Family & Companions
Early in his career, James Belushi channeled his gifts for performing into drama. With his start on the Second City stages, the Chicago-based actor sustained a lengthy career with a burly charm that translated across comedy and drama and a voice that boomed unmistakably over animation. His considerable skills were measured against the talents of his iconic big brother, John, but following years of frustration, it was as the titular dad of television's "According to Jim" (ABC 2001-09), that Belushi opted to embrace his flaws in a role that, more than any other, fully reflected his true persona. Following the series' end, Belushi settled into a solid career as a character actor working in both comedy and drama, from low-budget indies to higher profile projects such as Woody Allen's "Wonder Wheel" (2017) and David Lynch's "Twin Peaks: The Return" (Showtime 2017), in which Belushi's threatening yet affable Bradley Mitchum became one of the show's most popular characters.
James Belushi was born on June 15, 1954 in Chicago and raised in Wheaton, IL by a pharmacy employee mother and a restaurant owner father, both Albanian immigrants. Belushi was the third of four children, a brood which included older brother John. As a youth, Belushi was left unchecked by his busy parents and nurtured a rebellious streak, often getting in trouble with the local law for small crimes such as underage driving and gasoline theft. It was not until high school, that the middle Belushi found his voice, quite literally. Taking up drama and singing, Belushi did not give up his angry side, but rather had found an outlet for it. He followed that creative path all the way to the College of Du Page, where he took speech and theater courses before moving on to earn a degree in speech at Southern Illinois University.
After college, in 1977, Belushi took up with the famed Second City Troupe and landed on its main stage, a home that had once served as older brother John's training ground. While at Second City, he was mentored by the resident producer Joyce Sloane and director Sheldon Patinkin. Known for his intensity as a performer, Belushi's chucking of his hat at a front row heckler during a Second City performance incurred a lawsuit against the company. In 1978 and 1979, Belushi took his first stab at television acting in Los Angeles with two short-lived comedies - NBC's "Who's Watching the Kids" (1978) and CBS' "Working Stiffs" (1979), co-starring Michael Keaton. He landed the NBC gig after the show's producer, Garry Marshall, saw him perform a two-man act on the subject of tragic artistry at Second City.
Patinkin tapped Belushi for a life-changing local production of playwright David Mamet's "Sexual Perversity in Chicago" at the Apollo Theatre in 1979. It was a vibrant performance, and Belushi followed it up with "Baal in the Twenty First Century" at the Goodman Theatre. His life was speeding up in more ways than one. On May 17, 1980, Belushi married Sandra Davenport and a year later, the couple had a son, Robert. Careerwise, he began to branch out into films with a part in Michael Mann's crime drama "Thief" (1981). But just the younger brother was beginning to come out from under his superstar brother's shadow, tragedy struck. On March 5, 1982, Belushi was appearing at the Shubert Theatre as the Pirate King in a run of "The Pirates of Penzance" when five hours before his call time, he learned his brother John had shockingly died in Los Angeles. A later autopsy revealed a mix of cocaine and heroin - a speedball, administered to him by a hanger-on, Cathy Smith, while Belushi had been staying at the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles. As expected, the younger brother who idolized the older brother, was inconsolable.
In June of 1983, one year after his death, John Belushi's best friend and frequent co-star Dan Aykroyd and director John Landis, briefly plunked brother Jim into "Trading Places" (1983), a full-on "Saturday Night Live" (1975- ) affair with "S.N.L." vet Eddie Murphy. In October, Belushi himself joined the "S.N.L." cast, once another comedic stomping ground of John. The weight of his older brother's death continued to weigh heavily on both a personal and professional level. Though Belushi had always been in awe of his older brother, it also seemed as though he would never avoid the comparison of their talents - to say nothing of his looks. Two years into his stint as a cast member, and medicating himself with alcohol, Belushi was fired from the show by producer Dick Ebersol towards the end of the 1984-85 season.
While clearing his head and attempting to curtail his abuses, Belushi was working extensively. He had written and starred in a comedy short called "Birthday Boy" for Cinemax and appeared in a diverse string of movies, playing Doctor Rock in Oliver Stone's gritty war drama "Salvador" (1986), Patrick in the musical adaptation of "Little Shop of Horrors" (1986) and various parts in the screwball comedy "Jumpin' Jack Flash" (1986). It was his return to Mamet turf, however, that did the trick. Producers had initially wanted John to play Jim's onstage role in "About Last Night," the big screen version of "Sexual Perversity" several years earlier, but the younger Belushi asked his brother to graciously give up the role that he had already made his own. He did, and Jim Belushi finally had a hit under his belt - a hit in which, despite the charms of leads Rob Lowe and Demi Moore, Belushi ending up stealing every scene.
TriStar Pictures, maker of the film, found another vehicle for his straightforward persona in 1987 with the drama "The Principal." Now a rising star, Belushi teamed up with some high profile names like John Ritter for 1987's action comedy "Real Men" and bodybuilder-turned-actor Arnold Schwarzenegger in the cop action film "Red Heat" (1987). Two years later, he joined forces with a law enforcement pooch in "K-9" (1989), then re-teamed onscreen with "Jumpin' Jack Flash" co-star Whoopi Goldberg in "Homer and Eddie" (1989).
If John Belushi was the wild child of comedy, Jim's edge was flexible, capable of softening onscreen as he balanced tough comedies like "Taking Care of Business" (1990) with more earnest turns in "Mr. Destiny" (1990), the shy romance "Only the Lonely" (1991) and the kid-friendly "Curly Sue" (1991). For much of the '90s, however, Belushi's output constituted a mix of forgettable projects and near-misses. 1993 saw him as a lead in Oliver Stone's maligned ABC mystery miniseries, "Wild Palms" (1993). He appeared in the crime comedy "Destiny Turns on the Radio" (1995) and the political satire "Canadian Bacon" (1995) with "Only the Lonely" co-star John Candy. Belushi toplined the thriller "Separate Lives" (1995) and then a remake of "Sahara" (1995) for Showtime, before appearing in the Halle Berry Hawaiian adventure, "Race the Sun" (1996). Old pal Schwarzenegger even snagged him as his mall Santa in the holiday comedy, "Jingle All the Way" (1996), but the movie had an underwhelming reception.
As it had done once before, Belushi's busy work life again took its toll on his personal life. His September 1990 marriage to Marjorie Bransfield ended only two years later in April of 1992, but the following year, Belushi rebounded in love with a jewelry shop clerk named Jennifer Sloan. They were married on May 2, 1998, and soon afterwards, a daughter named Jamison was born.
With previous voiceover work on shows such as "Pinky and the Brain" (1995-1998) and "Gargoyles" (1994-1996), Belushi lovingly took on the special task of voicing brother John's famous alter-ego, Jake Blues, in UPN's short-lived animated series "The Blues Brothers Animated Series" (1997). In the fall of 1997, Belushi was then cast as a lead on Steven Bochco's ABC series, "Total Security" (1997), about the world of a high-tech surveillance business. The action drama fizzled quickly, but at the same time, Belushi was also appearing on movie screens in the Tupac Shakur crime drama "Gang Related" (1997). By 1998, Belushi, who had cultivated his own blues band in 1994 called The Sacred Hearts, was flexing his musical chops by playing at least 50 gigs a year. The band was also the in-house act for Chicago's House of Blues, one of the many music venues in the chain Belushi co-owned with Aykroyd.
He already had a familiarity with canine costars, so Belushi returned to his K-9 roots with "K-911" (1999). Following a segue into the studio comedies "Joe Somebody" (2001) and "Return to Me" (2000), he later went back again for a third outing as mainstay Detective Thomas Dooley in "K-9: P.I." (2002). With perhaps his biggest mainstream audience waiting in the wings, Belushi's career reached its highest point when ABC tapped him for a primetime family sitcom in the fall of 2001 - all due to his hysterical performance as the horny, obnoxious husband of Bonnie Hunt in "Return to Me." "According to Jim" (2001-09) focused on "Jim," a caring, but typically opinionated sitcom husband and father. Despite critical slams, Belushi quickly found solace as one of television's most popular, yet imperfect family men. The show reflected more of the true Belushi, now a happy husband and parent, who had so often wrestled with life's intrusions and expectations. He was now into his longest day job in show business, and by April 2003, Belushi's real family had expanded with a son named Jared.
Belushi continued to indulge his fondness for voiceover work while "According to Jim" thrived on the air. He lent his voice to Disney's live action artic adventure "Snow Dogs" (2002), along with an animated revisionist fairy tale, "Hoodwinked!" (2005) and the animated adventure of "The Wild" (2006). In May of 2006, Belushi released his first book, a guide for male living called Real Men Don't Apologize. As 2007 got underway, Belushi's trademark rasp could be heard in director Bob Saget's penguin spoof, "Farce of the Penguins" (2007) and later on in Disney's big screen version of "Underdog (2007).
After the end of "According to Jim," Belushi co-starred in Roman Polanski's political thriller "The Ghost Writer" (2010) and appeared in Garry Marshall's ensemble romantic comedy "New Year's Eve" (2011). Roles in indie comedy "The Secret Lives of Dorks" (2013), family basketball comedy "Thunderstruck" (2012) and horror comedy "Home Sweet Hell" (2015) followed, as well as a supporting role in period piece comedy-drama "Good Girls Revolt" (Amazon 2015-16). After co-srarring in baseball comedy-drama "Undrafted" (2016), Keanu Reeves thriller "The Whole Truth" (2016), western "The Hollow Point" (2016) and indie drama "Katie Says Goodbye" (2016), Belushi returned to TV as part of the cast of David Lynch's "Twin Peaks: The Return" (Showtime 2017). As menacing yet surprisingly affable Las Vegas mobster Bradley Mitchum, Belushi delivered both scares and light comedy, displaying the full range of his skill set. Belushi next appeared in Woody Allen's Coney Island-set period piece "Wonder Wheel" (2017).
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Special Thanks (Special)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Was a resident member of Chicago's "Second City" theatre troupe
Made TV series debut as Burt Gunkel on the short-lived NBC sitcom, "Who's Watching the Kids?"
Co-starred as Ernie O'Rourke on the short-lived CBS sitcom, "Working Stiffs"
Performed in David Mamet's "Sexual Perversity in Chicago" at Chicago's Apollo Theater Center
Made Broadway debut as the Pirate King in "The Pirates of Penzance"
First significant role, Michael Mann's "Thief"
Was a regular cast member on the NBC's sketch comedy, "Saturday Night Live"; joined the show after his brother John's death
Had a small role in "Trading Places," as a drunk man in a gorilla suit during a New Year's Eve party
Appeared in the Sam Shepard's Off-Broadway play, "True West"
Co-wrote and starred in his first cable TV comedy special, "Jim Belushi - Birthday Boy" (Cinemax)
Recreated his role in "Sexual Perversity in Chicago" for the feature film adaptation, "About Last Night"
Co-screenwriting debut, "Number One With a Bullet"
First leading role in a feature film, "The Principal"
Co-starred with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the comedy "Red Heat"
Played the lead role in the comedy "Mr. Destiny"
Played a con-man who teams with a child in the John Hughes-directed "Curly Sue"
Co-starred in the ensemble comedy, "Once Upon A Crime"
Replaced Judd Hirsch in the popular Broadway drama, "Conversations with My Father"
Played the role of Harry Wyckoff in the ABC miniseries, "Wild Palms"
Had a small role as a mall santa in the holiday comedy "Jingle All the Way," starring Arnold Schwarzenegger
Starred in the ABC series, "Total Security"
Co-starred with Gregory Hines in the Showtime original movie, "Who Killed Atlanta's Children?"
Played a martial arts instructor in the comedy, "Joe Somebody"
Played the lead role on the ABC sitcom "According to Jim"
With Dan Aykroyd, released the album <i>Have Love, Will Travel</i>, and participated in an accompanying tour
Lent his voice to the animated feature, "Hoodwinked!"
Penned his first book <i>Real Men Don't Apologize, Real Women Don't Sass Back</i>
Cast in the live-action version of the classic cartoon, "Underdog"
Co-starred with Ewan McGregor and Pierce Brosnan in Roman Polanski's "The Ghost Writer"
Cast as Las Vegas defense attorney Nick Morelli on the CBS drama "The Defenders"
Made Broadway debut in a revival of Garson Kanin's classic comedy "Born Yesterday"
Played Wick McFadden on "Good Girls Revolt"
Was cast in Woody Allen's "Wonder Wheel"
Played shady businessman Bradley Mitchum on the third season of "Twin Peaks"