Any time talk turns to 80s teen movies, there’s generally one film that gets mentioned before all others: The Breakfast Club. Writer-director John Hughes’ coming-of-age comedy-drama centres on a quintet of mismatched teenagers put in Saturday morning detention, and who slowly but surely find they have more in common than they thought.
Here are 20 things you never knew about this quintessentially 80s film.
20. John Cusack was originally cast as Bender, but was fired for not looking tough enough
It took a while for John Hughes to settle on his final cast for The Breakfast Club, with the role of rebel John Bender proving particularly tricky. After auditioning many young up-and-comers (including Nicolas Cage), Hughes narrowed his choices down to Judd Nelson and John Cusack. Initially, he chose Cusack, who had previously taken a small role in Hughes’ first film Sixteen Candles.
However, before shooting began Hughes realised Cusack didn’t look physically threatening enough for the role, and replaced him with Nelson. Nelson immediately brought a more convincing criminal energy to the part, as well as being more physically domineering. Incidentally, Emilio Estevez originally auditioned for the role of Bender before Hughes cast him as Andrew instead.
19. Jodie Foster, Robin Wright and Laura Dern auditioned to play Claire
The Breakfast Club reunited John Hughes with Molly Ringwald, who had played the lead role in the writer-director John Hughes’ previous film Sixteen Candles. However, she was not the first choice to play popular girl Claire Standish. The list of actresses who read for the part includes Jodie Foster, Robin Wright and Laura Dern.
Back when the part of Claire was called Cathy, the question of who would play the spoiled princess remained up in the air for a long time. Ultimately, it was Molly Ringwald who received the honour of playing the character, and only after she directly pleaded to John Hughes to even be up for consideration, let alone receive the role.
18. The David Bowie quotation at the start of the movie was Ally Sheedy’s idea
The Breakfast Club famously starts with a quotation from David Bowie’s song Changes: “And these children that you spit on as they try to change their worlds are immune to your consultations. They’re quite aware of what they’re going through.” Although the quote feels in keeping with John Hughes tone, according to The Daily Beast, including the Bowie line wasn’t his idea.
Instead, it was Ally Sheedy who came up with the idea to include the quote. She later said in an interview: “I was listening to that song and was really obsessed with David Bowie,” she said. “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.” Hughes took it from there.
17. Brian’s mother and sister are played by Anthony Michael Hall’s real mother and sister
The beginning of the film sees each character get dropped off at school by their respective families (bar Bender, who walks in alone). If you thought Brian’s mother and sister looked suspiciously like him, it’s because the ‘actors’ actually are related. Brian’s mother is played by Anthony Michael Hall’s real mother, Mercedes Hall.
Not only that, but his younger sibling joining him in the car is actually his real sister, Mary Christian. While this was Mary’s only film role, Hall’s mother Mercedes also appeared in the 2005 film Funny Valentine. At the end of the movie, Brian is picked up by his dad, who is not played by Hall’s real father but by writer-director John Hughes, in a cameo appearance.
16. John Hughes wrote the script in two days
Given The Breakfast Club’s lasting legacy, you wouldn’t be crazy for thinking that the script took Hughes some time to craft. Amazingly, though, Hughes only took two days to pen the famous screenplay – a testament to his immense talent. It helped that as an experienced copywriter, Hughes was used to working and writing quickly.
The Breakfast Club wasn’t the first movie that Hughes turned around in an incredibly short time frame, as he reportedly turned in the finished Ferris Bueller’s Day Off screenplay in just four days. However, he went on to break his own record when it came to The Breakfast Club, writing the script between July 4 and 5, 1982.
15. Molly Ringwald was initially meant to play Allison
Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy play Claire and Allison so well that you’d think that Hughes had them both lined up to play their respective roles right from the word go. However, Hughes initially had his sights set on Ringwald playing Allison. Ringwald told the New York Times in 2010 that Hughes at first wanted her to play Allison the basket case. “Originally, he talked to me about playing the role that Ally played, and I was really upset because I wanted to play Claire, who was called Cathy at the time.”
Ringwald went on to say: “She was so different from the way that I saw myself, and more the way I saw my older sister, because my sister was very popular. […] John was like, “Well, let me talk to the studio, because I was thinking about you for this part.” Then a couple of days later, he said, “Yeah, you can play that part.”
14. There’s no punchline to Bender’s joke
Everyone remembers the iconic scene where Bender crawls through the air vents to get back to the library. What you might not remember is that Bender begins to tell a joke, but never gets to the punchline because he falls through the ceiling. The joke begins: “A naked blonde walks into a bar, carrying a poodle under one arm and a two-foot salami under the other. She lays the poodle on the table. The bartender says, ‘I don’t suppose you’d be needing a drink?’ The naked lady says…”
You might be wondering what the punchline to Bender’s joke actually is, but the kind of disappointing truth is that there isn’t one. Judd Nelson improvised the nonsense joke scenario on the spot, when all he was really supposed to say was “forgot my pencil.” It being entirely fabricated means it never had a solution, and John Hughes couldn’t come up with one to include.
13. The iconic dancing scene wasn’t in the script
The scene where all the kids dance to We Are Not Alone by Karla DeVito is one of the most iconic scenes from 80s cinema. Initially, this memorable moment wasn’t even in the script. Speaking to Time magazine in 2015, Molly Ringwald explained that the original script only called for Claire to dance. “I was really embarrassed [by the way] the whole dance sequence happened. In the original script, it was supposed to be just my character dancing,” she said. “And I’ve never really considered myself a dancer. I took dance lessons, but I was more of a singer.”
“I was like “Ahhh God, I don’t know about this.” So [Hughes] was like, “What if we make everyone dance? Would that be better?” I said, “Yeah, let’s do that,”” she continued. “And so that’s sort of how it ended up being a whole dance sequence, which I can’t really say improves the movie. It’s one of the most dated parts of the movie.” We think most fans would beg to differ with Ringwald here!
12. Allison’s dandruff was Parmesan cheese
One particularly gross scene in The Breakfast Club sees Allison ruffle her hair and sprinkle dandruff onto her drawing to make it look ‘snowy.’ Viewers will be pleased to know that, thankfully, this wasn’t real dandruff from Ally Sheedy. Instead, the crew just dumped a load of Parmesan cheese on her head and let her shake it out.
Although this is arguably a lot less disgusting than Sheedy shaking real dandruff onto her picture, it’s still pretty grim to think that she had to spend a couple of takes with hair full of cheese. However, what’s really impressive is how convincing the final shot looks, leading many viewers to believe for decades that it had to be real.
11. Rick Moranis was originally supposed to play Carl the Janitor but was fired
Rick Moranis is perhaps best known for his memorable performances in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Little Shop of Horrors and Ghostbusters, where he usually plays a well-meaning but slightly bumbling doofus that finds himself in scrapes that are way out of his depth. But did you know he almost played Carl the Janitor in The Breakfast Club?
Moranis wanted to play the janitor as an over-the-top comic character, “with gold teeth, an odd hat, and a heavy accent.” Hughes wasn’t on board with this vision and envisioned the janitor as a more understated character with a lot more depth – and so he fired Moranis and replaced him with John Kapelos, who was more capable of giving a toned down but still intriguing performance.
10. Judd Nelson almost lost the job for being ‘too in character’
Judd Nelson is perfect as Bender – and he put a lot of work into preparing for the role, too. Apparently, Nelson took method acting very seriously and remained in character on set and even in his audition. He went on to reveal in October 2012 that he was almost kicked out of his audition by security for being a little too in character. “I was teasing [people] a bit, but not bad,” he said. “But the receptionist thought I was bad.”
That wasn’t all; Nelson continued to remain in character on set, spending much of his time teasing and picking on Molly Ringwald. This upset John Hughes, who at one point considered giving Nelson the boot. “John was extremely protective of me and it just infuriated him,” Ringwald revealed in an interview with The New York Times. “And he almost fired him, and we all banded together and really talked John out of firing Judd. It really made us seem like a real group.”
9. John Hughes made the cast go back to school – and Ally Sheedy hated it
While two cast members were still in high school during production – Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall – the rest had already graduated. To get them back into the ‘school’ mindset, Hughes encouraged Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson and Ally Sheedy to visit his old high school and go undercover as students there to prepare for their roles.
Ally Sheedy had a particularly rough time revisiting her school days. In Susannah Gorah’s book, You Couldn’t Ignore Me If You Tried, she said: “I felt like I just wanted to be invisible when we were there. It didn’t bring back good memories, because I wasn’t happy in high school. I think it was mostly to get the feeling of how horrible it really is – to make that fresh again.”
8. It was almost called the Lunch Bunch
The Breakfast Club is pretty close to a perfect coming of age movie. From the opening shots of the empty hallways to the final triumphant fist pump, it’s hard to think of anything that should be changed. However, The Breakfast Club almost had one very important different thing about it: its name. Not only that, but the various potential names that were cycled through could have changed the movie’s whole perception.
The first name that John Hughes played around with was The Library Revolution, which most people would agree is a bit too on the nose to be super impactful. The second working title was even sillier, as The Breakfast Club was almost called The Lunch Bunch, which definitely sounds more like an educational middle school cartoon or book series, rather than a bonafide teen classic.
7. Carl the Janitor used to be student of the year
Carl the Janitor is a more interesting character than a first viewing of the movie might indicate. One of the first things we see in the film is a Man of the Year display that shows the most popular and accomplished Student of the Year for each year, with the student name for 1969 reading Carl Reed. This implies that Reed never really left the school, or moved away in his prime only to return again.
This one detail may explain why Carl seems to have such a love/hate relationship with the kids in detention. We see him be kind to Brian and frequently clash with Vernon over the fact that the headmaster expects the children to act contrary to their nature as kids. However, he also seems resentful of their youth, calling them foul names and implying that they might one day find themselves in his position.
6. The cast thought Anthony Michael Hall was adorable
The cast of The Breakfast Club spent a lot of time together throughout production, and so it’s unsurprising that they came up with some affectionate names for each other. Unfortunately, just like nicknames given in real teenage friend groups, the name the cast adopted for Anthony Michael Hall caused some tension between him and the rest of the group.
Ally Sheedy was the first to begin calling Hall “milk and cookies”, reportedly because she thought he was just as sweet and childlike as the popular treat. Molly Ringwald soon adopted the name, even saying in interviews later that she thought it was fitting because Hall was “such a baby” at the time. Hall hated the affection name, however, and never warmed up to it.
5. Several musicians passed on Don’t You (Forget About Me)
There are few songs as iconic in movie history as Simple Minds’ Don’t You (Forget About Me). The now-classic track is even more notable because, unlike most memorable movie songs like Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Fortunate Son or Stealer’s Wheel’s Stuck in the Middle With You, Don’t You (Forget About Me) was written specifically for The Breakfast Club.
The track was written by German punk singer Nina Hagen and was offered to many bands, with the promise that the success of the movie would buoy up their listening figures. However, several musicians failed to see the potential in the song, with Bryan Ferry and Billy Idol both turning it down. In the end, it was the relatively unknown Scottish band Simple Minds who reluctantly agreed to record it, believing that it didn’t sound much like their other work and would become their only US hit. Unfortunately, they were right.
4. Claire’s dad’s BMW was John Hughes’s own car
When you need a car for a movie, standard practice is simply to hire one, unless the car has to be driven off a cliff and explode in a fiery ball of flame, or get destroyed in a crazy chase scene pile-up. It should have been relatively easy to hire a bunch of different cars to set up the financial background of each of the Breakfast Club kids, but Hughes opted not to hire a car for Claire’s parents.
Instead, Hughes let the actors playing Claire’s family use his real, brand new BMW for the status symbol shot where she pulls up outside the school. It’s hard to imagine the nervousness both the cast and Hughes himself must have felt, knowing that if something went wrong Hughes wouldn’t be able to drive himself home at the end of the shoot day.
3. John Kapelos accidentally offended Emilio Estevez on set
The Breakfast Club featured a cast of mostly young people and leaned heavily on improvisation during the shooting process, so it’s not all that surprising that disagreements happened on set. However, you would probably expect those disagreements to be between the kids, not between the kids and one of the few adult actors on set.
Unfortunately, John Kapelos, who played Carl the Janitor, accidentally really offended Emilio Estevez during a break on set. Kapelos joking told the kids to watch the intensity of their line delivery, since an actor on Apocolypse Now famously had a heart attack whilst screaming out one of his lines. That actor was Martin Sheen, Emilio Estevez’s father, and Kapelos recounted the anecdote with no idea about the familial connection. Thankfully, Kapelos got the opportunity to apologise to both Esteves and Sheen, who reportedly found the whole thing pretty funny.
2. Claire’s lipstick trick was totally fake
One of the great things about The Breakfast Club is its realism. Thanks to the improvisation, all the dialogue feels pretty true to real teenagers, and the various chase scenes play out as they would in real life. However, certain things did have to be faked with camera tricks, with the most surprising example being Claire’s cleavage lipstick trick.
John Hughes wrote the lipstick trick into the script and forgot about it, leaving Molly Ringwald to bring up the fact that it wasn’t actually possible. She later said in an interview: “John Hughes wrote it but never actually thought about me having to do it. I kept bringing it up, like, ‘Hey. We gotta figure this out. Are we going to have robotic breasts?'” The eventual solution boiled down to clever camera angles and shooting the other kids’ reactions, leaving the trick itself to the audience’s imagination.
1. Ally Sheedy’s gothic image was a total accident
Ally Sheedy’s early career was defined by Allison in Breakfast Club, a dark and mysterious figure whose edginess is simply a front for her deep vulnerability and loneliness. However, Sheedy’s association with gothic, loner characters actually came about entirely by chance, thanks to her first meeting with John Hughes at an audition for Sixteen Candles.
When Sheedy and Hughes first met, Sheedy had two black and bruised eyes, as a result of a set building incident that went awry. Her dark eyes gave her an accidental goth look, which prevented her from getting a role in Sixteen Candles. However, when it came time to cast Allison after Molly Ringwald was switched to playing Claire, Hughes remembered the fascinating, dark-eyed girl he had met previously, and tracked her down to ask her to play the part.