He was quintessentially a Midwestern American in many ways. That voice was, to me, really a voice of the heartland, but it wasn’t like a country bumpkin vibe. He was a guy who came along to show the regionalists were actually pretty urbane. I always saw him as part of that big creative movement that came out of Chicago, with Second City. There was something about the way he was loyal to Chicago. He drew from the well that he’d known, and it was something we could all relate to.
It was a real family thing, making Weird Science. I remember [Hughes’ wife] Nancy really well. I remember his two sons around. There’d be coloring books in his bungalow.
I tell you the other thing I saw, which was amazing to me: One of great collaborations of a director and an actor was John with Anthony Michael Hall. They could almost finish each other’s thoughts. Because Weird Science was kind of a sketch of a script. It wasn’t as tightly scripted as The Breakfast Club, which could be performed as a play. And by then John had such an incredible working relationship with Michael, who was kind of his alter ego in many ways. Although all the characters he wrote were characters he could relate to, it seemed like Michael was like his on screen avatar in a way. But these guys, when they get going—it was exciting to see a director and actor work like that.
He was a giant, he really was. I mean, his impact on just filmmaking in general — it was such a strange thing when he decided to just pull up stakes. I guess he made enough money. He was a really private guy anyway, but he pulled up stakes and just split the whole scene. But I’d always wanted to look him up. I almost did one time a couple years ago when I was in Chicago but I just didn’t have the time. I just wanted to look him up to thank him for that role in that movie just changed my whole career. I always wanted to see him again to see if he had anything in a drawer anywhere — if he wanted to do Chet: The Early Years.
PHOTO CREDIT: Everett Collection
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