This weekend, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off turns 31. Written and directed by John Hughes, this certified classic is a paean to the monotony of high school, a revenge fantasy and an uplifting story of friendship and true love, all rolled into one hilarious neat little package. One of the most beloved teen movies of all time, it inspired an entire generation to embrace the moment. Or as Ferris so eloquently observed: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while you could miss it." In its honor, here are 11 things you might not know about the cinematic masterpiece…
1. Ferris Laments Getting a Computer Instead of a Car, But He Could Have Traded in His Synthesizer for a Nice Ride: One of the most memorable lines uttered by Ferris is “I asked for a car, I got a computer.” However, the synthesizer that he uses to simulate his realistic-sounding coughs is an E-MU Emulator II, which at the time went for around $8,000. That’s equivalent to over $17,000 in today’s dollars.
2. Ferris Hacking into the School Computer Is a Sly Nod to War Games: In order to protect himself from having to repeat his senior year, Ferris hacks into the school’s computer system and reduces his absences from 9 to 2. This scene recalls the earlier Matthew Broderick movie War Games, in which his character hacks into a military supercomputer and almost unwittingly starts World War III.
3. Ferris Originally Funded the Day by Stealing Some Saving Bonds from his Father’s Closet: Did you ever wonder how a teenager could afford to take his girlfriend and best friend to a Cubs game and a fancy restaurant where even the sausage king of Chicago, Abe Froman, needed a reservation? In the original draft of the script, Ferris tricked his dad into revealing where some savings bonds were hidden, and spent the resulting dough on the gang’s adventure. Hughes decided to take this detail out—a wise decision, as it could have greatly diminished Ferris’ likability.
4. Simone from the Infamous “Bueller, Bueller...” Scene Went on to Play Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Remember when Ben Stein takes roll before a class of glazed-eyed teenagers? What about the bubbly Simone who gives her memorable explanation, beginning with "um, he’s sick" and ending with "I guess it’s pretty serious?" She’s played by Kristy Swanson, who went on to star in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Program and Higher Learning, among other things.
5. Cameron’s Father’s Pride and Joy, The 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California, Was Actually Three Different Replicas: This actual car would have cost upwards of $300,000 to crash through the back of Cameron’s garage. That’s a lot to spend for one scene in a film with a budget of less than 6 million dollars. In fact, actual 1961 Ferrari 250 GTs have recently fetched over 17 million dollars on the auction block.
6. The Painting That Cameron Appears to be Infatuated With Is “A Sunday Afternoon On The Island Of La Grande Jatte” by Georges Seurat: One of the more emotional parts of the movie is in the art museum where Cameron is transfixed by a painting. According to Hughes, this was a very self-indulgent scene as it was shot within the Chicago Art Institute, which was often a place of refuge for the famed director when he was in high school. Incidentally, Cameron wears the jersey of hockey legend Gordie Howe, who passed away today—Hughes grew up in Michigan a Detroit Red Wings fan.
7. Molly Ringwald Wanted the Part of Ferris’ Girlfriend: Molly Ringwald had expressed interest in playing Ferris’ girlfriend, Sloane Peterson, but was told the part was too small for her. Hughes cast Mia Sara instead, in large part because of her elegant demeanor. Sara only had one film credit prior to being cast. The previous year she had starred alongside Tom Cruise in Legend, the dark fantasy film directed by Ridley Scott.
8. Charlie Sheen Got His Part After a Recommendation from Jennifer Grey and Was Not On Drugs: Charlie Sheen has a small but memorable turn in the film as the delinquent whose encounter with Ferris’ sister Jeannie makes her awkwardly giddy in the police station. Jennifer Grey actually recommended Sheen for the part after they worked together on 1984’s Red Dawn. Also, Sheen was not actually high in the scene. He had stayed awake for two days in order for his character to appear strung-out.
9. Mr. Rooney’s Epic Fail Is Punctuated by a Popular Video Game: At one point in his pursuit of Ferris, Principal Ed Rooney sees someone from behind in a pizza parlor with a similar build and haircut to Bueller. Rooney, thinking he has Ferris cornered proclaims, “Les jeux sont faits. Translation: The game is up. Your ass is mine.” Unfortunately for Rooney, it’s not Ferris, but a teenage girl who’s also probably skipping school. The girl justifiably spits Pepsi on him. The accompanying sound effect is the noise Pac-Man makes when Pac-Man dies.
10. There Was a Spinoff TV series on NBC in 1990 in Which Jennifer Aniston Played Jeannie: Alas, Ferris Bueller was cancelled after just 13 episodes. Ironically, it just couldn’t compete with a Fox show that was essentially a Ferris ripoff, Parker Lewis Can’t Lose, which aired for three full seasons.
11. John Hughes Wrote the Script in Six Days and the Movie Is His Love Letter to the City of Chicago: Amazingly, it took John Hughes just six days to write the first draft. And as the (now dearly departed) director observed: “This is the first chance I’d really had to get outside while making a movie. Up to this point, the pictures had been pretty small. I really wanted to capture as much of Chicago as I could, not just the architecture and the landscape, but the spirit.” Mission accomplished, sir!