The Breakfast Club has always had a deep place in my life — as it has for many people growing up. Over the years as an angry teenager, I found myself relating to each of the five members of Shermer High School in different ways at different points. Sure, we all wanted to look and act like John Bender – for better or for worse – or to hide in plain sight like Allison Reynolds, but we also longed to be the coolest person in the room like Claire Standish. It seems clear now, as an adult, that this was The Breakfast Club writer-director John Hughes’ intention: to tell the story of angry teens in the most authentic and messy way possible. But also, the picture was an autobiography of him; treatment, even. He makes amends for his years as a troubled youth.
The Breakfast Club has just been inducted into The Criterion Collection – a film distribution company focused on the licensing, restoration and release of “significant classic and contemporary films”. It’s, honestly, a bit of a surprise that the movie wasn’t actually picked up by the New York-based company already… but better late than never, right?
In addition to a 4K digital restoration, The Breakfast Club’s Criterion Collection entry includes new interviews with Claire and Allison stars Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy. In it, they lyrically talk about their mentor and friend Hughes, who died of a heart attack on August 6, 2009.
Described as the “Poet of American Youth,” Hughes wrote and directed incredibly memorable pictures like Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Home Alone, Weird Science, Planes, Trains, Automobiles, Curly Sue… the list goes on and on. But The Breakfast Club has always been considered the project into which he poured most of his heart and soul; Another reason is that they are the first of Hughes’ photographs to be included in the collection. And the cast seemed to know this while filming it back in 1984.
Buy The Breakfast Club on Criterion Collection Blu-ray now.
In the new interviews for Criterion, Sheedy and Ringwald begin to reminisce about their time on the set of The Breakfast Club, but both soon begin – independently – to demystify Hughes and his art. They’ve dropped quotes and anecdotes of how he brought the scripts for the entire cast to comb through and alter, so they could leave their subtle marks on it. He encouraged Ringwald, Sheedy, Judd Nelson, Emilio Estevez, and Anthony Michael to explore their creativity and radically change the film to extend its originality.
“He was very connected inside of him at the time. He wrote that movie about himself. I think he was every single character in that movie, in a sense,” Sheedy muses.
Indeed, Ringwald believed that Hughes had had harsh experiences at school. In a way, The Breakfast Club could have been its way of rewriting its history. “My theory is that he had PTSD from those years,” Ringwald said. “They were, I think, excruciating for him. There’s something about those years, I think, that stayed very fresh in his mind… He remembered John very much.”
As a result, Chidi recalled how he wanted to make this the cast’s story – even though he wrote the picture himself. I once sat down with Hughes to discuss music before, and David Bowie always came up. She showed Hughes the star’s 1972 song Changes, which included the lyrics: “And those kids you spit on / And they’re trying to change their world / Immune to your counseling / They’re so aware of what they’re going through.”
“I like it,” Hughes casually replied. Imagine her surprise when the final cut of The Breakfast Club begins with the Bowie song she originally referred to, breaking through the glass and starting the movie. He did the paperwork behind the scenes to get the song’s lyrics on the big screen — all because of her love for singer Ziggy Stardust.
Ringwald smiled later in the interview: “I always like to say John was like the sixth member of The Breakfast Club. He really was one of us.” She similarly recalled how “gallantly collaborative” Hughes was when working with them on the set. She added that “I love when people improvise and add things”. He wanted their input because he wanted The Breakfast Club to be as relatable as possible with this generation of kids. But it started with him.
Even during filming, Sheedy said, he was feet away from the actors at all times. He sat on a box of apples just below the viewfinder. There was no video playing at that point, but he wouldn’t have [used] In any case, he would have done it right there, face to face, smiling.”
No wonder both actors described their time filming The Breakfast Club as “the greatest acting experiences they’ve ever had.”
The Breakfast Club is available on Criterion Collection Blu-ray now – buy it here.