Matthew Broderick says at one point John Hughes said his performance as Ferris Bueller was "boring."
Matthew Broderick has never embodied a character the way he did Ferris Bueller, which makes the revelation that director John Hughes thought he was “boring” even more surprising. IndieWire reports that Broderick spilled the tea about working with Hughes during his recent visit to the It Happened in Hollywood podcast.
The WarGames actor recalled that the late director wasn’t very “easygoing” on the set of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and was constantly nervous that the film “wouldn’t come out right.” Broderick recounted an early costume test where Alan Ruck, Jennifer Grey, Mia Sara and himself were made to walk around Chicago in their costumes as Hughes filmed them. “He said none of us were fun to watch,” Matthew Broderick admitted before adding that Hughes called them all “boring.”
The actor clarified that Hughes actually did like some of the young actor’s performances, but his was not one of them. Matthew claims that John Hughes accused him of not being “in it” and even described Broderick’s acting as “dead.” Broderick recalls pushing back at the director and telling him to “get somebody you like” if Hughes wasn’t satisfied with his version of Ferris Bueller.
Matthew Broderick wasn’t exactly a Hollywood newcomer when he was cast as Bueller. The actor had great success with the aforementioned WarGames in 1983—three years before Ferris Bueller—as well as 1985’s Ladyhawke. Butting heads with a director like John Hughes, however, was a new experience for Broderick.
The actor brought up another memory from his time working with John Hughes in which the director gave Matthew Broderick an odd compliment. Hughes came up to the young actor after one scene and told him he liked the way Broderick’s eyes “go wide, then smaller, then wide again,” which understandably made the actor self-conscious. When Broderick brought this up to the director, Hughes allegedly told him he just wouldn’t offer any direction whatsoever—a threat the director kept for a number of days.
It wasn’t until Matthew Broderick broke down and begged Hughes to direct him that the petty director finally relented. The Election star elaborated on the director’s particular moods stating that while Hughes wouldn’t get outwardly mad, the actor could tell based on his face and tone if he was unhappy. Broderick described Hughes’s disappointed look as “Dead-faced” and said that when the director was angry, he would refuse to give feedback on anything.
“He’d say ‘I don’t know,” Matthew Broderick said, recalling what would happen when he asked John how a take went. The actor remembers that was the sign that “Ok. John doesn’t like that.” “He took the work very seriously,” Broderick said when describing the late John Hughes.
Matthew Broderick did have one good thing to say about the director, that he didn’t “hold a grudge.” The actor also admitted that once Hughes was in a foul mood, he knew how to get himself out of it.
Despite any tension behind the scenes, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off ended up becoming one of the most memorable films of not just John Hughes’s directorial output but the ’80s in general. Today it’s remembered fondly, along with The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles, as one of the teen comedies of the decade, synonymous with the very word “Eighties.”