‘The Breakfast Club’ Turns 30: Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy Dish on the John Hughes Classic
Nicolas Cage almost starred as Bender? Judd Nelson got fired? Stars Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy discuss The Breakfast Club in honor of its 30th anniversary.
“They were five total strangers with nothing in common, meeting for the first time. A brain, a beauty, a jock, a rebel and a recluse.” That tagline complemented a portrait of those five high school archetypes huddled together against a white background. It was shot by famed photographer Annie Leibovitz, and served as your entrée into the world of The Breakfast Club.
John Hughes’s film followed those five “types” of high school teenagers as they spend a Saturday afternoon together in detention. There’s the conceited “beauty,” Claire (Molly Ringwald); the star “jock,” Andrew (Emilio Estevez); the geeky “brain,” Brian (Anthony Michael Hall); the bizarre “recluse,” Allison (Ally Sheedy); and, last but not least, the hell-raising punk “rebel,” John Bender (Judd Nelson). Their tyrannical principal, Dick Vernon (Paul Gleason), forces them to spend the entire day in the library contemplating a 1,000-word essay describing, “Who you think you are.”
Instead, the gang pass the time lowering their respective defenses, and sharing stories about their oppressive parents and own shortcomings. Despite seeming different on the outside, they all come to realize that they are, deep down, the same.
Shot on a budget of $1 million—in a high school gymnasium doubling as a library—the film, released on Feb. 15, 1985, is now regarded as one of the greatest teen flicks ever. In honor of its 30th anniversary, the film is being released on DVD and Blu-Ray, and a newly restored version of it will be re-released in over 400 movie theaters nationwide on March 26 and 31.
The Daily Beast caught up with The Breakfast Club’s stars, Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy, at SXSW to discuss the secrets behind the cult classic.
Why do you think The Breakfast Club resonates with not just your generation, but every generation of teens?
Molly: It’s the universal feeling that we all are alone—that we’re all different. I think the movie’s one resounding theme is that everybody feels the same, and we’re all alone together. Some people come up to me on the street and thank me for helping them get through their teen years.
Ally: Everybody goes through this particular period in high school, and the movie put it up there on the screen without having to embellish it. There’s a timelessness to it.
So you two weren’t very close to your characters, as far as high school selves go?
Molly: I was very different. My experience was completely different, and the character was more like my popular older sister. I kind of based it off my older sister and her friends, who were about four years older than me. She tried to do that older sister thing. She remembers being a lot more inclusive with me, but I definitely felt like she was in her own group.
Ally: I felt really close to her. She was very much how I felt when I was in high school.
Ally, apparently you came up with that great David Bowie quote that opens the film? How did that happen?
Ally: Isn’t that cool? I was listening to that song and was really obsessed with David Bowie. I asked John if he knew it, and he said no, and then I gave him the tape of it and said I thought it would be a really cool quote.
Molly, I read that John initially wanted you for the part of Allison, but you wanted to play the popular girl. Was it because you didn’t want to play the outsider again after Sixteen Candles?
Molly: That’s the part that he originally talked to me about when he wrote the script. I wanted to play something very different from me, and for me it was a stretch to play someone really popular. The way it was written, the character wasn’t supposed to look like me at all. She was supposed to look like Robin Wright—who auditioned for it, apparently. I felt like it would be challenging to play.
Your character also ate sushi for lunch, which was way ahead of its time. Now, everybody eats sushi for lunch.
Molly: That was Ally’s idea! Originally, it had been written as pasta salad because that was the chichi lunch when John wrote it, but in between that time, sushi started to gain some real traction.
Speaking of food, Ally, that Captain Crunch sandwich you made was pretty gross.
Ally: I came up with the idea for the Captain Crunch sandwich because the crunch was a very angry sound, and she was doing some things to get attention. It tasted really bad. I had to eat three of those sandwiches. It was Captain Crunch, Pixy Stix, butter, and even some gummy lizards in there too that you don’t see!
There’s that great marijuana-induced dance sequence. Were those furious dance moves improvised?
Molly: That was my move! That was my move, and I was stickin’ to it. I fully committed to it. That part had a choreographer because initially my character was supposed to do an interpretive dance, and I begged John to not make me do this interpretive dance by myself, and so that’s when it became this group thing. But we improved a lot of that. John was actually so impressed with the improv that he brought my mom to the set that day to watch. So my mom is sitting there watching her daughter pretend to smoke pot and she was like, “OK… Yeah…” and John was like, “Isn’t this great? Isn’t this so real?!”
As far as the role of Bender goes, I heard that it came down to Nicolas Cage, John Cusack, and Judd Nelson. Is that true?
Molly: The final two were Cusack and Judd. Now I vaguely remember Nic Cage, too, although it didn’t really stand out for me. John Cusack was great, but he was different. For me, he was funnier and more sly and cute.
But probably not enough of a dick.
Molly: Judd had danger and was a little scary sometimes. It added that interesting element.
Speaking of Judd’s scariness, I read that he was method-y on set and terrorized you a lot.
Molly: Well, he tried! It didn’t really bother me that much because I knew what he was doing, but it really bothered John who was fiercely protective of me. He kind of fired him, and then we all got together and had a meeting and Ally directed the meeting.
Ally: Yeah. We said that he needed to focus, and all called John individually and asked him to give him another chance. We were shooting at that point, but it was right at the beginning.
I know you guys were all different ages when you shot the film, but did you hang out? Did Judd, Emilio, and Ally get you and Anthony Michael Hall drunk?
Molly: I was 16 and Mike was 15 when we started, and he turned 16 towards the end of the shoot. We went to Chuck E. Cheese. Seriously! His 16th birthday party was at Chuck E. Cheese, and we all went. That’s how young we were! [Laughs]
What goes through your mind now when you hear “Don’t You (Forget About Me)?” Does it make you a bit wistful, or are you sick of hearing it?
Molly: I actually recorded that song on my album—a jazz version. I’ve always loved the song.
And there’s the great Pitch Perfect nod to it.
Molly: Yeah! Which you haven’t seen yet, right? You’re going to have to watch it.
Ally: I have to watch it!
I’d also heard that John was considering doing a sequel to the film every 10 years.
Molly: I don’t know… Somebody told me that there is the script for a sequel to The Breakfast Club. One day, all that stuff will come out.