There is a superstition that surrounds the famous American sketch comedy series, Saturday Night Live.
Some say a 'curse' hovers around the show, leading to an early grave for those who join the cast. It's certainly true that some SNL vets have died
young -- though statistically it's no surprise that a few of the show's dozens of stars have passed on since 1975. In every case they died after
leaving the cast, though that could presumably be part of the curse's magick.
Belushi was a founding member of SNL's original cast. He stayed with the show for four seasons, leaving after the 1978 run.
And continued on with other star comedians such as Andy Kaufman (1982), Chris Farley (1997,) And Phil Hartman (1998.) Other SNL cast members such as
Gilda Radner, Danitra Vance, Michael O'Donoghue, and Charles Rocket have all been the victims of untimely deaths either by overdose, murder, suicide,
and in a few cases, natural causes such as cancer or stroke. Although Andy Kaufman was not exactly a regular cast member, he was a staple of the show
and is credited for numerous appearances. All of the other cast members met their demise after their stint on SNL. Kaufman died not long after he was
voted off the show.
Amazingly, this thread is not just about the SNL curse, but also the curse of Atuk. Based on the 1963 novel, Atuk was to be a comedy film and scripts
emerged in the early 1980’s. The film was supposed to be about Atuk, a quirky Eskimo who leaves his homeland and experiences civilization for the
One of the first comedians reported to have read the script was none other than SNL star, John Belushi. However, comedian Sam Kinison became the next
actor in the role of Atuk following Belushi’s death in ’82.
Originally, Kinison was attached to the role. "When it came time to start filming, Sam wanted it rewritten," says Carroll. "Once they started
shooting it, it had accumulated a lot of costs." The production eventually shut down, and Candy and Farley, among others, read it and expressed
Remember that name, Michael O’Donoghue, from our list of SNL tragedies? Yes, it appears that this curse is possibly related to either the SNL cast
or to the extended projects of this close-knit group of comedians. John Candy was the next victim of the curse of Atuk.
The curse supposedly struck again in 1994 when John Candy, who had been approached for the role of Atuk, was reading the script when he suddenly
died of a heart attack, on March 4 (the day before the 12th anniversary of Belushi's death). It was around this point in the production's history that
the press began to speak of a curse.
But it didn’t stop there. It is said that Chris Farley’s death by drug overdose happened following an acceptance of the role. And of course, if
there is suspicion of an unnatural curse, then details are going to get hazy. It is also reported that Farley shared the script with friend and
colleague Phil Hartman, who would be the last victim of Atuk’s curse.
According to some versions the curse would strike once more, only six months later in May 1998 when Farley's friend and former Saturday Night
Live cast-mate, Phil Hartman, was murdered by his wife. Farley is said to have shown the Atuk script to Hartman, before his death, and was encouraging
him to take a co-starring role.
In all likelihood, the death of these comedians can be attributed to their lifestyles. They were overweight, overworked, and drug-addled. Sam Kinison
is the exception to this rule; it was an unfortunate car accident that ended his life. And in the case of Hartman, his wife was reported to have been
abusing illegal substances and shot him dead in a frenzy.
For whatever reason, these former SNL cast members seem to have been followed by a black cloud. And the script of Atuk is safely tucked away.
United Artists has retained the rights and the film project remains in turnaround. "I'm not a superstitious person," Carroll says, "and it doesn't
have any meaning to me."
On screenwriting hiatus to write a murder mystery, Carroll hasn't heard about plans to revive the script, to his disappointment. "With the right actor
and right tone," he says, perhaps a bit cautiously, "it may have been a nice movie."
I find it unlikely that the script would ever be revived, and if so—I find it unlikely that any comedians would be willing to accept the role given
its history shrouded in superstition. Although I am not superstitious by any means, I find this to be one of the most intriguing legends of ‘show
biz’. I grew up watching Saturday Night Live. As a child, some of my favorite movies starred Chris Farley and John Candy. Phil Hartman was a comedic
legend in his own right appearing in supporting roles in a handful of hit movies, sit-coms, and voice-acting spots.
Curse, or very odd coincidence? How is it that everyone who read for the role dies? Can a curse be placed upon a script? No one knows for sure and
no one plans on finding out as the script is now locked away never to be read again.
I can see you put a lot of effort into this thread. I applaud you for that. Plus, it is quite an interesting read.
Do you think maybe the fast paced, drug and booze lifestyle of overindulgence of that time period in Hollywood, may have had more of an influence in
the deaths of people living that lifestyle. More so, than a curse. Though a curse is much more interesting.
Thanks for the addition! I did a very quick search to see if I could drum up some info about Confederacy of Dunces. It looks like John Candy, Chris
Farley, and Richard Pryor also came across this script that never was.
In 1982, Harold Ramis was to write and direct an adaptation, starring John Belushi and Richard Pryor, but Belushi's death prevented this. Later,
John Candy and Chris Farley were touted for the lead, both of whom died at an early age, leading many to ascribe a curse to the role
Furthermore, it looks like they're not done with this one!
Fueling those "curse" talks: three previous Ignatius hopefuls -- John Belushi, Chris Farley and John Candy -- suffered early deaths before a film
version could be made of Toole's 1980 book.
a confederacy of Hollywood filmmakers are once more reportedly toiling to make a feature film out of the Pulitzer-winning, New Orleans-set comic
classic "A Confederacy of Dunces." Their Ignatius J. Reilly this time? Zach Galifianakis.
Just a note that maybe adds to the tale: A few years ago I read A Confederacy of Dunces. It should be noted that before I was halfway through the book
I was so bored that I WISHED I were dead! The legend continues......
Interesting thread.. I am sticking with the fact that everyone named who had died was involved into drugs heavily. It may be true that Sam Kinnison
died in a car accident but he also was heavy into drugs. I recently read a article about the making of Blues Brothers and the amount of blow John
Belushi was doing was insane. It mentions at one point the director walks into his trailer and on the table is a foot of coc aine essentially 5
by 5 feet. He says he flushed it all. The only one on that list I am not sure of is Andy Kaufman. I am not sure I believe into any curse.. and I am a
die hard Red Sox fan. I never believed the curse of the babe. I am pretty sure most of these people listed had the same type of personality that
eventually lead to great stardom but as well led to their deaths. If you get a chance read Wired (The John Belushi story-- some interesting facts in
that book. JB was really into Punk music).
Hey, you don't have to believe in curses and hexes to enjoy the story--the point is, the connections are fascinating and they're what make this one of
the most intriguing Hollywood myths.
Yes, their lifestyles were no doubt the reasons for their untimely deaths; except for the SNL members who died of cancer (2 cases, I believe) and one
stroke. Andy Kaufman was not a drug user as far as I know, and Phil Hartman definitely wasn't a user. Kaufman died of lung cancer.
In fact, the Phil Hartman murder-suicide is an interesting tale all its own. Hartman's wife was an aspiring but failed actress who envied his success.
While Hartman was on the sit-com Newsradio, co-star Andy Dick reintroduced his wife to coc aine. Hartman threatened to leave her if she would not
stop the abuse and she was incensed. Drugs plus insult plus jealousy with a little dash of Andy Dick is probably what got Hartman killed.
The Hartmans were emotional opposites: Brynn, say several of the couple's friends, was volatile and insecure about her husband's fame
That combustible mix was undoubtedly aggravated by another factor: Brynn's substance abuse problems. A recovering alcoholic and coc aine
user, Brynn had recently resumed drinking after a decade of near-sobriety.
Hartman's friend and former SNL colleague Jon Lovitz has accused Hartman's former NewsRadio co-star Andy Dick of re-introducing Brynn to
coc aine, causing her to relapse and suffer a nervous breakdown.
Curse, my foot. John Candy died of a heart attack brought on by years of abuse to his body. Same thing with Chris Farley, your body just can't handle
so many drugs. And Belushi? Yeah, drugs. Phil Hartman was cursed but not by Atuk, his psycho wife instead.
This is a very well written thread i very much enjoyed it..
I dont think there was a curse but that would make a great story
SNF- back in the day always seemed to me like being on drugs was part of the way of life on that show and it was welcomed ..
Anyone indulging in drugs and to the extreme the way they were doing it was on the edge sooner or latter something is going to go wrong..
But all of them will be one of my favs was john caddy i hope there all still jokes up in heaven
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