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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.