On Friday, February 19, 2010, Jason Reitman began his program of movies at New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles. The first double feature of his program was “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and “Election;” both great movies dealing with high school and teenagers in an intelligent way and which star Matthew Broderick. “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” was one of the truly great John Hughes classics from the 80’s which everyone has seen at least 9 times. Reitman remembered wanting to see it with his dad when it first came out, but his father (Ivan Reitman of “Ghostbusters” fame) was busy shooting “Legal Eagles” and couldn’t get away from the set. They ended up going to the movies later but they instead saw “Big Trouble in Little China,” John Carpenter’s ode to martial arts movies which was not as successful (but later become a beloved cult film).
Reitman said he considers “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” Hughes’ love letter to Chicago. Indeed, Chicago does look incredibly beautiful as shown here. These days, it’s rare to see it without snow covering it almost completely. Richard Belzer has a brilliant quote when he played John Munch on “Homicide: Life On the Street”: “Chicago has two seasons, winter and St. Patrick’s Day.”
Reitman saw Ferris Bueller as the guy who knew everyone is dying from a terminal disease. Knowing this, he lived every day as if it were his last. He then went on to say that “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” is a movie about people dying, and that the last moment of joy anyone has comes at the end of the parade when Broderick is out shaking his bod to The Beatles. The acclaimed director was serious about this and he even said, “If you came out of this movie happy, THEN YOU MISSED THE ENTIRE POINT!”
Before the movie began Reitman brought out a special guest, Jennifer Grey. She of course played Jeanie Bueller, Ferris’ largely unpleasant and infinitely resentful little sister. Grey then went on to become a big star when she starred in “Dirty Dancing” opposite the late Patrick Swayze. Reitman said he asked Grey to come just this morning, and that she was very gracious to appear at such short notice.
Grey warned Reitman upfront that she smoked a lot of pot during this movie’s making so she doesn’t remember a lot of it. However, during her brief time with Reitman, she did remember quite a bit so maybe all that smoking helped.
One of the big revelations was that Grey was never really a big fan of Hughes before she got cast. She had just seen “Pretty in Pink” which he wrote the screenplay for but didn’t direct, and she declared that she didn’t get it. As a result, Grey went into the audition not really caring if she got the part or not. She didn’t even try to hide her attitude towards Hughes when talking to him about how she didn’t really care for his films. It was this attitude that ended up getting her cast as the bitchy little sister of Broderick’s iconic character.
Another big revelation was that Hughes and Broderick were always at odds with one another, and the tension was always high between them. Broderick found it very hard acting to the camera, one of the signature devices of this movie. Also, Grey said that Broderick was “very slow” in putting a performance together, and that was certainly the case when he played Ferris. It got to where Hughes was constantly waiting impatiently for Broderick to start giving him what he wanted, and there were points where Jennifer said Hughes leaned over to her and said, “Is he ready now? Is he warmed up? Is he gonna give us ‘Brighton Beach Memoirs?!’”
That said, Grey recalled her experience of making “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” as being “heaven on earth” and that she felt very safe with Hughes as a director to where she never felt self-conscious about anything she was doing. She made it clear that she loved every single experience she had making it and that she even developed a big crush on Hughes, describing him as being a “Baby Huey.”
Reitman asked how Charlie Sheen got cast as the drug addict who befriends Jeanie Bueller when she is waiting at the police station. Grey explained that she was the one who got Sheen involved as she had just done “Red Dawn” with him. There was actually a lot of improvisation done during the police station scene, and Grey said the moment where Jeanie says that some people call her “Shawna” was born out of that.
One of the big questions on Reitman’s mind was what it was like for Grey when she worked with “her brother.” Broderick and Grey were dating for a time during the making of this movie, and she replied that the only time you see her character and Ferris Bueller together in the same room is at the very beginning and right near the ending of the movie.
Before the movie started, Grey finished by saying Hughes did such a great job in capturing the voice of the time and of teenagers in general. She pointed out what we all came to see, that Hughes very much understood the gravitas of being a teenager and of how difficult and frustrating those years can be.
It was great to see Grey come out for this special screening of one of the best and most entertaining movies of the 1980’s. Reitman went on to say that we all must wonder what happened to Ferris Bueller after he graduated from high school. There was always talk of a sequel that would show Ferris as a burned out executive of some corporation, and a day off from that kind of environment is always welcome no matter what day of the week it is.
What did Reitman think of what may have happened to Ferris? For that, he said to check out Alexander Payne’s “Election.”