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20 Facts About 'The Breakfast Club' In Honor of the 30th Anniversary of That Fateful Day in Detention

By Cindy Davis | Seriously Random Lists | March 24, 2014 | Comments ()


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Although The Breakfast Club was released in February 1985, the story is set on March 24, 1984 — 30 years ago exactly. Between The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, director John Hughes managed to perfectly capture a slice of teenaged life with humor, truth and just the right amount of emotion. Filming a handful of actors almost entirely in one room, Hughes gave us an earnest look inside the microcosm that is high school—and society. The Breakfast Club is number one on Entertainment Weekly’s “50 Best High School Movies” and reminds us of both the importance and the meaninglessness of that time in our lives.


1. The Breakfast Club features five “Brat Pack” actors: Emilio Estevez, Ally Sheedy, Molly Ringwald, Judd Nelson and Anthony Michael Hall. The rest of the “official” pack are Rob Lowe, Andrew McCarthy and Demi Moore, with a multitude of other actors often thrown into the bunch (Robert Downey, Jr., Mare Winningham, James Spader, John Cusack, etc.). Estevez is considered the leader of the pack.

2. Writer David Blum (who has written and been an editor for New York Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Press, The Village Voice and The New York Times Magazine) is credited with coining the term in an article he wrote for New York Magazine. Blum was initially writing an article about Emilio Estevez, whose career was just taking off. The writer asked to meet with Estevez and some of the other kids becoming popular (Lowe, Nelson) and as he began spending time with them, noticed behavior that he considered “bratty” (they’d go to theaters and ask to be let in free, ask for a center table at restaurants and bring a lot of attention to themselves). They reminded him of the “Rat Pack” (Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Humphrey Bogart, Sammy Davis Jr.) and in the article, he called Estevez and company the “Brat Pack.” The term at first had derogatory connotations and irked the actors. Judd Nelson: “The writer portrayed us as bad people, and we weren’t. We just liked to have fun and I guess that’s not allowed.” Ally Sheedy said, “After the article came out, there was an uncomfortable feeling about everything … we didn’t want to go out.” After a time, the negativity went away and they just became a group of actors.

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3. Hughes wrote the first draft script in a weekend and it sat in a drawer for “a long time.” Estevez and Nelson asked Hughes how many drafts he had written (several) and got to read them all (incorporating bits from different versions). It was Hughes’ intent to film The Breakfast Club before Sixteen Candles; the studio flipped them around. The actors just happened to be (“were lucky”) in Chicago (where Hughes lived) at the time.

4. Hall: Judd came to his audition just like you saw him, in his boots, gloves and with that fuck you attitude. Judd said that he was getting a little rambunctious waiting around and the receptionist called for security. Just as the elevator doors opened (with the security guys), he was called in. Nelson liked that other people started wearing the (Bender’s) clothes because the actor’s mother always used to nag him about what he wore.

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5. Ally Sheedy felt that Allison was a part of her — she didn’t have to find the character. Sheedy knew what she wanted Allison to look like; “…though there were no real goths in her own high school, there were girls who hung out in coffee houses and listened to beat poetry. They were pale and wore dark eyeliner.” Around ten years after the film (trying to “break out” in her career), Sheedy described wondering if the film would ever go away … but now she is “so glad she was in it.”

6. Hughes originally discussed Ringwald playing Allison, but the actress really wanted to play Claire (who she saw as a lot like her own sister). Hughes talked it over with the studio and they agreed to the change. According to Ringwald, Judd Nelson was nearly fired because he went a little too deep into method acting, picking on Ringwald and trying to get under her skin as Bender did with Claire. Being protective of Ringwald, Hughes was about to fire Nelson, but the group of actors banded together and talked Hughes out of it.

7. Anthony Michael Hall spoke of John Hughes conferring with him about casting Vernon (Paul Gleason). They had both seen Paul in this Trading Places scene and loved him:

Gleason was “…a great guy, like an uncle or a father.” Nelson joked that “Mickey Mantle and Bob Dylan were two topics Paul Gleason knew, and he knew a lot about them. He was great to hate.” During filming, Gleason kept away a bit and when he wanted to hang out, they had the power to say “No” (to further the us and them filming mentality). A great character actor, Gleason (Die Hard, “Friends, Seinfeld, Malcolm in the Middle”) died in 2006 from a type of lung cancer thought to be caused by asbestos exposure.

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8. The BMW in which Claire (Molly Ringwald) arrives at school belonged to John Hughes. Brian (Anthony Michael Hall) is driven by Hall’s own mother, Mercedes; Hall’s sister Mary was in the car with them. Andy’s (Emilio Estevez) father was played by Ron Dean, who also starred in The Dark Knight with Anthony Michael Hall. At the end of the film, John Hughes appears as Brian’s father.

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9. Filming took place in a real school gymnasium, which the studio turned into a library. (The same school was featured in Hughes’ Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.) According to Judd Nelson, the Chicago Blitz (football team) had been using the gymnasium and had to move their practices to either the school’s smaller gym, or outside. Judd (jokingly) said, “It was freezing outside—they hated us.” In actuality, during breaks or scene changes, Nelson would go out and catch balls or join in practicing punts.

10. The cast spoke at length about John Hughes’ collaborative filmmaking. Rehearsals were done on set and the movie was shot mostly in sequence, something that Hall and Nelson said spoiled them a bit—they thought all films were done that way. The rehearsals bonded the group of actors together, they had shared experiences (dinners out together) and had time to figure each other out. When filming started, the relationships felt real. Hughes was looking for behaviors and gave the actors the freedom to have fun and goof around. Whatever they come up with was fine, shoes set on fire (Nelson), stick a pen up one’s nose (Hall). Nelson and Hall thought the experience mirrored the film—”…just because you’re 17 years old, doesn’t mean you’re dumb.” Hughes would let them have five or six takes and shot a lot of film. Nelson related that script supervisor Bob Forrest (Coal Miner’s Daughter, The Cowboys, The Prisoner of Zenda), who was brought out of retirement to work on the film, stopped taking notes and used a tape recorder. Hughes would let them continue on (with a scene) even after they could hear that the film had run out. The actors felt it was more like shooting a play than a film and was “a high watermark in their careers.”

11. Prior to filming, the actors went into an actual school, mixed in and got the feel of how things were. Only the principal knew about it. Nelson said it was an appropriate school because it had hallways labelled “Jock Hall” and “Freak Hall.” Nelson actually got sent to the principal’s office because he hadn’t found his classroom in time.

12. Editor, DeDe Allen (Dog Day Afternoon, The Wonder Boys, Henry & June, Bonnie and Clyde) worked closely with John Hughes and the actors. Judd Nelson spoke of Allen teaching him that looping (post-production sound dubbing) could actually make a performance better.

13. Jason Hillhouse (commentator/DVD producer) calls this, “The greatest fuck you in cinema history.”

14. Saying that Anthony Michael Hall grew “seven feet” during filming, Judd Nelson recalled that when he auditioned in New York, he was “…probably two inches taller” than Hall. By the time rehearsals started, he was only half an inch taller and by the end of the movie, Hall was taller than Nelson.

15. Ally Sheedy dubbed Anthony Michael Hall so sweet that her nickname for him was “Milk and Cookies.” Sheedy: “He didn’t like it at all.”

16. The gate at the end of the hallway (in the so called “Scooby Doo running scene”) was really there; it sectioned off an area for problem kids who on the weekend would have to go there. Judd Nelson said every Saturday, he’d to go down and torture the kids, yelling things like: “Hey, you wanna go smoke? Oh yeah, you can’t!”

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17. Ally Sheedy’s “proudest thing about The Breakfast Club was the Bowie quote (from Changes) she had found and brought to John Hughes. She showed it to the director and he liked it, but never said another word about it—then she saw it at the beginning of the film.

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18. During filming, Anthony Michael Hall and Molly Ringwald were only 16. (Nelson was 25, Estevez and Sheedy, 22). Sheedy described the “very shy and quiet” Ringwald as “someone beyond her years, who always seemed 30.”

19. Writer Diablo Cody (Juno, Young Adult, “United States of Tara”)—who appears in the making-of commentary—noted Hughes’ ability to write the teenage vernacular. John Kapelos (Carl) said that “John wasn’t too far from the teenage years. He had a pulse on teens.” Hughes said that every character was himself; some of him was in each person. Hughes made up the term (uttered by Nelson’s John Bender) “Neo maxi zoom dweebie.”

20. Composer/producer/songwriter Keith Forsey wrote Don’t You (Forget About Me) and asked Billy Idol, Bryan Ferry and Cy Curnin (The Fixx) and finally Simple Minds to record the song. All initially turned him down; Simple Minds agreed after being encouraged by their label. The song became their only number one hit.


Cindy Davis is totally a basket case and thinks Allison looked better before Claire’s makeover.







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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • James C

    You forgot Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop in the list of the Rat Pack.

  • Iam_Spartacus

    Terrific movie although unrealistic, teens never open themselves up and bare their souls like that. At least me and my teen peers back in the 70s. But then again, if they didn't, they wouldn't have a story to tell hence no movie. So go figure.

  • ikoiko

    Um, Humphrey Bogart was NOT a part of the Rat Pack, Joey Bishop was, though...

  • BlackRabbit

    I always feel like Emilio Estevez should have been a better-known actor after seeing this film.

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  • Still the greatest film of my teen years. Though I was more in love with Mary Stuart Masterson as Watts in SKOW.

  • I concur with your movie crush ranking. :)

  • Haystacks

    I have seen this movie 1/2 a dozen times. Only one thing has changed. Upon first viewing I thought Bender was just sex on legs (I was about 14). I am 30 now, and now instead of sexy boy I see abusive asshole. His intensity and fuck you attitude does not cover up the maliciousness of the abuse, especially toward Clair. It makes me think that their off screen relationship will be emotionally abusive.

  • lmtj

    Claire had it pegged right. Even after their emotional breakdown of what was to come on Monday, they were all still going to ignore each other and keep on going as if that time didn't exist. Allison would have been the one hurt most of all. I think after trying to look as her "made over" self on that Monday and not getting the rightful attention she deserved from Andy b/c he would wimp out in front of the jocks(he said it was his personality and exactly why he was there), I think she would have self destructed. He would treat her like parents do...non-existent. :( I feel too old to still relate to Allison's character in some ways.

  • oilybohunk7

    I used to be routinely be told "You look like that girl from The Breakfast Club." They were referring to Ally Sheedy.

  • Slim

    I get that rather often as well.

  • e jerry powell

    So I was a black Brian Johnson.

    BECAUSE NO BLACK PEOPLE IN THAT PART OF CHICAGO.

  • Diallo Tyson

    Yep. Me too:)

  • TacoBellRey

    As someone who was born quite a while after the movie came out, I still identified with the characters (mostly Allison and Brian). Even though it is distinctly and 80s movie, there is still a timeless quality to it.

  • Zen

    But then Billy Idol DID record it. Eventually.

  • Palandt

    Wasn't this released in 1985?

  • John W

    Great movie. Probably Hughes best.

  • Mrs. Julien

    This movie had a profound effect on me when I was 17 which was, yes, when it was released, and I have avoided it since for that reason.

  • I rewatched it with my 16yo daughter over the last Christmas holiday. She dug it, and I renewed my love of it. Jump back in @MrsJulien:disqus.

  • kinoumenthe

    I was 16 when it came to the newfangled movie channel in my country the next year and I watched the 6 runs, even the ones at impossible hours of the night and in subtitled English. We didn't have a VTR at the time.
    I don't think I have watched it even once since, though.

  • Scooter

    Is it bad that I never really thought twice about Judd Nelson until reading this and all his apparent "bad boy" antics and now I totally have a crush on him. I am now going to have to go back and watch all these old films to see my new crush!

  • It might be 30 years old (or almost that), but it still holds up. When we were doing an 80s movies retrospective with my sons, they remarked that high school hasn't changed much. They also said there was no way those kids would be friends come Monday morning, no matter what they said in detention, which I think most of us realized was true, even then. Nevertheless, both of them have insisted that other friends watch it with them, because it's "a really good movie, even though it's sort of old."

  • chanohack

    Your kids seem awesome.

  • poopnado

    I'm probably being totally naive, but I grew up in this area of northern Chicago and I could see them actually being friends after this. My school had a lot of cliques, but we there wasn't much animosity between them. I straddled a few cliques, and I had grown up with some of the rich kids and they were pretty friendly with most people. Some of the "jocks" dated "nerds", some people changed cliques really quickly. There were a lot of barriers, but many people broke them. I want to believe, and I DO believe, that those students came back on Monday and made some real changes, dammit.

  • Samantha Klein

    Ok, so I just want to point out that the film PREMIERED in February, 1985, according to both IMDb and Wikipedia. It will be 30 next year. The March 24th date is the date in the movie, the Saturday on which the action takes place.

  • kimk

    Geez, thank you. I distinctly remember it coming out right after I turned 16, so I was freaking out a little when I saw this headline - am I older than I thought I was? At the time they came out, I much preferred "16 Candles" to this, I think bc I identified a little more with it (my high school years were more random bizarre happenings than angsty drama), but I think "The Breakfast Club" has held up better over time.

  • Samantha Klein

    PS Everyone should read You Couldn't Ignore Me If You Tried:
    The Brat Pack, John Hughes, and Their Impact on a Generation, by Susannah Gora.
    Excellent book on Hughes and the movie.

  • StellaOliver

    30 years? I'm officially OLD.

  • loo shag brolley

    But TOTALLY ready for your close-up.

  • StellaOliver

    You should see my monkey.

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