Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Untold Truth Of Dan Aykroyd

In the world of comedy, few actors are as widely recognized as Dan Aykroyd. Not only is Aykroyd seen as a talented performer, but his work is often viewed as being genuinely pioneering. As one of the original cast members of "Saturday Night Live," he helped build a foundation there that would allow the show to become the massive cultural phenomenon it is today. With "The Coneheads" and "The Blues Brothers," he demonstrated that his sketch characters were compelling enough to carry feature-length films. And as one of the stars and writers of "Ghostbusters" — a movie that would spawn multiple sequels, an animated series, and countless comic books — Aykroyd proved his penchant for conceiving of stories that are quirky and bizarre while also having mass appeal.

The Ottawa-born actor began his comedy career working in various nightclubs across Canada. After getting his big break with "Saturday Night Live", he would go on to make his mark in comedy classics like "Trading Places," "Grosse Pointe Blank," and more. However, it's not just Aykroyd's on-screen work that makes him a noteworthy individual. From his interest in the paranormal to his discussions about mental health to his anti-racism advocacy, the untold truth of Dan Aykroyd is as intriguing as his filmography.

He originally planned to be a priest

Given his seemingly natural talent for comedy, it would be easy to assume Aykroyd always planned to become a comedic actor. But he was a young adult before he made the decision to become a performer. Until the age of 17, he had another career path in mind. Aykroyd was raised in the Catholic Church and attended two Catholic high schools, St. Pius X and St. Patrick's. Given his religious background and education, he initially envisioned himself becoming a priest.

However, even after his plans shifted away from the priesthood, he still wasn't set on a career in comedy. Aykroyd attended Carleton University, where he studied criminology and sociology. But he dropped out before completing his degree, and it's at this point he would shift his sights to comedy and begin to build the career that ultimately made him famou. His success demonstrates that, even when life doesn't go according to plan, new and better opportunities are often waiting around the corner.

Aykroyd once lost John Belushi

As he explained in a 2020 interview on "Late Night With Seth Meyers," Aykroyd and the cast of "The Blues Brothers" were filming in the middle of the night and took a break around 3 AM. At one point, Aykroyd realized John Belushi wasn't on set. He noticed a path leading away from the parking lot of the mall where they'd been filming and followed it.

The path led to a suburban neighborhood where the majority of the houses were dark, but one had its lights on. Following his instincts, Aykroyd knocked on the door and found Belushi inside, visiting with the homeowners.

"I knocked on the door and the guys said, 'Yeah?'" Aykroyd recalled. "I said, 'We're shooting a movie over here ... and we're looking for one of our actors.' [The man said] 'Yeah, I know, Belushi. He came in here about a half hour ago, he raided my fridge, he's asleep on my couch.'"

UFOs intrigue him

Aykroyd is often associated with ghosts, of course. And his involvement in the spirit world goes beyond what we see on the screen. Indeed, his father, Peter Aykroyd, Sr., published a book called "A History of Ghosts" that discusses his family's involvement in the Spiritualist movement. However, supernatural spirits are not the only otherworldly beings he's interested in. He has long been intrigued by UFOs and has served as a consultant for the Mutual UFO Network, a nonprofit organization whose members study reported UFO sightings.

In 2005, he produced the documentary "Dan Aykroyd: Unplugged on UFOs," in which he and author David Sereda investigate UFO technology, supposed governmental cover-ups, potential military intervention as it relates to UFOs, and more. And from 1996 to 2000, he hosted "Psi Factor: Chronicles of the Paranormal," a Canadian science fiction drama series centering around paranormal investigations. If "The X-Files" is ever rebooted as a comedy, the producers will certainly know who to call.

Blues Brothers influenced him in real life

In "The Blues Brothers," Aykroyd plays musician Elwood Blues, one of his career's most iconic characters. But his interest in blues music has played out in significant ways in his off-camera life, as well. In 1992, Aykroyd and Isaac Tigrett, co-founder of the Hard Rock Café, founded the House of Blues, a chain of music venues dedicated to showcasing Black blues musicians and folk artists.

The first location was in Cambridge, Massachusetts, specifically in Harvard Square. A number of other celebrities helped to finance it. By 2004, House of Blues had become the world's second-largest promoter of live music, boasting seven venues and 22 amphitheaters. In 2006, it was bought by Live Nation and it continues to offer concerts, "Gospel Brunch" events, and private events in venues around the United States and Canada. There is also an associated radio show called "Elwood's Blues Mobile," in which musicians frequently discuss the ways in which they've been influenced by blues greats of the past.

He founded a line of vodka

With brands like Ryan Reynolds' Aviation Gin and Justin Timberlake's Sauza 90 Tequila working their way into the pop culture zeitgeist, getting into the world of spirits seems to be the trendy thing for celebrities to do these days. But Aykroyd was doing it before it was cool.

Back in 2007, he founded Crystal Head Vodka, a brand known for its skull-shaped bottles. The brand is also noteworthy because it doesn't have additives, it offers a number of limited-edition vodkas, and it's filtered through Herkimer diamond crystals.

While Crystal Head now focuses on tequila, Aykroyd first got into spirits by way of tequila. John Paul DeJoria, founder of Patron Tequila and Paul Mitchell hair products, was an investor in the House of Blues. Aykroyd at the time wasn't much of a fan of tequila, but DeJora convinced him to try Patron Silver, which he loved. Subsequent conversations with DeJoria convinced him to try his hand at founding his own line, Aykroyd said in an interview with the spirits publication Vine Pair.

Aykroyd is a sheriff's deputy

As reported by People Magazine in 2014, Akyroyd is a deputy with the Hinds County Sheriff's Department in Mississippi. He has also donated a car to the Sheriff's Department and pledged money to the family of a police officer who was killed in Philadelphia. He spearheaded the Blue Line Foundation, an organization that raises money for local police and law enforcement agencies.

In light of recent conversations about police violence, Aykroyd's support of the police might be seen as a contentious point. For his part, Aykroyd is aware of the issues and believes that working toward more positive relationships between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve is attainable through communication. "Here we're less likely to have something happen like in Ferguson, because the officers are identifying with the young people," Aykroyd said in a 2015 interview regarding his affection for the city of Jackson, Mississippi.

Dan Aykroyd is on the autism spectrum

In the 1980s, Aykroyd found out he has what was then referred to as Asperger's after his wife, Donna Dixon, encouraged him to see a doctor. Of course, that term is widely considered to be outdated these days, and it's more accurate to say he is on the autism spectrum.

Regarding his experience with being on the autism spectrum, he has said he has been able to "channel it creatively." Interestingly, he believes his "obsession with ghosts and law enforcement," as he put it in an interview, to be related to his autism. His subsequent interest in famed ghost hunter Hans Holzer in part led to the original premise for "Ghostbusters." 

When Elon Musk hosted "Saturday Night Live" in 2021, he claimed he was the first person with Asperger's to host the show. Viewers took to social media and were quick to point out that, in addition to being one of the show's original cast members, Aykroyd hosted the show in 2003. He has also discussed his experience with Tourette's, which his doctors identified when he was 12.

Carrie Fisher and Aykroyd were briefly engaged

Of course, Aykroyd is known for having an impeccable sense of humor, and Carrie Fisher was always quite quick-witted herself. If their relationship had worked out, the banter between the two of them would have been delightful. But apparently, it wasn't meant to be.

The two met at "Saturday Night Live," and Fisher appeared in "The Blues Brothers" as the spurned girlfriend of Belushi's Jake Blues. That film brought Fisher and Aykroyd closer together, and he proposed to her on set. But the relationship ended when Fisher reconciled with her former boyfriend, musician Paul Simon, whom she would marry and later divorce.

After Fisher's death in 2016, Aykroyd wrote an essay for Empire magazine as a tribute to her, sharing a glimpse into their engagement and a number of comedic anecdotes. Following the breakup, Aykroyd went on to marry actor Donna Dixon in 1983. They met on the set of "Doctor Detroit" and would appear in four more films together. They have three daughters.

Aykroyd can balance comedy and drama

Aykroyd is, of course, most well known for his comedic acting, and it's in comedy where he has truly left his mark. However, he has had dramatic roles, as well. In 2001's "Pearl Harbor," Aykroyd played Captain Thurman, a Naval intelligence officer spearheading the monitoring of Japanese espionage attempts. As pointed out by the Chicago Tribune, the character is said to be a composite of multiple real-life people.

In 1989's "Driving Miss Daisy," he played Boolie Werthan, the son of the titular character. The role truly offered Aykroyd a chance to stretch his range, playing the character between the ages of 40 and 65. He's the one who buys Daisy her 1949 Hudson Commodore, and hires Hoke Colburn, played by Morgan Freeman, to be her chauffeur, thus laying the foundation for the film's exploration of racism in America and particularly in the South.

While drama may not be Aykroyd's go-to form of creative expression, these roles gave him an opportunity to showcase his talent as an actor.

Aykroyd managed a speakeasy

When Aykroyd was performing with Second City, the famed improv comedy troupe in Chicago, he was splitting his time between that city and Toronto, where he ran the 505 Club, as it was called.

As detailed in Vanity Fair's history of "The Blues Brothers," the club was an after-hours speakeasy that opened at 1 A.M. Aykroyd has described it as a "key club" that predominantly allowed in friends and family members of Aykroyd and others in his comedy circle. The club's famous parties often lasted well into the early hours of the morning.

Aykroyd lived in the building, and it became a popular hangout location for his Second City compatriots. Among the famous names to hang out with Aykroyd at the club was John Belushi. Aykroyd was 20 years old at the time and Belushi was 24 when they first met. The latter was visiting Toronto from New York, where he was working on the "National Lampoon Radio Hour," a spin-off from the magazine of the same name created by the talent behind the "National Lampoon" films.

He boycotted Belushi's biopic

John Belushi died in 1982 and seven years later, the 1989 biopic "Wired" premiered in theaters. The film was based on a non-fiction book of the same name written by journalist Bob Woodward. In it, Belushi was played by Michael Chiklis and Woodward by J.T. Walsh.

As reported by Rolling Stone, Aykroyd, along with Belushi's brother Jim and his wife Judy, felt the film misrepresented Belushi's life and inaccurately represented addiction. In an interview for "MTV's The Big Picture" (later reported by the Los Angeles Times), Aykroyd said of the film, "I hope it never gets seen and I am going to hurl all the negative energy I can and muster all my hell energies [against them]. My thunderbolts are out on this one, quite truthfully."

Aykroyd was working on the film "Loose Cannons" at the time and Walsh, who had been cast in it, was removed from the project after it was announced that he was set to appear in "Wired." The Washington Post reported at the time that there was speculation that Aykroyd was involved in Walsh's firing.

Blues Brothers artists' publishing rights were important to him

In addition to the comedic writing and skillful performances, what makes "The Blues Brothers" such a memorable film is the music. Indeed, the film is in many ways an homage to the history of the genre and to its iconic musicians and performers. Aykroyd and Belushi felt it was critically important to treat the artists involved fairly when it came to negotiations regarding the music they performed. Aykroyd said he felt the showcasing of the music to be a form of "cultural preservation" and wanted to ensure the musicians and songwriters were compensated fairly.

"Every one of those songs we recorded remunerated the original artists 100% due to album sales. It was an ethical decision and the songwriters today and their estates have benefited from it," Aykroyd told The Guardian in 2020. Some of the musicians involved in the film include James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Cab Calloway, Ray Charles, Chaka Khan, and John Lee Hooker.  

Dan Aykroyd helped excavate dinosaur bones

In 2011, Aykroyd and his wife, Donna Dixon, joined paleontologist Philip Currie on a dig to raise money for a new museum in Alberta, Canada. The dig took place at an excavation site known as the River of Death, in recognition of a flood that killed a large herd of horned dinosaurs 73 million years ago. The site was discovered by an eighth-grade science teacher named Al Lakusta in 1974.

Around 3,500 bones were excavated, largely belonging to a species known as Pachyrhinosaurus lakustai, or thick-nosed lizard. "It is a Canadian treasure house, and I want to bring people from all over the world to Canada to help display what's here and show the world we have this incredible resource right here in this province," Aykroyd said in an interview at the time.

Other celebrities Aykroyd and Dixon invited to participate in the dig included Bobby Kennedy, Jr. and mystery writer Patricia Cornell.