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/Film - Bill Murray's Stripes Helped Ivan Reitman Get Heavy Metal Made


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Heavy Metal Magazine debuted on newsstand racks in 1977, instantly becoming the go-to magazine for fans of hardcore music and underground comix. Despite its title, it wasn't devoted strictly to heavy metal music, but to an entire underground lifestyle, and many notable fantasy artists built their names on its art. No hip kid in the late '70s and early '80s was without several issues of Heavy Metal in their apartment. Because Heavy Metal sold itself as a magazine and not as a comic book, it was free of the content strictures of the Comics Code Authority, allowing it to print more violent and sexual content. MAD Magazine enacted a similar ploy, but merely to get away with ribald jokes that skewered Madison Ave. 

By 1981, Heavy Metal had built enough of an underground imprimatur to warrant the production of a feature film. Producer Ivan Reitman teamed up with a Canadian production company to assemble an animated anthology film, with each segment coming from a different genre and made by a different director. The unifying element was a mysterious sphere that appeared in several of the shorts. Canadian comedians John Candy and Eugene Levy appeared in small voice roles. 

On the Heavy Metal website, they have archived a 1981 article about the making of the film. In the article, it was indicated that Columbia Pictures was very wary of making a sex-drugs-and-rock-and-roll movie like this one ... until they saw that producer Ivan Reitman could make a solid comedy like "Stripes."

The website talks about how Ivan Reitman and American producer Leonard Mogel came to have a conversation about the project. An hour-long conversation only amped up both their enthusiasm and Reitman, based in Toronto, was certain he could secure funding in his country.

It Made How Much?


 As Ivan Reitman said:

"I can get the money and would like to produce it — let's go. [...] It seemed like a great idea. I'd never seen an animated film since early childhood that excited me, so I thought it would be a challenge to make one. [...] Anyhow, I've seen most of the science-fiction and fantasy films ever made. I'm a big buff, so I really wanted to do an adult fantasy."

Reitman's enthusiasm wasn't enough though. The appeal of "Stripes" was. Reitman's 1981 comedy film was a notable film in comedy films of the decade, bringing Bill Murray to the fore in a big way, and involving rising talents like Harold Ramis and John Candy. The film follows a slugabed cab driver (Murray) who, having lost his job and girlfriend, decides to enlist in the army. Murray, however, provided an affable, dismissive slovenliness to his role, standing in contrast to the stuffed shirts in the military. It was a famous "snobs vs. slobs" comedy. 

It would go on to make $83 million on a $10 million budget. 

"Heavy Metal" was a massive undertaking, of course, but Reitman didn't flinch. He was still in his 20s at the time and was eager to tackle the challenges. The anthology approach was his idea. He said: 

"Though the artwork makes the magazine, you get bored with animation, the wonder of the designs, after ten minutes. So I figured, if we put together segments of shifting designs and story approaches, yet make them somehow connected, we could have the best of all worlds."

Once the ethos was selected, it was off to the races. "Heavy Metal" hit theaters in August of 1981, only a few months after "Stripes." It was a good time to be a teenager.

Read this next: The 14 Best Animated Movies (That Aren't Made By Disney Or Pixar)

The post Bill Murray's Stripes Helped Ivan Reitman Get Heavy Metal Made appeared first on /Film.

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