John Hughes Films: 20 Questions!
1. The meet-cute
John Hughes was already a successful scribe, penning comedic stories for National Lampoon magazine and screenplays for Mr. Mom and National Lampoon's Vacation. His talent agency, ICM, gave him a stack of photos of young actors it also represented. ''I was in that stack,'' Ringwald said. ''He flipped through and saw one he liked and put it on his bulletin board.'' Over the course of a July 4 weekend, ''he wrote this script looking at that girl.'' The script was for Sixteen Candles — his directorial debut and her first lead role. The mentor had met his muse.
2. A little help
Hughes turned to Ringwald for help choosing contemporary pop music. Ringwald even introduced him to the Psychedelic Furs song ''Pretty in Pink,'' which inspired their later collaboration. He dressed his teen-girl bedroom sets with photo collages and other items from her own room. As for casting her own love interest, Jake Ryan...''Yeah, I lost on that one,'' Ringwald says.
3. The one that got away
''It was between two men — well, young men. It was Michael Shoeffling, who ended up being cast, and Viggo Mortensen, who had just moved from Denmark,'' Ringwald reveals. ''I was 15 years old, and I flew to New York to read with everyone. It got to the (final) Jake Ryan shot, and we had the kissing scene. And Michael Shoeffling did not kiss me during the audition — and Viggo Mortensen did.''
Gasp! Shock! in the classroom when this was revealed.
Ringwald laughs: ''He made me weak in the knees. Absolutely.''
4. Too fresh, but later...Fresh Horses
But Hughes didn't like the actor getting fresh with the redheaded starlet. ''John was extremely protective of me,'' she says. ''The funny thing is, I ended up doing a movie with Viggo Mortensen years later [1988's Fresh Horses], and we talked about it. He said, 'I've always been curious. Do you know anything about what happened?' And I said, 'Hey man, I was rooting for you. I really wanted you for that part.' I brought up the thing about how he kissed me and the other guy didn't.''
The future Aragorn's response, according to Ringwald: '''I always thought that's why I blew the audition! I go over it again and again: Why did I do that?'''
5. Parents tend to be totally absent from most high school comedies
One thing that separates Hughes' films from others is the heavy involvement of moms and dads, starting with Sixteen Candles. ''Most other teen films either don't portray parents, or portray parents as idiots or a------s,'' professor Don Bohlinger says. In Sixteen Candles they forget her birthday, and though they're imperfect, they apologize in the end. ''They're human,'' the prof says. Even in The Breakfast Club, where the parents are mostly unseen, because they are discussed in detail, along with the pressures they put on their kids, they are almost characters in absentia.
6. Removing the ''panty line''
Actor Paul Dooley's late-night heart-to-heart with Ringwald ends with a line about ''wearing the pants in the family,'' which inadvertently reminds her that she lent her underwear to Anthony Michael Hall's The Geek. In the original script, ''it did end with a really strange line,'' Ringwald recalls. ''My mother was responsible for having him change it. At the end of the scene, [the dad] says 'By the way, Sam, what happened to your underwear?' My mom said, 'That's just weird. That's her dad.' And John was like, 'Eww, yeah, you're right. That's just creepy.' And he took it right out.''
7. Getting something off her chest
Ringwald's character in The Breakfast Club is rumored to have a scandalous secret talent — but it turns out to be applying lipstick using only her cleavage. ''The thing with the lipstick which I had to apply with my breast?'' Ringwald says. ''He never thought that one through.'' She had no idea how it was even possible, and neither did he. ''I kept saying, 'Can we talk about this?' And he'd say, 'Yeah, yeah, yeah, we'll get to that.' And then I realized he has no idea.''
8. Breakfast later, birthday cake first
The script for The Breakfast Club was already written, and was being cast in Chicago with siblings John Cusack and Joan Cusack as the bad-boy Bender (later played by Judd Nelson) and the outcast-girl Allison (which eventually went to Ally Sheedy.) But the studio heads quashed it because they liked Sixteen Candles better. ''Universal said 'We want to do this one first. We feel like it's much more commercial,''' Ringwald recalls. ''Which I think is funny because, well, I love Sixteen Candles, but I think Breakfast Club is a more interesting screenplay.''
Hughes was prolific, but bad at revision. ''He said he was the worst rewriter in the world,'' Ringwald says. ''John said, 'I get it right the first time, whatever it is, and it just gets worse the more I tinker with it.'''
After Sixteen Candles wrapped, he gave a script for The Breakfast Club to Ringwald, but in the months that followed, ''there were 12 rewrites or something.'' Under pressure from the studio, Hughes had added more hijinks, a hot teacher who swims nude in the school pool on weekends, and deleted some more heartfelt character moments. Ringwald was still on board, but less enthusiastic.
10. The fix was in
Hughes reacted to Ringwald's rejection of his rewrites with surprising acceptance. ''What was so amazing about John is when I said that the script, in my opinion, had changed from the script I really loved, he came into rehearsal the next day with a stack this high of [different] Breakfast Club scripts. He passed them out to all of us, and said, 'Yeah, go through 'em. See what's missing. See what you like.'''
The actors went through and picked out their favorite moments from the other drafts. One famous sequence in the movie, known as the ''group therapy scene,'' was made up of discarded speeches the actors liked. ''There was a lot of stuff there that was cut out and put back in,'' Ringwald says.
Rick Moranis was the first choice for the sage janitor, but he wanted to play the character as a kind of Soviet version of Sixteen Candles' wacky exchange student Long Duk Dong. ''He decided it would be funnier if the janitor was a Russian immigrant,'' Ringwald says. ''He came and filmed for two days, and Rick Moranis was hilarious, but it just did not belong in this movie at all.'' He and Hughes agreed to part ways, and John Kapelos was hired to play the role, giving the character more of a wistful, dramatic edge.
12. A 34-year-old kid
''He was really easy to talk to,'' Ringwald says. ''There weren't that many adults I really connected with. He really was kind of a big kid,'' though she adds, ''I don't know if I would have gotten along with him as an adult.''
She believes his teen movies resonate because he was writing about his own experiences, growing up in the early '60s, but dressing them in the contemporary times of the '80s. ''He was just so connected and so remembered everything that happened at that particular time in his life. He remembered his locker combination. How many people here can remember a locker combination from high school?''
Several students in the college class raised their hands. Ringwald laughed: ''Well, you're not so far from it now.''
13. The bully gets bullied
There was tension on the set from the start between Hughes and Judd Nelson, Ringwald said. Nelson was taking the ''Method actor'' approach to his brash, combative troublemaking role. His character, Bender, antagonized Ringwald's Claire in the story, which he started doing even when cameras weren't rolling. Things crossed a line when Hughes felt he was teasing Ringwald too much, too cruelly. ''In my head, he was doing an acting thing. It didn't bother me but it bothered John a lot. A lot, a lot, a lot,'' Ringwald says. ''I don't remember specifics about what he said, but he made some crack about Stevie Wonder and my father is blind. All of the sudden I turned and looked at John and his face was like stone. The rehearsal ended early and all of a sudden it blew up. I don't know what happened, but I'd heard he told Judd he was ready to put him on a plane.'' If Nelson had been fired, John Cusack would have been his likely replacement.
14. Up in smoke
All of the detention kids were supposed to bond over a shared joint in the script, but a couple actors decided their characters shouldn't. ''Ally who was sober at the time — recently sober — felt it was very important to her that her character not smoke,'' Ringwald said. Then Judd Nelson also felt his troublemaker (who supplied the weed) shouldn't join in. ''He thought it was interesting for this character that he gets everybody else high except for himself,'' Ringwald said. ''John went with it, and was okay with it.'' It was another case of Hughes trusting his young cast.
15. What a feeling...for another girl
''It was on the heels of Flashdance and Paramount was going to give the part to Jennifer Beals,'' Ringwald said. ''It was like somebody else wearing your underwear or something!'' she laughed. Her reaction: '''This is wrong!' But what are you going to do?''
To complicate matters, Hughes only wrote the screenplay and was producing, but had ceded directing control to Howard Deutch. ''Howie says he changed their mind, saying 'Molly has to do it.''' So Ringwald got back the role, but she was still unsure about moving forward without Hughes calling the shots. ''I said, 'Why aren't you directing this movie?' And what he said was just John being cryptic, 'Well, you have to look at it like... It's just letting somebody else drive the car.'''
16. Michael J. Fox and Robert Downey Jr.
Fox was the first choice for Ringwald's geeky best friend, and the script originally called for her character and his to end up together. But Fox had to drop out to take the career-making role of Marty McFly in Back to the Future (coincidentally after Eric Stoltz was dropped from that movie, following five weeks of shooting.) After that, Robert Downey Jr. was considered for the role of Duckie. ''I remember Robert came in with a jacket decorated with Pez dispensers,'' Ringwald laughs. ''He was just so funny and charming and charismatic, and we had this sort of sexual charisma together.'' The romance between her character and Duckie might have worked with Downey, she said, but when Hughes and director Howard Deutch went geekier with Jon Cryer, things didn't turn out so well.
17. Closeted best friend?
Though he wasn't her first choice, Ringwald says her main concern with Jon Cryer's Duckie is that she didn't think there was a romantic spark between the characters. ''I think Jon did a fantastic job, but for that movie, for that ending, it didn't make sense because we didn't have that chemistry together. We just seemed like best friends. To me, he always seemed like the gay best friend — the gay best friend who doesn't know he's gay yet.''
Test audiences agreed, and balked at the two ending up together. That led to a rewrite where Ringwald's Andie ends up with the preppie Andrew McCarthy. Only problem: McCarthy had shaved his head for a play. The reshoots feature a follicly challenged version of Blane. ''That was a really bad wig,'' Ringwald notes.
''John was one of the most sensitive people I've ever known. It comes across in his movies. But when you're that sensitive, you are wounded very easily,'' Ringwald says. ''He was wounded, really by us growing up in a way. If he had it his way, he would have kept making movie after movie with me and [Anthony Michael Hall], and nothing would ever have changed. But it's very suffocating, as wonderful as it is. I would have loved to have gone and done movies with other people and then come back and done some more movies with him and gone on like that. But that wasn't okay with John. He just wanted intense loyalty.''
Read Ringwald's The New York Times op-ed tribute to Hughes — The Neverland Club.