Chevy Chase Was Hesitant To Play A Character Like Vacation’s Clark Griswold

Before Chevy Chase starred in the 1983 film, “National Lampoon’s Vacation,” he was known for other, far more polished roles. Aside from his work on “SNL,” Chase’s most famous role up to that point was arguably that of Ty Webb in Harold Ramis’ 1980 film “Caddyshack” about gophers and the idiosyncrasies of golf. When Ramis wanted to cast him in “Vacation,” Chase had reservations about what the role might do to his image.

In Nick de Semlyen’s book, “Wild and Crazy Guys: How the Comedy Mavericks of the 80s Changed Hollywood Forever,” de Semlyen explains Chase’s hesitation about becoming the head of the Griswold household. “For the first time Chase would be playing someone more silly than slick,” de Semlyen writes. Clark Griswold was, by all accounts, a well-meaning, dweeby husband which was in stark contrast to the “cool-witted lotharios” Chase was used to portraying. “I knew my career was going completely downhill in comparison to the effect I had in New York City with ‘Saturday Night Live'” said Chase in de Semlyen’s book. “To the critical world I had gone to the lowest form of family comedies.”

Thankfully though, “Vacation” was well received, and Chase’s image wasn’t tarnished. Instead, he became one of comedy’s most successful actors with the “Vacation” franchise’s most famous film still a few years away from getting made. While Chase may have been initially hesitant to take on the role of do-gooder Clark Griswold, in the end, the role even ended up having a positive effect on the actor. De Semlyen states how “the cast and crew saw a new Chase,” during the weeks spent filming, with the actor taking a break from his cocaine habit proving that his decision to star in “Vacation” was absolutely the right idea, thank you very much. 

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