The sixth member of the Breakfast Club

The Breakfast Club has always held a deep place in my life, as it did for many people growing up. Over the years, as an angsty teenager, I found myself connecting with each of the five members of Shermer High School in different ways at different points. Sure, we all wanted to look and act like John Bender, for better or worse, or hide in plain sight like Allison Reynolds, but we also long to be the coolest person in the room like Claire Standish. It seems obvious now, as an adult, that this was the intention of The Breakfast Club writer-director John Hughes: to tell the story of angsty teens in as authentic and chaotic a way as possible. But also, the image served as a biography; therapy, even. Amends for his years of troubled youth.

Buy The Breakfast Club on Criterion Collection Blu-ray now.

The Breakfast Club has just joined The Criterion Collection, the film distribution company that focuses on licensing, restoring and releasing “major classic and contemporary films.” Honestly, it’s a little surprising that the film hasn’t already been picked up by the New York-based company… but better late than never, right?

In addition to a 4K digital restoration, The Breakfast Club’s Criterion Collection entry includes new interviews with Claire and Allison stars Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy. In it, they lyrical about his mentor and friend, Hughes, who died of a heart attack on August 6, 2009.

Described as “the bard of American youth,” Hughes wrote and directed incredibly memorable films like Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Home Alone, Weird Science, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Curly Sue… the list go and go. But The Breakfast Club has long been considered the project he poured most of his heart and soul into; another reason why it is the first of Hughes’s images to be included in the Collection. And the cast seemed to know this while filming it in 1984.

Buy The Breakfast Club on Criterion Collection Blu-ray now.

In new Criterion interviews, Sheedy and Ringwald began to reminisce about their time on the set of The Breakfast Club, but they both quickly, independently, began talking about Hughes and his art. They casually dropped quotes and anecdotes about how he brought in scripts for the entire cast to review and change, to leave their nuanced marks on. He encouraged Ringwald, Sheedy, Judd Nelson, Emilio Estevez and Anthony Michael to explore his creativity and drastically change the film to expand its authenticity.

Sheedy reflected, “He was very connected to himself at the time. He wrote that movie about himself. I think he was every character in that movie, to some degree.”

In fact, Ringwald believed that Hughes had had drastic experiences at school. In a way, The Breakfast Club could have been his way of rewriting his own history. “It’s my theory that he had a bit of post-traumatic stress disorder from those years,” Ringwald said. “I think they were painful for him. There’s something about those years that, I think, stuck very vividly in his mind… John remembered so much.”

As a result, Sheedy was reminded of how he wanted to make this the cast’s story, even though he had written the film about himself. He once sat down with Hughes to discuss music before David Bowie invariably appeared. He showed Hughes the star’s 1972 song Changes, which included the lyrics: “And these kids you spit on / As they try to change their worlds / They’re immune to your inquiries / They’re well aware of what they’re going through.”

Hughes casually replied, “I love it.” Imagine her surprise when the final cut of The Breakfast Club began with the Bowie lyrics she had originally pointed out to her, breaking the glass and kicking off the movie. He had done the paperwork behind the scenes to get the song’s lyrics onto the big screen, all thanks to her and her love for the Ziggy Stardust singer.

Ringwald later smiled in the interview: “I always like to say that John was like the sixth member of The Breakfast Club. He really was one of us.” Similarly, he recalled how Hughes was “valiantly collaborative as he worked with them” on set. He added that he “loved when people improvised and added things.” He wanted his opinion because he wanted The Breakfast Club to be as relatable as possible to that generation of kids. But it started with him.

Even during filming, he was at the feet of the actors at all times, Sheedy said. “She sat on an apple crate right under the camera lens. There was no video playback at the time, but there wouldn’t have been [used] I would have done it right there with my head in my hands, smiling anyway.”

No wonder both actors called their time filming The Breakfast Club “the best acting experiences they’ve ever had.”

The Breakfast Club is now available on Criterion Collection Blu-ray. buy it here

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