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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, July 31, 2014

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In Movies & TV

Stephen Furst (center) played Flounder in "Animal House."

In Movies & TV

Metcalf and Furst (right) have kept in touch since 1978.

Catching up with Stephen Furst from "Animal House"


Actor / restaurateur Mark Metcalf, who writes about movies for OnMilwaukee.com, recently attended a reunion with fellow cast members from the film "Animal House."

Metcalf, who played Douglas Neidermeyer in the 1978 classic, conducted interviews with several cast members and will share the conversations with OnMilwaukee.com readers.

In this installment, Metcalf catches up with actor Stephen Furst, who played Kent "Flounder" Dorfman in the movie.

Stephen Furst is much more loquacious in person than he is in print.

The following interview was done by e-mail so his answers are a little terse. For instance, Stephen says he was delivering pizzas before he was cast in "Animal House," he means it quite literally. He delivered a pizza or two to the casting office where they were doing auditions.

Knowing that he had to go to them that they weren't likely to come find him, he took his 8" x 10" -- his resume picture, what the actor lives by, what gets him in the door, what agents are always telling you to change, and which cost probably 50 to 75 cents each -- and taped it to the inside of the pizza box so that it would be the second thing they saw -- after cheese and pepperoni -- when they opened the box.

Unfortunately, the picture hung down into the cheese and when Michael Chinich, who cast the picture, opened the box Stephen had cheese and marinara sauce all over his face.

Stephen also neglected to mention that when we shot the scene in the stable, when I am yelling at him and the horse is nipping at his shoulder, John Landis had the prop department get some carrot juice and put it all over Stephen's shoulder so that the horse would really be motivated to nip and chew at his shoulder.

We did several takes of that scene. But the most takes of any scene in the movie, and a take is when they shoot the scene over so that they have choices when it comes time to edit, or put it all together, the most takes was 18.

When Flounder is whining about how his brother is going to kill him because the car is so messed up after the road trip, and John Belushi is trying to cheer him up by crushing beer cans on his head, the two of them, John and Stephen were cracking up so much that they had to keep re-shooting the scene again and again.

They finally just settled and if you look closely you can see Stephen begin to laugh at the very end; just the corner of his mouth starts to quiver.

I worked with Stephen a lot on the film and have had a lot of contact with him since. He is a wonderful guy and a good man. It may be the inverse of Stockholm syndrome, where the hostage and the hostage-taker bond over time, but I feel a special connection to Stephen.

I used to say that he made it easy to abuse him because he was so pathetic, but if you look at all he has done as an actor in the 30 years since Animal House and what he is doing now, you can see that he is anything but pathetic. Here is a transcript of our e-mail interview:

Mark Metcalf: Was "Animal House" your first film and what were you working at, or in, before you were asked to act in "Animal House"?

Stephen Furst: Yes, it was my first film. I was delivering pizzas.

MM: Ignoring the philosophical reality that any act is a life changing experience, and thinking in terms of journalistic reality, was working on "Animal House" a life changing experience?

SF: Yes, because that film alone has made it possible to work as an actor for 30 years.

MM: What was it like working with John Landis?

SF: John is one of my very favorite directors. I absorb his energy and he just brings better work out from me.

MM: What has it been like to be part of a film that seems to be so specifically a part of the American experience?

SF: It feels great to be a part of film history. Even today, 30 years later, I have people come to me and tell me their favorite lines from the film. We are truly in a classic film.

MM: What are you doing now?

SF: I am a producer/director and currently doing a film ("My Sister's Keeper") with Cameron Diaz, Abigail Breslin, Alec Baldwin and Joan Cusack.


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