Jane Curtin Reflects on Early ‘SNL’ Days and John Belushi’s Troubles: ‘He Was an Addict’ (Exclusive)

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When Saturday Night Live first launched as a sketch comedy show in 1975, there were seven original cast members: Jane Curtin, John Belushi, Laraine Newman, Gilda Radner, Dan Aykroyd, Garrett Morris and Chevy Chase.

Nearly 50 years later, Curtin, 75, who is currently starring in the endearingly quirky film Jules alongside Ben Kingsley, reflects on her time on the show.

“I got along with everyone,” she tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. (The interview was conducted on July 7, before the SAG-AFTRA strikes.) “But I did have problems with John,” she says of Belushi, who died of a drug overdose in 1982 at age 33. “But that was because John wasn’t John. He was an addict.”

Belushi and Curtin on Weekend Update in 1978.

Fred Hermansky/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty

Curtin says when she was cast on the show, she had just gotten married to her husband, producer Patrick Lynch, and was just excited to be a working actress and make enough money to support herself — she had no interest in the trappings of fame or the partying that came along with such a high-profile gig.

“I had a life — a dog, a husband, an apartment with a little garden. It was a life I really enjoyed,” she says. “John, obviously, he could party with the best of them, but the next day these guys were just so miserable. Plus, the 90 minutes on the show were so exciting and adrenaline-pumping, I felt all the other stuff was self-indulgent and seemed hard.”

After SNL, where she was the first female anchor of Weekend Update and originated the role of Prymaat Conehead in The Coneheads, among other memorable sketches, Curtin moved on to more family-friendly fare, starring in the sitcom Kate & Allie with Susan St. James.

Curtin says her fame became different then. “I’d have the firemen say to me, ‘Hey, how ya doin’, Allie?’ I’d be like, I’m great, thanks!”

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Jane Curtin with Harriet Sansom Harris Ben Kingsley and Jade Quon in Jules.

Courtesy of Bleecker Street

Curtin, who is happily still acting in stage productions and on film, loves that she’s still working.

Her latest movie Jules, out now, is about a group of senior citizens who befriend a benevolent alien who crashes into one of their backyards. The group decided to help hide and protect the alien while he works on repairing his spacecraft.

“It’s such a lovely film,” Curtin says of Jules, which evokes themes of dementia and aging and, toward the end, of death and the afterlife. “It’s one thing to see Indiana Jones on film cracking his whip at 80, but it’s another to just see a group of people just living their lives at 80.”

She adds, “It’s kind, it’s funny, it’s sweet, and it deals with a subject matter that’s inevitable. It’s just such a wonderful, wonderful movie.”

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