Remembering John Hughes

The first movie that I ever worked on was directed by John Hughes. (I actually worked on another, smaller film before that, but I call that one a mulligan and I don't count that.) Hughes made a movie called She's Having A Baby, starring Elizabeth McGovern and Kevin Bacon. It was shot in 1986.

By that time, Hughes had already established himself as a phenomenally successful writer-director. He had written, produced and/or directed Mr. Mom, various National Lampoon Vacation films, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Breakfast Club, Pretty In Pink, Planes, Trains And Automobiles, Some Kind Of Wonderful, and the Home Alone series. A generation of young, talented, charismatic and, in some cases, enduring film actors emerged from John's films. Hughes' name became synonymous with both comedies and dramas wherein teenage angst and the pain of finding and holding onto young love were primary. Hughes was a juggernaut. His films made a lot of money. He bristled at the intrusions of the studios he worked with. He left Hollywood and moved back to the Chicago area with his wife, who he had been with since high school. In the 90's he rewrote others' work under pseudonyms. The halcyon period of his career behind him, Hughes seemed to virtually disappear. Which is a shame, because Hughes was a great guy and a great director.

I think a director's job is to help actors (and all of the crew members) make the best possible choices they can and help them execute those choices. Hughes was a wonderful director to work with. Positive, generous, supportive, unassuming. Hughes told me that when he directed, he cast as critical an eye toward the material as if someone else had composed it. "Who wrote this shit?" he would joke when he felt he had hit some impasse in his scene work. On the set, Hughes did not conceal his enthusiasm about your work, as some directors automatically feel they must. I have worked on some comedy films where the director was the least funny person on the set. Hughes was funny.

Dry and with a twist of mid-western straightforwardness, Hughes always seemed capable of making a more adult, complicated film. In She's Having A Baby, for that matter, we shot a handful of scenes that seemed like a departure for Hughes from his more saccharine fare. But Hughes was working at the studios. He was in the potato chip business, movie-wise, and deviating from his highly successful formula seemed unlikely. The darker scenes of the film were cut.

I will always remember Kevin, who is clever and funny and dry, like John actually. I will always remember Liz McGovern, the incredibly beautiful, smart, kind and gifted actress with whom I was so excited to work. And I will always remember John Hughes, who, at that time in his career, had every actor in Hollywood available to him and gave me my first studio movie role. I have a real debt to John. I have worked with Tim Burton, Mike Nichols, Oliver Stone, Jonathan Demme, Rob Reiner, Michael Bay, in parts big and small. Working with John was one of the three best experiences I've had. I'm sorry he stopped making films and I am sorry he's gone.