It’s been well more than three decades since the movie The Breakfast Club taught us about seeing each other as more than just a jock, a nerd, a beauty, a criminal, or a basket case. Written and directed by John Hughes, this feel-good ‘80s flick has withstood the test of time. However, things weren’t always so joyful and boundary-breaking behind the scenes, from one famous actor-director rift, to one star’s powerful ability to influence.
While The Breakfast Club‘s school princess Claire Standish (played by Molly Ringwald) shared a steamy kiss with the rebellious John Bender (Judd Nelson) at the end of the film, Ringwald actually had her eyes set on another man in real life. Behind the scenes, she and Anthony Michael Hall (who portrayed the brainy Brian) were actually getting decently familiar with one another.
Considering the fact that Brian is the only student in the movie who doesn’t kiss anyone, it’s cool to think he was a bit of a ladies’ man behind the scenes! The pair dated for a few months after the filming ended, and ultimately called it quits. But how’d this romance blossom in the first place? There may have been a few indicators as to why.
The truth is that Ringwall and Hall were only 16 during the filming of John Hughes’ 1985 film The Breakfast Club — and so legally they were forced to go to class while on set. They were only able to film half-days, and body doubles were used to shoot scenes which didn’t require their faces.
The seeds of their relationship likely began in that intimate setting, where they studied together without anyone else around. But it’s also likely that they had already become friends on the set of a previous John Hughes movie they’d starred in together, Sixteen Candles. Nevertheless, the entire Breakfast Club crew spent a lot of time together — and Hall in particular kept getting teased by someone.
Anthony Michael Hall played the role of Brian, who was typecast as the nerd who’s pressured by his parents to not break the rules and to get straight A’s. In real life, it turns out that his personality wasn’t that much different — and he suffered the consequences.
He was actually teased on set quite a bit on set by actress Ally Sheedy, who portrayed the pseudo-goth wallflower Allison Reynolds. Sheedy gave Hall the nickname “Milk and Cookies,” implying that Hall was pure, sweet, and not much of a rulebreaker. He was not a fan. Clearly the dynamic between the five young cast members had a lot more pent-up emotion than we realized — which is probably why the following scene was so successful.
One of the best scenes in the movie, where the five young students emotionally open up about their lives and at last truly break down the walls between them, was apparently improvised for the most part. Andrew the jock (played by Emilio Estevez) unloads the truth behind his father’s pressure on him to be the best, Allison (Ally Sheedy) talks about her parents ignoring her completely, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
All that being said, it’s pretty crazy to think that screenwriter John Hughes encouraged his upcoming actors and actresses to improvise most of that scene! Sure, he gave them the basic talking points, but the youngsters were essentially given free reign to be themselves. Then again, maybe that’s because there wasn’t much script to begin with.
How long do you think it takes to write the script of a successful film? Two months? Two years? While we’re positive that both have occurred, legendary filmmaker John Hughes apparently wrote The Breakfast Club in two days. Seeing as he was also the director of the film, this is nothing short of extremely impressive.
Did it matter that he left tons of room open for improvisation? Not at all, considering this had nothing to do with an absence of creativity. It was simply his willingness to collaborate with the ideas of others, something that isn’t always the case for big-time screenwriters. The movie, as a result, thrived quite well — and one scene in particular benefited.
Sometimes a classic theme song is all it takes to get our emotions all up in a tizzy. In this movie, such was the case with “Don’t You Forget About Me.” In the final scene of The Breakfast Club, where John Bender (Judd Nelson) walks across the football field, elated from having kissed Claire (Ringwald), the aforementioned song plays in the background. We can still hear the iconic ’80s-reverb blasting through the speakers.
But apparently this song was actually written for the movie, by a band called The Simple Minds. Even more interesting is the fact that they were obliged to record it after other bands turned the offer down! So how did Judd Nelson get into the head of a high school student while researching the role?
Judd Nelson actually infiltrated a local high school in order to research for the role. The rest of the cast were encouraged to do this as well, but no one went quite as far as Nelson. Given the fact that he portrayed the criminal type in the movie (John Bender), the kind of things he indulged the real high school students to do is rather fitting.
For instance, Nelson apparently offered to buy some of the older students beer in exchange for rides to his hotel. It’s funny when you think about actors who in real life are just like the characters they portray — but soon you’ll find out just how true this was for Nelson. It all became especially apparent when he first showed up to his audition.
When Judd Nelson showed up to audition for the role of John Bender, it was as though he had already fully inhabited his character. He apparently made everyone in the vicinity extremely uncomfortable. As Nelson recalled, “I was just about thrown out of the waiting room. The secretary in the waiting area called security.”
Seems pretty crazy that he was able to get the part, considering security had been called on him. So what happened? Nelson concluded, “That’s when someone from behind the office doors said, ‘Judd Nelson, we can see you.’ I gave the finger to the security guard and walked into the room.” But even though he’d landed the gig, the problems were just getting started.
There are many actors in Hollywood who are known to be method actors to a fault, and Judd Nelson is one of those people. These actors are simply unwilling to turn their character off when the director yells “cut” — and in the case of Nelson, it got under the wrong people’s skin.
Director John Hughes in particular was beside himself with anger over the antics of Nelson, so much so that he literally planned on firing him. But something — or rather, someone — managed to hold him back. Nevertheless, Hughes vowed never to work with Nelson ever again. So who was it that saved Nelson from getting the chop?
Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy, Anthony Michael Hall, and Emilio Estevez all campaigned to keep Judd Nelson on board. But director John Hughes had ears for Ringwald in particular, an actress who he considered to be his muse. In fact, after working with her on his previous film, the 1984 teen drama Sixteen Candles, he catered to her every word.
Hughes took Ringwald’s opinion so seriously that he apparently would ask her consistently whether or not a certain character would “fit” with the movie. This meant that she had the power to get rid of cast members she didn’t really like, and that muscle was about to be flexed.
As the story goes, there was one actress who was supposed to play a female gym teacher in the movie — but apparently, Molly Ringwald told John Hughes she didn’t like the character. One thing led to another, and before anyone knew it, the actress had been fired.
You might think that with all this power that Ringwald had, she would come to defend The Breakfast Club for all of its decisions. However, this wasn’t to be the case. Years later, Ringwald shocked fans when she criticized the film years later over issues she had with it. She started to complain about inherent problems in the casting, ones that even she couldn’t change during the filming.
In 2018, Molly Ringwald wrote an article for The New Yorker where she questioned the filmmaker who she’d worked with so often, who had passed away in 2009. Said Ringwald, “It’s hard for me to understand how John was able to write with so much sensitivity, and also have such a glaring blind spot,” Ringwald stated. She was referring to race.
Ringwald continued to explain that while the film masqueraded itself as being accepting people from all walks of life, the movie was more than a little too white for her taste. She even said that if there should ever be another Breakfast Club, there would have to be more diversity. That said, she was still able to influence other things that upset her deeply about the film.
Apparently there was originally supposed to be a scene in The Breakfast Club in which some characters look through a peephole, and watch a female character undress, in the spirit of far raunchier teen films like Porky’s. But Molly Ringwald was not having it. She, along with a handful of other women on set, convinced Hughes to remove it immediately.
Like so many other aspects of the movie, John Hughes listened to Ringwald, believing her opinion to be of the highest stature. Then again, it seems as though he made a good move, for such an inappropriate scene may have cheapened the wholesome quality of the movie. But that wasn’t all; Ringwald also got Hughes to change a crucial element of her character.
Molly Ringwald’s character of Claire, who comes from a wealthy background, was originally supposed to be a straight-edged, properly-dressed and even genteel young woman. But Ringwald wanted her to be more of a trendsetter, and was able to control her wardrobe, among other things.
For instance, Claire’s famous lipstick scene, in which she uses a certain part of her body to apply her makeup, never would’ve worked for the character Hughes originally had in mind. Clearly Ringwald wanted Claire to be a little bit more rebellious and less sterile. But the interesting thing is, Ringwald had actually been originally considered for a different role altogether.
The character of Allison, who we all know was magnificently portrayed by Ally Sheedy, had first been considered for Ringwald. It’s pretty mind-boggling to think of Ringwald and Sheedy portraying anyone other than the roles we remember them for, but let’s try to imagine it for just a moment. Would The Breakfast Club have thrived just the same?
With a film this iconic, it’s decently difficult to imagine the actors and their roles being shuffled around. But nevertheless, eventually it was clear to Hughes that Ringwald was a lot more suited for Claire. Ally Sheedy had her own way of getting the role of Allison, and it was actually pretty hilarious.
Poetically enough, Ally Sheedy actually auditioned for John Hughes’ previous film Sixteen Candles — and when she showed up to the audition, she had two black eyes from a recent injury. Sheedy obviously didn’t get the role for Sixteen Candles, which was subsequently awarded to her future co-star Molly Ringwald.
However, when it came time to cast the role of Allison Reynolds in The Breakfast Club, somehow Hughes remembered the way Sheedy had looked with her two black eyes at the previous audition. He thought that appearance was perfect for Allison’s gothic personality — and she obviously was! But there was also a bigger reason Sheedy was perfect for the role.
The character of Allison is a misfit who struggles to fit in, and this is something we learn slowly but surely about her character throughout the film as she gradually opens up. During the majority of the first half of the movie, she keeps to herself and doesn’t make a peep. She remains mysterious and solemn for quite some time — until finally she lets her fellow students understand her.
Ally Sheedy, apparently, didn’t have to stretch too far to embody Allison’s feelings. She herself admitted that when she was younger, she had struggled to fit in her high school as well. In fact, it was this aspect of her personality that inspired her to tell director John Hughes an important fact that ended up changing the entire opening of the film.
Before the movie starts, a quote by a well-known rock legend is shown to the viewer, which says: “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.”
The quote is by the late singer-songwriter David Bowie, from his iconic hit 1971 “Changes” — and some might say that it certainly embodies the spirit that The Breakfast Club is about. Apparently Sheedy was the one who suggested it to director John Hughes in the first place, and he simply thought it was perfectly fitting. However, despite this suggestion passing, there was one deleted scene which we never got to see Ally Sheedy live out.
Allison is rather mysterious when the movie starts out, considering she’s sleeping for a handful of scenes. But apparently there was originally supposed to be a scene where we see what she’s dreaming about. In her fantasy, we see her as a vampire, Claire a bride, John a prison inmate, Brian an astronaut, and Andrew as a Viking.
Considering the weird nature of Allison’s character, it doesn’t surprise us that she’d be capable of having a dream like that — only we never got to see that scene play out. Since we later witness her and Andrew (Emilio Estevez) sharing a kiss, perhaps her imagining him as a Viking would’ve been a fantasy she was living out? Speaking of Andrew, his character also went through some changes behind the scenes.
In the movie, Emilio Estevez plays wrestling jock Andrew Clark. At first, Andrew presents himself as a macho type, an impenetrable stone wall that exhibits no feelings. But later, in a heart-wrenching moment, he tells everyone about the intense pressure his father puts on him, not just to be the best, but to bring others down.
Interestingly enough, Andrew was actually supposed to be a football player, and not a wrestler. The reason this was changed was actually because of the actor’s height: Emilio Estevez simply wasn’t tall enough, and had more of a wrestler’s build. That on-screen parental situation was tense — but the story portrayed by his co-star Anthony Michael Hall really takes the cake.
Anthony Michael Hall, who played the role of straight-A student Brian, probably got embarrassed on set quite a bit. He was already getting teased by co-star Sheedy who called him that nickname “Milk and Cookies” — and it didn’t help matters that Hall’s own mother was there on set with him! Hall’s mom, Mercedes Hall, played the role of his mother, and she wasn’t the only one of his parents to have significance in the film.
Director John Hughes actually opted to play the role of Brian’s father himself, and we can see him as he picks Brian up after his detention is up. Throughout these scenes at the end of the film, there was also something disturbing written on the school building. Did you notice it?
If you look closely at the school building, you can see a message written saying, “I don’t like Mondays.” This might seem like a standard reflection of post-weekend blues, but it can also be interpreted as a sad tribute to a crime that took place on Monday, January 29, 1979, in San Diego, California.
Brenda Spencer, a 16-year-old high school student, had taken the lives of multiple people at a public elementary school that morning, and when she was asked why, her reason was: “I don’t like Mondays.” While this may be a dark undertone in the flick, The Breakfast Club has always been a classic — and the cast and crew went through some suffering to make it.
The majority of the entire film took place in one room, and in order to keep it properly lit on camera, they had a large excess of stage lights. As a result, the set would at times get as hot as 110 degrees! That meant that both the cast and crew members were sweating nonstop, and conditions got uncomfortable pretty fast.
But the problem extended beyond people just getting a little sweaty. Crew members were dozing off because of the heat as well. The situation got so extreme that two additional assistant directors were hired to make sure people didn’t fall asleep and snore during the takes! Nothing was certain around The Breakfast Club: its script, its crew — and even its title.
The title isn’t everything — but it’s pretty darn important. In the case of The Breakfast Club, we can’t imagine those students being called anything else. But apparently the film was initially supposed to be called “The Lunch Bunch.” So what inspired director John Hughes to change his mind?
The decision to take on this winning name was actually thanks to one of Hughes’ good friends, whose son had relayed to him that all the students frequenting detention at his high school were being called “The Breakfast Club.” Hughes loved it, and immediately made it the movie’s new and improved title. With all the success it had, Hughes didn’t want it to end there.
Who wouldn’t tune in to watch a sequel for this iconic film? Aware of its success, John Hughes initially wanted to make a follow-up for The Breakfast Club every ten years. But this was a lot easier said than done, and many complications arose in the process.
One issue was that Hughes butted heads with Judd Nelson (who played John Bender), and was certainly apprehensive of reopening that professional relationship. In addition, while the idea of a reunion every decade sounded good in theory, it didn’t really make practical sense. The Breakfast Club worked well as a teen film, and with a much older cast, eventually Hughes realized it just wasn’t a good idea. Alas, we’ll never know what could have been — or will we?
Sources: Ask, New Yorker, E! Online