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URBAN FILM LEGEND: John Hughes wanted Anthony Michael Hall and Molly Ringwald to be practically his acting troupe, and stopped doing teen films when they all stopped working together.

The John Hughes teenage films of the 1980s are unusual in that not only are they iconic films that defined an entire generation (hell, possibly multiple generations), but they also happened at virtually the same time. Start with Pretty in Pink In 1984, Hughes directed SIX teenage films between 1984 and 1987, writing all six and directing four. Then, after what might be called a “transitional film” in the 1988s she is having a baby (a film about a young couple having their first child, which Hughes wrote and directed), Hughes never did another teen film in his career, instead he directed both adult comedies (mainly with actor John Candy until Candy passed away in 1994) as well as children-centric films (most famously he wrote and produced Home alonewhich was by far the biggest hit he’s ever had in his career).


As Walt Whitman put it, “I’m tall Home alone was a blockbuster, most filmmakers would have a hard time NOT just making more movies like the one that became a sensation (Home alone was the third-highest-grossing film of 1990…but it was also the third-highest-grossing film of 1991, so combined that it has far outpaced the number one films of both years). However, it seems like Hughes was also deeply affected by the loss of what he seemed to see as his acting troupe for teen films.


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WHO DID JOHN HUGHES CONSIDER HIS ACTORS?

John Hughes first worked with Anthony Michael Hall while Hughes was still working on it National Lampoon Movies (Hughes began writing screenplays while actually still a staff writer at the National Lampoon), since Hall was the son in the hit film, National Lampoon’s holiday. However, Hall has yet to be read for the role of geeky farmer Ted in Hughes’ next film. Sixteen candles, in which Molly Ringwald played the sixteen-year-old girl whose family forgets her birthday in the chaos of her older sister’s marriage. At the time, Hughes mused, “Every single kid that came in to read for the role … did the whole stereotypical high school nerd thing. You know – thick glasses, pen in pocket, white socks. But when Michael walked in, he played it straight, like a real human. I knew in that moment that I had found my geek. Hall remarked at the time, “Me and John are more like friends. We just get along, we’re so similar. It’s bizarre, but sometimes we know exactly what the other is thinking. We don’t have to say a word, we just nod to each other.”


Hughes then cast both Hall and Ringwald in his next teen film. The Breakfast Club. While filming that film, Hall recalled that Hughes came to him with plans for their next film together: “I was 16 but I looked like a bobblehead of 12. And John says, ‘Yeah, it’ll be you and someone else Be a guy and you’re gonna make a girl at the computer.’ I’m like, ‘What? What the hell is he talking about?’ My head spins. We’re probably two or three weeks in The Breakfast Club and he’s already telling me about another film we’re going to do. But that’s how prolific he was.” This film, of course, was Strange Sciencewhich came out later the same year as The Breakfast Club.


However, Hall was now a star enough that he started getting offers for other films and this created a conflict with him and Hughes as Hughes already had two other roles in mind for Hall, one of which would also involve Ringwald. The first was Pretty in Pink and the other was Ferris turns blue. Hall turned it down because he was making an action film. Hall later recalled, “I think it was upsetting for him. It wasn’t a spiteful thing on my part, it was more that I was moving on to a new job and new opportunities. I hope that didn’t offend him, but I’m not sure. We didn’t stay in close contact in the years to come. I kind of lost touch with him… but I can just hold on to the great memories I have. He took me in like a son.”


While Ringwood did Pretty in Pinkshe then turned down the rather similar role of Watts in Hughes’ last teen film, Kind of wonderful (which was sort of a gender-reversed version of Pretty in Pink).

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How did Hughes deal with Hall and Ringwald rejecting his films?

Hughes and Hall only spoke once in 1987, after Hall turned down the roles of Duckie and Ferris, and Hall later spoke about how sad the whole thing was: “It’s one of the saddest things in my life because I loved the guy. He was a big brother to me. I spent a lot of time with him, I was like his third child. Back when we were making those movies I was hanging out with him and his wife and two kids so I was their third son. I was very close to John. He was still a teenager in some ways because he would take things very personally.

In an opinion piece for The New York Times after Hughes’ death in 2009, Ringwald wrote: “Most people who knew John knew that he could hold grudges longer than anyone – his grudges were almost supernatural and even lasted years to decades . We were like the darling kids when they made the decision to leave Neverland. And John was Peter Pan, warning us that if we left we could never return.”

She noted that the same was true of Hall (Ringwald and Hughes at least got back in touch through a letter she wrote him in 1994 thanking him for everything he’d done for her in her career, which he followed up with answered with a large bouquet of flowers). Ringwald noted that the loss of her and Hall changed his films: “None of the films he made later had that kind of personal feeling to me. They were funny, yes, insanely successful, to be sure, but I saw very little of the John I knew in them, of his youthful, urgent, unmistakable vulnerability. It was as if its heart had closed, or at least was no longer open to the public.

That was something the cast of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the first teen film Hughes did without Hall or Ringwald, noticed. According to Susannah Gora’s Hughes memoir You Couldn’t Ignore Me If You Tried: The Brat Pack, John Hughes, and Their Impact on a Generation, Hughes almost quit doing Ferris Bueller’s Day Off as soon as filming began because he just didn’t like working with the new cast. Gora remarked, “Do Ferris turns blue gave John Hughes more money. It gave him a chance to film in his hometown as a recurring hero. It gave him even more power in Hollywood. But one thing it didn’t give him, something he’d grown to love on the set of his earlier teenage films, maybe even something he needed. “In the previous films,” says Mia Sara (who plays Sloane), “he had developed very close relationships with a lot of these actors, and he had really created the environment that he wanted to create where he was one of them. And I don’t think that happened to me Ferris turns blue.'”


Interestingly, however, Hughes attempted to make one final teen film with Ringwald and Broderick in 1987, called oil and vinegar, starring Broderick as a pre-wedding traveling salesman who goes on a road trip with a free-spirited young woman played by Ringwald. Ringwald recalled that she and Broderick “were supposed to be in a movie called John Hughes vinegar and oil. The script had to be rewritten a few times and John didn’t want to meet and rewrite. I ran out of time and had to take another picture. It’s a shame because it was a very funny script. The film would have been fantastic.”

So again, there were probably a number of different factors that influenced Hughes’ thought process about quitting teen films, but it certainly sounds like the loss of Hall and Ringwald, his acting troupe, was a big enough factor with whom i leave the legend as…

STATUS: True enough for a truth

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