Last night, a crowd of industry insiders and excited film enthusiasts gathered at the Bing Theater at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) for a live table-read of John Hughes’ The Breakfast Club. This time, instead of Molly Ringwald and the gang, Up in the Air director Jason Reitman gathered an equally eclectic group of actors to reimagine the diverse sterotypes portrayed in the film. A lovely and very pregnant Jennifer Garner was beauty queen Claire (Molly Ringwald), James Van Der Beek was Andy the jock (Emilio Estevez), Mindy Kaling was basket case Allison (Ally Sheedy), Patton Oswalt was Brian the geek (Anthony Michael Hall), and, probably best of all, Breaking Bad‘s Aaron Paul was the criminal Bender (Judd Nelson). Rounding up the cast as those ever-meddling adults (cue eye-roll) were J.K. Simmons as Carl the janitor, and Michael Chiklis as Mr. Vernon. Reitman himself called out the directions on stage, while images from the film flashed on stage to signal a change of scene.
EW caught up with Reitman after the show, and he said that choosing the ’80s classic for this new experiment was a no-brainer. “The Breakfast Club was just a perfect fit,” he said. “I needed a film that was in a contained location with not too many characters, that was funny, that was populous, that had a great script that the audience would have a relationship with…it just hit the nail.”
If the audience’s frequent laughter is any indicator, then Reitman is absolutely right. Consider that nail hit. Many of the laughs came from Hughes’ already fantastic dialogue, which translates very well to stage, but the audience definitely reacted to the forgotten 80’s lingo that runs rampant in the film. It was very surreal seeing the dude from Dawson’s Creek threaten to ‘total’ a guy, and then a few minutes later Jesse Pinkman used “eat my shorts” as an actual, non-ironic insult. Remember when Bart Simpson was a controversial cartoon character? Crazy.
The entire cast did a great job. Most of them stayed true to the original characters, but Kaling’s natural valley girl voice put a slightly different spin on the vodka-loving Allison. If you didn’t read any press coverage before the event, you never would have known that the actors didn’t rehearse. “They just showed up 30 minutes before and started reading,” Reitman said. “Aaron Paul in particular really took the lead and decided he was going to full-on act it out, and everyone went with it.”
Actually, Paul was downright Method in his portryal of Bender. He almost perfectly nailed Judd Nelson’s voice and tone, to the point where you had to wonder if Paul spent the week hiding in Nelson’s closet. (That’s probably exactly what happened.) Garner was a very princess-y Claire, the only real disappointment being that she didn’t try the lipstick-in-the-cleavage trick. Hovever, her breathy stoned “do you know how popular I am? I am so popular!” delivery may have made up for it. Oswalt, for his part, earned the audience’s eternal respect when he perfectly executed an ad-libbed but fundamentally perfectly spit-take. Steady amount of spray, no obnoxious sound, no cast or audience affected. It was truly remarkable.
In all sincerity, Reitman deserves all the credit in the world for launching this innovative series. It was a creative, fun, and completely relevant idea, excecuted wonderfully. It’s hard not to wonder why on Earth no one had ever thought of this before.
Any Angelenos who missed it should pay attention to Reitman’s Twitter feed, because he’ll be announcing five additional live reads over the next five months, all to benefit Film Independent. The director was mum on detail, but he did tease some of his wishes. “I’d like to do films from different eras,” he said. “I’d like to also play with the idea of casting, where men can play women, old people can play young people. We can do cross-race on certain ideas. I’d like to use this as an opportunity to really examine a screenplay and re-interpret it.”
Any suggestions, PopWatchers?