It's been 30 years since Ben Stein's dry, droning roll call in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," but that iconic line is still regularly quoted by fans of the cult classic. Remarkably, Stein says he didn't even consider himself an actor when he delivered that infamous scene. The former lawyer says he just happened to be in the right place at the right time.
"Talk about good luck," Stein tells "Oprah: Where Are They Now?" in the above clip. "One of the people I met when I was first out here, they said 'We're making a movie called "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" and we'd like you to read the roll off-camera.'"
Stein was game. "I showed up and I remember just waiting and waiting and waiting, they were running way behind," he recalls. "And I sat there in the director's trailer visiting with John Hughes, who was a super, super famous director, producer and writer of youth comedies. Then it came time for me to play my part and I did the reading of the roll off-camera, and the student extras just laughed their heads off. [They were] screaming with laughter."
Under John Hughes' direction, Stein read the roll again. The cast laughed even harder, Stein says. "[Hughes] said, 'Alright, I want you to do a scene – just make it up in your head, don't even tell it to me, in which you're teaching about some current economic event and some controversy.'"
His background in economics paid off, and his audition impressed more than just Hughes.
“When I was done with the scene, Matthew Broderick came up to me and said, ‘You’re really great. Have you done much Broadway?’ I said, ‘Well, I’m not an actor.’ He said, ‘You should be.’”
The role launched Stein's acting career and gave him instant fame. "It's been 30 years," Stein says. "Even now as I'm going through the Atlanta airport or the Denver airport, or any airport, everybody stops me and says, 'Say Bueller, say Bueller.'"
Stein wouldn't have it any other way. "I just walk by and say 'Bueller, Bueller.'" he deadpans. "It's fabulous."