The Telegraph has a wonderful essay titled WILL THERE EVER BE ANOTHER JOHN HUGHES? by Robbie Collin, prompted by the recent publication of a new book by Kirk Honeycutt, JOHN HUGHES: A LIFE IN FILM. Collin’s essay is excerpted below:
Between 1984 and 1987, Hughes wrote six teen movies: SIXTEEN CANDLES, THE BREAKFAST CLUB, WEIRD SCIENCE, FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF, PRETTY IN PINK and SOME KIND OF WONDERFUL. The first four of those he also directed; the other two were by Howard Deutch, although behind-the-scenes tales from PRETTY IN PINK suggest Hughes was still the primary guiding influence on set.
Together, these six films make up just a fraction of his life’s work. Between his first screenplay, for 1982’s NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CLASS REUNION, and his death in 2009, Hughes directed eight features and had writing credits on 25 more, plus a handful of other projects that went direct to video or were made for television, and countless more that were left unmade. But those half-dozen high-school films are his legacy.
“You see us as you want to see us,” runs the opening monologue [of THE BREAKFAST CLUB] – which we later discover is part of the essay written by the five students from different backgrounds, played by Molly Ringwald, Emilio Estevez, Ally Sheedy, Judd Nelson and Anthony Michael Hall, who learn that they have more in common than they first thought. “In the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions. You see us as a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal.”
Before Hughes, teen movies had almost exclusively trafficked in stereotypes – the jock, the geek, the virgin, the stoner, the slut and so on – and THE BREAKFAST CLUB was his wholesale rejection of those worn-out tropes. Hughes establishes the differences between these five characters so nimbly you barely notice it happening: in their clothes; their parents’ parting words to them at the school gates; the different cars in which four of the five arrive; even where in the library they choose to sit.
But as the detention runs its course, our easy assumptions about them are turned on their head. None of them fits the role into which they’ve been forced by high-school life. “What we’ve found out is that each one of us is a brain, and an athlete, and a basket case, a princess and a criminal,” runs the film’s closing monologue, which is shared by all five of the leads. This realisation is treated, rightly, as life-changing. Hughes never patronised his characters, and treated teenage traumas with far more gravity than those his adult characters suffered through.
Even today, that feels revolutionary – and shows Hughes’s commitment to treating his young audience with the utmost respect, however outlandish the on-screen action got.
So perhaps to find today’s John Hughes we need to look elsewhere…If Hughes were around today, would we find him on YouTube, laughing and joking with the young cinemagoers who’d found encouragement and hope in his work? Or would this self-styled outsider remain off the grid with his wife and two sons in a quiet Chicagoan suburb? There’s no way to know – and, of course, no need to either. His films speak for him, articulately and at length, whenever your inner teenager might want to hear a friendly voice.
Read Collin’s full piece at The Telegraph.
The book’s author, longtime Hollywood Reporter journalist and critic Kirk Honeycutt, spoke about Hughes with Fast Company: “He wrote about teens as if they were adults. He connected to them in a way no one has before or since. Their problems, he treated with seriousness. Their angst, he treated with seriousness. He didn’t write down to them. He wrote to their level. He was someone in his thirties who still remembered what it was like to be 17. He remembered how parents and teachers feel like creatures from another land. He understood that who you go to the prom with was crucially important for a couple months in your life. He created an adult world in which the kids were the adults. I think that will play forever.”
Honeycutt, who interviewed Hughes through the years, shares anecdotes behind five of the writer-director’s most popular movies in an interview with the NY Post:
“Sixteen Candles,” 1984
“Gedde Watanabe [above, with Deborah Pollack] played Long Duk Dong, a clichéd Asian character. But they actually spent the better part of two days filming a big musical number with him at the prom — he did a big dance number and rapped about how much he loved America. It would have been interesting to see how people reacted to the character if that scene remained. I think it would have made him less controversial.”
“Pretty in Pink,” 1986
“They had to reshoot the ending, because the original one where Andie [Molly Ringwald] and Duckie [Jon Cryer] ended up at the prom dancing — with implications they’ll get together — was disliked by test audiences, especially young girls who felt Molly needed to end up with the cute guy [Andrew McCarthy]. They had McCarthy back six months later to shoot a new ending. He was doing a play, for which he had shaved his head. It’s a bad wig he’s wearing [in the final scene, above]. John said to me, ‘I wasn’t happy about the reshoot but when I saw that wig, I started laughing and didn’t mind so much.’ ”
“The Breakfast Club,” 1985
“This movie was supposed to have a nude scene. During the day of detention, the [students] would have sneaked out of the library and found a peephole in the women’s locker room. There they spy the synchronized-swimming coach topless. Someone was even cast for the part: Karen Leigh Hopkins. But there was a rebellion by the actresses [Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy] and the female producer [Michelle Manning] against the scene. ‘This is really sexist and misogynistic,’ they hammered at [Hughes]. He thought about it and cut it out of the movie.”
“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” 1986
“For the scene where Ferris sings on the float during the parade, they had to shoot the real Von Steuben Day parade in Chicago over one weekend. Then the next weekend, they had to have a fake parade to get more shots. They had to get people willing to show up for free. They went to radio stations and put ads in the paper. In the end, 10,000 people showed up for the fake parade, which was more than for the real parade. Matthew Broderick and choreographer Kenny Ortega had worked out a dance sequence for the actor atop the float. Broderick had dislocated his knee a few weeks earlier filming the scene at the end of the movie where he’s running through yards on his way home, so the choreography had to be scrapped.”
“Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” 1987
“Steve Martin told me [Hughes] encouraged ad-libbing. So he and John Candy are shooting this scene in this broken-down car with no roof, and it’s minus-10 degrees outside [in Buffalo, NY]. Every time they ad-libbed, you have to cover it [reshoot the scene from a different camera angle] 50 times. It was getting ridiculous, the multiple coverage they needed for every line. Martin and Candy agreed not to ad-lib anymore because they were freezing to death. They loved ad-libbing, and unfortunately were doing too good a job of it and increasing their chances of getting frostbite.”