“Can I tell you the story of The Breakfast Club?”
When one of two surviving members of the creative team behind The Breakfast Club offers to tell you how the enduring teen flick got made it’s not an offer you refuse, especially on the eve of the movie’s re-release in over 400 theaters this month for its 30th anniversary.
Maybe it’s the band Simple Minds pleading “don’t you forget about me” during the open and close, but something about the movie just stays with you. I was 9 when The Breakfast Club opened, but at least twice a year I think about Ally Sheedy shaking dandruff over her desk. It’s one of many scenes that grabbed me and it captures what the 1980s classic is all about: ‘It’s ok to be different.’
By setting up stereotypes embodied by actors like Molly Ringwald and Emilio Estevez, and then deconstructing them in the setting of an all-day high school detention session, director John Hughes broadcasts a message of acceptance to teens long before #stayweird.
The art student could have a place at the Breakfast table with the rest of the movie’s archetypes — the criminal, the basket case, the brain, the princess, the athlete — which is why it’s ironic that for 10 years executive producer Andy Meyer has been using the script to teach screenwriting at Savannah College of Art and Design, down the road from where he produced another little movie called Fried Green Tomatoes. He also produced Better Off Dead, which celebrated its 30th anniversary in February.
Then the president of the newly formed A&M Films, Meyer landed on Hughes’ doorstep in Chicago after reading his script National Lampoon’s Vacation.
I said, 'That’s a really funny script, do you have anything else?' He said, ‘Well I do, but there’s a problem, because I have to direct it.’ Red flags are going off in my head, because I don’t know if he knew which end of a camera to use. – Andy Meyer
Andy Meyer: I went back to my hotel room and read The Breakfast Club. I said, 'This is amazing.' I called the guys in LA and said, ‘We should buy it and make it for one million dollars, low budget.’
SCAD: As the story goes, Universal entered the picture and gave A&M $12 million to make the film. Now, 30 year’s later, the movie is set to open again. What’s behind the re-release?
AM: Breakfast Club is one of the most iconic films of all time. There are still Breakfast Club parties and wardrobe sightings and the music still plays on the radio and in clubs.
It has never quite left the culture, so bringing it back after 30 years was a pretty easy decision to make. – Andy Meyer
SCAD: What was it like on the set of the film?
AM: The picture was the easiest picture I ever made because everybody went to work at the same place (the entire movie takes place in a library that Universal built in an old high school gym). The best people in the business were around John and the actors. We had them in a hotel for about two weeks prior to shooting and they were all together, so by the time they got to the set it was like they were in high school together. They finished each other’s sentences. It was fantastic.
SCAD: What scenes were left, or almost left, on the cutting room floor?
Universal was really nervous about the 12-minute talking head scene where the kids sit on the floor and reveal why they’re in detention. – Andy Meyer
AM: It was a more serious film than studios were used to and they didn’t know if kids would like it. So we said, ‘Test it, see what happens.’ The audience liked that scene the most, so we didn’t have to reshoot. That’s why I think it has lasted all these years. It has all these levels to it and kids can all relate to it, being the stereotypes that they are.
SCAD: Whose character do your students identify most with?
AM: When the movie came out the most popular kid was Judd Nelson, the bad boy. Now, I would bet that Anthony Michael Hall is the most popular kid. The nerds rule, basically. There is a cartoon going around that if The Breakfast Club were made today they’d just be tweeting at each other instead of talking because we are a digitally connected society. Anthony Michael Hall’s character is closer to that than the tough guy.
SCAD: Do any contemporary teen flicks measure up?
AM: I think it’s safe to say that there still isn’t another filmmaker who understood teenagers like John Hughes. If you look at all his movies and the theme of kids against their parents, I have never seen another filmmaker who relates to them better than John. He consistently got into the skin of the kids with Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Pretty in Pink and Sixteen Candles. When he was hot, he was hot.
Andy still works on film and television projects while teaching at SCAD, but his next great production might be the young filmmaker in class whose voice and vision deliver something as original as The Breakfast Club. Meyer will join Ringwald and Sheedy at SXSW’s premiere of the remastered version on March 16.