6 Fascinating Ferris Bueller Facts
Unlike 1984, nobody can claim that the summer of 1986 yielded a bevy of classics. Rodney Dangerfield went back to school, Robin Williams ran a club in paradise, and both Norman Bates and Jason Voorhees brought out their knives for more boring rounds of gratuitous slashing. Of course there was Tom Cruise feeling the need for speed in Top Gun, and August brought the feel-good nostalgia of Stand by Me. But in terms of true cultural longevity, no film could match the now iconic story of a kid who devises myriad schemes to play hooky from school and lives life to the fullest when he does: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
Released on June 11th, 1986, the film connected in a visceral way with audiences, who rooted for Ferris and his friends to get away with their fun-filled adventures. Writer/director/producer John Hughes, the master of intelligent teen cinema, conceived of it as a travelogue through Chicago led by a merry prankster, winningly played by Matthew Broderick at the height of his fame and charm. Today, DoYouRemember presents 6 fascinating facts about the making of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
1. John Hughes Wrote the Script in a Week
In a decade that had begun with mindless teen sex comedies like Porky’s, Hughes had made his reputation crafting thoughtful comedies that actually addressed the adolescent condition, such as Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club. In 1985, he was riding a wave of success when he conceived Ferris Bueller at the end of February. For the next week, he spent hours turning out up to 26 pages nightly, focusing on developing specific characters and episodes rather than an elaborate plot. Editor Paul Hirsch says he essentially filmed the first draft of the script, with the film coming in at two hours and 45 minutes. Trimming of the story was done in post-production. As Hughes said, “I know how the movie begins, I know how it ends….It’s not the events that are important, it’s the characters going through the event.”
2. The Only Choice: Matthew Broderick
At the time, Broderick was enjoying a burgeoning film career after gaining acclaim on Broadway in Harvey Fierstein’s Torch Song Trilogy and Neil Simon’s Brighton Beach Memoirs. The 23-year-old had made his film debut two years earlier in a script also written by Simon, Max Dugan Returns, and scored his first big hit soon after in the summer film WarGames. According to Hughes, he wrote the script with Broderick in mind, saying he was the only actor he could think who could pull off the character’s roguish deviousness and retain the audience’s sympathy. Comparing him to a young James Stewart, the director said, “Certain guys would have played Ferris and you would have thought, ‘Where’s my wallet?’ I had to have that look; that charm had to come through.”
3. Hughes’ Love Letter to Chicago
In 1963, when he was 13, Hughes’ family moved to the tony Chicago suburb Northbrook, where he went to high school; the upper-middle-class Midwestern mood would ever after define Hughes’ sensibility. So, after remaining within the confines of suburban high schools in his earlier hits, he wanted to celebrate the city he loved, using the peripatetic adventures of Ferris, his girlfriend, Sloane, and best friend, Cameron, as a means of showcasing iconic Chicago locations, from the Sears Tower and the Board of Trade to Wrigley Field, where filming was done on September 24th, 1985, during a game between the Cubs and the Montreal Expos. A highlight of the film is the sequence inside the Art Institute of Chicago, during which Hughes featured some of his favorite paintings in the collection, from Edward Hopper’ Nighthawks to Georges Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.
4. The Parade: Happy Von Steuben Day
Ask fans of the film, and many will say their favorite sequence is the parade scene in Chicago’s Loop, during which Ferris sings and dances to “Danke Schoen” and “Twist and Shout.” It was filmed on September 28th, 1985, during Chicago’s annual Von Steuben Day parade, a fall event celebrating German-American heritage. Radio stations broadcast announcements calling people downtown to “be in a John Hughes movie,” and those who did were rewarded with the sight of Broderick on a float, doing moves arranged by future star choreographer Kenny Ortega. “Word got around fast and 10,000 people showed up!” Broderick remembered. “For the final shot, I turned around and saw a river of people….I can understand how rock stars feel.” Meanwhile, organizers of the parade were unaware that a new float had been incorporated into the proceedings, and were delighted that their celebration of Von Steuben Day had turned into such a massive success.
5. A Ferrari and Three Replicas
Cameron’s father is the proud owner of a 1961 Ferrari GT California, an automotive rarity—only 100 were produced—which recently fetched 5.5 million pounds at auction. Because of the car’s value, three replicas were made by Modena Design and Development, a West Coast firm that produces Ferrari copies, which Hughes had read about in a car magazine. An actual Ferrari was used for the tight interior shots, but apart from those audiences are seeing the Modena Spyders. The primary replica—the one that jumps over the camera—was built by auto restorationist Mark Goyette and leased to Paramount. It was returned with some body damage and eventually sold to collectors. The second, poorly built by the studio and used in the film only to tumble into the ravine, ended up in Planet Hollywood Minneapolis before being shipped to the Cancun location. The third replica may never have been fully built, and may still reside on Paramount’s back lot. One was sold in 2010 for 79,000 pounds; another was auctioned last August for $230,000—still a far cry from the actual Ferrari’s 5.5 million pounds.
6. Ben Stein…Stein?
The entertainment career of former Nixon speechwriter Ben Stein was sparked by his unforgettable appearance as the droning economics teacher who repeatedly calls the title character’s name during roll call. New York Times political columnist William Safire introduced Stein to a Paramount exec, who introduced him to Hughes. “John Hughes and I were the only Republicans in the picture business, and he put me in the movie,” Stein said later. The director asked him to discuss something he knew, so the academic began speaking about supply-side economics; to his great pleasure, the cast and crew clapped wildly when he finished. “I thought they were applauding because they had learned something….But they were applauding because they thought I was boring….It was the best day of my life.”