Movie comedy in the 1980s was in some ways defined by R-rated humor combined with sunny optimism. And no couple better exemplified that particular sweetness onscreen better than Chevy Chase and Bevery D’Angelo, who starred as Clark and Ellen Griswold in three popular National Lampoon’s Vacation movies during the decade. (A fourth, Vegas Vacation, was released in 1997.)
Both actors reprise their roles for a cameo scene in the new Vacation reboot, starring Ed Helms as the couple’s grown son, eager to relive the 1983 trip to Walley World with his wife (Christina Applegate) and their two sons.
Sounding just like a long-married couple who bicker because they love each other, Chase and D’Angelo hopped on the phone with EW to talk about the new movie, as well as breasts, boldness, and Bill Clinton. Chase was the first on the line, joking, “Why don’t you and I get this over with. Beverly will talk too much.”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Hi Chevy, this is Joe from EW.
CHEVY CHASE Hello, this is Joe, too.
I just saw your tweet where you endorsed the new Vacation movie.
Yeah, I thought it was terrific and very funny. Some of the jokes are very bold. They had to go as far as they could, I guess. It’s so important, people laughing. Laughter kills lonesome. It’s one of the great things in our lives. And this one had me laughing all the way through.
[Beverly d’Angelo joins the call]
BEVERLY D’ANGELO: Oh you’re a big liar! Don’t believe what he says. What did he say, what had him laughing?
CHASE: What had me laughing was that you had to be on this call.
D’ANGELO: [Laughing] I don’t have to be. I just work here. Hello, Chevy!
CHASE: Hi Babs. How are you, honey? She lives around the corner actually. It’s a long corner.
So this new Vacation opened 32 years to the day after the first Vacation. How does that make you feel?
CHASE: Well, I’m near death. I’m 87. [Laughs] What do you mean? I never thought of it that way. That’s the worst question anybody’s asked.
D’ANGELO: Right, we didn’t step out of cryogenic chambers or something.
Well, let me rephrase. Could you have imagined in 1983 how beloved the Vacation franchise would become?
D’ANGELO: I don’t think any of us thought we were setting up the tent-pole for a franchise. I was really lucky that I got to work with Chevy and Harold Ramis, the smartest guys in this town, the very bright East Coast boys, and do a little summer movie. I had gotten those warnings, like, not to play a mother. I was 29 and Anthony Michael Hall was 15. I remember we were filming it and people would come running out of their homes and yell, “I’m Chevy Chase and you’re not!”
CHASE: I would be driving with Harold and I would hold a sign up against the window from the passenger side that would say, “Chevy Chase,” and smile at people. It would drive them nuts.
D’ANGELO: Oh, yes. The royal wave.
A colleague of mine interviewed Harold Ramis’ daughter last year.
D’ANGELO: Violet? She’s so sweet. Do you know she was Cousin Eddie’s daughter, who was born without a tongue? “Born without a tongue, Clark, but she whistles like a bird and eats like a horse.”
She said that of all of her dad’s movies, Vacation is her favorite because a lot of Harold is in Clark Griswold.
CHASE: Absolutely. He gave me that character in many ways. I didn’t quite know how I should play him. But then Harold did a couple of lines and I said, “Got it!” He was the embodiment of comedy in an intelligent way.
D’ANGELO: And [Vacation screenwriter] John Hughes brought an innocence and a savvy at the same time. He kind of created that template for teen films.
Ed Helms told me that the first time he ever saw breasts was in the first Vacation movie.
D’ANGELO: Mine. I get a very large percentage of the male population reminding me of that of a fairly regular basis.
Chevy, what did you think when you heard that Helms was playing the lead in this new one?
CHASE: I didn’t know who he was. I hadn’t followed him.
D’ANGELO: Chevy doesn’t get out much [Laughs].
CHASE: But all I had to do was meet him and work with him a little bit. I liked him a lot and thought he was very funny and when I saw the final picture, I thought he was excellent. I think the scene when he slams the door into his arm twice — that’s right up my alley.
D’ANGELO: I loved him in The Hangover too. But here he really steps out as a leading romantic figure. And he’s one of the sweetest guys you’ll ever meet.
Chevy, I wanted to ask you about flying on a plane with Bill Clinton.
CHASE: What do you want to ask me about it?
What’s that experience like?
CHASE: I have no memory of that. I’ve been to his house and played cards with him. But I don’t remember the flying on the plane part. Oh, yeah, now I do. That was when he was running. Oh, no, no, not when was running, he was already—
D’ANGELO: Flying. He wasn’t running, he was flying.
CHASE: Geez, I’ve missed him being president. He’s a remarkable man. You know, I mean, he’s no Donald Trump. In other words, he’s not an a–hole. I gotta go now.