What the Hell Happened to Rick Moranis?
The last few celebrities I have spotlighted all had pretty dramatic stories which resulted in the end of their A-list status. But today’s story doesn’t include the usual celebrity excesses. This is the story of a guy who basically walked away from it all and never looked back.
Rick Moranis first rose to prominence on SCTV alongside John Candy, Eugene Levy and Martin Short. Moranis was best known for playing Doug McKenzie in the Great White North sketches which would later serve as the source material for the film Strange Brew.
Strange Brew tells the story of the McKenzie brothers played by Moranis and Dave Thomas (no relation to the founder of Wendy’s). The McKenzie’s are idiots in the Wayne and Garth and/or Bill and Ted tradition. Only Canadian.
If you’re unfamiliar with the McKenzie brothers, here’s a clip:
When I was a kid, Strange Brew ran on cable roughly every 6 hours. As a result, my friends and I were constantly ending sentences with “eh” and calling each other “hosers”.
Strange Brew was a modest hit in 1983. And has since developed a cult following.
1984 was a big year for Moranis. First he appeared in a movie I had completely forgotten about. The Wild Life was a Fast Times at Ridgemont High knock-off from the makers of Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
I have never seen this movie, but I am going to have to hunt it down. It was actually written by Fast Times writer (and future auteur) Cameron Crowe. In a desperate bid to confuse fans of Fast Times, they actually cast Sean Penn’s brother, Chris Penn, in the lead role!
The movie actually has an impressive ensemble. In addition to Moranis and Penn, there’s Eric Stoltz, Lea Thompson, and a pre-Twin Peaks Sherilyn Fenn! Damn it, Netflix! Why isn’t this movie available? (Probably because it was dismissed as a Fast Times knock off and instantly forgotten.)
In 1984, Moranis also appeared in a little film called Ghostbusters. In a small role as an accountant who has an unrequited crush on his neighbor and is turned into a dog, Moranis just about steals the show from comedy heavyweights, Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd.
Ghostbusters was originally written with a completely different cast in mind. Dan Aykroyd wrote his original draft as a vehicle for himself and his buddy, John Belushi. He also wrote roles with Eddie Murphy and John Candy in mind. The original concept was heavy on fantastical elements with the Ghostbusters traveling through time and space to fight huge ghosts. For budgetary reasons, the script was reworked by Aykroyd and Harold Ramis.
But additional changes were needed. Belushi died of a drug overdose and Murphy and Candy were unavailable. So Bill Murray stepped in for Belushi, Ernie Hudson took the part written for Murphy and Moranis replaced Candy. Originally, Louis Tully was conceived as a stuffy business man. But the character was reenvisioned as a nerd for Moranis.
Ghostbusters was a smash hit and established Moranis as the go-to guy in Hollywood for loveable nerds. A sequel, cartoon series, comics, video games and toys followed.
Rounding out 1984, the busy Moranis also appeared in Streets of Fire. Streets of Fire starred Michael Pare. Who’s Michael Pare? He’s the guy who would have been a star if Streets of Fire had been a hit.
Streets of Fire was a billed as a “rock and roll fable” and was intended to launch a trilogy. But instead it bombed and the sequels never got made.
Continuing his string of scene-stealing cameos, Moranis appeared in Brewster’s Millions as the self-proclaimed King of the Mimics, Morty King. The joke was that he walked around repeating everything Richard Pryor said without making any effort at all to sound like Richard Pryor.
Posted on June 21, 2011, in Movies, What the Hell Happened? and tagged entertainment, Ghostbusters, honey I shrunk the kids, little shop of horrors, movies, parenthood, Rick Moranis, the flintstones. Bookmark the permalink. 40 Comments.