The Netflix film A Futile and Stupid Gesture tells the story of National Lampoon founder Doug Kenney (Will Forte). When he is at Harvard with Henry Beard (Domhnall Gleeson), they start a food fight.
It’s easy to observe the food fight is a motif that would inspire the later National Lampoon film Animal House. The film’s screenwriters confirmed food fights were a regular event with Kenney.
“We knew when we wanted to show the scenes of college at Harvard that it was a fun way to start it with a food fight,” Michael Colton said. “In the book, that was a regular occurance at those dinners.
A Thursday night tradition, according to co-writer John Aboud. Later in the movie, when Kenney starts a food fight on the set of Animal House, the circumstances are a little different but there were off camera food fights.
“The Deltas and the Omegas were kept separate and they actually had food fights on the set,” Colton said. “The Deltas went out to an actual frat party that was happening on campus and got into a food fight. So that seemed like another fun thing to put in. We change it in Animal House so that Doug starts it as a way to get people to throw food at the studio executive. That was an invention but there were definitely food fights on the set.”
While staying in characters, the actors playing Deltas had lots of fun. The ones playing stuffy college preppies had to live it.
“The actors playing the Deltas would party long into the night,” Aboud said. “The guy who played Neidermeyer would stay up all night angrily polishing his boots.”
The one invented food fight comes at the end of the movie. At Doug Kenney’s funeral, a final food fight breaks up. That one is a metaphor.
“If Doug was actually at his own funeral, which is the conceit we have, what would he want?” Colton said. “He was always about making fun and anarchy, so it seemed like a fun idea that he would get Henry Beard, who was the most straight laced of that group, to instigate this crazy anarchic scene.”
Aboud added, “It also illustrates Henry’s evolution in the movie. When you meet him in college, in the middle of this big party, he’s reading The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. He’s very reserved. It’s only fitting that he is the one to throw the shrimp at the funeral in honor of Doug.”
You can watch A Futile and Stupid Gesture right now on Netflix.