In the Club
Teen comedy auteur John Hughes, seen here with the cast of "The Breakfast Club," conceived the film as the first in a series, with characters to be revisited every 10 years or so. Among the reasons this never happened: The director reportedly came to loathe actor Judd Nelson and vowed never to work with him again.
Hughes wrote the screenplay—about five high school students, each representing a different stereotype, trapped together in Saturday detention—in just two days. The title came from a nickname for detention at a Chicago-area high school attended by the son of one of Hughes' friends. Earlier working titles included "Library Revolution" and "The Lunch Bunch."
The Princess and the Basket Case
The director originally wanted Molly Ringwald to play Allison. But she lobbied for the part of Claire, the popular "princess," so the role of the "basket case" went to Ally Sheedy, who otherwise wouldn't have been in the film. As Sheedy told Ringwald, "I could never have played your part." Among the other contenders for the role of Claire: Robin Wright and Jodie Foster.
Emilio Estevez was originally going to play Bender, the "criminal." But when Hughes ran into trouble casting Andrew, the "athlete," he persuaded Estevez to take that role instead.
The Man Who Would Be Bender
John Cusack—a costar, like Hall and Ringwald, of Hughes' earlier teen comedy "16 Candles"—auditioned repeatedly and was very nearly cast as Bender. But apparently he was too nice of a guy. Hughes decided Cusack didn't seem threatening enough for the part and opted for Judd Nelson.
Judd Nelson went undercover at a local high school to research his role. Posing as a student, he bought beer with what he told classmates was counterfeit ID. When some of them drove him him home, they were puzzled to find that Nelson was living in a hotel. "My dad's in jail," he explained.
Harassing the Princess
Even off camera, Judd Nelson kept needling and provoking Molly Ringwald. She later said she understood his hostile behavior to be a sort of acting exercise—"that Method thing."
'Save Judd Nelson'
With Hughes on the verge of firing Nelson for harassing Ringwald, Ally Sheedy rallied her fellow actors in a "Save Judd Nelson" campaign. Paul Gleason, who played the school principal, persuaded the director that Nelson was a talented actor making an effort to stay in character.
The Original Janitor
Rick Moranis, hot off his supporting role in "Ghostbusters," was cast as Carl the janitor. To Hughes' dismay, he insisted on giving the character a thick Russian accent and infusing his performance with exaggerated comedy shtick. The director reportedly fired Moranis after a few days of filming, and the part went to John Kapelos.
Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall, the only cast members actually in their teens, were dating when "The Breakfast Club" was filmed. Both were 16. The other key actors—Judd Nelson (25) and Emilio Estevez and Ally Sheedy (both 22)—played recent college grads in "St. Elmo's Fire," which reached theaters just a few months after the John Hughes film.
Bender's switchblade (not the one pictured) actually belonged to Judd Nelson. A former preppy who attended the exclusive and genteel St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire, the actor said he carried it "for protection purposes."
The dandruff that Allison (Ally Sheedy) shakes from her head to add a layer of snow to her wintry landscape drawing is actually Parmesan cheese. The marijuana they smoke in a later scene is also a mainstay of Italian cooking—oregano.
"Chicks cannot hold their smoke—dat's what it is," says Brian. The line comes from a Richard Pryor stand-up routine that Anthony Michael Hall liked to imitate, cracking up Hughes every time. Finally, the director suggested putting the line into the movie.
The scene in which the five students reveal the reasons they're in detention—for cutting classes to go shopping (Claire), triggering a false fire alarm (Bender), bringing a flare gun to school (Brian), some locker room horseplay (Andrew), and simply having nothing better to do (Allison)—was completely improvised.
Remembering John Hughes
After John Hughes' death in 2009, Molly Ringwald wrote a New York Times article that remembered him as "a sort of J.D. Salinger for Generation X." Referring to herself and Anthony Michael Hall, she added: "I feel that we were sort of avatars for him, acting out the different parts of his life—improving upon it, perhaps." To Ringwald, Hughes' early films were "deeply personal expressions" in which the director "always got the last word."
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