The Breakfast Club’s Missing Script

Scene from Breakfast Club

Image courtesy of Universal Studios

The Breakfast Club’s Missing Script
| published April 22, 2015 |

By Thursday Review staff writers

While cleaning out file cabinets and purging old files at a high school in suburban Chicago, an assistant principal stumbled across a bit of Hollywood memorabilia on the 30th anniversary of a classic teen movie.

According to the Chicago Tribune, District 207 superintendent Ken Wallace said staff at the high school where the movie The Breakfast Club was filmed unearthed an original screenplay of the movie of the same name. The script is dated September 21, 1983, roughly 20 months prior to the film’s 1985 release.

The Breakfast Club, which starred Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, Ally Seedy, Emilio Estevez, and Judd Nelson, tells the story of five diverse students assigned to Saturday study hall and detention. The film was shot entirely in the converted gymnasium of that Chicago high school—a gym remade the summer of the principal shooting to look instead like a large library. According to school administration policy in the 1980s, any request for filming—television, movies, commercials, documentaries—required that the filmmaker or producers submit a screenplay or script in advance. Those scripts sometimes ended up in file cabinets on school properties.

The original version of the screenplay, which was written by director and producer John Hughes, reveals that early incarnations of the film were titled “The Saturday Breakfast Club,” and the Molly Ringwald’s character was named Cathy, not Claire. Other materials attached included statements and receipts showing that Universal Studios rented the school property for $48,000, along with proposals for temporary alterations to a few areas of the school.

The Breakfast Club came at the apex of John Hughes filmmaking career, and at the high point of 80s teen coming-of-age movies. Hughes also wrote and directed other huge hits from that era, including Sixteen Candles, which preceded The Breakfast Club and included some of the same actors and actresses (including Ringwald and Hall), and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, which starred Matthew Broderick, Mia Sara, and Jennifer Grey. Hughes also wrote the screenplays for Home Alone and Pretty in Pink. The Breakfast Club, which was shot on a relatively low budget—filmed almost entirely within the confines of the “library” at the school—nevertheless earned a whopping $50 million at a time when the casting of the five young stars insured a massive audience.

The plot was ingeniously simple: five teens, all from different social and economic backgrounds, and several of them socially outcast, are tossed together in detention for eight hours on a quiet Saturday, supervised only marginally by a bullying, uptight and rigid assistant principal (played by Paul Gleason) who spends most of his day in a small office across the hall. The film tells the story of how those five kids struggle with each other’s divergent and sometimes annoying personalities, eventually (and predictably) becoming friends by the end of the long, cathartic day.

Hughes ability to capture the moods and anxieties of the teen experience of the 1980s made him something of a legend, and it also made him a fortune. But Hughes largely kept his distance from Hollywood, preferring instead to live and work in his home state of Illinois—residing on an exurban farm and generally shooting his famous films in, and around, Chicago. Hughes other writing credits included National Lampoon’s Vacation and Planes, Trains & Automobiles. Hughes died young at the age of 59 after suffering a massive heart attack in New York City during a visit with family.

Related Thursday Review articles:

The Most Famous Voice of Saturday Night; R. Alan Clanton; Thursday Review; August 20, 2014.

31 Years Ago Today: When Sci-Fi Ruled the Earth; R. Alan Clanton; Thursday Review; June 10, 2014.