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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2007 > Sep > Sep 19

Dan Aykroyd Soul Survivor

From: UFO UpDates - Toronto <ufoupdates.nul>
Date: Wed, 19 Sep 2007 11:13:43 -0400
Archived: Wed, 19 Sep 2007 11:13:43 -0400
Subject: Dan Aykroyd Soul Survivor 

Source: The Guardian - London, UK


Wednesday September 19, 2007

Soul Survivor

His film career may have stalled lately, but Dan Aykroyd still
has his eyes on the stars. He's an avid UFO-spotter, believes in
alien abductions and thinks extraterrestrials are visiting the
Lake District. Emine Saner has a close encounter with the Blues

Unless it is a very convincing joke, Dan Aykroyd most definitely
believes in the existence of UFOs. We get on to the subject and
his eyes start doing something strange. They bulge from his
head, as if to punctuate his thoughts. And they are strange
thoughts. "There's this one website I go on a lot," he says,
"that just ends all debate about whether they're real or not,
and that's MUFON.Com."

Aykroyd is the "Hollywood consultant" for MUFON (it stands for
Mutual UFO Network), which seems to involve keeping abreast of
developments in the UFO-sighting world and promoting the
organisation. "Basically, [MUFON are] scientists from all kinds
of disciplines that have formed this group to analyse what is
real and what is a hoax. Now you could say every one of them is
a fake - that footage of 200 whirling white dots in the sky, or
the Phoenix Lights [a series of lights seen over Phoenix,
Arizona, in 1997] - which 17,000 people saw - the Tinley Park
sightings in Illinois, where whole suburbs saw these triangles
and wedges go over at three miles an hour. Is it a mass
hallucination? If so, why is it appearing on digital cameras and
film? They're coming and going like taxis."

I wasn't sure about bringing up the UFOs so soon because it
makes Aykroyd seem so, well, odd, and that's not the way he
comes across. Or not entirely. He certainly has his
eccentricities, and I don't just mean the physical oddities to
which he has drawn attention in the past: he has webbed toes and
eyes of different colours, one brown and one green. He wears his
black motorcycle boots everywhere, even on the beach (perhaps
because of the webbed toes?) and he is wearing them today,
providing an edge to his suit. He always carries his police
badge on him, from his time as a reserve officer for the Harahan
police department in Louisiana; he pulls the badge out of his
jacket pocket to show me. But he is also gentle (he is a man who
can fill an armchair - it makes me want to give him a cuddle),
articulate, serious even, and doesn't lack self-awareness.

Before meeting Aykroyd in the empty bar of a London hotel, I
watched a programme he did last year in which he was interviewed
for an hour and a half about aliens by a "ufologist" called
David Sereda. At the end of it, Sereda earnestly described the
actor as "one of the greatest minds in our world at this time"
and Aykroyd had the grace to look slightly embarrassed. The
whole thing could be a long-running joke, perhaps an attempt to
keep people interested in his films Ghostbusters and Coneheads,
but it's a lot of trouble to go to just to promote old movies.
Does he really believe it? "I do, absolutely, and I'm not
alone." He is very serious.

So why are they here? "There's that old theory that humankind
and this planet were seen as the centre of the universe. That
was thrown away - how could we be so presumptuous? Well, I
subscribe to that. I think we are the centre of the universe and
that is why they're coming. They're visiting because this is the
planet that produced Picasso, the atom bomb, penicillin ...
there are so many advances in science, art and culture." But if
they are able to travel here, surely they are more advanced than
us? "Oh, they have technology better than ours, but they didn't
paint like Renoir, they don't dance like Mick Jagger, they don't
write like Samuel Johnson or William Faulkner. They are envious
of us. We have the most beautiful planet - the Rockies, the
purple fields of the United States, the Lake District, the
Pyrenees, the turquoise seas of the tropics. They don't have
that. They may have gelatinous pools and crystal mountains and
they've got the technology to flip from planet to planet or
dimension to dimension but, you know, Keith Richards didn't come
from there." I'm not so sure about that last bit. Does he think
there are aliens living here, among us? "I think there are
possibly some hybrids here. I think many are here for good
purposes and want to improve our planet but I think some are
here for malevolent purposes." Like what? "Probably extracting
sperm and ova, or taking cow's lips and anuses for delicacies,
being cruel to animals, that kind of thing."

Aliens and cow anuses. I could talk to Aykroyd about this for
hours and so could he, probably, if he was certain I was taking
him seriously. But on to more mundane pursuits. Aykroyd is in
London to scout out a location for the first UK branch of the
House of Blues, the music venue and restaurant chain he co-
founded. His band, the Blues Brothers, still perform at the
opening of every new club, even though he sold the company last
year (Aykroyd has a strong entrepreneurial streak - he remains
as a consultant for the House of Blues, has a winery, and
imports an expensive brand of tequila into his native Canada).
The other reason he is here is to promote his new film, I Now
Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, in which a widowed firefighter,
Larry, persuades his womanising friend Chuck (Adam Sandler) to
pretend they are having a relationship and register a civil
partnership so as to provide financial protection for his
children. It has received terrible reviews, with critics
complaing about tired, hateful "jokes" about dropping the soap
in the shower, vague racism and Sandler as an unlikely sex

Aykroyd, always likable, puts in a good show as the fire
captain, but is this what his career has come to? Now 55, he was
influential as one of the original cast members of Saturday
Night Live, had success with the Blues Brothers film and band,
was nominated for an Oscar for his role in Driving Miss Daisy
and wrote and starred in several hit films including
Ghostbusters. But in recent years, his career hasn't looked so
good: he appeared in the sequel Blues Brothers 2000, which
flopped, and took small parts in films including Pearl Harbor
and 50 First Dates.

I think I have irritated him. "I went as far as one could go in
the business - I wrote seven movies and got them made, and
starred in them and produced them. It's impossible to maintain
because a new generation comes up and one has to relinquish
one's position. There are new stars, new types of humour, new
directors and writers and they're referencing other things, so
for me to sit and home and moan that the phone isn't ringing,
that's not my style. I've had 30-plus years in this business, an
amazing run, and I think now it's time for the new generation to
come up. The torch has been passed to Will Ferrell, Adam
Sandler, and one day the time will come for them to pass the
torch. I get offered things where they want a good character
performance. I've actually turned down six movies in the last
year because between the expansion of House of Blues, my
schedule with the band, the tequila, the wine business, and
raising three kids and maintaining a marriage of 25 years [he
has three daughters with the actor Donna Dixon], I don't have
much time to be away any more."

Aykroyd founded the Blues Brothers nearly 30 years ago with his
friend John Belushi and the band is still going 25 years after
the latter's death from an accidental drug overdose. Belushi,
the wild one in the partnership, had been a drug addict for
several years and died at the Chateau Marmont hotel in Los
Angeles, after injecting heroin and cocaine. Did Aykroyd feel
there was more he could have done? "I poured a lot of coke down
the toilet. His wife and I hid a lot of vials or crushed them.
We did everything we could but ultimately he was very wily and
we're all captains of our own ship. There wasn't much we could
do if he was determined to get his hands on it. He would run
away or get really mad at us. This was before the time of the
active intervention that you see today. We did try to get an
intervention together but he bolted from the room. The last
night I saw him alive, he was getting into a white limousine
headed to Jersey with a coke dealer. I wasn't enough to attract
him away from that." He thinks for a minute. "Of course I feel
bad about it but I can't lay too much guilt on myself."

For a long time, he found Belushi's death extremely hard to deal
with. "It stopped me dead. I was 29, he was 33, we had a hit
record, hit movie, everything laid out before us. It sent me
into a mode of abandonment of safety - I drove my motorcycle
faster than I should have, I did a lot of partying, I hung out
with people I shouldn't, but then ultimately I came round and
realised I had something to give, I had a contribution to make,
so I went on and did some of my best work after he died."

It was his parents (his father was a civil engineer, his mother
a secretary) who started Aykroyd on the acting path by enrolling
him at an improvisational class. They didn't particularly want
him to be an actor, they just thought it would help calm their
hyperactive son - he had been expelled from two schools for
acting up and a psychiatrist had diagnosed mild Asperger's
syndrome, a condition on the autism spectrum, because Aykroyd
had a few tics and had shown signs of obsessive compulsive

His early experience would later come in useful when Aykroyd
joined Second City, the improvisation comedy troupe, where his
contemporaries included John Candy, Eugene Levy and Bill Murray.
For a while, his mother, especially, had hoped he might become a
priest: Aykroyd had been educated in a seminary for four years
("the Catholic school board had a better system of education at
that time"), but they sent his parents a letter saying Aykroyd
was not a suitable candidate. "They were disappointed because I
had to find a new high school, but I was totally relieved. I'd
make a bad preacher. I could sound good, acting it out, but who
am I to tell other people how to live their lives?"

It was in Ottawa, where Aykroyd grew up, that he discovered the
blues. "There was a booker who brought all the major blues
artists into town. I would sneak into this club through the back
door and there were all of the great players, so very early on I
was being exposed to it." As a teenager, he would walk around
Ottawa dressed like Charlie Musselwhite, the blues musician,
wearing big shades and a long raincoat (the inspiration for his
Elwood Blues character).

What I find most endearing about Aykroyd is his wide range of
interests and the intensity with which he follows them:
motorbikes, wine, music, politics ("I think Hillary would make
an extremely capable president. She brings Bill along, she has
knowledge and experience, and I see great leadership strength
there"), law enforcement and criminology. His interest in the
paranormal runs in the family - his grandparents held seances,
and his younger brother Peter is a "psychic researcher". He says
he has seen UFOs - some glowing discs travelling at high speed
above his house at Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts. Another
time, he says, he was outside in the street in New York, where
he lives much of the time, on his mobile phone to Britney Spears
(he played her father in a terrible film called Crossroads, and
she had phoned to ask him to appear on Saturday Night Live with
her) when he saw a black car across the street and a very tall
man get out of the back. He looked back a split second later and
it had vanished. The man, he says, had given him a "dirty look"
that he took as "a warning". He didn't say if he thinks the
warning was against working with Spears again.

Does he mind what others think about his beliefs? "Well, there
was a poll in America which said 54% believe [in UFOs], so
that's a majority - I'm with millions of people. How about the
hundreds of thousands who have seen them? Or the ones who have
been taken up in the ships?" He really thinks people have been
abducted? "Oh, absolutely, many. I've spoken with very credible
witnesses who have shown me their marks."

He points abstractly to his knees. "To those who don't believe
and don't want to believe and think I'm crazy: good. Let the
sceptics come and tear down the sighting. If I say I saw a black
wedge go over my car, let them tell me that it was a cloud. I
accept sceptics, you've got to have challenges. Please provide
your explanations because that will help me to realise, along
with my fellow researchers and ufologists, what is real and what
isn't." That is sensible enough.

It is reassuring to know that Aykroyd doesn't appear to have
lost his grip on reality. Or maybe he is right. Or maybe the
whole thing is a joke. I don't think so, but suddenly I'm not
sure what is real and what isn't. He walks away, dressed in a
dark suit and sunglasses, an older, cuddlier Blues Brother. I
can't see if he's laughing.

=B7 I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry is out on Friday.

Listen to 'Strange Days... Indeed' - The PodCast



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