The 'Brat Pack' Grows Up, But Doesn't Grow Old Twenty years have passed, and many of the actors who played the angsty adolescents in John Hughes' classic coming-of-age films now have teens of their own. Actress Ally Sheedy, director Howard Deutch and author Susannah Gora talk about why Hughes' films still resonate with new generations of teens.
NPR logo

The 'Brat Pack' Grows Up, But Doesn't Grow Old

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
The 'Brat Pack' Grows Up, But Doesn't Grow Old

The 'Brat Pack' Grows Up, But Doesn't Grow Old

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

(Soundbite of song, "Dont You Forget About Me")


My parents are so boring. They tell me not to do drugs while they gulp martinis. Nobody understands me. I dont feel like I fit in anywhere.

Must be the 1980s. Must be life among young men and women who are coming of age.

(Soundbite of song, "Dont You Forget About Me")

SIMPLE MINDS (Music Group): (Singing) Won't you come see about me? I'll be alone, dancing you know it, baby. Tell me your troubles and doubts. Giving me...

SIMON: "The Breakfast Club," "Some Kind of Wonderful," "Pretty in Pink" were all just some of the films of the 1980s that seemed to express the angst, anger and anxiety of a new generation that grew up after Woodstock and before YouTube. There was a group of actors used to pop up in one or more of those films from "The Breakfast Club" to "St. Elmo's Fire." They became known as the Brat Pack. One of the filmmakers who defined that era was John Hughes who died last year at the age of 59. Just 59. Maybe it's true what one of his characters said: When you grow up your heart dies.

We're joined now from New York by Susannah Gora. Her new book is "You Couldn't Ignore Me If You Tried: The Brat Pack, John Hughes, and Their Impact On a Generation."

Thanks so much for being with us.

Ms. SUSANNAH GORA (Author): Thanks for having me.

SIMON: And alongside her in New York is the actor who uttered that line when she played Allison Reynolds in "The Breakfast Club," Ally Sheedy. She's also in "St. Elmo's Fire," she does TV series today and dazzled critics a few years ago in the independent film, "High Art."

Ally Sheedy, thanks so much for being with us.

Ms. ALLY SHEEDY (Actor): Hi. Thanks for having me on the show.

SIMON: And out in Studio City California, we're joined by Howard Deutch. He directed two of John Hughes' films, including "Pretty in Pink," and "Some Kind of Wonderful."

Mr. Deutch, thank you very much for being with us.

Mr. HOWARD DEUTCH (Director): Thank you.

SIMON: Susannah Gora, that term Brat Pack, where did it come from?

Ms. GORA: It actually came from a New York magazine cover story that was written by a journalist named David Blum. He originally was just going to do an article, a small inside piece about Emilio Estevez, and so in the course of doing this piece, he started seeing a story that was more than just about Emilio Estevez, but was about this group of hot young actors in Hollywood. And he had the phrase, just kind of came into his head, the Brat Pack, a riff, of course, on the Rat Pack with Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr.

And the phrase Brat Pack today, I do think has a kind of romantic, cool tone to it because in time, the phrase has become an indelible part of pop culture history. But we have to remember that back then, when it first came out and so many of these actors were stuck with that label, it was kind of painful and difficult thing to deal with both personally and professionally.

SIMON: So Ally Sheedy, deal with it please.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Did it feel romantic and cool at the time or something else?

Ms. SHEEDY: I did feel a romantic kind of cloud with these other actors. We're this really cool family. You know, I'm finally popular with these guys. I was not popular in high school. I have some real friends. And we get to work and all of it was, I was just blissfully happy and I really do love those people. Then when the article came out, it was really I was - we all were somewhat blindsided.

I didnt enough at that point to know that sometimes things go in cycles and that you can do really well and then they'll be a kind of a whip around. I'm not going to say backlash because it's not really right. But it's just things will turn and then they go down and then they can come up again. And I didnt have that kind of - I wasnt old enough to actually understand that, so when it happened, I felt like this is the end. There were shockwaves and people stopped hanging out together and it had a huge impact.

SIMON: Howard Deutch, Molly Ringwald wrote just the nicest recollection of John Hughes when alas, he died last year. Did they have a special kind of creative chemistry?

Mr. DEUTCH: No doubt. John saw in Molly, you know, the perfect actress. But "Pretty in Pink" in particular.

(Soundbite of movie, "Pretty in Prink")

Ms. MOLLY RINGWALD (Actor): (as Andie Walsh) So what am I supposed to do? He asked me out and I like him. If I hate him because he's got money - just listen to me. If I hate him because he's got money, that's the exact same thing as them hating us because we dont. Do you understand?

Mr. DEUTCH: The studio wanted us to audition or interview other actresses and I never ever really could imagine anyone else. But yes, Molly and John had special chemistry.

SIMON: Do I have this right? It seems to me I've read that she was the one who introduced him to some of the British rock groups like Simple Minds and Psychedelic Furs that wound up having such significant roles in his films.

Ms. GORA: I dont think that's actually quite right. I think what it was was he was always a major music head. I mean even as a teenager he loved the Beatles, and as a grown man, he always wrote scripts with music playing, and he often came up with the idea for a film soundtrack before he even wrote the script. So I think I dont know that so much she was introducing him to those bands because he was so plugged into that British New Wave scene.

SIMON: Mm-hmm.

Ms. GORA: But I think it was more they had a shared passion for music.

(Soundbite of song, "Pretty in Pink")

PSYCHEDELIC FURS (Music Group): (Singing) Caroline laughs and it's raining all day. She loves to be one of the girls. She lives in the place in the side of our lives where nothing is ever put straight.

Ms. GORA: And it's also "Pretty in Pink" movie lure that she introduced him to the song "Pretty in Pink" by the Psychedelic Furs. And I asked her about that and she said she couldnt imagine that he wouldnt have known about that song. But she said that perhaps her love of the song helped him kind of listen to the song in a new way.

(Soundbite of song, "Pretty in Pink")

PSYCHEDELIC FURS: (Singing) Pretty in pink. Isn't she? Pretty in pink.

SIMON: We're speaking now with Susannah Gora, Ally Sheedy and director Howard Deutch about the Brat Pack and the life and work of principally about the life and work of the late John Hughes.

Howard Deutch, could you tell us about, I gather these writing frenzies he went into?

Mr. DEUTCH: Sure. Yeah. When he was doing rewrites on "Some Kind of Wonderful," Id go over to his house late at night and when he wrote and music blasting and he'd be chain-smoking and kind of that image and I'd usually fall asleep around one in the morning on the couch. One night, I woke up and he handed me 50 pages. And as I looked at it, it said on the title page: "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." So he had written in about six hours the first half of "Ferris Bueller's Day Off."

SIMON: Do you have any idea - boy, this has been a question over the past 25 years, why did John Hughes stop making films?

Mr. DEUTCH: You know I can only tell you that my personal experience is that he was not happy living in Los Angeles. And I think he also was tired of the criticism and the critiques of the films, which didnt always get - I mean there's revisionist history. In retrospect, a lot of these movies - we're discussing them now - are held up as iconic movies. At the time, a lot of reviewers did not like them.

SIMON: Mm-hmm.

Mr. DEUTCH: And he was sensitive about that.

SIMON: Susannah Gora?

Ms. GORA: Yes.

SIMON: I'm so glad Howard Deutch mentioned that critical - that we have a kind of rosy glow of the John Hughes films and era now, but there was plenty of criticism at the time. Why do you think his films have lasted and endured?

Ms. GORA: Well, he was smart enough to take teenagers and their problems seriously. Like Molly Ringwald's character in "Pretty in Pink," I always had the feeling her after-school job at the record store helped keep food on the table in her house. So he really understood that in order to connect with teenagers you got to have a lot of drama and lot of melodrama. And he was smart enough to know who's more dramatic than teenagers?

(Soundbite of movie, "Pretty in Pink")

Ms. RINGWALD: (as Andie Walsh) Why can't you just forget her?

Mr. HARRY DEAN STANTON (Actor): (as Jack Walsh) It's late. You got school.

Ms. RINGWALD: (as Andie Walsh) No, dont walk out on this. Will you please just listen to me? Please?

Mr. STANTON: (as Jack Walsh) I've already been through this, Andie.

Ms. RINGWALD: (as Andie Walsh) Sure. You go through this every day. Youre still going through it. Why can't you just realize that she's gone and she's not going to come back?

SIMON: Ally Sheedy?

Ms. SHEEDY: Mm-hmm.

SIMON: May I ask, is it hard for a Brat Packer to grow up?

Ms. SHEEDY: Yes and no. It's a mixed bag. One of the things that I guess has happened because of "Breakfast Club" being so loved and as it turns out, not seeming to be dated, somewhat timeless, and I only know that because my daughter's 16 and the kids in high school are watching "The Breakfast Club," which I find kind of crazy.

And not a day goes by, I have to tell you, where I dont hear somebody come up to tell me that they were Allison in "The Breakfast Club." Literally not a single day. These are people who run the spectrum in race and even sex. There are a lot of guys who come up to me and tell me they were Allison, and maybe because its New York. I dont know. But, you know...

SIMON: I was going to gently suggest that. But yes.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. SHEEDY: But its great. I mean that's - forgive me for sounding too sugary, but it's - there's a blessing like thing going on there.

SIMON: Yeah.

Ms. SHEEDY: I mean I - its something that's just kept going and kept going and I'm really grateful for that. And I think not as difficult for me these days because it's just, enough time has passed. I'm in my 40s. It doesnt really matter. But for a while there in my 30s it was tough because I was still identified with that one role.

SIMON: Howard Deutch, and or Susannah, anybody, do you think there're more John Hughes writings or even films to come?

Mr. DEUTCH: I can jump in and answer that, Scott, because I was privileged to go to the funeral. And after the funeral Nancy Hughes, they had invited me back to their house and John Hughes Jr. asked me to come into the room - the writer's room where John had done a lot of his work in the last 10 years. And I got to tell you, there were diaries and journals and scripts and books piled up the ceiling. I'd never seen anything like it. He, as Ally said, never stopped writing. And so I think it's up to the family and what they want to do about that.

I mean for instance, John said to me years ago, we should do a Broadway play of "Pretty in Pink," and I - well, I never did anything with it, but the family's considering what they want to do. Mostly though, I think it's important to say that they mostly want to honor the writing and the integrity and the originality of John by not making those decisions based on anything but if it's the right thing for the particular project.

SIMON: At least a couple of you there have seemed to at one point or another know John Hughes' mind pretty well, what song do you think he'd like us to go out of in this interview?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. SHEEDY: "Changes," David Bowie.

SIMON: Oh, Ch-ch-ch-ch. Yeah.

Ms. SHEEDY: Yup.

SIMON: I think we can do that.

Mr. DEUTCH: Good choice.

Ms. SHEEDY: I think that's the one.

SIMON: Thanks so much. It's so wonderful talking to all of you. Thanks very much.

Mr. DEUTCH: Thank you, Scott.

Ms. SHEEDY: Thank you.

Ms. GORA: Thank you.

SIMON: Susannah Gora and Ally Sheedy joins us from New York. Ms. Gora's the author of "You Couldn't Ignore Me If You Tried: The Brat Pack, John Hughes, And Their Impact on a Generation." Howard Deutch joins us from his home in Studio City, California.

(Soundbite of song, "Changes")

Mr. DAVID BOWIE (Singer-songwriter): (Singing) Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes. Turn and face the strain. Ch-ch-changes. Don't want to be a richer man. Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes. Turn and face the strain. Ch-ch-changes. Just gonna have to be a different man. Time may change me, but I cant waste time.

SIMON: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.