Stripes was originally pitched by director Ivan Reitman as a Cheech and Chong Army movie. But it turned into a modern comedy classic featuring an embarrassment of acting riches with a cast that included Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, John Candy, and P.J. Soles. It was also the first shot in the spotlight for Sean Young, John Larroquette, Judge Reinhold, Timothy Busfield, and “Hey! It’s that guy!” actor John Diehl. Here are 17 things you might not have known about the 1981 hit.
1. HAROLD RAMIS AND COLUMBIA PICTURES DID NOT WANT HAROLD RAMIS IN THE MOVIE.
With the knowledge that the studio didn’t want him, and more comfortable with writing at that point than with acting, Ramis was reluctant to play Russell. He even had Dennis Quaid (P.J. Soles’s husband at the time) read for his part. Bill Murray stepped in and insisted that he only wanted to work with Ramis.
2. BILL MURRAY AND P.J. SOLES DID BOOT CAMP FOR THREE DAYS.
Both John Winger and Stella initially planned to wake up at 0500 and jog with real soldiers for two weeks.
3. THEY FILMED THE SPATULA SCENE AT 3 A.M.
It was improvised by Murray.
4. THE DEFENSE DEPARTMENT LIKED THE SCRIPT.
So they gave the crew a ton of access, including allowing Ivan Reitman and company to shoot in Fort Knox and letting real troops play extras.
5. MURRAY WAS UNEASY ABOUT MAKING A MOVIE WHERE HE CARRIED A MACHINE GUN.
He reasoned with himself that if guns were used to save your friends, it was okay.
6. ARMY RECRUITMENT NUMBERS WENT UP AFTER THE MOVIE WAS RELEASED.
By about 10 percent.
7. MOST OF THE CAST WAS DRUNK FOR TWO WEEKS FOLLOWING JOHN LENNON’S DEATH.
John Larroquette (Capt. Stillman) later admitted that he was drunk in the scene when he dressed down the company after they watched and participated in mud wrestling. Even after filming moved to Los Angeles, Murray and Warren Oates (Sgt. Hulka) had a drunken evening beside the grave of late actor Strother Martin.
8. JOHN LARROQUETTE BROKE HIS NOSE.
Larroquette permanently scarred his nose running into a door in the scene where he discovers that the EM-50 has been stolen.
9. WARREN OATES CHIPPED HIS TOOTH.
Unbeknownst to Warren Oates, Reitman told the actors to grab Hulka and drag him into the mud in one of the obstacle course scenes. After his tooth got chipped and he screamed at Reitman, he insisted that they could just shoot from the other side of his face and filming could continue before he was talked into seeing a dentist.
10. HULKA WAS SUPPOSED TO DIE.
The fall from the high platform was meant to be fatal. The character and actor were too well liked for that part of the script to not change.
11. KENTUCKY DOUBLED FOR CZECHOSLOVAKIA.
The Czechoslovakia scenes were filmed at the Jim Beam-owned Chapeze Distillery in Clermont, Kentucky. Ramis said that the third act was set in that country because Reitman’s family were Czech refugees.
12. LARROQUETTE AD LIBBED “I WISH I WAS A LOOFAH.”
Reitman told Larroquette to improvise stuff to say while looking at naked women in the shower. He came up with “I wish I was a loofah.” After Reitman yelled “Cut!” he asked the actor what a loofah was.
13. A NINE-MINUTE ACID TRIP SCENE WAS SHOT BUT CUT.
John and Russell took LSD and went on a mission to fight rebels in the Colombian jungle. Reitman didn’t think it fit with the tone of the rest of the movie.
14. A SCENE WITH CRUISER AND HULKA WAS CUT, TOO.
Cruiser pulled a grenade pin and counted too slowly before losing count entirely. Hulka then grabbed it out of his hand and threw it to save their lives.
15. DIEHL WAS PAID $1500 A WEEK TO PLAY CRUISER.
The young actor was very happy with the salary.
16. MURRAY AND JOHN CANDY HAD DIFFERENT APPROACHES TO BOND WITH THE PLATOON.
Murray arranged a screening of the 1968 film The Bofors Gun, a dark military drama set in West Germany following World War II. Candy invited the company to his house to watch the famous Roberto Duran/Sugar Ray Leonard fight and enjoy a spaghetti dinner made by his wife.
17. ONLY CANDY AND PSYCHO KNEW THE LYRICS TO “DO WAH DIDDY DIDDY”
Conrad Dunn (Psycho) recalled that he and Candy had to teach it to the rest of the outfit.