Canadian actor Rick Moranis first made a name for himself in the 1980s after starring on the sketch comedy series Second City Television. His career went from strength to strength as he traded in smaller TV parts for roles in hit movies like Ghostbusters and Little Shop of Horrors.
Since the late 90s and his wife’s tragic death, Moranis has shifted his priorities from work to his children. But that’s not to say he’s given up performing entirely. Here are 20 things you might not have known about him.
20. He improvised all his best Ghostbusters lines
Sometimes, the best dialogue on-screen isn’t scripted. This is certainly the case in Ghostbusters, for which Moranis improvised many scenes.
Most notably, Moranis ad-libbed in the scene where Louis loudly reveals a couple’s financial details at a party.
This iconic scene is one of the most memorable from the entire film, and it was all Moranis’ idea.
Director Ivan Reitman explained to Rolling Stone in 2016: “Right away, Rick had all these wonderful ideas.”
“I think it was his idea to play him as an accountant; he wrote that extraordinary speech when he is inviting people to a party at his house and he’s walking that incoming couple through,” he said.
“I had the joke of throwing the coat on the dog that’s in his bedroom, but that whole wonderful speech… Rick just made all of it up as he was doing it. All these guys were so, so good at writing.”
19. His Great White North character was created to protest the Canadian government
Moranis and co-star Dave Thomas created their characters in The Great White North to protest against the Canadian government.
In the 80s the Canadian government imposed requirements for “identifiable Canadian content” in television shows produced domestically.
The Great White North featured two brothers – Bob and Doug McKenzie – who embodied every possible stereotype about Canadians.
The two are a pair of dim-witted, beer-drinking, wool hat-wearing commentators who discuss various aspects of Canadian life and culture.
Although the skit was initially conceived as a lighthearted means of mocking the Canadian government, ‘Bob and Doug’ went on to become pop culture icons in North America.
Back in March 2020, a statue of Bob and Doug McKenzie was erected in Edmonton, Alberta.
18. He quit the entertainment industry to raise his kids
In the late 1990s, Moranis retired from acting in order to focus on his family.
In a 2013 interview with Uproxx, he opened up about why his kids are such a priority to him.
“There was nothing unusual about what happened or what I did,” he said. “I think the reason that people were intrigued by the decisions I was making and sometimes seem to have almost admiration for it had less to do with the fact that I was doing what I was doing and more to do with what they thought I was walking away from.”
“As if what I was walking away from had far greater value than anything else that one might have,” he continued.
He added: “the decision in my case to become a stay-at-home-dad, which people do all the time, I guess wouldn’t have meant as much to people if I had had a very simple kind of make-a-living existence.”
“But because I came from celebrity and fame and what was the peak of a career, that was intriguing to people. To me, it wasn’t that. I didn’t have anything to do with that. It was work, and it was just time to make an adjustment.”
17. He has his own comedy country music album
Back in 2003, Moranis wrote a bunch of comedic country songs. “Out of the blue, I just wrote a bunch of songs,” he told Sound & Vision in 2004.
“For lack of a better explanation, they’re more country than anything. And I actually demoed four or five of them,” he said.
“I’m not sure at this point what I’m going to do with them—whether I’m going to fold them into a full-length video or a movie. But, boy, I had a good time doing that.”
In 2005, he went on to release these songs on an album called The Agoraphobic Cowboy. This was distributed through ArtistShare and Moranis’ own website.
In 2006, the album went on to receive a Grammy nomination for Best Comedy Album. Unfortunately, Moranis lost out on the award to Chris Rock and his album Never Scared – but a Grammy nomination still isn’t bad for an album that was released for fun.
Moranis performed one of the songs from the album, titled Press Pound, on talk show Late Night with Conan O’ Brien back in 2006.
16. He has a collection of his characters’ glasses that he pinched from movie sets
In this 2020 interview with Disney+, Moranis also revealed what kinds of props he liked to pinch from movie sets.
While some actors prefer to sneak away with big, ostentatious props, Moranis preferred to pilfer smaller items.
He admitted to host Dan Lanigan that he would only ever take home a few things from a movie set.
“The only thing I did save from the movies I was in, because I was using prescription glasses, I would usually take a pair of glasses,” Moranis said.
“I pretty much have a pair of glasses for every film I did,” he continued.
“I also kept a few 8 x10 photos and used to raise money at auctions. Everything is gone now.”
15. He lost his wife to liver cancer in 1991
Back in 1986, Moranis married costume designer Ann Belsky. The couple had two children together, Rachel and Mitchell.
However, Belsky soon became ill and in 1991 tragically passed away after a battle with liver cancer.
Moranis was left suddenly widowed and had to raise his young son and daughter alone.
This is largely why Moranis decided to scale back on his acting career, prioritising the welfare and upbringing of his children.
“For the first couple of years I was able to make it work – doing one and a half pictures a year for three months with no problem,” he told the Independent in 2009.
“But I started to really miss them. It got to the point where I was doing a lot of pictures with kids – really nice kids, but not my kids. So, I was like, ‘You know what? I’m tired of talking to my kids from a hotel room. I’m going home.'”
14. He recently had a break from retirement to cameo in The Goldbergs
Although it’s common knowledge that Moranis took a step back from acting to focus on raising his children following the death of his wife in the 90s, Moranis didn’t give up acting entirely.
Speaking to the Hollywood Reporter in 2015, Moranis stressed that he hadn’t totally retired, and was instead just being highly selective with the roles he chose to work on.
“I’m happy with the things I said yes to, and I’m very happy with the many things I’ve said no to,” he said.
He continued: “I am picky, and I’ll continue to be picky. Picky has worked for me.”
Notably, in 2018 Moranis made a (voice) cameo in sitcom The Goldbergs, in which he reprised his role from Spaceballs, Dark Helmet.
The scene sees Dark Helmet appear in a vision to protagonist Adam Goldberg, where the two briefly engage in a lightsaber battle.
13. He has a phobia of airports (but doesn’t mind flying)
Speaking to Heeb in 2013, Moranis revealed that he avoids airplanes as much as possible – especially after 9/11.
But this isn’t to do with a fear of flying – instead, Moranis is more averse to the process of getting on a plane.
“We started to hear the stories of people stuck on the tarmac for six hours,” he said.
“If that happens to me, I’ll be on the front page of the New York Post the next day. I’ll fake a heart attack or meltdown.”
So it’s better for me to stay away from airports,” he continued. Moranis stressed that he’s “not the least bit afraid of flying”, adding that “it all has to do with the process.”
“A plane taxis away from the gate and sits for six hours, [yet] it takes eight and a half hours to drive to Toronto. And I’m alone. [On a plane] I always end up sitting next to the guy who will see a pulmonary specialist the next day,” he said.
12. He was fired from The Breakfast Club after he started playing Carl the Janitor with a Russian accent
Cult classic The Breakfast Club is unusual in that it features only two significant adult characters.
These are principal Richard Vernon – played by the late Paul Gleason – and Carl the Janitor.
Moranis was originally signed up to play the role of Carl, but ultimately ended up getting the sack.
The decision was driven by the fact that Moranis insisted on playing the part with a gimmicky, over-the-top Russian accent.
Director John Hughes was OK with Moranis’ interpretation of the role, but producer Ned Tanen felt that the Russian accent didn’t really fit with the rest of the film.
Unfortunately for Moranis, Tanen had the last word, and he was ultimately booted off the cast. John Kapelos was eventually cast in the role.
11. He accidentally invented the video jockey
One of Moranis’ best-loved skits on Second City Television (SCTV) skits was one about a disc jockey called Gerry Todd.
Gerry would show music clips on TV and then provide funny commentary in the breaks in between clips.
While this basically sounds like any MTV music show, this skit was actually devised prior to the debut of the channel.
Because of this, many people – including Sound & Vision magazine – credit Moranis with inventing the concept of the video jockey.
“There had been no such thing” up until that point, Martin Short said. So “the joke was that there would be such a thing.”
As was the case with Bob and Doug, this is yet another instance of Moranis coming up with an idea as a gag, only for it to go on to make a significant and lasting impact on pop culture.
10. He’s going to appear in the Honey, I Shrunk The Kids reboot
Back in February 2020, Moranis confirmed that he was on board for a reboot of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.
In the original film, Moranis starred as Wayne Szalinski, an inventor and father who ends up accidentally shrinking his kids with a ray gun.
The reboot is called Shrunk and will focus on Wayne’s son Nick, played by Josh Gad.
The film sees history repeat itself as Nick – now an adult – accidentally shrinks his own kids. (Like father, like son, right?)
It’s still unclear how big of a role Moranis will have in the re-boot, but he has confirmed that he will reprise his role as Wayne.
Whatever his role, people will be happy to see this semi-retired acting great back on the silver screen again.
9. Moranis accidentally offended George Carlin with his impersonation of him
In one SCTV skit in 1976, Moranis did an impersonation of legendary comedian and actor George Carlin.
Moranis intended the performance as a tribute to Carlin, but apparently, Carlin was offended and upset by Moranis’ parody of him.
It’s likely that this partially stemmed from the fact that Carlin was going through a dip in his career in the late 70s.
Moranis had no clue that Carlin was hurt by the impersonation until many years later.
In 2015, Carlin’s daughter Kelly Carlin-McCall contacted Moranis while researching for her memoir and mentioned that Carlin had taken issue with the performance.
Moranis was mortified and proceeded to profusely apologise for any upset he had inadvertently caused.
8. There was almost a Spaceballs 2
Science fiction comedy Spaceballs was released back in 1987 and has since garnered a cult following.
The movie’s massive popularity has left fans wondering if there will ever be a sequel.
Speaking to Heeb Magazine in 2013, Moranis revealed that a sequel to the original was almost created.
“Mel wanted to do a sequel after it became a cult video hit. It wasn’t a box office hit. It was a cult video hit, and MGM wanted to do a sequel,” he said.
“And my idea for it was Spaceballs III: The Search for Spaceballs II. And I was unable to make a deal with Mel. I couldn’t make a deal.”
“The deal he presented me, what he wanted me to do, was not workable,” he revealed.
7. His kids don’t care about his fame
Moranis may be one of the most iconic actors to come out of the 1980s, but it doesn’t seem as though his kids are fazed by his fame.
Speaking to Uproxx in 2013, Moranis revealed that his children have never understood their father’s mass appeal.
“My earliest memories [of his children’s reaction to his stardom] were of being in public situations where people would get all excited because they were seeing a famous person,” he said.
“And my kids were just like, ‘Why are you so excited? It’s just him,’” he added. “They had a really good perspective on celebrity and fame very early on.”
That certainly seems true, given his five-year-old son’s reaction to seeing Derek Jeter at a Knicks game. “Derek Jeter turned around, recognised me, got kind of like, ‘Oh hi! Hi!’”
“And my son said, ‘Have you met Chuck Knoblauch yet?’ And Jeter looked at him like, ‘Who is this kid.’ But that was my son. He was comfortable around anyone,” Moranis said.
6. He called making Little Shop of Horrors “one of the greatest moments of my life”
From Ghostbusters to Honey I Shrunk the Kids, Moranis has starred in some pretty exciting projects in his time.
But it seems one film in particular holds a special place in his heart: Little Shop of Horrors.
Back in 1986 Moranis starred as florist Seymour Krelborn in the film adaptation of the Broadway musical.
He told The Hollywood Reporter in 2015: “I’m the luckiest guy to get that [role].”
“It was timing, and I fit the right type. It was an amazing experience,” he said.
“One of the greatest moments of my life was shooting that thing.” To this day Seymour remains one of Moranis’ best-remembered roles.
5. He declined a role in the Ghostbusters reboot
Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters 2016 reboot featured cameos from original stars Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Bill Murray, and Sigourney Weaver.
But although Moranis played an iconic role in the original film, he did not make a cameo in the reboot.
He explained his reasons behind the decision in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter in 2015.
“I wish them well. I hope it’s terrific. But it just makes no sense to me,” he said.
“Why would I do just one day of shooting on something I did 30 years ago?”
The 2016 reboot was ultimately a bit of a box office flop, with an estimated loss of $70 million.
4. He was schoolmates with Geddy Lee from Rush
Moranis grew up in Toronto, Canada, where he attended elementary school with another boy called Gary Lee Weinrib.
Gary Lee Weinrib went onto be known internationally as ‘Geddy Lee’ – aka the frontman of Rush.
Nowadays, Lee is renowned for his musical talents and was ranked 13th by Hit Parader on their list of the 100 Greatest Heavy Metal Vocalists of All Time.
Lee has gone on to have an influence on many other rock musicians, such as Cliff Murton from Metallica.
He’s also said to have inspired Steve Harris from Iron Maiden and Tim Commerford from Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave.
Moranis has had a similarly impactful career, landing multiple roles in hugely successful films and shows.
3. He drove Joe Johnston “crazy” while shooting Honey, I Shrunk the Kids
Back in May 2020 Moranis gave a rare interview on the Disney+ show Prop Culture.
The interview was done primarily to promote the Honey I Shrunk The Kids reboot, Shrunk.
During the interview, Moranis reflected on his experience shooting the original film back in 1989.
Moranis praised director Joe Johnston: “He had the vision of this in his head,” he said.
“And on that movie, I was really an actor,” he continued, going on to reveal how he annoyed Johnston on set.
“I think I drove him crazy a couple of times trying to get more comedy into it ’cause I was always looking for how to disrupt and get some more jokes in, and poor Joe just wanted to make his movie.”
2. He starred in a Pepsi commercial AFTER he got famous
Many movie stars appear in TV commercials for random brands before making big career breakthroughs.
But Moranis is unusual in that he starred in a Pepsi commercial in 1995 – years after he hit the big time.
In the commercial Moranis plays a pair of long-lost twins who are separated at birth.
One twin (Eddie Krone) grows up in America while the other (Hans Krone) grows up halfway across the world in Germany.
Then one day, the twins rediscover one another after telepathically connecting through the power of consuming Pepsi.
This is one of the less time-consuming and more pared-down roles that Moranis took on following the death of his wife in 1991.
1. One of his last roles was in a 2001 animated Christmas film
While Moranis took a step back from appearing on screen following his decision to spend more time with his kids, he did do a spot of voice work here and there.
Moranis voiced a character in a Christmas film – Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and the Island of Misfit Toys – back in 2001.
Moranis voiced ‘Toy Taker’ – a villainous man who (as his name suggests) steals toys made in Santa’s workshop.
Toy Taker claims that he’s saving the toys from inevitably being thrown away when children outgrow them.
It is eventually revealed that Toy Taker is really a teddy bear called Mr Cuddles.
Mr Cuddles was thrown away by his owner – a boy named Steven – and just wanted to save other toys from meeting the same fate.