Remembering Director John Hughes
Sixteen Candles, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off director opens up in unpublished 1997 interview.
Writer/Director John Hughes died Thursday of a heart attack at age 59. Born in Michigan, Hughes will probably be remembered for writing and directing the beloved coming-of-age teen movies ‘Sixteen Candles’, ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’, ‘The Breakfast Club’ and ‘Weird Science’. He used his high school town of suburban Northbrook, Ill., as a location for many of his films. John Hughes was so much more than a guy who made movies for teenagers, he was responsible for the most successful comedy films of the 1980s and 1990s.
In the Beginning, There was ‘Vacation’
John Hughes was a brilliant comedy writer who got his big break working for National Lampoon Magazine. While on staff he wrote the comedies ‘National Lampoon’s Class Reunion’ and the blockbuster hit ‘National Lampoon’s Vacation’ starring Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo. Hughes also penned the sequels ‘European Vacation’ and ‘Christmas Vacation’. ‘Vaction’ featured a memorable cameo by John Candy who appeared in several films Hughes wrote including ‘Uncle Buck’, ‘The Great Outdoors’, ‘Planes, Trains & Automobiles’ and ‘Only the Lonely’, a Chris Columbus film Hughes produced.
John Hughes didn’t just make movies he made careers. Actors like Robert Downey Jr., Charlie Sheen, Matthew Broderick, Bill Paxton, Michael Keaton (‘Mr. Mom’), Molly Ringwald, Macaulay Culkin, Ally Sheedy, Kelly LeBrock, Anthony Michael Hall, Judd Nelson and many more owe John Hughes a debt of gratitude.
The King of Teen Movies
Hughes is best known for writing the most popular teen films of the 1980s ‘Sixteen Candles’, ‘Pretty in Pink’ and ‘The Breakfast Club’ starring Molly Ringwald, ‘Weird Science’ starring Anthony Michael Hall, Kelly LeBrock, Robert Downey Jr., ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ starring Matthew Broderick, ‘Some Kind of Wonderful’ starring Eric Stoltz, Mary Stuart Masterson, Lea Thompson and the early ’90s cult classic ‘Career Opportunities’ starring Jennifer Connelly, Frank Whaley and Dermot Mulroney. Most recently a Hughes story was the basis for the Judd Apatow-produced teen comedy ‘Drillbit Taylor’ starring Owen Wilson and Leslie Mann.
In 1988 Hughes dabbled with the young adult comedy ‘She’s Having a Baby’ starring Kevin Bacon and Elizabeth McGovern but the film about yuppie newlyweds didn’t find an audience until it arrived on cable television.
“The Family Comedy without the Family”
In the ’90s John Hughes focused on writing family comedies after the phenomenal success of ‘Home Alone’, “A family comedy without the family,” starring Macaulay Culkin for 20th Century Fox. Every studio that wanted a kids & family-friendly comedy turned to John Hughes. Hughes penned an adaptation of ‘Dennis the Menace’ starring the late Walter Matthau for Warner Bros., the Saint-Bernard dog comedy ‘Beethoven’ starring Charles Grodin for Universal, a live action ‘101 Dalmatians’ starring Glenn Close for Walt Disney and updated another Disney classic ‘Flubber’ starring Robin Williams. He also had a few misfires with ‘Baby’s Day Out’, ‘Dutch’ and ‘Curly Sue’ starring James Belushi.
‘Maid in Manhattan’, Died in Manhattan
Hughes died in Manhattan while taking a walk. His last directing effort was back in 1991 but he continued to produce and write occasionally as Edmond Dantés, a pen name used on the ‘Beethoven’ movies, ‘Drillbit Taylor’ and ‘Maid in Manhattan’ starring Jennifer Lopez.
John Hughes was one of my first inspirations as a writer. Growing up I wanted to make movies like him and create memorable movie archetypes that moviegoers could identify with. Over the years, Hughes has inspired writers of all genres, his films have many imitators, but no true duplicators. When he was alive Hughes never won a major movie award, many hope that one day he will be recognized with an Honorary Academy Award for writing. For his fans it would be an honor long over due.