Writer-director John Hughes was the undisputed king of the teen-oriented comedy in the 1980s, but his third film, Weird Science, veered away from his usual subject matter in some pretty eye-opening ways. While it’s still very much an adolescent comedy aimed at an adolescent audience, it throws a hefty dollop of sci-fi fantasy into the mix.
Anthony Michael Hall and Ilan Mitchell-Smith star as Greg and Wyatt, a pair of 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. This being a movie, the plan works, and they wind up bringing to life an otherworldly fantasy woman they name Lisa, played by legendary 80s pin-up 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…?
20. 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 – not for nothing – already owned the film rights to the EC Comics line. (Silver would later produce the Tales from the Crypt TV series and its spin-off movies.)
While John Hughes insisted the story was entirely of his own creation, Silver noted the similarity to a story which appeared in Weird Science #5, entitled Made of the Future.
The story in question, Made of the Future, centres on a man who, after being dumped by his fiance, winds up buying an artificial wife.
Hughes’ story may be wildly different in tone and content, but Silver felt it was best to secure the rights to this story in order to cover themselves legally.
19. 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 notable contender 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.
Demi Moore would get her breakthrough role later in 1985 with St. Elmo’s Fire, and was soon one of the biggest actresses around.
Robin Wright, meanwhile, would make her unforgettable film debut in 1986, as Princess Buttercup in beloved family favourite The Princess Bride.
18. 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.
This role helped establish her as a major sex symbol – and this status would only be strengthened further by Weird Science.
However, the model turned actress initially turned down the role of Lisa 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.”
We struggle to envisage any other actress playing Lisa in Weird Science – but it very nearly happened…
17. Anthony Michael Hall turned down National Lampoon’s European Vacation to make Weird Science
Kelly LeBrock may have taken a great deal of persuasion to star in Weird Science, but Anthony Michael Hall was much keener to make the movie.
In order to make the movie, Hall said no to reprising the role of Rusty Griswold in National Lampoon’s European Vacation.
European Vacation was a sequel to 1983’s National Lampoon’s Vacation, the film that really launched Hall’s career.
Because Hall pulled out, this started a new tradition with the Vacation movies that the children of Clark and Ellen Griswold (Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo) would be played by different actors in each film in the series.
Hall’s role of Rusty Griswold was taken by Jason Lively in National Lampoon’s European Vacation, and then Johnny Galecki in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
Meanwhile, the 2015 Vacation reboot cast Ed Helms as a now-adult Rusty Griswold, with a cameo appearance from Chase and D’Angelo.
16. 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 – as well as having the same first name as the eventual Lisa actress – was also a model.
Emberg achieved a degree of notoriety in the 80s as the girlfriend of rock legend Rod Stewart during the period.
When cameras rolled on Weird Science, Emberg had one acting role to her name: 1983’s Portfolio, a drama set in the world of fashion modelling.
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.
In the years since, Emberg has acted only once more, in 1997 comedy Dumb Luck in Vegas.
15. 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.
14. 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.
13. 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 – although he was coaxed back to the screen once in 2017, for a Weird Science-themed episode of 80s-set sitcom The Goldbergs.
Today, Mitchell-Smith holds a PhD in Medieval Studies, and is an associate professor of English at California State University, Long Beach.
On top of this, Mitchell-Smith has put his medieval knowledge to use as a technical writer and consultant on various tabletop role-playing games including Dungeons & Dragons.
12. A number of 80s horror movie stars appear in the film
Despite its bizarre sci-fi fantasy elements, Weird Science is still, on the whole, a mainstream-friendly comedy.
However, the comedy also features a number of actors who would make an impact in the horror genre.
For starters, Judie Aronson, who plays Hilly, had previously appeared in 1984’s Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter.
Deb actress Suzanne Snyder went on to work extensively in horror, later appearing in cult favourites 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.
In addition, Weird Science was the film debut of Robert Rusler, who would go directly from Weird Science to A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge.
Perhaps the most instantly 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.
11. 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.
First off, Hughes provided the script for Hall’s breakthrough movie, 1983’s National Lampoon’s Vacation.
Hughes would then proceed to give Hall major roles in his first two films as director: 1984’s Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club.
Small wonder, then, that the director would give the actor top billing in Weird Science, their third collaboration.
Unfortunately, Hughes and Hall’s relationship went sour at some point in production on Weird Science, after which they never made another film together.
Hall, for his part, has long since suggested that the title role in Hughes’ fourth movie, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, was originally written with him in mind.
10. 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 scene in which a house party comes under attack by 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.
Weird Science provided Wells with his first Hollywood film role, and the actor went on to more high profile bad guy parts.
For starters, Weird Science producer Joel Silver cast Wells as the main villain in his next movie: the psychotic Bennett, opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger’s John Matrix in Commando.
9. 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.
While he provided the scores for such hits as Men in Black, Good Will Hunting and Spider-Man, Danny Elfman is especially renowned for his long working relationship with director Tim Burton.
The Burton movies Elfman has provided the score for include Beetlejuice, Batman, Edward Scissorhands and The Nightmare Before Christmas, for which he also provided the singing voice of Jack Skellington.
8. Ilan Mitchell-Smith got ‘carried away’ kissing Kelly LeBrock
Many of us who saw Weird Science in our early teens will doubtless have imagined (sometimes in rather vivid detail!) how we would have reacted were we in the shoes of the teen protagonists.
Imagine how it must have been for the actors themselves – particularly Ilan Mitchell-Smith, who was only 14 at the time.
Mitchell-Smith became the envy of countless youngsters (and just as many adults) thanks to the scene in which he gets to kiss Kelly LeBrock full on the lips.
Given Mitchell-Smith’s youth and inexperience, we can’t really blame him for getting a bit carried away – as reportedly he wound up sticking his tongue in LeBrock’s mouth!
Naturally, the elder performer (24 at the time of shooting) was a bit 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 such a young actor performing such a scene with a significantly older woman today, but this is one of those many things shrugged off in the 80s.
7. Robert Downey Jr. allegedly pooped in another actor’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.
However, 23 years before Downey found monumental fame and fortune with Marvel as Iron Man, he gained notoriety as one of the biggest bad boys in Hollywood.
Weird Science did nothing to impede this reputation, as the actor (aged 19 at the time) played a rather childish prank on a co-star.
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.
Speaking to Howard Stern in 2014, Downey played coy on the matter, not admitting to doing the deed but saying he wished he had.
6. 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.
Of course, along with movies like WarGames, Electric Dreams and Evilspeak, the movie left viewers at the time with somewhat unrealistic expectations of the technology’s possible uses.
Nonetheless, Weird Science did in its own way help raise the profile of home computers with 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 shortly after went out of business due to low sales.
5. 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 had a few more credits to his name, among them the hit National Lampoon’s Vacation.
In addition, Hall had taken major roles in John Hughes’ earlier movies Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club.
As a result, Hall commanded a larger fee for Weird Science – reportedly double the money that Mitchell-Smith made.
Mitchell-Smith has been quoted as saying he made $150,000 for Weird Science, whilst Hall made $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.”
4. Kelly LeBrock was never actually naked
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.
Of course, this should come as little surprise when you consider that it was rated PG-13 (making it one of the earliest films to get that rating, introduced in 1984).
The film plays more heavily on the power of suggestion – notably in the scene where the still-clothed Gary and Wyatt share a shower with Lisa.
We’re sorry to spoil some of your teenage fantasies, but Kelly LeBrock was not actually naked in that famous shower scene.
Reportedly the actress wore bikini bottoms and tape over her nipples during the shooting of the scene.
The only actual nudity in Weird Science comes from actress Kym Malin, who appears as the ‘piano girl.’
3. 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.
2. 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.
Nor was Weird Science the only John Hughes movie to get the 90s sitcom treatment, as there was also a short-lived Ferris Bueller TV series.
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. Six previously unaired episodes were later shown on SyFy in 1998.
John Hughes (who had tried to block the sitcom adaptations of Ferris Bueller and Uncle Buck) didn’t even know the Weird Science TV show existed until he happened to see a commercial for it.
1. 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 21 Jump Street screenwriter Michael Bacall 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 seven years since there has been no solid news on the project – and this isn’t entirely surprising, as the male wish fulfilment concept might be 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 this Funny or Die sketch, released soon after reboot plans were announced in 2013. (Caution: the video contains strong language.)
The tongue-in-cheek short Weird Science 2: Strange Chemistry casts Breaking Bad‘s RJ Mitte and Mad Men’s Martin Holden Weiner as two nerds who try to create their own dream woman via modern technology.
They succeed in creating life in the form of model and actress Alessandra Ambrosio, but things don’t go entirely according to plan.
If a new Weird Science movie does get off the ground, it’s uncertain whether or not Joel Silver will still be involved, as he has since stepped down from his company Silver Pictures.