Writer-director John Hughes was the undisputed king of the 80s teen comedy, but his third film Weird Science throws a hefty dollop of sci-fi fantasy into the mix. Anthony Michael Hall and Ilan Mitchell-Smith play two young losers who are good with computers but hopeless with girls – until they hit upon the idea of using a computer program to create their ideal woman. Thanks to movie magic it works, leading to the creation of living dream girl Lisa (Kelly LeBrock).
Weird Science had a big role to play in the formative years of many of us who grew up in the 80s – but did you know the following fascinating facts about the 1985 film…?
25. It takes its name from a comic book
Although it was released a full 15 years before 2000’s X-Men opened the floodgates for the onslaught of big-screen comic book adaptations, Weird Science is, in its own way, a comic book movie. The film’s title, and the distinctive logo used in the credits and on the poster, came directly from the 50s comic book of the same name.
Weird Science was a publication of EC Comics, the publishing house best remembered for their notorious horror titles including Tales from the Crypt and The Vault of Horror. Reportedly the title was used at the suggestion of Joel Silver, the film’s producer, who already owned the film rights to the EC Comics line, and would later produce the Tales from the Crypt TV series and its spin-off movies.
24. Demi Moore and Robin Wright auditioned for Lisa
It’s hard now to envisage any other 80s actress in the role of fantasy female Lisa than Kelly LeBrock – but there were of course other notable contenders. Demi Moore, the future Brat Packer then aged 23 and with just a few small film roles to her name, auditioned for the role.
Another candidate was Robin Wright, only 19 at the time with just a few TV roles on her CV. While neither actress landed the part, this didn’t hurt either of their careers in the long run. Moore would get her breakthrough role later in 1985 with St. Elmo’s Fire, whilst Wright would make her unforgettable film debut as Princess Buttercup in beloved 1986 classic The Princess Bride.
23. Kelly LeBrock initially turned the film down
Already a successful model, Kelly LeBrock shot to screen fame with her pivotal role in Gene Wilder’s 1984 film The Woman in Red. However, LeBrock initially turned down Weird Science because at the time she “was in the South of France with Sting. I was with my first husband, he was doing a movie there. I was like, ‘work or play with Sting?’ and I decided not to work.”
The makers of Weird Science were soon pretty much begging LeBrock to reconsider: “They gave the role to somebody else, but three weeks into filming they had to dismiss her because she wasn’t right for the role.” LeBrock says, “They called me and within a couple of hours I was on a plane from France to Chicago.”
22. Anthony Michael Hall turned down National Lampoon’s European Vacation to make Weird Science
Kelly LeBrock may have taken a great deal of persuasion, but Anthony Michael Hall was far more eager. In order to make Weird Science, Hall said no to National Lampoon’s European Vacation, the sequel to his breakthrough movie, 1983’s National Lampoon’s Vacation, in which Hall played the original Rusty Griswold.
Because Hall pulled out, this started a new tradition in the Vacation movies, with the children of Clark and Ellen Griswold (Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo) being portrayed by different actors in each film. Jason Lively took the role in European Vacation, and then Johnny Galecki in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, whilst the 2015 Vacation reboot cast Ed Helms as an adult Rusty.
21. They started filming with Kelly Emberg playing Lisa
So who, you may ask, was this other actress who initially landed the role of Lisa, but wound up being replaced by Kelly LeBrock? The answer is Kelly Emberg, who like LeBrock was also a model. Emberg achieved a degree of notoriety in the 80s as a girlfriend of rock legend Rod Stewart during the period.
When cameras rolled on Weird Science, Emberg had one acting role to her name: 1983 modelling drama Portfolio. However, after three weeks of shooting on Weird Science it was decided that Emberg’s performance as Lisa simply wasn’t up to scratch, and she was sacked in favour of LeBrock. Since then, Emberg has acted only once more, in 1997 comedy Dumb Luck in Vegas.
20. Bill Paxton struggled with claustrophobia in his talking poop suit
Weird Science features an early role from Bill Paxton, who co-stars at Wyatt’s bullying, gun-loving big brother Chet. While Paxton had been working since the mid-70s, and had a memorable cameo in 1984’s The Terminator, Weird Science gave him one of his first major roles. However, Paxton had a bit of difficulty for the scene in which Lisa transforms him into a talking pile of faeces.
The plan had originally been for Paxton to be inside the suit himself, but the actor struggled with claustrophobia and couldn’t do it. As a result, the suit was instead operated by two actors of short stature, and Paxton’s dialogue was dubbed in afterwards. Paxton (who sadly died in 2017) went on to reunite with Terminator director James Cameron on 1986’s Aliens.
19. The film’s producer went on to make Predator, Lethal Weapon and Die Hard
While Weird Science is best remembered as a John Hughes movie, it’s also the handiwork of another major Hollywood player of the 80s and beyond: Joel Silver. Weird Science was the third solo producing credit of Silver, after 1982’s 48 Hrs. and 1984’s Brewster’s Millions. However, Silver would soon really make his mark as the era’s foremost producer of full-on action entertainment.
Later in 1985 he would producer Arnold Schwarzenegger hit Commando; he would then reteam with Schwarzenegger for 1987’s Predator. Before the decade was out, Silver would also produce Lethal Weapon, Die Hard, Road House and Lethal Weapon 2. Nor did Silver rest on his laurels in the 90s, going on to produce The Last Boy Scout, Demolition Man and The Matrix, amongst others.
18. Ilan Mitchell-Smith retired from acting to become a professor of Medieval Studies
Weird Science may well have been a big hit, but it didn’t necessarily propel relative newcomer Ilan Mitchell-Smith to the heights of Hollywood. The young jobbing actor followed the John Hughes movie with a number of small roles in movies and television. Most prominently, Mitchell-Smith appeared in 27 episodes of TV series Superboy between 1989 and 1991.
However, he soon decided to walk away from acting to instead pursue an academic career. Today, Mitchell-Smith holds a PhD in Medieval Studies, and is an associate professor of English at California State University, Long Beach. However, he was coaxed back to the screen once in 2017, for a Weird Science-themed episode of 80s-set sitcom The Goldbergs.
17. A number of 80s horror movie stars appear in the film
Weird Science features a number of actors who would make an impact in the horror genre. Judie Aronson, who plays Hilly, had previously appeared in 1984’s Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, whilst Deb actress Suzanne Snyder went on to work extensively in horror with roles in Night of the Creeps, Return of the Living Dead II and Killer Klowns from Outer Space.
Jill Whitlow, lead actress of Night of the Creeps, also has a small role in Weird Science, whilst Robert Rusler went on to appear in A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge and Vamp. The most recognisable horror icon among them, however, is the imposing Michael Berryman of Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes, who plays one of the marauding bikers.
16. John Hughes and Anthony Michael Hall fell out during filming and never worked together again
Up to the mid-80s, the names Anthony Michael Hall and John Hughes were more or less inseparable. Hughes had written Hall’s breakthrough movie National Lampoon’s Vacation, then Hall took major roles in Hughes’ first two films as director, Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club.
Small wonder, then, that the director would give the actor top billing in his third film Weird Science. Unfortunately, Hughes and Hall’s relationship went sour at some point in production on Weird Science, after which they never made another film together. Neither the actor nor the late writer-director ever disclosed exactly what happened between them.
15. Evil biker Vernon Wells pretty much reprises his role from Mad Max 2
In one of the more outlandish sequences in an already outlandish movie, Weird Science features a house party coming under attack from nightmarish, post-apocalyptic-looking bikers. If you’ve ever thought you recognised the head biker but couldn’t quite place him, allow us to put you out of your misery there.
It’s Vernon Wells, the Australian actor who first made his mark as one of the most distinctive bad guys in 1981 classic Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. To all intents and purposes, Wells is playing the same role (albeit a slightly less lethal version) in Weird Science, right down to the hair and costume. Wells went on to play the main villain in Arnold Schwarzenegger movie Commando.
14. The theme song was performed by film music legend Danny Elfman
As with so many of the best 80s movies, Weird Science has a theme song written and performed by a pop act of the time. The Weird Science title track came from Oingo Boingo, a new wave band notable for their quirky and eclectic style. The lead singer and songwriter of Oingo Boingo was a certain musician named Danny Elfman.
If that name sounds familiar, it’s because he went on to become one of the most in-demand film score composers in Hollywood. Elfman is especially renowned for his long working relationship with director Tim Burton, providing the score for Beetlejuice, Batman, Edward Scissorhands and The Nightmare Before Christmas, amongst others.
13. Ilan Mitchell-Smith got ‘carried away’ kissing Kelly LeBrock
Aged just 14 at the time of shooting, Ilan Mitchell-Smith became the envy of millions (young and old alike) thanks to the scene in which he gets to kiss Kelly LeBrock full on the lips. Given the actor’s youth and inexperience, we can’t really blame him for getting a bit carried away: he wound up sticking his tongue in LeBrock’s mouth.
Naturally, LeBrock (24 at the time) was taken aback by this, causing her to warn Mitchell-Smith, “If you ever do that again I’m going to kick your a**!” One suspects that serious questions would be asked about an underage actor performing such a scene with a significantly older woman today, but this is one of those many things shrugged off in the 80s.
12. Robert Downey Jr. allegedly pooped in an actress’s trailer
As well as being an early example of a comic book movie (kind of), Weird Science also gave an early role to an actor who would come to dominate that genre just over two decades later: Robert Downey Jr. Aged just 19 at the time, Downey’s antics on the film helped him get a reputation as a bad boy (long before his addiction issues almost derailed his career).
Every inch the young pranksters, Downey and co-star Robert Russler admitted in interviews that they had joked throughout the shoot about defecating in the trailers of the female co-stars (and not in the toilet). Reportedly, Downey went ahead and did it, not in Kelly LeBrock’s trailer but that of another female co-star – and the stunt very nearly got him fired.
11. Lisa was named after a computer
Weird Science was a product of the time when home computers were just starting to become a must-have household item, and along with movies like WarGames, Electric Dreams and Evilspeak, it helped raise computer awareness among teen audiences. It’s entirely appropriate, then, that the computer-generated Lisa is actually named after a computer.
The character is named after an early home computer model from Apple, the Apple Lisa. However, the computer we actually see the boys use in the movie is a Memotech MTX512 – and if that brand sounds far less familiar, it’s because Memotech soon went out of business due to low sales.
10. Anthony Michael Hall was paid twice as much as Ilan Mitchell-Smith
Weird Science was the second movie that young actor Ilan Mitchell-Smith ever made, after 1984’s The Wild Life. By contrast, his co-star Anthony Michael Hall was already something of an icon thanks to Vacation, Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club. As a result, Hall commanded a much larger fee for Weird Science.
Mitchell-Smith has been quoted as saying he made $150,000 for Weird Science, whilst Hall was paid exactly twice that with a fee of $300,000. Mitchell-Smith has no sour grapes about this though, pointing out that $150,000 “is a lot of money, especially for a 15-year-old.”
9. Kelly LeBrock was never actually naked on set
While the premise of Weird Science suggests something rather raunchy, the film isn’t nearly as naughty as many other teen sex comedies of the era. This should come as no surprise considering that it was rated PG-13, making it one of the earliest films to get that rating after it was introduced in August 1984 (with Red Dawn).
Rather than getting explicit, Weird Science plays heavily on the power of suggestion, notably when the still-clothed Gary and Wyatt share a shower with Lisa. Sorry to spoil your teenage fantasies, but Kelly LeBrock wasn’t actually naked in that famous scene, wearing bikini bottoms and tape over her nipples throughout. The film’s only nudity in comes from actress Kym Malin, the ‘piano girl.’
8. It had some strange titles in different countries
Irrespective of the title’s comic book origins, Weird Science is pretty aptly named. After all, it sees a woman with reality-bending powers conjured up by a computer, which would be a pretty weird use of science. However, as is often the case with Hollywood film titles, sometimes things are lost in translation.
The film went by some very different titles in different movie markets across the globe. In Japan, the film was called Electric Venus, whilst in Germany it was named Cool Magic with Lisa. In Denmark it was released as Touch Me, I’m Yours, whilst in Finland and Sweden the film was known as Dream Woman.
7. There was a TV spin-off
The concept of Weird Science captured the popular imagination enough for the film to inspire a spin-off TV show. The small screen sitcom adaptation of Weird Science was first aired in 1994 on the USA Network. The set-up was essentially identical, with teen losers Gary and Wyatt creating their super-powered dream woman Lisa on a home computer.
The Weird Science series starred Vanessa Angel as Lisa, Michael Manasseri as Wyatt, John Mallory Asher as Gary, and Lee Tergesen as Chet. It ran for five seasons and 88 episodes, coming to an end in April 1997. Nor was Weird Science the only John Hughes movie to get the 90s sitcom treatment, as there were short-lived sitcoms based on Ferris Bueller and Uncle Buck.
6. A remake is stuck in development hell
In 2013, reports emerged that plans were underway for a new big-screen take on Weird Science over at studio Universal. It was announced that Joel Silver would again produce, with Michael Bacall (21 Jump Street) on script duties. As Bacall’s involvement might imply, the plan was to make a hip, edgy, most likely R-rated remake in a similar vein to the Jump Street movies.
However, in the years since there has been no solid news on the project – and this isn’t entirely surprising, as the male wish fulfilment concept seems a harder sell in the wake of the #MeToo movement. At present, the closest thing we have to a Weird Science sequel or remake is a 2013 Funny or Die sketch, starring Alessandra Ambrosio as the new digitally-created dream woman.
5. Anthony Michael Hall and Robert Downey Jr. went on to join the Saturday Night Live cast
Only three months after Weird Science hit the big screen, actors Anthony Michael Hall and Robert Downey Jr went from movie stars to TV stars when they joined the cast of Saturday Night Live. Hall and Downey started out on the prestigious comedy series in November 1985, with Hall, at 17, the youngest SNL cast member ever (a record which still remains).
Hall and Downey were fired from SNL after a single season, their work having gone down badly with audiences and critics. Both returned to film, but aside from a key supporting part in Edward Scissorhands, Hall struggled to land major roles. Downey, meanwhile, had a notorious rollercoaster career that was almost derailed by personal issues, before his legendary comeback as Iron Man.
4. The filmmakers bought the rights to a Weird Science comics story with a similar theme to avoid a lawsuit
The 1985 film Weird Science was by all accounts entirely the brainchild of writer-director John Hughes. However, at some point it came to the attention of the filmmakers that, in the old Weird Science comics from which they had borrowed the title, there was a story which dealt with a similar idea.
The comics story in question, Made of the Future, sees a man travel to the near future, where he purchases a kit to build the perfect wife. Although John Hughes had not been aware of this story ahead of time, producer Joel Silver opted to buy the rights to this story to avoid the possibility of any legal challenges down the line.
3. John Hughes wrote the script in two days
John Hughes was famously prolific. He penned 17 produced screenplays in the 1980s, as well as directing his first four movies over the course of just two years (both The Breakfast Club and Weird Science were released in the same year, 1985). As he was working under such high-pressure circumstances, it helped that Hughes was naturally a fast worker.
Reportedly, writing the screenplay for Weird Science took Hughes a mere two days (although it seems likely this was simply for the first draft, with rewrites and revisions made before and during production). It’s said that it took him as long to write the screenplays for some of his other movies, including Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club.
2. Hall blew a $100,000 take by farting
With a budget of $7.5 million, Weird Science may not have been a mega-budget blockbuster, but it still necessitated some expensive scenes. One of the costliest moments involved the scene where Gary and Wyatt attempt to make a second girl, but accidentally generate a huge rocket that shoots up through the house.
In those pre-CGI days, this effect was created practically on set, at no small expense. However, the first take of the scene was ruined when Anthony Michael Hall farted, which cracked up the cast and crew. Actor Robert Rusler has remarked that setting up the shot again cost the filmmakers an additional $100,000.
1. Max and Ian were originally going to be turned into animals
Along with Bill Paxton’s Chet, Gary and Wyatt’s bullies Max and Ian are pretty much the villains of Weird Science – but unlike Chet, they never face any major repercussions for their actions. This was not the case in John Hughes’ original script, which saw Robert Downey Jr and Robert Rusler’s characters turned into a pig and a donkey respectively.
Hughes ultimately agreed to cut this scene at the behest of producer Joel Silver, who felt it was too much considering the other FX-driven transformation scenes in the movie. It’s unclear whether or not the scene was actually filmed, as it has never been featured among the deleted scenes on any of Weird Science’s DVD or Blu-ray releases.