John Hughes Remembered: Harold Ramis (director of 'Vacation')
Harold Ramis directed National Lampoon’s Vacation, which John Hughes wrote, based on his own short story.
I read the screenplay. I thought it was very good. And John and I had some meetings, and I guess I probably made some notes, and then Chevy [Chase] and I did a rewrite, which I’m not sure John was happy with [Laughs]. And I didn’t see him much, and then the ending of the film didn’t work at all when we tested it, so I had a notion for a new ending for the film, and John very quickly scripted that.
He was really quick. The meetings were short; we didn’t hang out or anything. It was very business-like, which I guess became his style, He was tremendously productive, obviously. But the thing that surprised me — and I can’t even say I was bitter about it — but after Vacation came out and was a pretty big hit, I saw John quoted in an interview saying he was going to start directing his own movies because he was tired of seeing his scripts ruined by other directors. [Laughs]
I ran into him once in Chicago. I moved back there like 12 years ago, and I went to our local multiplex. The usher said, “Hey, John Hughes is in the next theater.” So I walked over and John is standing there in the tunnel [entry hall outside the theater], not going in, but standing where he can see the screen. I said, “What are you doing?” He said, “I want to see how my trailer plays.” I said, “John, you’ve got 100 million dollars. What do you care how this trailer plays?” [Laughs] And he said, “No, no, I care.” I thought, wow, that’s probably why he was so much more successful than I was—or at least productive. He really did care.
I wasn’t really surprised [he left Hollywood]. He was so focused on a certain area of life — adolescence and particularly suburban adolescence — he might have reached a point where he said all he could say about teenagers and their families and just didn’t have any new stories to tell. I always thought that was a mature and respectable choice. We lived two suburbs away from each other. He bought an amazing piece of farmland and developed it into a virtual English park. The story I heard was he bought this beautiful farm acreage, which was really flat, and had earth-movers come in and sculpt it into an English garden. And had a beautiful house up there, and it was a good life for him, I think.
I admired him. I was jealous of him. I really felt that John Hughes tapped into that same kind of Disney core of the American movie-going audience: There’s something wholesome and appealing and yet slightly subversive about his movies. As hard as I try sometimes, it’s hard for me to get real mainstream because I’m inherently counter-cultural. But John’s not. He was not a rebel, but he understood the rebelliousness of teenagers.
PHOTO CREDIT: Daniel Locke/PR Photos
More John Hughes Remembered:
KEVIN BACON (Jake from ‘She’s Having a Baby’)
BILL PAXTON (Chet from ‘Weird Science’)
JEFFREY JONES (Principal Ed Rooney from ‘Ferris Bueller’)
ALAN RUCK (Cameron from ‘Ferris Bueller’)
LEA THOMPSON (Amanda from ‘Some Kind of Wonderful’)
BEVERLY D’ANGELO (Ellen Griswold in ‘Vacation’)
DANIEL STERN (burglar in Hughes-penned ‘Home Alone’)
CHRIS COLUMBUS (director of ‘Home Alone’)