How Did the Graduate Inadvertently Lead to Animal House Being Filmed at the University of Oregon?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about movies and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the movie urban legends featured so far.

MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: The University of Oregon agreed to let Animal House film at their college because their Dean of Students had earlier turned down The Graduate.

When the producers of National Lampoon’s Animal House began production on the film, they had a major problem – they could not get a university willing to let them film the movie on their campus!

Most universities tend to shy from anything that leads to colleges being viewed as “party schools.” I went to a college that was ranked the #1 party school for at least one of the four years I was there (and I think it has been #1 since that time, as well) and they were quite displeased, and certainly did not advertise the ranking.

So a movie starring a bunch of drunk fraternity guys?

Not something most colleges want to associate with, and in fact, the University of Missouri, who had originally said yes, backed out at the last minute.

Due to the budget of the film, it was imperative that the film actually film on a campus (as they could not afford to build a college set).

After twelve colleges in six different states said no, they finally received a yes from the University of Oregon and its President William Boyd.

But WHY Boyd said yes was pretty interesting.

You see, earlier in his career, Boyd was an administrator of a university in California when he was approached by the producers of The Graduate to see if they could film there.

After reading the script, Boyd felt that the movie was not that good, so he turned them down.

Well, naturally, the film was a critical and commercial success (it ended up filming at UC Berkeley and USC), so Boyd figured that perhaps he just did not “get” film scripts.

So when they came to him with the script for Animal House, again, he felt the script was not that good, but his previous experience led him to allow them to film (provided that they not use the name of the college in the film, which they did not).

While the school was okay with it, interestingly enough, Sigma Nu, the fraternity where they filmed all the frat scenes in the movie, hid their involvement from their regional (and national) heads of the fraternity. And, as it turns out, they were right to do so, because a regional spokesperson for Sigma Nu announced at the time that the film was “detrimental to the fraternity system.”

Now, thirty years later, the film is seen as a badge of honor, of sorts, to the University of Oregon, which is likely not what people would ever have thought at the time!

The legend is…

STATUS: Basically True

Thanks to Karen McCowan for her article on the anniversary of the film!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is

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