The Backstory of An American Werewolf in London

How An American Werewolf in London got started?

Many of you probably know I really like this movie.  It’s bloody #1 in my Top 5 Monster Movies (which you can check out if you don’t have the time to read this entire post).

So how did I come across An American Werewolf in London?  When I was a young kid, I was flipping through the channels when I saw two American hitch-hikers come across a sweet ole English pub called the Slaughtered Lamb.

Then I proceeded to watch the rest of the movie — with the volume on LOW. Come’On, I was ten or twelve!

In terms of the actual production of the movie, it all started with John Landis. If you’re not familiar with this guy, he’s responsible for this comedy classic (and of course Animal House).


an american werewolf in london director
The Blues Brothers (1980), directed by John Landis

Creating a Horror Classic

Once upon a time in ( former) Yugoslavia, Landis noticed gypsies along the side of the road in 1969. They were performing rites at a cemetery to prevent the dead from rising from the grave.

This unusual experience inspired him to finish the first draft of An American Werewolf in London. The most interesting aspect about the making of the film is that Landis wanted to create a traditional monster movie with a contemporary edge.

This is a horror film and a pretty classic and traditional one, if anything a werewolf is a throw-back, I mean I was trying to make a contemporary version of an old movie.

After gaining recognition for Animal House and Blue Brothers, Landis had enough financial backing to make his werewolf movie.

Creating the Werewolf

When David Kessler (played by David Naughton) finally transforms into a werewolf, Landis already knew that he wanted to combine minimal cut-aways and harsh bright lights with Bobby Vinton’s song, Blue Moon.

For Landis, one of the most important factors was making the violence realistic and believable. Although he acknowledged the humorous and silly moments in the film, he still considers the film to be a true representation of the horror genre.  Landis says:

In fact, the first killing, Jack’s death on the moors, I wanted it to be as real and horrific as possible.


american werewolf in london
It’s Mighty Morphin Time

When it came to designing the beast, Rick Baker (Special Effects and Make-Up Artist) wanted to create a beast that was bi-pedal and half man / half wolf. Landis, however, preferred a “four-legged hound from hell.” This decision obviously worked but it would have been interesting to see Baker’s interpretation.

Coincidentally enough, Baker owned two dogs and based the werewolf design on his dog Bosco (who was quite shaggy).

In an interview with George Folsey (the producer), he noted the challenges of trying to film a shot of the werewolf roaming through Piccadilly circus. Baker came up with the idea of building a portion of the wolf with fake back legs. That way, it would move when pushed like a wheel barrel race. 

If you found this semi-interesting, check out more interviews here – MovieClips Extra’s YouTube Channel.