In the 1980s, the cinematic universe was graced with the gift of a spunky high school student named Ferris Bueller. Many people don’t know this, but this iconic movie came from a soon-to-be writers’ strike. This film came as an effort to keep working even if a strike would happen, and we are so glad it did.
John Hughes went to Paramount executives with a single line—this single line would change the direction of movie history. “I want to do this movie about a kid who takes a day off from school and … that’s all I know so far.” That movie would become Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and it would make history as a cinematic masterpiece.
Where Did the Movie Take Place?
This film takes place in America’s heartland, in a fictional town called Shermer, Illinois. The movie was released on June 11th, 1986, which was a great day in the life of John Hughes. Hughes was so excited to make this project happen that he wrote the script in only six days. He had a week to make it happen, so he upped the ante.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was not Hughes’ first rodeo. The ‘80s were dominated by Hughes, with Sixteen Candles in 1984, The Breakfast Club in 1985, Pretty in Pink in 1986, to name a few – and Bueller would only help cement him in history as one of the greatest of all time.
With so many stars to choose from, it seems that no one would be miscast. I could not picture anyone else pulling off the role of Ferris Bueller; Matthew Broderick was a perfect choice. Anthony Michael Hall, an actor who was featured in many of Hughes’ projects, believed that he was the original choice for the role.
Maybe he was onto something when he mentioned they started to have issues with each other. Hall and Hughes worked on some of the most recognizable movies of all time together. Anthony Michael Hall had leading and supporting roles in movie classics like The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles.
Someone Is Confident!
Anthony Michael Hall has his reasons to believe that he was initially the first choice for the role of Ferris. He told Vanity Fair that he had previously had a good relationship with John Hughes, but their relationship ended abruptly. It did not take long for Hall to start seeing other directors.
He firmly believes that the roles of Ferris Bueller, and Duckie from Pretty in Pink, were both written for him. However, something about that does not add up. He was in Pretty in Pink, in a completely different role. Did he think that was a mistake, or did he just have bigger ambitions and felt like he was falling short?
It Was Always Broderick
As far as John Hughes and his thought process goes, he always knew it would be Matthew Broderick. There was only one other actor considered for this role – another guy known for being calm, cool, and collected in other well-known films: John Cusack.
Sorry to Anthony Michael Hall, but the casting directors confirmed that he was not considered for this role, no matter what he says. Janet Hirshenson and Jane Jenkins, the casting directors for Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, made that clear and put Hall in his place. Not everything has to be for you, Anthony Michael Hall!
Initially, producers wanted Emilio Estevez to play the role of Ferris’s sidekick. This teen heartthrob from the Sheen family is known for his roles in The Breakfast Club, The Outsiders, and The Mighty Ducks. Estevez turned the role down, but we know that he managed to have a remarkable and flourishing career without it.
The role of Cameron, Ferris’s sidekick, went to Alan Ruck. Ruck was definitely a bit old to be playing a teenager in the prime of his youth – he was 30 years old at the time of filming. Estevez managed to succeed in his career despite turning down what might have been the role of a lifetime!
Who Was Alan Ruck?
Alan Ruck was a friend of Matthew Broderick’s and a few years older than he was. The two initially met when they played characters who were the same age on Biloxi Blues, on Broadway. Broderick was a few years younger than Ruck, and they managed to remain friends despite the six-year difference.
The two were such close friends that they even shared a trailer on the set of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Maybe it was their natural chemistry; perhaps it was a result of having worked together before. Broderick’s trailer was much bigger than Ruck’s, so he just moved in with his pal!
Alan Ruck’s Next Moves
Starring in a blockbuster film doesn’t make anyone free of the need to keep working. Despite having a ton of success in his role as Cameron in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Alan Ruck struggled to find more work in Hollywood. It was his curse: He looked too young to play an adult, but he seemed too old to play a child.
Despite doing some fantastic work, his inability to land another role resulted in him seeking employment elsewhere. He had to get a job at a Sears warehouse to support himself when he could not meet the needs of Hollywood casting directors.
“That’s Not Me”
While he wasn’t too proud to find work outside of Hollywood’s legendary movie studios, he was not quick to identify himself as the role he played. His image started to catch up with him.
In an interview with The A.V Club, he stated, “so here I am, working at a Sears warehouse, and because Ferris Bueller had been out already, people were clocking me and going, ‘Do you know you look like this guy in this movie?’ And I was, like, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah. Not me,’” simply because he didn’t want to get too into it with these superfans.
Avoiding Weird Comments
Though Alan Ruck did manage to pull himself up by his bootstraps once again, he was not willing to get into it with fans for fear of what they might have to say about his shortcomings. He said, “I thought they’d probably go, ‘You were in the movies, and then you wound up here? We should just beat you for being stupid!'”
Ruck did manage to make a decent career for himself. One of his most notable roles was as Henry Rance in The Exorcist, and, recently, he played the character Connor Roy, a member of the lucky sperm club, in HBO’s Succession.
Made to Break
In an early scene in the film, Alan Ruck makes an impression of what is supposed to be Sloane’s father’s character. In this instance, they’re trying to get Sloane out of class to enjoy their day off together. This part of the scene was meant to make Matthew Broderick break from character.
Sloane’s “father” argues with the vice principal to get Sloane outside, unattended. Ruck had previously made Broderick crack up by impersonating their Biloxi Blues director, Gene Saks. Whenever Saks walked away, Ruck pulled out the impression to make all his costars laugh like never before.
Molly Wanted In
Another actress known for her roles in all of John Hughes’ projects is the legendary Molly Ringwald. She and Hughes worked together on quite a few projects; some of his best-known work featured her at the center. Ringwald appeared in Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles, and The Breakfast Club, to name a few.
She wanted to play Sloane, Ferris’ love interest, played by Mia Sara. Hughes told Ringwald that the part wasn’t big enough for her – he was clearly looking out for her and wanted her to grow! He also wanted an older actress to play Ferris’s girlfriend but still ended up with an 18-year-old actress anyway.
There were a few romantic entanglements on the set of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. It seemed like they were on the scene of some movie romance, but in real life and real-time. Actress Jennifer Grey, who starred in the iconic film Dirty Dancing, caught Broderick’s eye, and they fell in love.
Broderick played Ferris, while Grey played Jeanie. The two played brother and sister, and despite this, they were in a serious relationship while they were filming. In the Brat Pack memoir entitled You Couldn’t Ignore Me If You Tried, the author discussed the love triangle that ensued.
Keeping It Down Low
Grey and Broderick managed to keep things professional while on set. I mean, playing brother and sister, it’s probably best to turn the romance down for a bit… don’t you think? The two kept their relationship quiet, seemingly to act professionally and for something else that was quite significant.
Mia Sara, the actress who played the role of Sloane, admitted that she was madly in love with Matthew Broderick. No matter how much she tried to get his affection, he would politely turn her down. Grey was the apple of his eye, and he did not want to do a thing to change that!
Mia Sara had no clue why Broderick was not interested in her; she knew different people had different types, but she didn’t know that he was in a relationship with Grey until years later. She always thought of what could have been but understood that he might have different interests.
“I had the biggest crush on Matthew,” she admitted. “And I threw myself at him repeatedly, and he very wisely turned me down. I think I was pretty annoying, frankly.” At least she owned up to it and acknowledged that it just wasn’t meant to be!
Other Romantic Entanglements
The actor and actress who played Ferris Bueller’s parents started filming while single. They left the set with their newly married! Cindy Pickett and Lyman Ward, who played Ferris’ mother and father, met on set and fell madly in love. They could never have guessed this would come from just being cast in this film.
It seems that John Hughes is quite adept at setting people up! His films probably had romance being pumped out left and right on set, like an oxygen tank. These two seemed to be a perfect match both onscreen and in real life. They two got married not long after the movie was completed, and they now have two children together.
The Unplanned Speech
Ben Stein is a writer who knows his material. He was a speechwriter for Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. Stein also wrote as a columnist for The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. You might call him an expert in his craft. Stein had a cameo in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and he crushed it!
Stein gave a speech in front of the camera on supply-side economics after Hughes told him to pick a topic and talk about it. He wanted his expertise, and he needed him to select something he knew a ton about. His lecture made the student extras laugh so hard that they decided to put him on camera, acting as a teacher in the film.
The Cure’s Song
Robert Smith from the legendary band The Cure wrote an original song for the museum scene of the movie. The world will never know what this song sounded like because it was never used. A falling out between the director and music supervisor ended in less than favorable conditions.
Director John Hughes and music supervisor David Anderle got into some significant disagreements, and Hughes effectively removed Anderle from the project. When Anderle was kicked off, he took all of his musical choices along with him, including Smith’s original instrumental number.
Shake It Up, Baby
John Hughes didn’t quite have feuds, but he did get into tiffs here and there. The legendary parade scene (don’t worry, we will get to it!) featured a performance by Ferris in which he performs the classic ditty, “Twist and Shout.” One of the Beatles commented on how he didn’t think that the movie served the song well.
That’s right. John Hughes reportedly tiffed with iconic musician Paul McCartney about the song’s portrayal in the film. The ex-Beatle complained about the movie version, saying that the song had “too much brass in it.” Hey man, your music is being celebrated – try at least pretending to be flattered!
Charlie Sheen, Method Actor
Unlike his brother Emilio, Charlie Sheen jumped at the opportunity to act in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Charlie Sheen reportedly did not sleep for two whole days to try and seem as on edge as he possibly could. He played a character named Garth Volbeck, and he played it quite well.
Garth Volbeck sat at the police station as Jeanie, Ferris’s sister, waited to be released. He talked with her about how she wore too much makeup, and she told him to do things to himself of an intimate nature. He looked as strung out as they get, and he made her stress out even more.
Reprising His Role
On an episode of the sitcom The Goldbergs, Sheen reprised his role as the creepy man starts asking Erica Goldberg questions. She was at the police office to report a stolen car, though the police found it rather suspicious that it was already reported as missing. This episode mirrors Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, nearly frame-for-frame.
True to form, Charlie Sheen reprised his role and sat next to Erica Goldberg, asking just one question: “drugs?” She replied, “oh, no thanks.” He told her he wanted to know if she was in there for drugs because he was. His conversation with Erica Goldberg mirrors the same one he had with Jeanie Bueller years before.
Ode to Ferris
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is an iconic movie that just about anyone will know. Other TV shows and movies often try to honor the film in their way. There have been numerous dedications to this fantastic film in pop culture; it’s hard to select just one. Everyone loves Ferris!
Some nods to this classic movie include a shower mohawk by Emma Stone, a ska band named “Save Ferris,” and most certainly, an entire episode of ABC’s The Goldbergs. Writer Adam F. Goldberg loved the movie so much that he had a full episode that played out like the movie. Barry Goldberg, played by Troy Gentile, spent his day off just like Ferris did.
Barry Goldberg’s Day Off
When I say this is the work of a superfan, I mean it. This entire episode matches the movie, nearly frame for frame. Troy Gentile’s Barry Goldberg goes through all the steps – he has the outfit, he’s got the girl, and now all he needs is an adventure to match Ferris’s day off.
Barry Goldberg manages to have quite the day off. He gives testimonials in the same way, plays hooky, and even crashes a parade. He reprised “Twist and Shout” at his school’s homecoming as an ode to his girlfriend Lainey, who was voted homecoming queen.
World of Hypochondriacs
Without Alan Ruck’s character Cameron Frye, we might not know much about hypochondriacs. Hypochondriacs have an illness anxiety disorder, which is basically health anxiety – worrying excessively that you have an illness, even if you show no symptoms.
Cameron is Ferris’s best friend, who is incredibly uptight. He’s also a hypochondriac, so it might have been a word that we would have never learned if it hadn’t been portrayed in modern media. It’s good to use platforms like movies and television shows to shed light on issues that plague people worldwide.
Even though he played a character who lived in the Chicago area, Cameron sported a Detroit Red Wings jersey. Why on earth would someone who lives in Chicago wear a jersey from a team in a different city, in a different state? This is one of John Hughes’ personal favorites!
John Hughes lived in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, for the first 12 years of his life. As a result, he became a massive fan of the local team. Cameron wears the Detroit jersey to honor his first home and a near and dear team to his heart. Always remember your roots!
The Iconic Ferrari
Ferris and his friends borrowed a vehicle from Cameron’s dad to cruise around town and get into some ridiculous shenanigans. The most surprising part isn’t that they wanted to drive a nice car, but rather that this “Ferrari” wasn’t even real! At least the actual vehicle wasn’t, that is.
The vehicle used wasn’t the real thing, unfortunately. Instead of a real Ferrari, they used three replicas of a Ferrari 250GT California Spyder manufactured by Modena. Even though those vehicles weren’t actual, one of them still sold for $235,000 at auction in 2013.
Like true Chicago natives, Ferris, Cameron, and Sloane made their way to Wrigley Field to catch a game of baseball, played by their favorite team, the Chicago Cubs. The scene depicted in the film is from a game played between the Montreal Expos (now the Washington Nationals) and the Chicago Cubs, played on September 24th, 1985.
In a token scene from the film, vice-principal Rooney is sitting in a pizza place when he sees the game broadcast, and he spots Ferris and his friends at the stadium instead of at school. The game on TV is a different game – it was the Braves and Cubs afternoon game on June 5th, 1985. The Braves and Expos had similar jerseys for their away games that season, so producers thought it could work.
Painful Early Screening
In one of the film’s first screenings, Matthew Broderick, Mia Sara, and Alan Ruck did not like what they saw. In fact, they didn’t laugh once! They walked out of their first screening, concerned that they had made a horrible movie. Paramount executives were equally displeased with what they saw.
So, Hughes and editor Paul Hirsch spent the following two weeks chopping the film up and adding/removing parts where and when possible. This brought them to create the movie that we know and love today! Good thing they made those changes!
Making the Parade Scene
Filming the iconic parade scene in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was no walk in the park, but it wasn’t too difficult to arrange, either. They filmed this scene over two Saturdays, the first of which had an actual parade for the cast and crew to utilize. This allowed for John Hughes to establish authenticity.
Keep in mind; they didn’t just hijack a parade and find their way onto any old float. They used their own and just happened to be able to slip it into the actual parade. No one in the crowd quite knew what they were looking at, but they seemed to enjoy the show!
Too Many Extras
While I believe there’s always some occasion for a parade, it isn’t a surprise that they would not be able to just jump in again to another pre-existing parade. They had to film this scene a week after the original festivities, and they needed to have a few extras involved.
To ensure that everything was as authentic as possible, the filmmakers asked local radio stations to advertise their need for extras for a John Hughes movie. Their turnout was everything they’d hoped for and more, and it gave the performers the energy they needed to make the production authentic.
10,000 Too Many
“For the final shot, I turned around and saw a river of people. I put my hands up at the end of the number and heard this huge roar… I can understand how rock stars feel. That kind of reaction feeds you,” Broderick recalled. I could not imagine being in a role like his – it must have been an energizing feeling.
Among those 10,000 were a series of window washers, construction workers, and other average people who just so happened to be in the area, caught on camera jamming out. These were not hired extras, but rather people who were going about their everyday lives and just generally enjoying themselves.
Just in case they didn’t get the rights to “Twist and Shout,” they had more options under consideration. The rights to this classic Beatles lyric at the time cost $100,000! It was typically unusual for any music by the Beatles to appear in a movie unless the film was created by or focused on the band themselves.
Negotiations for the song with EMI went as slow as a snail. The music supervisor, Tarquin Gotch, had to look into backups just in case that didn’t work out for them. John Hughes and his passion for the band pushed them to work as hard as possible to get the rights to this song.
Getting the Rights
“John [Hughes] was a huge Beatles fan – huge! But it was a nightmare getting permission for this song. At the time, there was this snobbish attitude from big bands who didn’t like to license their songs. So, “I was lining up alternatives, other songs by English groups from that era who weren’t the Beatles: Herman’s Hermits, the Searchers – somebody who you knew the money would work,” stated Tarquin Gotch.
Honestly, though – it is so hard to imagine any other song in this movie. It is one of the most iconic moments in cinematic history, and it honestly makes me want to play hooky from work and throw myself into the center of a parade… but maybe that’s just me!
Matthew Broderick Got Hurt
Ferris Bueller got hurt while filming a scene where he ran through his neighbors’ backyards to avoid getting caught for having his big day out. While he was running, he twisted his knee and could not perform many of his choreographed moves for the famous parade performance.
He recalled later, “I was pretty sore. I got well enough to do what you see in the parade there, but I couldn’t do most of [choreographer] Kenny Ortega’s knee spins and things like that.” Ferris had us all fooled because you really cannot tell in his performance!
The Von Steuben Day Parade
The actual parade shown in the movie was the annual Von Steuben Day parade. Von Steuben day is a German American holiday, which honors Baron Friedrich von Steuben. He was a Prussian general who assisted George Washington during the Revolutionary War on multiple occasions. Von Steuben helped train the American troops and led them to victory.
John Hughes wanted the iconic scene to appear rather spontaneous. There was a ton of choreography that he had axed for authenticity purposes. This film was filled with hidden moments that you might never expect. It was great to have such a specific parade, but it was also great to have the experience seem entirely on the fly!
Kenny Ortega’s Dance Moves
Kenny Ortega, responsible for much of the choreography in Dirty Dancing, is credited with giving Matthew Broderick the fantastic dance moves he graced our screens with. Not only was Ortega choreographing, but he was also trying his hand at directing for the first time! It sounds like this guy is multi-talented.
“Matthew Broderick had a lot of pressure on his shoulders, but we made it work.” Despite stressors and his injury, Broderick executed the scenes like the champion that he is. Ortega directed some other significant films – Hocus Pocus and High School Musical, to name a few!
Chicago Honored the Film
In 2016, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off turned 30 years old! So much of the movie was filmed in Chicago, mainly because the film takes place in a fictional suburb of the city. The city of Chicago decided to honor the movie’s anniversary, and they hosted the official Ferris Festival, offering tours of filming locations.
They also hosted special screenings during this whole three-day weekend festival in May 2016. They also honored the parade itself with a complete re-creation of the iconic parade. It would have been fantastic if Matthew Broderick had made a guest appearance, though it didn’t seem that happened!
Where Is Matthew Broderick Now?
Matthew Broderick has managed to have a whole and hopefully fulfilling career. He has made a name for himself in several different projects, acting as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday Night Live, a series of episodes for Netflix’s series Daybreak, and lending his voice to Rick & Morty for an episode or two.
He has had a bustling career since his time as Ferris came to an end. He is often known for his roles in The Producers, WarGames, The Cable Guy, and even Project X. He is now married to the lovely Sarah Jessica Parker. The two superstars have been married since a surprise ceremony in 1997.
Alan Ruck in Modern Day
After playing the trusty sidekick, Alan Ruck finally managed to pull himself away from his job at a Sears warehouse and break back into the acting world. He has appeared in so many other films, like Cheaper by the Dozen with Steve Martin, Twister, The Bronx Is Burning, and I Love You, Beth Cooper.
Now, he is one of the many stars in HBO’s Succession. He plays a member of the lucky sperm club, a child born into a family of wealth and power, though he didn’t do anything to get himself there. He plays someone who keeps trying to do something unique to help his family, though he often falls short. He kills it in his role!
Mia Sara Moved On
Mia Sara didn’t end up doing a lot after playing Sloane Peterson, but she did have other vital roles. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was only her third acting gig ever, so naturally, she wanted to try and get into as many projects as she possibly could. Who could blame her, right?
She had critical roles in Black Day Blue Night, The Set-Up, A Stranger Among Us, and Birds of Prey as Dr. Harleen Quinzel/Harley Quinn. She has since taken a step back from acting and has worked as a writer, hosting her column with PANK. Good for you, Mia! Gotta make that paper!