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.
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.
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.
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.
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!”
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.
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.