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Dan Aykroyd Says Being on the Spectrum Helped Him Make Ghostbusters

December 12, 2013

Dan Aykroyd is in the news for going public about his autism. Aykroyd—comedian, singer, actor and screenwriter, Blues Brother and, of course, Ghostbuster— tells the Daily Mail that he was diagnosed with Asperger’s (a form of Autism Spectrum Disorder) in the 1980s. Aykroyd’s news comes close on the heel of singer Susan Boyle and Daryl Hannah, who both revealed that they have Asperger’s. But Aykroyd’s story is a little different.

Dan Aykroyd’s Autism and Ghostbusters

Both Hannah and Boyle said their autism made their careers more challenging—Hannah retreated from Hollywood because she couldn’t handle the demands of doing publicity, and Boyle has struggled to control outbursts that have drawn a lot of negative attention. But Aykroyd, who said he was diagnosed when his wife urged him to see a doctor, cheerfully credited his Asperger’s with being responsible for his huge hit, Ghostbusters:

"One of my symptoms included my obsession with ghosts and law enforcement—I carry around a police badge with me, for example. I became obsessed by Hans Holzer, the greatest ghost hunter ever. That’s when the idea of my film Ghostbusters was born."

Dan Aykroyd

It’s not the first time Aykroyd has mentioned his Asperger’s or autism—in 2004 in a delightful interview with NPR’s Terry Gross he also cited the badge: “If I don’t have a badge on me I feel naked,” he says. And he noted that his obsession with police and college study of criminology also served him well when it came to writing the Blues Brothers: “They were classic recidivists, they could never stay out of trouble, always looking for it, borderline sociopathic hedonists, and I was well armed criminological terms and knowledge.”

Akroyd also said in both interviews that he was diagnosed with Tourette’s at 12, and had “pretty bad” physical and verbal tics that made him shy, until they were controlled with therapy and the symptoms eased a couple of years later. Hard to imagine the wild and crazy guy from Saturday Night Live ever being reluctant, but it’s a story we hear all the time—kids who struggle with social limitations find acting, and humor, thrilling and liberating.

Dan Aykroyd Today

After Elon Musk hosted “Saturday Night Live” in 2021, Dan Aykroyd pointed out that he was the first person with Asperger’s to host the show. Viewers took to social media and were quick to point out that, in addition to being one of the show’s original cast members, Aykroyd hosted the show in 2003.

Dan Aykroyd was recently a special guest on an episode of The Chris Moyles Show, where he discussed passing the torch to a new generation in the upcoming Ghostbusters sequel.

Tagged with: Pop Culture, Self-Advocacy
Topic: Autism
Caroline Miller
Caroline Miller is the editorial director of the Child Mind Institute. In that role she directs development of resources on … Read Bio