Catching up with Peter Riegert of "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."
Here, Metcalf catches up with actor Peter Riegert, who played Donald "Boone" Schoenstein in the movie.
I started writing about some of the people I worked with in "Animal House" about a month ago when I went to Chicago for a reunion with some of them. It seems such a long time ago that I'm not sure if it's still relevant or not. I have left Peter Riegert until last, quite honestly, because I have been trying to avoid writing about him. He is difficult. He doesn't tell easily communicated stories. When I talk about him, I become even more subjective than usual. I sent him a list of questions to answer but he didn't get to it. So, I am going to have to wing it.
Immediately after shooting "Animal House," I quit acting for almost two years to produce a feature film called "Chilly Scenes of Winter." United Artists, which distributed it, changed the title to "Head Over Heels," marketed it with a ridiculously bad comic poster and watched it fail miserably. My partners, Amy Robinson and Griffin Dunne, and I got it back from UA and re-released it as "Chilly Scenes of Winter," which had been the name of the Anne Beattie book on which it was based. It wasn't very successful then, either, but at least it had its correct name.
I bring all that up because Peter was in it. John Heard and Mary Beth Hurt play the leads and Peter plays John's best friend. Joan Micklin Silver wrote and directed the movie and she had known Peter from around New York and didn't think he was right for the part.
She wanted Jeff Goldblum, who she had worked with in "Between the Lines." Amy and I thought Peter would play well off John Heard, but we had to push hard to convince Joan. I don't think we ever did convince her. I think it turned out that Goldblum didn't want to do the part for some reason and Peter was who came up next. It worked out very well. John is a very anxious actor, very complicated, smart but neurotic. He has become a truly great character actor but at the time, he was one of the people that you looked at and thought, "He's going to be the next big thing."
For many reasons, it didn't turn out that way. Peter is solid, steady and dependable; not flamboyant, not calling attention to himself. He is the perfect foil for John. Goldblum would have competed with John. Peter just moved in his own stream next to him and you really believe they are lifelong friends. I always think casting for chemistry is better than casting for star power.
Anyway, when the movie was released, Peter would go by the theater on Third Avenue in New York City every day to check up on how the box office was doing. He quickly developed a relationship with the theater manager and it was he who found out that UA planned on pulling the plug almost before the picture opened.
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peter is in one of my favorite movies called Local Hero. I did see the independent movie he made and it wasn't bad.
Mark, great article! After reading this and researching CHILLY SCENES of WINTER, I hope the opportunity to view it presents itself soon. Any chance of this being released on DVD?
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