When Meatballs premiered in theaters in the summer of 1979, few could have predicted that it would become one of the most groundbreaking movie comedies of its generation.

 

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It launched the careers of star Bill Murray, director Ivan Reitman, and co-writer Harold Ramis, a comedy triumvirate that would go on to give the world Stripes and Ghostbusters. It was (debatably) the first movie in which the nerds were the heroes, where having glasses held together by tape was something that made you desirable, where the fat kid or the shy loner could end up saving the day or getting the girl. Without Meatballs, there would’ve been no Revenge of the Nerds, no Superbad or American Pie or Napoleon Dynamite, and certainly no Wet Hot American Summer.

Meatballs follows the hijinks at North Star Summer Camp, where head counselor Tripper (played by Murray) and the CIT’s (the counselors in training, played by a bevy of Canadian unknowns) pull pranks on each other, don’t have sex, play sports badly, sit around campfires, and try to beat the cool kids at athletic events—even though, as Tripper reminds the campers in an iconic speech, “it just doesn’t matter.” For a movie that’s very much of its time—some of the fashion is hilariously dated—it’s also timeless. Meatballs can fill you with nostalgia regardless of when you were born or where you place Meatballs in the Bill Murray canon. It’s the kind of movie anyone who’s ever been to summer camp, or even just been young and insecure, can relate to.

We sat down with several members of the Meatballs cast and crew to talk about their experiences—both in front of and behind the camera—making the movie that still gives us goosebumps whenever we hear that child choir sing, “Are you ready for the summer?”

Ivan Reitman (director): In 1975, I’d produced an Off Broadway show called The National Lampoon Show, which starred John Belushi, Brian Doyle, Bill Murray, Gilda Radner and Harold Ramis. Here was this extraordinary all-star team, the likes of which I had never seen before. I had always wanted to direct a comedy feature. So I called up the Lampoon and said, “Let’s go do a movie together.” We ended up with what became one of the great comedies of all time, Animal House. I wanted to direct it, but the studio didn’t think I had enough experience, even though I had developed the idea from scratch.

Dan Goldberg (producer, co-writer): I think not getting to direct Animal House really motivated Ivan. He realized that if he was going to get his chance, he had to do it himself. So he called up (co-writer) Lenny (Blum) and I and said, “I want to do a movie about summer camp.”

Producers

Reitman: All three of us had gone to summer camp. And I think one of them had gone to White Pine, where we ended up shooting Meatballs. If anyone was going to write this, I knew these were my guys.

Goldberg: He said, “I want to shoot it this summer.” This was in March. We knew we were gonna have to jam this thing. Lenny had a farm outside of Toronto, so we went up there and the two of us, Lenny and I, we started writing. We phoned everyone we knew who’d gone to summer camp and interviewed them. And we thought a lot about our own experiences at summer camp. You wanted it to have that scared, naïve point of view, about how little things felt so huge and monumental when you were younger.

Reitman: They wrote a first draft in one month. It wasn’t particularly good, but you could see what the bones of the script could be. I called up Harold [Ramis], who was still not working regularly. Animal House hadn’t come out yet, so he was relatively unknown at the time. He was buying furniture for a new apartment, and he needed $1,700. I remember this number. I said to him, “I will pay for your new furniture. I’ll give you $1,700 if you do a polish of this draft.” He said yes, and did some really nice work on it.

Goldberg: Harold was a genius, and he gave our script some great structure and a nice narrative. He really helped to cut the script down to a bare minimum. But I think some of the idea was, if we can get Harold involved, that might convince Bill [Murray] to do it. Bill respected Harold quite a bit.

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Jack Blum (casting director, actor, played “Spaz”): Ivan always wanted Bill. There was no question that Ivan wanted Bill.

Reitman: Not only was he my first choice, he was my only choice. I knew how good he was. He’d only been on Saturday Night Live for a year at that point. But he hadn’t really broken out yet. I called him up, pitched him the idea, and of course he said no.

Blum: Even then, long before he was famous, Bill was entirely his own man. And he was holding out.

Goldberg: We were sending scripts around to various minor league baseball clubs, because Bill was touring with baseball clubs, having fun for the summer, taking a break from Saturday Night Live.

Reitman: My strategy was, I would basically just browbeat him until he did it. And it worked! [Laughs.]

Goldberg: At the same time, we’re trying to put all the other pieces together for this thing, like where we’d be shooting. I’d drive all around Canada, visiting various camps to see if they would let us shoot with the campers. A lot of them said “Forget it, are you kidding me? These are paying customers.” But somehow we got the okay from Camp White Pine, which is up in Haliburton, Ontario. I have no idea how we did it. I think Joe Kronick, who was the owner of the camp, didn’t realize what he was getting into.

Reitman: I wanted to shoot in August, while the campers were still there. I thought that would be a great idea, because the movie would feel real. It would feel real because it was real. The campers would serve as relatively inexpensive extras. Now all we had to do was find a cast.

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Jim McLarty (actor, played “Horse”): I remember wandering around the streets of Toronto at night with my friends, and I see this poster on a lamppost. It’s an open casting call for a movie about a summer camp. I looked at that sign and said, “Man, I was going to write that movie! They beat me to it!”

Blum: We wanted to hire mostly unknowns, so we put an ad in the newspaper, saying ‘Open casting call for a movie named Summer Camp,’ which was its working title. We took over a movie theater for three days, and on the first day there was a line of hundreds of teenagers outside, wrapped around the theater, who all wanted to be in a movie.

Russ Banham (actor, played Bobby Crockett): It was summer time, and my kid sister and I decided to go to Jones Beach, which is what kids in Queens do in the summer time. All I had on was a pair of cut-off jeans. No shoes, no shirts, that’s it. I called my answering service, and there’s an urgent message from my agent. “There’s a producer in town today. He’s doing auditions for a movie called Summer Camp.” I was an hour and a half away from Manhattan, so I didn’t have time to go home and change. I went straight to the audition. I walk into this thing with jean shorts and no shirt, looking like I just stepped off the beach. Because I had! All these other actors, who I used to audition against, they were looking at me, and I could tell they were thinking, “Genius! He’s a genius! Why didn’t I think of that? He even got a sunburn for it!”

Blum: They were having a lot of problems finding the right actor for Spaz. They brought in one actor after another, and Ivan just wasn’t having it. One actor came in, and I thought he was really good. He did this goofy voice for Spaz, and he was really funny. But Ivan was like, “No, that guy’s not Spaz. He’s like a matinee idol. He’s a great looking guy. He’s not going to be Spaz.” But then he looked at me and said, “You want to audition?” So I got up and basically did exactly what the other actor had done. Same goofy voice, same line readings. And Ivan said, “Great! You’re our Spaz!”

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Goldberg: We had our cast, but there was still the matter of Bill [Murray]. “Is Bill going to do it? Will he show up?” I didn’t know if he ever read the script. Then he kind of committed, but not really. Three days before we start shooting, we have no idea if it’s going to happen. I don’t think we ever had a signed contract from him.

Reitman: The day before I started principal photography, somehow I was able to convince Bill to do it. We ended up paying him, I can’t remember what it was, I think $50,000. Maybe not even that much.

Banham: Dan Aykroyd was supposed to play the part. That’s what I heard. And that’s what we all believed. Most of us in the cast, we would talk about it. “Can you believe we’re in a movie with Dan Aykroyd?” Everybody knew who Dan Aykroyd was. And then we show up for the movie, and there’s Bill Murray. And we’re like, [deflated] “Oh. It’s the new guy from SNL. [Sighs.] Okay.”

Blum: Bill turned up in this Hawaiian shirt and red shorts, wearing an alarm clock on his wrist, which eventually found its way into the film.

Reitman: I remember how amazing he was that first day he showed up. I handed him the script—I think it was the first time he was reading it—he flipped through it and said, “Eh.” And he very theatrically threw it into a nearby trashcan. [Laughs.] It’s kind of terrifying to see an actor do that just minutes before you’re going to shoot your first scene with him. He did follow my blocking, thank god. It was the same scene, but it was his version of how this guy would talk. And of course, it was way funnier than anything that had been written.

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Goldberg: It sounds very chaotic, I know, but it wasn’t like that. Ivan knew what he needed to do. He let Bill and the other actors have fun, but Ivan had it all very mapped out in his head. To the outside world, it seemed like madness, but it was quite controlled.

Reitman: I realized that I was going to have to be nimble. I wasn’t very experienced. I’d only directed one $10,000 improvisational movie before that (1973’s Cannibal Girls, starring Eugene Levy and Andrea Martin), but I was smart enough to realize I’d have to work quickly and take advantage of this extraordinary talent; not get hung up on what I thought I was going to do, what was in the script, but do some kind of blend between what I expected and what I was given.

Norma Dell’Agnese (actress, played “Brenda”): I just remember being terrified. [Laughs.] That was it. I’d never done anything like this before. I showed up at the camp, and you see all the cameras and the crew and the actors, and it’s just . . . it’s terrifying. I didn’t realize until many years later that everyone else was terrified as well. None of us had any idea what we were doing.

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Blum: I think for a lot of us, it was absolutely like summer camp. Almost all of us were newbies. It was our first movie. And we were all staying on the camp, in the same lodge. [Laughs.] Yeah, come to think of it, it was literally summer camp.

Banham: We were all in these tiny bungalows. That’s where we all lived. Bill had a big bungalow, but the rest of us shared bungalows. There was a bar where we’d meet every night, because there was nothing else to do. We would play cards, and drink. There was a lot of drinking, and other recreational drugs. Because we were young, and that’s what young people do.

Blum: The main way it was different from camp is that we all had a per diem. Every week some line producer gave each of us a brown envelope with a bunch of cash in it. And it’s not even your paycheck! It’s not even your salary! There was nothing to do with that money, unless you took a plane back to Toronto during your day off, which some people did. For everybody else, there were these nightly poker games that became quite legendary.

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McLarty: I played in one of those games. Lost everything. I immediately realized, oh, okay, these guys are really good. It might have put me off poker for life.

Blum: We were having a ball. Not just in front of the camera, but at night, in private moments. That spirit may’ve ended up in the fabric of the film.

Dell’Agnese: I was the nerd girl surrounded by all these beautiful girls, so of course I was insecure about it, and I’d doll myself up every night and go to the lodge and, well . . . [Laughs.] It was a crazy time.

Banham: We’re in our 20s. We’re in the season of the rising sap, let’s just leave it at that. [Laughs.] Definitely there were hookups. We’re all in our 60s now with children, some of us with grandchildren, so there’s only so much I’m going to say. But I had my involvements with at least one cast member. As we all did. None more so than Bill. Maybe I came in second place, if we were going to rate this.

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Blum: I can certainly remember stealing a canoe and going out onto the lake in the middle of the night with more than one young lady, I can tell you. There was nookie. No question.

Banham: I remember once, everyone was invited to Bill’s cabin for poker, beer, just hanging out, having a good time, doing shots of tequila, smoking marijuana. He had a boat, and he invited us all on the boat. We’re all drunk, just having a great old time, laughing our asses off. We get on the boat, and there were too many of us, and the damn thing sank.

Blum: I was in that boat! I can corroborate that story. There may have been five or six of us. The last one on the boat was Keith Knight (who played Fink), who was, as we know, a hefty lad. We pushed off, and the boat just went down. It started taking in water. We weren’t too far from shore, so nobody was scared. But we got awful wet.

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Banham: So then we went back to Bill’s place, we’re all soaking wet, we raided his linen closet, and we had a toga party. A legitimate toga party! Not like an Animal House inspired toga party. A toga party because all of our clothes are too wet and there’s nothing else to wear. We spent the rest of the night dressed in bedsheets, drinking and laughing and just having a ball.

Kristine DeBell (actress, played “A.L.”): The big memory I have is how cold the water was. We had scenes where we’d be swimming, trying to make it look like it’s the middle of summer. But this was September, up in the mountains of Canada. It’s fucking freezing! I’ve met people in person and they listen to me talk, and they’re like, “I thought your voice would be deeper or raspier.” Because that’s what they remember from Meatballs. Well, I had laryngitis during the shoot, because I was so damn cold all the time. I remember in between shots, I was drinking hot toddies and eating garlic, doing anything to help it.

Goldberg: Bill really made all the difference. He came in, and he raised all of our games comedically. He made everyone feel comfortable, and he also made everyone try harder. You had to, if you didn’t want to be left in the dust.

McLarty: Ivan never did too many takes for anything. My first scene is where I dumped the milkshake on Spaz’s head. It was quite tense, because they didn’t have doubles for the costume. If I dumped the milkshake and the take wasn’t any good, it would be hours before we could shoot again. They would have to wash what Spas was wearing and dry it and put it back on him. The whole time we’re shooting, I’m like, ‘Am I going to dump it? Am I? Am I? Should I do it now? Now?’ There were several false starts. I finally dumped it on him, and thank god I got it right on the first try.

Dell’Agnese: In one of the scenes, which ended up getting cut, I’m wearing this orthopedic bra. It’s one of those old-fashioned things that Madonna made popular about 10 years later, but at the time it was the nerdiest thing imaginable. I remember the day we shot it, Bill Murray, in front of everyone, did this whole monologue where he starts undoing my top. It wasn’t something for the cameras, it was just the cast hanging out, killing time between shots. Bill starts unbuttoning the front of my shirt, exposing my bra, saying, “Oh Brenda, I know there’s a wild sexual beast underneath there, a hot vampire of lust waiting to be unleashed.” It was hysterical and people are cracking up. I was just dumbfounded. I was like, “I probably should stop this, but Jesus it’s funny.” You could never get away with this shit today. Well, maybe Bill Murray could.

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Banham: We shot the campfire scene on this little island. I remember walking to the shoot with Bill and I think Matt [Craven]. We were walking through a dense forest, to this secluded spot that Ivan had picked out. It was a little scary. And Bill, out of nowhere, launches into this improv that I’m pretty sure he made up on the spot. He started throwing his body into bushes, into shrubbery, while singing this song called “I’m in Love With a Hollywood Stunt Woman.” It was as if there was this invisible stunt woman throwing him into the shrubbery. And he was doing it just for our benefit, for our laughter. It was this amazing, hilarious moment—one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen Bill Murray do—and it was just for the two of us.

Blum: Sometimes the hijinks could get out of hand. I recall the day they threw Ivan into the water. I will say he was quite angry. It was not the most respectful act on the part of the crew. They just picked him up and threw him into the water.

Banham: Todd Hoffman (who played “Wheels”) pulled a prank on Bill once that did not go well. He stole Bill’s car—and, okay, I may have helped him—and that really ticked Bill off. Then Ivan got really angry about it, so Todd said, “Well, we’re going to have to steal Ivan’s car now.” So we stole Ivan’s car. And that made Ivan even more ticked off. I think he eventually forgave us, but Bill, he just really didn’t like Todd. I had to break up a fistfight between the two of them. Bill got along extremely well with everyone else, and Todd did too. But the two of them, they were just oil and water.

Blum: I remember that things got tense with the campers. They were very excited when we arrived, but within a week, maybe less than that, they understood that this was not going to be fun for them. There is nothing more boring than being an extra on a movie shoot.

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Adam Kronick (former camper, current Camp Director at Camp White Pine): I was 17 years old when they shot the movie at our camp. I don’t remember a lot about it, other than that there was a lot of grumbling.

Kay Armatage (Location coordinator): There was one day when Ivan wanted to shoot the little kids doing a potato sack race. So these little kids— they looked like they were five, they were absolutely darling—they were waiting for us, waiting to start their potato sack race for what seemed like hours and hours. They were missing their swimming time and their naps and their crafts projects and whatever else. They were starting to get seriously pissed off. Eventually Ivan or Danny, I forget which, said, “I think we’re not going to have time to shoot this scene.” Well, I just blew my stack. They’ve been sitting here for three hours! These kids are going to do a potato sack race! I don’t care if you want to pretend to shoot it, but you’ve got to do it!

Kronick: It’s hard to make a film in a summer camp when there are 400 campers who have other ideas of how they want to spend their summer. It was certainly disruptive.

Armatage: The campers started to mutiny and sabotage. It was wild.

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Kronick: Is that what you heard? [Laughs.] There were some stories I can’t tell you. I just can’t.

Armatage: They deflated the tires of the dolly. And those tires, they weren’t filled with air. They were filled with hydrogen or something like that. It wasn’t a simple matter of just pumping up the tires again.

Kronick: I don’t know about the campers, but I know the staff was kind of excited to have a real Saturday Night Live cast member in their midst. When my dad wanted to call a staff meeting, and he knew some of them would blow it off, he promised that Bill Murray was going to be there. Of course, he never even talked to Bill. But it was the only way he knew everyone would show up. So the staff is all there at 11 o’clock, and then by 11:30 Bill Murray comes into the staff lounge and says, “I think I’m supposed to be here?”

Reitman: The “It just doesn’t matter” speech was a big, pivotal turning point in the movie. Frankly I was borrowing from the great Belushi speech in the last act of Animal House, where he talks about the Nazis bombing Pearl Harbor. That’s what we were going for, this rallying of the troops. Bill and I got together in a coffee shop or something, to talk about what the speech should be, and he started improvising for me, just throwing out ideas. I remember him saying, “It just doesn’t matter” at some point, and I clearly remember telling him, “Yeah, yeah, that’s good! Just repeat that!”

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Banham: When they shot that scene, all we were told was to report to this particular lodge on the set, and Bill was going to “do something.” That’s all we knew. Of course, he just blew us all away.

Reitman: I wanted to get really honest responses. One thing I hate is when extras are forced to laugh or react to something as if they’re genuinely surprised even though they’ve seen it twenty times. So before we started filming, I told everybody in the cast, “Look, whatever happens, I just want you to respond honestly. If you think it’s funny, please laugh. If you don’t think it’s funny, don’t pretend you think it’s funny.”

DeBell: Bill was fucking hilarious! I think they only shot that scene a few times, and every time felt different. Bill was always having fun with it. It didn’t feel like acting. It felt like Bill having a conversation with us. It was the same way he’d joke with us between takes.

Reitman: We never had an American distribution deal. We made the film with our own money. But because Bill Murray was in it, and Animal House came out of nowhere and became one of the most successful movies that year, suddenly everybody wanted a “Saturday Night Live character movie.”

Goldberg: I was very cocky and confident that the movie was good. But you have to convince other people.

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Reitman: I had never actually screened a movie for an audience up to this point. It was just sort of a first cut. I snuck into the back of the very first screening. I was watching it and saying, “Oh my god, this is terrible.” It was not funny at all.

Banham: Todd calls me up—this is just pure Todd—and says, “They’re doing a screening of our movie for the studios. Let’s check it out.” We snuck onto one of the lots, and managed to get into the projectionist’s room and watch it. It wasn’t bad, but it was not very good. Jeffrey Katzenberg was there—I think he was with Paramount at the time—and he was the only one who could see what the film could be.

Goldberg: Katzenberg said to Ivan, “You know, the movie is really about Bill and the kid.” Meaning Rudy, the kid played by Chris Makepeace. That really struck home with Ivan.

Reitman: I called up Harold and Bill and the other writers, and told them we needed more stuff with Murray and the young kid. They were the heart of the movie that was missing.

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Goldberg: At that point, it was in the middle of winter, and we were in Montreal. So we built a cabin from scratch, really cheaply. We did the whole thing over a single weekend, cost us $20,000. We shot the cabin scene, and there was this local coffee shop that we pretended was a bus terminal. Everything was on the fly. Makepeace showed up with a mustache—he’d started to go through puberty—and Bill just carried him to the bathroom and shaved him.

Banham: Even after we’d wrapped the movie, Bill was still very friendly to us. I used to hang out with Bill in New York from time to time, before I moved to LA. He invited us down to Saturday Night Live to watch rehearsals, and this was for the episode where the Rolling Stones were the hosts and musical guests. At one point, I’m in Danny (Aykroyd)’s dressing room, smoking pot with him and Keith Richards. I take a drag on the joint and hand it to Keith, who takes a drag and hands it to Danny. And I’m just thinking, “What is my life right now?” Danny was the nicest guy in the world. He said to Matt (Craven) and I, “Listen guys, we need some background actors. Why don’t you be in some of the scenes?” We were in the “cheeborger cheeborger” sketch, a samurai sketch. I remember in one scene, I’m dressed as some kind of Cuban military guy, and I’ve got a rifle butt up against Ronnie Wood’s neck. Ronnie said to me, “Take it easy, mate.”

Goldberg: We were going with the name Summer Camp for a long time. I don’t remember when we changed it to Meatballs, or why. I know there’s a scene where Fink calls Spaz a meatball, but that’s not why we changed the title.

Reitman: I don’t know how we came up with the name. We stuck it on the script early on. It was simple, and we just went with it. We didn’t think about it, it was instinct.

Goldberg: We didn’t have anything better, and once we started doing logos for it on the movie posters, it looked okay. It just sort of stuck.

McLarty: I told my family that I was in a movie called Summer Camp. I didn’t know they’d changed the name to Meatballs. Well, another film called Summer Camp opened up at the drive-in where I live in Burlington, and my brother and sister went to see it, and it was a softcore porn flick. And it had a character named Horse! This really confused them. I told them my character in the movie is named Horse, and they’re watching this flick and a Horse shows up and he’s clearly not me. They were really peeved at me.

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Blum: Paramount did a big opening in Toronto. They put us into camp buses to take us to the theater, and there was a huge party afterwards. They all got t-shirts with the Meatballs logo on the front, with twinkly lights all over it. It was a blast.

Dell’Agnese: The premiere was sold out, and they wouldn’t let me into the theater. So I ended up seeing a Woody Allen movie down the block. I went to the party afterwards, and it was like a wake. Everybody was like, “Oh my god, I’m so sorry. You had so many great scenes, and they’ve all been cut.”

McLarty: I was watching the film with some friends. They really liked it, but one of them thought they featured Bill Murray too much. I said to him, “I understand why you’re saying that, but let me tell you, without him, the film would never have been the hit that it was. That guy just lifted it to a different place. So don’t say a bad word about him to me.”

Goldberg: The night that the movie opened, Bill and I and Matt Craven were in a limo, just driving around and being stupid. Bill was in character as Hunter S. Thompson—he was getting ready to shoot Where the Buffalo Roam—and he had a cigarette in a cigarette holder, and he had this sort of detached, caustic air to him. We got in front of a theater in Toronto, and I said, “Stop the car. Bill, come with me.” I had seen the movie a billion times already, been to dozens of screenings of various cuts, but Bill hadn’t seen any of it. He just wasn’t interested. We walked into the theater, it was a 10 o’clock showing, and the theater was packed. There’s this feeling, when there’s 350, 400 people in a tight space watching a movie, it’s a claustrophobic, wonderful shared experience that’s unlike anything else. Bill was watching—it was the campfire scene, I think—and he’s watching the audience’s reaction, and I saw this sweet little smile come over his face. It was a really unguarded moment. I might be reading into this, but I really felt, at that moment, that he got it. He understood what he’d done, and how special this movie was, and what it meant to people.

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David Wain (director, Wet Hot American Summer): Meatballs came out when I was 9 years old. I’d gone to a three-week sleep away camp at that point, but hadn’t yet experienced the full summer extravaganza. I saw it in the theater with my parents and remember thinking, wow, Bill Murray is literally about the coolest person on earth.

Dell’Agnese: There’s an innocence about Meatballs that’s so sweet. It’s the kind of thing that you can show to younger kids and not have to censor it.

DeBell: I met a guy once who actually became a camp counselor because of Meatballs. He had watched it when he was a kid, he told me, when he was not even a teenager yet. Then he introduces me to his 14-year-old son, and tells me, “My wife and I won’t let him watch Meatballs yet.” That seemed weird to me. But maybe, for him, Meatballs was a very personal thing. He watched it when he was going through puberty, and maybe he was first starting to have thoughts about girls and whatever. So maybe he didn’t want his son to watch Meatballs because he knows what goes through a kid’s head when he watches Meatballs. Maybe he was having all of these sexual fantasies about me or somebody else in the movie. [Laughs.] I don’t know, it’s just a theory.

Reitman: I think there is nostalgia about Meatballs, but not necessarily for the movie. It’s for a moment in their own lives. It pretty accurately represented the camp experience.

Banham: I saw the movie again as a grown man. I was able to put my emotions aside and see it very clearly. I found it really bittersweet, and I understood it in a way I didn’t as a young man. It’s about the rite of passage of going to a summer camp, and it’s your first extended period of time away from your family. It takes tremendous courage to do that. That moment is captured so well in the film. You can just see the children fraught with fear. And then of course it’s this marvelous summer they experience, this very communal experience with others feeling the same fear. And then you come away not wanting to leave, and you’re a changed person. Watching Meatballs again, it really moved me.

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Goldberg: I saw it a little while ago—they had a screening in Toronto—and it holds up. I even cried a few times. And I don’t think I cried because I wrote it. It’s because, for these kids, this was the greatest moment of their lives. They’re going to look back on this when they’re older, and yeah, yeah, I know it’s fiction and none of these characters are real, but in a way, it was real. It was real for us. For these actors, and the crew, and everybody else, they’re living these experiences on screen more truthfully than you could imagine. The movie is about the carefree time in a young person’s life, and it’s being performed by young people experiencing a very carefree time in their life. In some ways, it’s this perfect representation of art imitating life.

(This story originally appeared, in a slightly different form, in Vanity Fair.)