The last time Dan Aykroyd watched "The Blues Brothers" in its entirety was 1998 -- the same year the film's sequel, "Blues Brothers 2000," opened in theaters.
"I had to sit down and watch the movie. I just cleared out the house. I turned off the phones. I said, 'I cannot be bothered.' And I watched the whole thing from beginning to end, and it was a wistful experience," Aykroyd recalled. "At the end of it I thought, 'Wow!'.... It's just the music, the music the music...the dancing choreography, the cameos...I was really happy to see that it held up so well."
Later this year, Aykroyd will sit down to watch the original movie, a real cult classic, again -- although he won't be at home this time.
Aykroyd recently signed on to appear at a screening of the 1980 John Landis-directed film at the St. Lawrence International Film Festival on Oct. 22. The inaugural Opening Gala will feature a 35th anniversary screening of Universal Pictures' musical comedy classic that co-starred Aykroyd and John Belushi and featured cameo appearances by Aretha Franklin, James Brown, and Ray Charles. Aykroyd will be on hand to introduce the film and participate in a Q&A at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec.
The Canadian native said he decided to take part in the upcoming event because proceeds will go to the RCMP Foundation, which provides funding to community groups and programs for at-risk youth in partnership with members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
"It's a spectacular organization that funnels money to help troubled youth, mostly through programs of safety, health and wellness, and education," says Aykroyd, adding, "It is the only tribute anniversary screening tribute that I will ever go to. I've never been to one before. I will not go to one since. I don't need honors, tributes or recognition."
Still, the 63-year-old actor holds the entire Blues Brothers entity very close to his heart. The band first appeared on "Saturday Night Live" on Jan. 17, 1976 as part of a musical sketch. But the Blues Brothers -- as a group -- really came to be two years prior.
"Around 1972, John [Belushi] came to Toronto to recruit for 'National Lampoon Radio Hour.' The first time I ever met John, he walked in the back door of Second City -- in a snowstorm, with a white scarf wrapped around his neck and a driving cap -- and he adequately dressed in a sweater and of course, it was love at first sight," said Aykroyd. "That night we went back to my blues bar and we were listening to the Downchild Blues Band...he loved that blues record. And Howard Shore was there that night and Paul Shaffer and many people who hung at my after-hours club. And he [Shore] said, 'You guys should form a band and call yourself The Blues Brothers.' So, we brought The Blues Brothers already formed to 'SNL.'"
Although "SNL" helped propel The Blues Brothers to stardom, Aykroyd attributes the band's success to Steve Martin, who invited the guys to open his September, 1978 show at the Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles. That's also where the Blues Brothers recorded its debut album, when went to No. 1 on the Billboard chart.
It was the dynamic between Aykroyd and Belushi that really connected with fans. What started at a small after-hours club had quickly turned into a hit album and movie. Two years after "The Blues Brothers" landed in theaters, Belushi died.
Looking back now, Aykroyd says he remembers Belushi's laughter and intelligence most.
"He was really well-read. He was really fun to be around. He was one of those people that when he came into a room, he was magnetic," he said. "He was charismatic...I think if he was alive today, he would probably be directing theater on Broadway. He'd probably be working with writers...and running a theater company and producing hit after hit on Broadway.
Aykroyd has done quite a bit since Belushi's death to help keep the Blues Brothers going. There are 13 night clubs throughout the U.S. named after the mythical group, best-of albums, and of course, "Blues Brothers 2000," the 1998 movie, co-starring Aykroyd and John Goodman. Even today, Aykroyd performs with Belushi's brother, James Belushi, and The Sacred Hearts Band.
"It's the hour and a half of my life that I don't have to think about anything else," he says about performing live.
When asked if he could ever imagine a film revival of "The Blues Brothers," Aykroyd said, "I would have to get a call from someone at Universal, saying, 'You know what? We would fund a third story -- whether it's direct-to-video, cable, or maybe Netflix...I have a story of course, but it involves handing it off to a younger generation."