Ferris Bueller's Day Off: 10 Behind-The-Scenes Facts About John Hughes' Iconic High School Movie

Matthew Broderick in Ferris Bueller's Day Off
(Image credit: Paramount)

A lot of hard work went into making a movie about one man struggling to take it easy. How else could you explain why Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is remembered today as one of best high school movies ever made — let alone one of the greatest movies from the 1980s in general?

Did you know, for instance, that two members of the Breakfast Club cast were apparently considered to play the title character and his best friend, Cameron Frye? Also, some of the most famous scenes from the 1986 comedy classic did not even come from legendary director John Hughes’ original script. If you care to learn the secrets behind those intriguing details and more, don’t just leave your cheese out in the wind, but take a look at these behind-the-scenes facts — starting with one about the lead of the Ferris Bueller’s Day Off cast, Matthew Broderick.

Matthew Broderick in Ferris Bueller's Day Off

(Image credit: Paramount)

Matthew Broderick’s Knee Injury Prevented Him From Dancing During The Parade Scene

The story of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off follows the charismatic titular troublemaker skipping school in favor of spending the day with his best friend, Cameron (Alan Ruck), and his girlfriend, Sloane Peterson (Mia Sara), in Chicago attending a Cubs game, observing an art museum, and even crashing the Von Steuben Day Parade. Speaking of that infectious scene, Ferris’ lip-synched serenade and the dance sequence that accompanies it did not quite go as planned.

In a making-of featurette included on the film’s “Bueller… Bueller…” Edition DVD release from 2005, Matthew Broderick reveals that he injured his knee while shooting Ferris’ climactic run home, which was already hard enough for him to do having undergone surgery years earlier. By the time they started shooting the parade sequence, Broderick’s knee was not in good enough shape for him to perform his own dance, which was choreographed by the future director of several successful musicals, Kenny Ortega.

Ferris Bueller's parade scene

(Image credit: Paramount)

EMI Records Was Unhappy With The Film’s Edited Version Of “Twist And Shout” 

On the bright side, Ferris Bueller never really needed to dance to steal the show at Chicago’s Von Steuben Day Parade, because he already did that well enough with his exceptional lip-synching of Wayne Newton’s “Danke Schoen,” and “Twist and Shout” by The Beatles. The way the Fab Four’s 1963 version of the oft-reworked hit single was used in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off proved to be a thorn in the side of the record label that originally released it: EMI.

The film’s music supervisor, Tarquin Gotch, recalled to Yahoo Movies in 2016 how it took $100,000 to get EMI execs' permission to use The Beatles' track for the parade scene, but they would later express their disapproval of how it was edited into the scene by adding a brass section. However, as Gotch adds, it would not make sense not to include horns in the background to help achieve its authentic, “live” feel.

Ferrari from Ferris Bueller

(Image credit: Paramount)

Three Fake Ferraris Were Built For Scenes Featuring Cameron’s Father’s Car

Another group of people whom Ferris Bueller’s Day Off pissed off were car enthusiasts, as Alan Ruck told Jimmy Kimmel in 2021 when talking about the iconic scene in which Cameron accidentally destroys his father’s 1961 Ferrari GT 250 California. However, not only did the actor assure Kimmel’s audience that the car was “crap” — faulty ignition once caused the crew to do multiple takes of the same scene — it was not even a real Ferrari anyway.

In the aforementioned DVD bonus features, Ruck talks about how renting the real car would have cost the studio an “astronomical” amount in insurance, even to just have it sit idle on the set. So, instead, three kit cars were built to resemble the Ferrari’s beautiful, classic design by placing a red-panted, fiberglass body over a Mustang Chassis. One car was made for the cast to use, another to perform stunts with (such as during the parking garage attendants’ joy ride), and one more to be “killed” by Cameron in the end.

Alan Ruck in Ferris Bueller's Day Off

(Image credit: Paramount)

An Unrevealed Plot Detail Explains Why Cameron Wears A Detroit Red Wings Jersey 

One thing about Cameron Frye that often leaves some Ferris Bueller fans confused is the fact that this Chicago native wears a Detroit Red Wings hockey jersey throughout the film. Well, Alan Ruck would later reveal in an interview with MEL (via CinemaBlend) the following explanation for that costume choice:

John [Hughes] had spent some of his boyhood in Detroit. [Hughes] had decided that Cameron had a horrible relationship with his father, but a great relationship with his grandfather, who lived in Detroit and would take Cameron to Red Wings games. That's all it was, and it was never explained in the movie.

It is in-depth character development such as this that made the late John Hughes one of the sharpest filmmakers of his time. I actually could have gone without ever discovering this interesting Easter Egg, but knowing that it exists without ever being in the final picture is satisfying.

Alan Ruck in Ferris Bueller's Day Off

(Image credit: Paramount)

Alan Ruck’s “Dad Voice” Was Based On He And Matthew Broderick’s Biloxi Blues Director 

There is also an interesting story behind the voice that Cameron Frye very convincingly dons when making a phone call to Principal Ed Rooney (Jeffrey Jones) as Sloane Peterson’s father. It turns out that the history of that unique vocal inflection dates back to when he and Ferris Bueller himself, Matthew Broderick, first met when they portrayed each other’s friends in a Broadway production of the Neil Simon-penned play, Biloxi Blues.

When interviewed for “Where Are They Now?” profile piece for Oprah.com, Alan Ruck revealed that the “Sloane’s Dad” voice was inspired by Broderick’s impersonation of their Biloxi Blues director, Gene Saks. Ruck did not reveal he was going to use the voice because he wanted to see his buddy’s reaction. Little did he know that it would actually make the final cut of the film.

The Breakfast Club cast

(Image credit: Universal)

Anthony Michael Hall And Emilio Estevez Were Offered To Play Ferris And Cameron

That unforgettably hilarious voice is just one of the many reasons why I am eternally grateful that Alan Ruck got the part of Cameron Frye. Not to mention, it is hard to imagine anyone else playing Ferris Bueller better than Matthew Broderick. However, things could have been much different had because of the other John Hughes movie veterans originally offered the roles.

While playing a game of “Celebrity True or False” with Rich Eisen, Alan Ruck revealed that Emilio Estevez turned down the chance to play Cameron and reunite with his The Breakfast Club director, in favor of starring in the cult sci-fi classic, Repo Man. He also adds that the original choice for Ferris was Anthony Michael Hall, but, knowing it would have been his fifth movie with Hughes after National Lampoon’s Vacation, Sixteen Candles, Weird Science, and the aforementioned Breakfast Club, he opted to try something new.

Jeffrey Jones and Edie McClurg in Ferris Bueller's Day Off

(Image credit: Paramount)

Rooney And Grace’s Frantic Shuffling Through His Office Was Almost Entirely Off Script

Shifting gears back to that funny prank call scene from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, what really sells it, in my opinion, is the Grade A reactions from Jeffrey Jones as Rooney and Edie McClurg as his “pinhead” assistant Grace. After becoming convinced it really is Sloane’s father on the other end, after Ferris calls the office himself, the pair engage in a manic dance around the school office trying to figure out where to find Mia Sara’s character.

Believe it or not, this hilarious scene was invented impromptu with no direct suggestions from the script. As Jones and McClurg revealed in the Ferris Bueller DVD’s making-of doc, John Hughes had told the actors that he wanted to create some chaotic action on camera, so they came up with this frantic shuffle and nearly everything else you see on screen (including Grace’s brief Rooney impersonation) off the top of their heads and in one take.

Edie McClurg in Ferris Bueller's Day Off

(Image credit: Paramount)

Edie McClurg Improvised Her Most Famous Line In Her Audition 

I imagine that John Hughes had a good feeling that he could trust Edie McClurg with putting out some good improv based on her audition for the role of Grace alone. It was then when the actor came up with her most oft-quoted line in the movie herself.

She reveals this during another DVD special feature profiling the Ferris Bueller’s Day Off cast, in which she recalls how the line, “They think he’s a righteous dude,” was not in Hughes’ original script. When reading for the part in a faux Chicago accent she also crafted, she said that the line would sound funny that way and uttered it on the spot. Much to her surprise, the quote would be immortalized in the final picture.

Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller's Day Off

(Image credit: Paramount)

Ben Stein’s Hilariously Dull Economics Lesson Was Completely Unscripted 

Iconic moments from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off that were bred from improvisation do not stop there. Who could forget Ben Stein’s breakout performance as a foghorn-voiced economics teacher who repeats a name until he hears a response when calling role, and gives an insufferably boring lesson on the Great Depression in one brilliant aside? Anyone? Anyone?

According to the aforementioned DVD doc about the cast, Stein’s character was initially never meant to be seen until he got such a good laugh out of the crew that John Hughes told him he would put him on camera and wanted him to improv an entire monologue on the spot based on a topic he knew well. After filming the entire sequence in one take, the entire crew applauded, making the actor happier than he had ever been in his life.

Ferris Bueller's kitchen

(Image credit: Paramount)

Ferris Bueller Originally Had Two Younger Siblings That Were Cut During Filming 

In addition to the many unscripted moments that made it into Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, there was one detail from the original script that did end up on the cutting room floor. We are all familiar with the fact that Ferris has an older sister named Jeanie Bueller, played by future Dirty Dancing cast member Jennifer Grey, but an alternate cut exists in which they had two younger siblings, too.

Cindy Picket — who played Ferris and Jeanie’s mother, Katie Bueller — mentioned this scrapped plot point when Josh Gad got the film’s cast back together over Zoom for his Covid-era YouTube series, Reunited Apart. She even points out that there is evidence of the younger brother and sisters’ one-time existence in the film. If you look close enough during one scene in the kitchen, you can see what appears to be drawings sketched by a Kindergartener displayed on the refrigerator.

I think it might have been the right call to cut the Buellers’ younger children out of the story, considering how well the rivalry between Ferris and Jeanie works on its own. On the other hand, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is about preserving one’s freedom to do what you want and be who you want to be while you are still young, so perhaps seeing the story from an even fresher set of eyes could have been interesting. I suppose we will never know for sure, but life already movies pretty fast, so that’s a lost chance I don’t think I will miss.

Jason Wiese
Content Writer

Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in almost any article about Batman.