John Hughes was sort of our J.D. Salinger, in a way. He was very much mysterious and yet very accessible. For my age group, those ’80s movies — Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles, Ferris Bueller – were huge. Not only were the films about people my age that I could actually relate to, they were very moving, and very kind of real and hysterically funny. He wrote all these misfit kids, and yet every one of them is adorable and you love them, from the biggest geek to the cool girl in school. He didn’t do it with a hammer. It was delicate and lovely.
I worked with Jim Belushi, and Jim kind of had his armor up and was protecting himself. So during Jim’s really poignant monologue, John started playing a CD of embarrassing sound effects: toilets flushing, a horn honking, people farting. John wanted Jim to feel a little more angry and vulnerable in the scene, so he was totally f—ing with him to get him more raw and more open as an actor. Jimmy was so angry. Later in the day, Jimmy stopped production because he wanted more masculine hand towels and softer toilet paper in his dressing room. It was like being at camp.
John used to play music on the set a lot. He owned a school there that he turned into a soundstage. I think my dressing room was in the girls’ locker room. He liked that atmosphere, the ghosts of all those kids. You would come on the set and there would be trays of polish sausages, giant platters of pizza and stuff. The crew seemed to really love him. He wanted everyone to have a good time, although he was quite serious about his work. I’ve never seen a director burn more film in my life.
Home Alone came out while we were shooting, and every day the hugest people in Hollywood were on the set — the heads of every studio. Everybody wanted to be in business with him. I’d never seen that kind of attention paid to a director.
He made everyone who worked with him a better actor, there’s no doubt about it. You felt like you had to step up for him. I’m so proud that I got a chance to work with him. It’s so odd that it was the last film he directed.
We shot for six months — usually a long movie would be like three, four months — and he became aware of the fact that I was basically working for free. He came into my dressing room and wrote me the hugest check any human being has ever written for me. I won’t even say the amount of money because it’s embarrassing. And he insisted that I have that. He said, “You don’t work for me for free.” And he just walked out of the room.
PHOTO CREDIT: Everett Collection
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