On Monday, September 20, The Paris Theater in New York City filled to standing-room only for a 25th-anniversary screening of the seminal teen classic 'The Breakfast Club.' The event, organized by the Film Society of Lincoln Center, celebrated not just the 1985 hit, but the life of writer-director John Hughes, who passed away last August at the age of 59.
After the screening, the audience was treated to a special 90-minute Q&A with four of its stars: Judd Nelson ("Bender"), Anthony Michael Hall ("Brian"), Molly Ringwald ("Claire") and Ally Sheedy ("Allison"). Notably absent was the other main cast member, Emilio Estevez, who Ringwald joked was "the Greta Garbo of the Brat Pack -- he just wants to be left alone." The night was moderated by noted Hughes fan Kevin Smith, who declared, "I saw this movie when I was 14 years old, and from that moment on, I wanted to join the Breakfast Club. Tonight, thanks to one omission, I can. Tonight only, I'm standing in for the jock."
Also, in attendance for the evening were Hughes' two sons, James and John Jr., as well as his wife, Nancy. Smith closed the evening out, to a standing ovation, by thanking Nancy: "Without you, he probably wouldn't have done the things he did; because you were there for him, he was there for us." For fans who could not be in attendance, Moviefone presents the cast's thoughts on the film, its legacy and the genius of John Hughes.
BRINGING THE BREAKFAST CLUB TOGETHER
Molly Ringwald: What [John] told me was, while he was casting locally for 'The Breakfast Club' and writing 'Sixteen Candles,' he had been given a stack of head shots -- and he just picked my head shot out and put it on his board above where he was writing about this girl. So when it came time to cast that part, he came out to Los Angeles, and they said, "Who do you want to meet?" And he said, "I want to meet that girl." At the end of 'Sixteen Candles,' at the end of the summer, he asked Michael and I to participate in 'The Breakfast Club.'
Anthony Michael Hall: I was that actual age -- I was 15. I refer to it as the "puberty on film" trilogy; 'Weird Science' completes it.
Ally Sheedy: He really did give me a chance because I can't imagine a part like that coming along at that point, from anywhere. And he just said, "Think about it." I didn't get a script for a long time; then one night he said, "I want you to be 'Allison' so tonight, go to sleep as Ally, and tomorrow, wake up as 'Allison.'" I was really fascinated by the Beat thing with girls sitting around reading poetry in clubs, wearing black makeup and smoking cigarettes, and I wanted her to look like that.
Judd Nelson: I was able to get an audition at Universal, here in New York. I was just about thrown out of the waiting room -- a little gypsy actor was in the waiting room, as well, and I kept telling him to "stand up." He was standing up -- he was really short. The secretary in the waiting area called security, so as the elevator doors open and the security guard gets out, that's when someone from the behind the office doors said, "Judd Nelson, we can see you." I gave the finger to the security guard and walked into the room.
Hall: I remember the day because Judd was dressed like he was in the film -- he had the boots, the overcoat. Judd was just there, bringing it.
Nelson: John provided us with an opportunity to go to a real high school, to go undercover. There was a freak hall, a jock hall. Ally, Emilio, and I went; Ally didn't like high school for real and after one day was like, "I'm not going back to get that feeling of high school." It was great. I could buy beer. I told them I had a fake I.D. [Students] would drive me back to the hotel after school and ask, "Why are you staying at a hotel?" and I said, "My dad's in jail."
MEMORIES FROM THE SET
Ringwald: We more or less shot it in sequence.
Hall: That was John's point, to give us a fluid point where we start.
Sheedy: There was flirting, but there wasn't any dating. It was just too weird -- we were all together, all the time. Emilio was the guy I was supposed to date, and Michael was so cute, and I thought Judd was really great, but I was scared of him.
Hall: I just remember having homework afterward, and Judd would be like, "Yeah, I'm going to a bar. See you tomorrow."
Nelson: It was just me and Emilio going out in Chicago, one night a week.
Ringwald: The scene where we smoke pot, he just let the camera go on and on and on, he let me make up so much stuff. The entire thing was improvised. He was so thrilled that he brought my mom in and said, "You have to see how brilliant your daughter is!" And she was very excited to see something, and she sat down and watched me pretend like I was smoking pot for 20 minutes.
Hall: I spent a lot of time with the Hughes family and he showed me 'Richard Pryor: Live on Sunset Strip.' So I would start imitating Richard Pryor -- "Chicks cannot hold their smoke" -- and it would crack him up. And he said, "We're going to do this scene," and I said, "Are you serious? I was just bulls****ing at your house!" He was always inclusive and truly collaborative. And that's the experience we got, all the way through the performances we got. He was just sitting there rooting for you, and that made it for me. I didn't know what I was doing, but he gave us the confidence to say, "Try something."
Nelson: Hughes would put a thousand foot magazine [of film stock] in that camera and just turn it on, and Michael would just go and go, and eventually you'd hear the "click, click, click." The magazine was done, but John didn't say "cut" because he was on a roll. You felt like you'd do anything for him. It was just fun. It was like actor camp.
What You Didn't See
Ringwald: During this amazing rehearsal process, [Judd] was doing that method thing a lot, and he was provoking me a lot. I felt like I knew what he was doing. But John was very protective and he just lost it. He decided he was going to fire [Judd], and Ally spearheaded "Save Judd Nelson." We all each called John individually and begged him to keep him.
Nelson: John Kapelos plays the janitor and he does a great job. We're shooting that stuff where he rolls his garbage can into the room, and Emilio and I are laughing a lot that day. [Kapelos] would like us to get a bit more serious; he gets upset with us and says, "Look, real actors, guys that care about their work, guys like Martin Sheen, he had a f***ing heart attack on 'Apocalypse Now.'" Emilio stops laughing, and I fall out of my chair. I don't know what to do, because now Emilio is staring directly at Kapelos. I say, "John, do you know what Martin Sheen looks like? Now picture what Emilio looks like. Martin, Emilio." He went "oh!" and turns bright white on the way out.
Ringwald: Rick Moranis was the janitor for, like, a minute. But then he decided he wanted to do the entire thing with a Russian accent and a fur hat.
THE MUSIC OF 'THE BREAKFAST CLUB'
Smith: I'll remember it no matter where I am, watching the fade up on the Universal logo and hearing the cymbal and the percussive beat. It kick-started a generation, as far as I'm concerned. How many of you guys have that Simple Minds song on your iPod?
Nelson: That guy had to be beaten into recording that song. It's their biggest success and he felt like he was forced to do it. And so that whole verse where he's got no words: "naaaa na na na," he did it so they couldn't use it. F*** him. It's a great song. But I don't have it on my iPod.
Ringwald: There were constant mix-tapes going back and forth, mostly [John Hughes] giving us music. We were constantly listening to music, turning each other on to different music. He was the first person that ever played me the Beatles. He wrote to music.
Hall: John had a room in his house where he kept his computer, and you went in there, and there were 12-inch records everywhere, floor to ceiling. John always wrote with music in mind.
Sheedy: I kept listening to 'Changes' [by David Bowie] and thought this is the song for this movie and played the tape for him and said, "This is the song for this movie." And he went, "yeah, this is really good," and he didn't talk to me about it again -- but then he put the quote [in the movie] and I thought, "Oh, he got it."
Ringwald: When we were doing 'Breakfast Club,' I was obsessed with the Cure, and I played him the song 'Lovecats.' And he showed up one day with a cassette tape for me, and he said, "It's the soundtrack to 'Lovecats.'" He gave me the soundtrack, which was mostly Dave Brubeck, and the end song of the movie was supposed to be by Bob Dylan, and then he came in and gave me the beginning and end of this movie. And he said it was going to be filmed in the library; he was going to strip everything out of the library, except for the neon light and turn it into a night club, and 'Lovecats' was just going to take place in this one space. I never read the script, I'm dying to read it one day because I read the beginning and the end, and it was good.
THE ENDURING LEGACY
Ringwald: There were no serious movies about teenagers, so they were always dismissed as "oh, those teenagers!" at the beginning. For me, it was maybe 10 years later when people were still talking about it. I was sitting with this really young girl and she was talking about how this movie was her generation, and she was so much younger than me, that keeps happening where people think it was written just for them; it's like 'Catcher in the Rye' when I first read it.
Nelson: I was surprised by the letters I received not from America, but letters from Scandanavia, from Central America, from Asia. I was baffled. I didn't think the American high school experience would translate to Swedish students, but it does. Still you don't think it's going to be a movie 25 years later. S***, I'm that kid's dad now.
Sheedy: I have a daughter and she's 16; when I was going to her school to pick her up when she was 12, the high school kids would come up because they were still watching it. That's when I realized it wasn't just us, it was the next generation.
Smith: I loved 'The Breakfast Club' so much, here's how much: when I was a kid, I paid to see 'The Breakfast Club' four times with my own money. Granted I snuck into it four more times. And it was 'The Breakfast Club' over and over again. I was so enthusiastic about this flick that I went into my video store right after seeing it and I wanted to put my name on a reserve list. And they were like "What is a reserve list?" It hadn't been invented yet!
WHAT HAPPENS 25 YEARS LATER?
Sheedy: I think [Allison] was probably a really creative producer for Off-Broadway or Off-Off-Broadway, and some cool dance performance groups.
Nelson: [Bender] would clearly be the principal of that high school. He knows a lot about what those kids are going through; he'd take it from the proper perspective.
Ringwald: I think [Claire] has been married a few times [laughs]. Hopefully she's happy. Maybe [Bender] got it together. That's what so great about it --- you don't need to make a sequel; everybody has their own story.
REMEMBERING JOHN HUGHES
Smith: When I met John's sons and John's wife, I was just like, "What was he doing for the last few years of his life? Were you so happy to have him home with you because he was so insanely prolific during the period that he was making those flicks?" And she hit me with something I wasn't expecting. She said he planted 500,000 trees and about 400,000 thousand shrubs. And I just started crying. He did all that work, and he was like "F*** it, I'm going to go plant some trees. Goodbye everybody." That was so beautiful.
Hall: John gave us all our beginning. We didn't have any of this before John came into our lives. He was a great collaborator, a great friend. There was no "boss" vibe. He was a great person to work with.
Nelson: Maybe it's fitting Emilio is not here; it's not complete without John, he's the mortar between all the bricks. We only worked on that film for maybe two or three months, but I think it has marked us all, and I don't mean that negatively. It has marked us into the adults we have grown into.
Smith: What I loved best about John Hughes was, [here's] a man I never met and didn't know but was hugely influenced by. Hughes did his own thing at all given points; look at his body of work, ladies and gentlemen, it doesn't look like anybody else's, at the time or even now. John Hughes gave us all something to do in the '80s, and something to emulate, and try to be, not just the characters on the screen. For some of us, he was the guy we wanted to be.