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Life moves pretty fast: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is 25 – and 25 more things you maybe didn’t know about the ’80s movie classic

May 20, 2011

A grand day out: Matthew Broderick pulls a sickie, goes to town and serenades a parade girl in the carnival of a 1980s teen movie that is the thoroughly fantastic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Those of you of a certain age may be delighted and/ or horrified to learn that next month marks the 25th anniversary of the release of the titular ’80s teen movie that is Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Yes, read it and weep, all you Reagan’s/ Thatcher’s children out there, for the greatest skive known to man is a quarter-of-a-century old.

There is – and always has been – something about Ferris Bueller. It has a real, in the words of Dr Evil, ‘I don’t know what’. While unquestionably of the teen movie staple kicked-off in the ’80s, like St. Elmo’s Fire (1985), Pretty In Pink (1986) and the rest of them, it’s somehow very different, arguably better, maybe even purer than all the rest. Why? Perhaps because it’s really just a simple tale that explores the themes of freedom, the exuberance and brevity of youth, popularity, envy, fraternity and the notion of ‘one brilliant day’. Either that or it’s just an eccerin’ stonkin’ movie.

Anyway, in celebration of Ferris’s silver jubilee, here’s a collection of, yup, 25 facts about the film’s making, release, success and legacy for you all to savour. Twist and shout away, peeps…

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1. Legendary 1980s teen movie filmmaker John Hughes wrote the screenplay to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off in a week in early 1985, partly because a Writers’ Guild Of America strike was imminent.

2. Hughes reckoned that James Stewart could have played Ferris Bueller at the age of 15. He cast young Hollywood and stage actor Matthew Broderick – mostly because he came across as clever, smart and charming.

3. The original edit of the film was 2 hours and 45 minutes long – Hughes filmed pretty exactly the first-draft (or, actually, the only draft) of his screenplay. He later said that: “this time around, I wanted to create a character who could handle everyone and everything”.

4. Regular actress in Hughes’s mid-’80s films, Molly Ringwald wanted to play Ferris’s girlfriend Sloane Peterson, but she has claimed: “John wouldn’t let me do it: he said that the part wasn’t big enough for me”. The role went to Mia Sara instead, who’d recently starred as the love interest in Tom Cruise fantasy vehicle Legend (1985).

5. The charatcer of Cameron Frye, Ferris’s repressed best friend, was based on someone Hughes had known at high school and, originally, he’d wanted to cast Emilio Estevez in the part; Estevez turned it down and eventually it went to Alan Ruck (later to star in sitcom Spin City), who has since said: “Everytime I see Emilio, I want to kiss him… While we were making the movie, I just knew I had a really good part”.

Born losers?: Jeffrey Jones as the perennially put-upon Ed Rooney (left); Jennifer Grey as frustrated sister Jeannie and Charlie Sheen as her monosyballic-addict friend (right)

6. Jeffrey Jones, who played the iconic headmaster Ed Rooney, was told by Hughes during production that he’d be known forever for the role. He was an astute feller, that John Hughes.

7. Like so many of Hughes’s movies, Ferris Bueller is set in his hometown, Chicago. With this film though, he wanted to allow audiences to see more of the city: “This is the first chance I’d really had to get outside while making a movie. Up to this point, the pictures had been pretty small. I really wanted to capture as much of Chicago as I could, not just the architecture and the landscape, but the spirit”.

8. A passionate Beatles fan, Hughes made references to them in his script (the notorious parade scene, of course, features The Fabs’ version of Twist And Shout); apparently, while filming, the director listened to The White Album every single day – the shoot was 56 days long.

9. The actual 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California used in the film was worth $350,000 at the time of shooting (as opposed to the many replicas); the same car sold at auction in 2008 for a truly staggering $10,976,000.

10. The term ‘voodoo economics’ about which the Economics Teacher (Ben Stein) lectures the students in Sloane’s class was invented by George H W Bush in derogatory reference to Ronald Reagan’s economic plans when both were running for the 1980 R epublican Presidential candidacy. Bush, of course, ended up becoming Reagan’s Vice-President.

11. Grace the school secretary’s (Edie McClurg) explanation to Ed Rooney of Ferris Bueller’s popularity in full is: “Oh he’s very popular, Ed. The sportos, motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, wastoids, dweebies, d*ckheads. They all adore him. They think he’s a righteous dude”.

12. Art featured in the much-loved Art Institute Of Chicago sequence (included as a self indulgence of Hughes’s, owing to how much he adored the place) includes Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks, Pablo Picasso’s The Old Guitar and Red Armchair, Paul Gauguin’s Day of the Gods (Mahana No Atua), Henry Matisse’s Bathers By A River, Jackson Pollack’s Greyed Rainbow, Toulouse-Lautrec’s In The Circus Fernando: The Ringmaster and Georges Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon On The Island Of La Grande Jatte. The latter is the artwork that features the little girl on which Cameron becomes fixated; the idea behind this moment being, according to Hughes, that the more he looks at the girl, the less he sees her – which scares him because he thinks the same of himself.

13. In the original cut the parade came before the art visit, resulting in test screen audiences hating the art sequence. Hughes realised he needed to switch them around, resulting in both sequences becoming hugely popular. The art sequence originally featured a classical guitar solo over the top – this too was changed to The Dream Academy’s instrumental version of The Smiths’ Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want.

14. Broderick’s grin as he punches the air with both fists at the end of the parade scene was for real – 10,000 people had turned up in the centre of Chicago for the shoot as it had been announced a John Hughes movie would be filming there; Broderick claims he felt like a rock star, despite having enormous nerves leading up to the scene. He also had dance-training for it, but had damaged his knee while filming the scenes in which Ferris races home through neighbours’ back gardens (which would come later in the movie), so the shoot was spontaneous and featured barely any of the choreography he’d learnt.

15. The baseball game scene was filmed while the Chicago Cubs were playing at their home stadium, Wrigley Field, but was edited together from two separate matches in the summer of 1985 – at one the Cubs played the Atlanta Braves; at the other thay played the Montreal Expos.

Mr Frye’s pride and joy: the Ferrari 250 GT California, which in the film ended up famously totalled, but in reality would end up auctioned in years to come – and go for a hell of a song

16. Originally, Hughes had wanted to include a scene in which Ferris, Sloane and Cameron went to a strip-club, but the idea was scrapped. A scene featuring Ferris’s children-aged brother and sister were filmed, however, but ended up on the cutting-room floor.

17. To achieve the ‘right’ look for his scene as the drug addict that Ferris’s sister Jeannie (Jennifer Grey, later of Dirty Dancing fame) meets at the police station, the cameo-ing Charlie Sheen apparently stayed awake for 48 hours partying – something that probably wasn’t much of a challenge for him, one suspects.

18. Released on June 11 1986, the film grossed over $70 million at the US box-office, ensuring it became the 10th most successful movie of the year. It had had cost just $6 million to make.

19. Although poorly reviewed by a few critics, many loved Ferris Bueller – just like the filmgoers. US short-story writer and essayist Steve Almond commented: “Although John Hughes has made a lot of movies, Ferris Bueller is the one film I would consider true art, (the) only one that reaches toward the ecstatic power of teendom and, at the same time, exposes the true, piercing woe of that age”.

20. In 1987, Broderick was nominated for a Golden Globe (Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy) for his performance in the flick.

In and out of fashion: Broderick, Sara and Ruck on location in ’86 (l); Aniston, Schlatter and Dolenz in the forgotten spin-off in ’90 (m); a model in a Ferris-friendly ‘geek chic’ t-shirt today

21. No official album of the music featured in the film was released, because naively Hughes didn’t believe anyone would want to buy a record on which all the disparate songs sat. However, due to great demand and as ‘a labour of love’, over the next two years after the film’s release, he sent out to members of his fan mailing list a record of the two songs from the flick of which he owned the rights.

22. The film was parodied in irreverant US humour publication Mad Magazine – as Fearless Bueller’s Day Off in its January 1987 issue.

23. Hughes and Broderick thought about making a sequel together, but could never come up with an idea that would really work. In 1990, however, a TV sitcom version was screened, starring Diagnosis: Murder‘s Charlie Schlatter as Ferris, Ami Dolenz as Sloan and, yes, a pre-Friends Jennifer Aniston as Jeannie. For better or worse, it lasted just 13 episodes.

24. Following John Hughes’s untimely death at the age of 59, a tribute to him took place at the 2010 Academy Awards, at which Broderick said: “For the past 25 years, nearly every day someone comes up to me, taps me on the shoulder and says, ‘Hey, Ferris, is this your day off?”.

And finally…

25. Fancy having Ferris’s day off yourself? No problem whatsoever! So long as you can persude this blogger to send you a copy of his brilliant self-made Ferris Bueller board game, that is…

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