I'd turned down Animal House to do Foul Play with Goldie Hawn, and then I got the Caddyshack script. My father told me to stay away from Republicans on golf courses because they just wasted the day so they could stay away from their families. I agreed. I mean, What the hell was golf? Walking around like it was some kind of a sport!
Ramis: We were really leaning toward Mickey Rourke to play Danny Noonan. He was so cool—a very natural actor, almost too real for the movie. Michael O'Keefe seemed like a really good boy. Plus, he was a scratch golfer. Then, I think, we cast Rodney.
Peters: Rodney Dangerfield was hot on The Tonight Show at the time, but not in movies. We brought him in, and he came to the studio in a big black limo. Then he came into my office and took out a plastic bag and did two lines of coke on my desk.
Ramis: I was actually inclined toward Don Rickles for the part. He had the right obnoxiousness and was probably a better actor than Rodney.
Murray: I got into the movie because of my brother Brian. I think the real reason I got the part was that I was reasonably priced.
Ramis: We saw a lot of young women [for] the Lacey Underall part. Cindy Morgan hadn't acted much before, but she looked great.
Peters: I actually had Bo Derek, but [Doyle-Murray, Kenney and Ramis] didn't want her!
Cindy Morgan (blonde sex bomb Lacey Underall): I was the morning-drive disc jockey at WLUP 97.9 FM in Chicago. I was making $135 a week. They wouldn't let me do commercials, so I said, To heck with you guys, I'm going to L.A. I was nervous when I went in to read for Lacey Underall, but I told myself, I just need to focus on one thing—whoever I'm reading with, I have to make him sweat. I read with Doug Kenney, and when I saw a little trickle of sweat come down the side of his face, I knew I got the job.
Ramis: We had 11 weeks to shoot the film. I had no idea what that meant because I'd never directed before. We shot it at Rolling Hills (now called Grande Oaks), a semi-private club in Florida. We kind of picked it by default. We visited a lot of really nice country clubs, and they didn't want us because what club wants to shut down for a movie and have hundreds of people trampling on the golf course?
"... on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness. So I got that going for me, which is nice."
Ramis: We shot the Dalai Lama speech on the first day with a local actor doing the scene. And I was thinking, I'm going to get fired, this guy's horrible! When Bill arrived, he did the speech, and it was great. There were no scripted lines for Bill in the whole movie. Everything we shot with him, he would just riff. That's how he worked.
Murray: With the Dalai Lama scene, they just sort of tossed me in there—there wasn't much of anything. I just took it and ran away with it. My part just kept growing like a mushroom. I'd go back to New York and work on SNL, and they'd call me up and ask if I wanted to come back down and do some more. I was good back in those days. Improvising about golf was easy for me. And there was a great crowd of people there to entertain. If you made Doug Kenney or Harold laugh, you sort of earned your keep.
Ramis: Most of us had an improv background, so I felt comfortable letting the actors ad lib. But Ted Knight [who played the uptight Judge Smails] was a very traditional actor. The whole atmosphere was alien to him, young people running around in South Florida being crazy.
Morgan: Ted was trying to do his job and he's holding the script in his hand, and meanwhile Rodney is just running around saying whatever the heck popped into his head. Ted was really angry. I remember having lunch with Rodney one day and he's tugging on his collar just like he does in his act, going, "Am I O.K.? It's my first movie." It's amazing how someone that funny could be insecure, which made him want to one-up Ted even more. Of course, that made Ted even angrier.
Ramis: We shot the movie in 1979. It was a pretty debauched country at the time. The cocaine business in South Florida was mammoth, and everyone was doing everything. There was some concern from the studio. Someone in the accounting department leaked to the studio that everyone was taking their per diems in cash, which is ... unusual. So I think Medavoy called Jon Peters and said, "What's going on down there?"
Chase: It was pretty f------ nuts on that set. At night, we would race golf carts down the fairways, people whacked out having a good time. The crew possessed whatever you needed. But I don't remember getting high during the actual shooting or Billy [Murray] or anybody doing that.
Morgan: There was one day, you could hear on the walkie-talkies, "Where's Bill?" ... "He's sleeping in a sand trap!" ... "What do you mean he's sleeping in a sand trap?!"
Ramis: Cindy had some problems with a nude scene they wanted. She didn't want to do it. And I'm the good guy. I said, "I don't want you to do anything you're not comfortable with." And Jon Peters said, "Put her on the phone, let me talk to her for a sec." When she got off, she said, "I'll do it." I asked, "What did he say?" And she said, "He told me if I didn't do it, I'd never work again." Jon's Old Hollywood!
Morgan: I don't have a problem with nudity; I have a problem with bullies. I didn't work for a really long time after that.
Peters: She was definitely pressured to do the nude scene by me. The producer side of me was like, How can we not have a nude scene?
Ramis: My favorite scene is still Bill's Cinderella story speech. All it says in the script is, "Carl is outside the clubhouse practicing his golf swing, cutting the tops off flowers with a grass whip." When I used to jog, I would encourage myself by pretending I was the announcer at the Olympics, like, "They're coming into the stadium; Ramis is in the lead!" So I said to Bill, "Did you ever do imaginary golf commentary in your head?" And he said, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, don't say any more. I got it!" I think we did it in two takes. He's the best improvising actor I've ever worked with. Any problems I've had with Bill over the years have never been about the quality of his work. He's a moody guy. And it's sometimes hard to work around those moods.
"Pool and a pond. Pond would be good for you."
Peters: We were getting to the end of the shoot, and I realized we didn't have a scene between Bill and Chevy. So we wrote one during lunch and shot it that night. I had no idea that Bill and Chevy had a not-so-good history.
Canton: Billy and Chevy had some friction dating back to Saturday Night Live. I was never told that they shouldn't be on the set at the same time, but I think that they chose not to be on the set at the same time. They were not the best of friends. Everyone seemed to know it.
Ramis: To me it was just hearsay and rumor. As soon as Bill arrived, it wasn't like they embraced each other, but they were respectful and cooperative. We sat down one day and figured out the scene. It wasn't scripted and it has nothing to do with the movie, but no scene has anything to do with the movie.
Chase: We decided that I would be playing night golf and the premise was going to be, "Do you mind if I play through?" after I hit a ball into Bill's shack and it landed on his special grass you could play on and also smoke. We left it loose because I like improvising and Bill does too. He started talking about chinch bugs, and I had to do whatever I could to keep from laughing. And I tried to get him to laugh, so when he asked if I had a swimming pool, I said, "A pool and a pond, the pond would be good for you." That's my favorite part of the movie. I have nothing but admiration and affection for Bill. He still can be a surly character, to say the least. But ultimately, he's a good guy. Even though I'm the Number 1 star in the movie under the title, I always think of it as Billy's movie.
Murray: They asked me if I wanted to do a scene with Chevy. And I was like, well, we had to try to figure out how these two people would collide. We didn't do many takes. And I'd never really done anything with Chevy. We'd always had sort of a funny relationship. But it was like, "O.K., I liked that when you did that. Let's just keep going."
Peters: We didn't have a movie. We had a bunch of scenes that didn't play together. So we met with George Lucas and his visual effects company and we shot more stuff with the gopher to tie the whole thing together. When we saw the gopher in, I felt it was going to be a giant hit.
Kenny Loggins (performed the theme song, I'm Alright): I remember when I saw the rough cut, Jon Peters said, "I'm going to have this gopher come out of his hole and do a little dance at the beginning." And I said, "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard!" But people still love that little puppet. Go f------ figure!
"When you buy a hat like this I bet you get a free bowl of soup.... Oh, it looks good on you, though."
Ramis: After we wrapped, Doug Kenney got all fired up about the posters for the movie and came to the studio. He'd been up all night and didn't look good. He saw Jon Peters, and they started wrestling. And then Jon calmed him down and said, "Let's go see Mike Medavoy." So we go see Medavoy and Doug starts in on him. And Medavoy says, "You don't want to discuss this, you want to fight!" And Doug says, "Yeah." And they start wrestling. Doug's expectations were so high. The few things he had done had all turned to gold. He'd taken the Lampoon from Harvard to national success and Animal House had been huge. I think he had an impossible expectation.
Medavoy: I never had problems with Doug, but he was ingesting things that I didn't know about. He threw a shove at me. Not one of the nicer moments in my life.
Ramis: The movie wasn't as well received as Animal House. I remember The New York Times called it an "amiable shambles of a comedy." Doug was very depressed. I think his substance abuse was peaking. Someone said to me, "You can never get enough of what you don't really need." And Doug kept going to his substance abuse for comfort, and there's no comfort there. That's when he went to Hawaii with Chevy, and Chevy came back and Doug didn't.
Chase: Someone suggested that maybe I could help clean Doug up. I was the last guy to ask! We went to Hawaii. The point was to dry out. But why would that happen? Look at us at that age and the time. I had to go back to California, and within a couple of days Doug's body was found at the bottom of a ravine.
Ramis: There were a couple of days when he was missing. And then the call came that they'd found him. Some people say he fell, some people say he jumped. I thought he fell looking for a place to jump. Anything's possible. There were even people who thought he was murdered by drug dealers, but I kind of doubted that.
Chase: Years later my wife took me to a medium, and I said, I've never known how my best friend died. And she said, "Slipped, slipped." Then she said, "He's standing right there, he says it was the stupidest way he could have ever died." That conversation convinced me that it was an accident. I can't imagine Doug killing himself for a minute. It's a shame. If he were alive today, he would've seen that Caddyshack became a big deal!
"Cinderella story. Outta nowhere. A former greenskeeper, now, about to become the Masters champion...."
Canton:Caddyshack is a brilliant movie, it doesn't matter how we got there. Maybe in its imperfections, it made the movie more perfect. Kind of like golf.
Murray: There's a lot of people who think golf is square. People say I'm a corporate slob or a robber baron because I play. But for me and my brothers, it wasn't about having a lot of money. We were caddies, for God's sake! Being a caddie, you learned how to treat people. Most people don't have a job where you're asked to carry a heavy load no matter the weather and don't speak unless spoken to. It was an extraordinary education. You got to really appreciate the game and realize any golfer at any moment can hit a great shot.
Chase: I don't know why it's stuck around so long. It's a funny movie, it had funny stars, it had Harold and great writing. All of that should be enough to make a movie memorable to a certain crowd. But I don't think it's about golf—it's about class: snobs versus slobs. Is it the funniest sports movie ever? Maybe. I can't imagine there was a Babe Ruth movie that was funnier.
Murray: Let me tell you a story. The first time I went to Augusta, I was skulking around with a hat pulled way down on my head, trying to be invisible. And I ended up right behind Jack Nicklaus and his son, who was caddying for him. They were standing on the 18th tee. And his son spots me and points at me. And I thought it was because they saw this strange guy with his hat pulled down. I thought they were going to call security. And just as I was about to run, the son says to his dad, in Carl's voice, "I think it's about a five-iron." And I thought, Holy cow, that's my joke!
An update on the real-life Bushwood bunch and the movie men behind them
Headlined a string of equally quotable classics such as Fletch and the Vacation franchise. Currently stars on the NBC comedy Community.
Continues to golf offscreen on the pro-am circuit. On-screen he earned a Best Actor Oscar nomination for 2003's Lost in Translation. His next film, Get Low, comes out on July 30.
Married—and divorced—singer Bonnie Raitt and became a Zen priest in the 1990s. Has since acted on TV (Brothers & Sisters, Ghost Whisperer) and in movies (Michael Clayton).
Became an unlikely movie star with a string of hits (Easy Money, Back to School) before his death from complications following heart surgery at age 83 in 2004.
Lived next door to Chase in Los Angeles for years and starred in TV's Too Close for Comfort before dying of various forms of cancer at age 62 in 1986.
Disappeared from the movies after starring in Tron two years following Caddyshack, about which she is currently writing a memoir.
Appeared in dozens of television shows and movies, including five alongside his brother Bill. Now a recurring character on the ABC sitcom The Middle, which premiered in 2009.
Went on to star in generation-defining comedies Stripes and Ghost Busters and direct National Lampoon's Vacation, Groundhog Day and Analyze This. His latest film, which he directed (and appeared in), was 2009's Year One.
Died in Hawaii under mysterious circumstances in August 1980, just one month after Caddyshack premiered.
Went on to produce Batman and Rain Man, among other Hollywood blockbusters. Currently developing a third Caddyshack movie—and yes, it will include a gopher.
Became the head of Columbia Pictures and later a successful producer (300). His next project, Piranha 3-D, opens on Aug. 20.
Left Orion to become an independent producer, most recently on Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island.
Wrote hit theme songs for Footloose and Top Gun (and the less successful Caddyshack II) while selling millions of records. Still touring across the U.S.
A sixsome of real-life swingers weighs in on Caddyshack's place in the professional game
"I don't remember the first time [I saw the movie], but I certainly didn't watch it when I was four. As far as how many times [I've watched it], I'd have to say pretty close to a hundred by now."
"The swings in the movie need some work. Noonan's got the best swing. It's very 1970s, very Johnny Miller--ish with the reverse-C finish. D'Annunzio doesn't have that bad a move; he over-rotates his hips though. Czervik's all over the place. Judge Smails isn't bad, but he has to improve his lag. Bill Murray [as Spackler] is in a league of his own. I don't think we saw the true potential of his swing, but it looked pure. He smoked those flowers."
"So many scenes stand out: Murray saying, 'Correct me if I'm wrong, Sandy, but if I kill all the golfers, they're gonna lock me up and throw away the key.' Chevy Chase's character asking Danny if he does drugs, then making every putt.... Rodney Dangerfield saying his arm was hurt.... Sorry to ramble, but I'm on pain pills at the moment and the movie plays on in my head like a neverending highlight reel."
"The [quote] that keeps coming back to me is Murray to the monsignor in the rain: 'I don't think the heavy stuff is going to come down for quite a while.' But there are so many. The one I use the most is when Rodney pretends to hurt his arm so he can't play: 'Ooooh, my arm.' I use that whenever I get to the golf course and I don't feel like practicing."
"There is not a day that goes by in which I don't use a line from Caddyshack. I probably use 30 lines from it. When my kid is up to bat [in baseball], I always say, 'Be the ball, Danny.' The movie is a huge part of my life. It's nonstop."
"You're going to find this unbelievable, but I never saw Caddyshack in its entirety until 2009! My then boyfriend (now husband) laughed at me when he discovered this and bought it for me for Christmas. I was astounded at all the lingo used by golfers that originated in that film. 'Noonan,' I finally get that."