Don't You (Forget About Him) – Behind the Scenes With John Hughes
By REED TUCKER
You Couldn't Ignore Me If You Tried
The Brat Pack, John Hughes, and Their Impact on a Generation
John Hughes' movies "changed everything," actor Andrew McCarthy says. "They defined a generation."
Hughes' movies were at once funny and heartbreaking. They traded in types, but somehow transcended them. His movies made stars out of the most unlikely of people, including a sullen redhead and spindly geek. They provided a memorable soundtrack to the decade and gave millions of awkward teens something to do on Friday nights. They made a pair of polka-dotted, cotton underwear sexy.
In this behind-the-scenes exploration of the writer-director's 1980s catalog, author Susannah Gora interviews an impressive list of cast members, including Molly Ringwald, Jon Cryer, John Cusack, Matthew Broderick and Anthony Michael Hall, who is indeed still alive.
Hughes grew up in Michigan and Illinois. His family was of modest means, and he was a bit of a "grimly serious" eccentric in high school. "I think he always felt like he didn't belong," Ringwald says. "I remember him telling me something like, 'I'm a square peg in a round world.' " His own circumstances seemed to instill in him a love of underdogs and a hatred of popularity-based hierarchies – themes that feature heavily in his films.
In 1971, at age 21, Hughes took a job writing at an ad agency. While there, he formed friendships with his co-workers' teen children, and those relationships reminded him of "how things were back then, how deeply you felt about things, and how you couldn't conceive of a future different from high school."
A decade later, he began channeling these insights into screenplays. Hughes wrote arguably his greatest movie specifically for Ringwald, whom he'd noticed in 1982's little-seen film "Tempest." Hughes had completed another script about five high schoolers spending the day in detention, but studio Universal liked the lighter tone of "Candles," and opted to make it fi rst.
The film was shot in the summer of 1983 in the suburbs of Chicago. During a day of shooting at the rented mansion that doubled for dreamboat Jake Ryan's house, actor Gedde Watanabe (who played foreign exchange student Long Duk Dong) found an exercise bike in the attic. Hughes allowed the actor to improv a scene where he rides it with his American girlfriend.
The scene in which Ringwald catches a glimpse of Jake's girlfriend Caroline (Haviland Morris) in the shower – the only true nude scene Hughes ever shot – required a body double because Morris was supposed to bustier than Ringwald, but in reality was not.
"The Breakfast Club," which opened in February 1985, was shot at Maine North High School in Des Plaines, Illinois. The production rented the then-shuttered school for $25,000 a week, and because the actual library wasn't large enough to film in, an entire set was built in the gym.
Ringwald and Hall were the fi rst to be cast, followed by Emilio Estevez, whose jock character was changed from a football player to a wrestler because a producer felt there were too many gridiron players in movies at the time. Ally Sheedy got the part of Goth Allison Reynolds in part because she showed up for the audition with two black eyes she got from a construction accident the night before. She had been building a set at USC, where she was a student, and a board hit her in the face. The injury helped cement her image as a dark, brooding person in Hughes' mind.
Judd Nelson helped win the role as bad boy John Bender by showing up dressed almost exactly as the character would ultimately appear in the movie: wearing fl annel and a pair of motorcycle boots that Nelson had soaked in motor oil overnight to break them in. The method-acting Nelson, however, ran afoul of many on the set, including Hughes, by acting like his jerky character whether the camera was rolling or not.
"[Hughes] was used to [compliant] Molly Ringwalds and Anthony Michael Halls," casting director Jackie Burch recalls in the book. "Judd wasn't going to be pushed around."
Another tense moment came when Estevez and Nelson were goofing around while John Kapelos, playing the janitor, was filming close- ups. Kapelos snapped and told the two, "You guys would've been great working with Martin Sheen on 'Apocalypse Now' when he was having his heart attack. You would have just left him there, not realizing what was happening." It was Kapelos' way of saying "pay attention," but he was unaware Estevez was Sheen's son. Kapelos apologized but "doesn't know if it ever took."
One of the film's most lasting legacies is the song "Don't You (Forget About Me)" by Simple Minds, but the band's frontman, Jim Kerr, initially balked at recording something for a "silly American youth film." He eventually relented, and the tune became the band's biggest hit.
The film originally had Molly Ringwald ending up with her eccentric best friend, Duckie (Jon Cryer), instead of the wealthy guy (Andrew McCarthy) she'd been chasing the whole movie. Test audiences booed loudly.
"I was horrified," recalls producer Lauren Schuler Donner. "But then we thought about it, and we decided, 'Well, we're making a movie for them.' " The decision was made to reshoot the ending.
The problem with the original story stemmed from the lack of romantic chemistry between Cryer and Ringwald. "He should have the girl, Duckie," says director Howard Deutch. "And it could have ended that way, had I not f – - – ed with one thing. I cast Jon Cryer."
Michael J. Fox and Robert Downey Jr. (Ringwald's choice) were considered for the role, but Deutch liked Cryer's vulnerability. "I think he seemed gay," Ringwald admits. "If they remade the movie now, he would be, like, the gay best friend who comes out at the end."
FERRIS BUELLER'S DAY OFF
Hughes, as he did with many of his movies, wrote "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" in just two days. Broderick took the lead, despite a worry that he'd again be playing a character who broke the fourth wall, as he'd done in "Biloxi Blues" and "Brighton Beach Memoirs." Alan Ruck landed the role of Matthew Broderick's downer friend Cameron only after Emilio Estevez passed, but the film didn't lead to other offers at fi rst. Ruck had to take a job at a Sears warehouse after the film's release. Ben Stein's famous"Bueller? Bueller?" scene was improvised, and the gag in which the title character bluffs his way into a posh restaurant was taken from Hughes' teen years, when he and a friend used to lie their way into Chicago's exclusive Union League Club.
Mia Sara, who played Ferris' girlfriend, developed a real-life crush on Broderick, and the actress recalls, "I threw myself at him repeatedly, and he very wisely turned me down." Broderick was involved with his other co-star, Jennifer Grey, at the time.They got engaged, but ultimately broke up. Two actors who did end up together: Lyman Ward and Cindy Pickett, who played Ferris' parents, met on the set and later married.
Hughes got fabulously wealthy off his work – he once bragged that he'd made $40 million off "Home Alone" but pocketed even more off "101 Dalmatians" because he kept a piece of the merchandising rights – but the director left Los Angeles in the mid 1990s. He moved back to Chicago and became a virtual recluse. His new house could be seen by one other in the distance, so he hired a bulldozer to build a hill to block the view. He abruptly stopped speaking to his closest showbiz friends, including John Candy, Hall and Ringwald. "Hughes discarded him," says Hall's mother.
Author Gora doesn't shed much light on why Hughes disappeared, and we may never know. Last August, he died while taking a morning stroll on West 55th Street. But no one who grew up in the '80s is likely to (Forget About Him) any time soon.
Originally published by REED TUCKER.
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