Anthony Michael Hall on how 'The Class' honors the legacy of 'The Breakfast Club'

Anthony Michael Hall spoke with Yahoo Entertainment's Ethan Alter about how Hall's new film, The Class, compares to and honors the legacy of his classic 1985 film, The Breakfast Club.

Video transcript


- Against my wishes, you've all been given a second chance. So if you blow it, you will all be in summer school.

ETHAN ALTER: So let's jump in talking about "The Class." Obviously it's inspired by "The Breakfast Club," as we know. Back then you were one of the rebellious kids, one of the members of The Breakfast Club. Here you're on the flip side, you're the authority figure. What was that transition like for you to be in that position?

ANTHONY MICHAEL HALL: Well, it was a lot of fun. You know, I couldn't help but think of my good friend, Paul Gleason. The late great Paul. And he was a great guy. He really had a great sense of humor. There was a little bit, a couple of little nods to him, you know. But one of the things that was great about working with John Hughes is that he would let us improv and he would let us come up with stuff and add things. So when I think back of Paul's contribution to "The Breakfast Club," he was great.

I mean, he was obviously the hard ass teacher at Vernon, but he had great moments of comedy and levity too. You mess with the bull, you get the horns. That kind of thing came from Paul. Little touches like that. So it's really fun.

And I think with "The Class," I mean, it took me really by surprise. This is a really talented writer, director out of Chicago named Nicky Celozzi. He wrote a great script. And we started talking about it two years ago and we decided to join forces and co-produce the film with our respective companies.

And he did a great job and as did our cast. We have a phenomenal young cast of actors that really fleshed out these roles. It's a re-imagining, it's not a remake of the film. So it's an all original script. But I think what he did beautifully is he took the structure of The Breakfast Club and what worked and created an all new story.

And so we have six kids this time. Debbie Gibson, who's awesome in the film and is a great lady. She plays the drama teacher. And she gives them their task on this retake of this exam that they have to come in for. The task is to present themselves with a character and kind of share some truths about their lives.

And so that's the setup for it. Then all the walls start coming down, you know? I think all the kids in the story itself it's really interesting. There's a lot of real world issues that really transcend to use a word you brought up, "The Breakfast Club," because look, there were some hard core cutting themes and issues in that film. But with "The Class" we take it really a step further.

And there's another thing too, there's an interesting character term for both Debbie and I. And I don't want to give away too much of the film. But I think by the end of "The Class" you realize that the kids have a powerful effect on him and Debbie's character and basically humanizes them both.

ETHAN ALTER: You mentioned Faulk undergoes an evolution during the course of film. It's interesting, there's one big scene with you and Debbie where he throws out words about safe space and we're coddling these kids and all that. So I wonder how you think that contributes to that debate, we're having that debate certainly in the educational system right now. How did you feel about that scene and how it speaks to what's happening in the real world?

ANTHONY MICHAEL HALL: That's a great point, Ethan. No, you really nailed it, because you're right. It's a different world for kids, for educators, for us so-called adults. And I think that's partly what contributes to it being a crazier world these days, right?

Like the rate of information, you know? The fact that everybody is on socials. The fact that the internet is just a reality that we deal with. It's the wild west, but it's a reality. But you're right, as it affects the educational system it's a different world there too.

ETHAN ALTER: When you compare the way you interacted with your "Breakfast Club" stars at the time versus the way they interacted now, what are the differences you see between your age and the new age?

ANTHONY MICHAEL HALL: Well, I joke about it. Because when we were doing "The Breakfast Club" all those years ago, I think were staying at a Hilton near O'Hare Airport, right? So it was like we'd go from this big box to the set, which was a high school. And they had built the library set in the gymnasium of a really nice high school that had been shut down in a really wealthy kind of section of Chicago in the suburbs.

But during the making of the film what's really funny, I think Emilio and Judd and [? Ali ?] were like in their early 20s. And they were playing teenagers. And then Molly and I were, of course, our age. So we would be like relegated to going back to the hotel to do homework. So it's really funny. And that's what I mean about this film.

In the truest sense of the word, they were really friends. They really bonded even more than we did. And we're still all friends from "The Breakfast Club." We all stay in touch, you know.

ETHAN ALTER: But speaking Molly Ringwald, she revisited a lot of her John Hughes movies in "The Breakfast Club" in a New Yorker piece that she wrote a few years ago. And she's sort of expressed some ambivalence about it now, sort of especially the way Bender treats Claire and some of the other things [INAUDIBLE] looking back now, are there things about the film that sort of land wrong with you? Are there scenes that you think, oh, this couldn't work now.

ANTHONY MICHAEL HALL: Right. Well in fairness to Molly, because I respect Molly greatly, I haven't read that article so it's not fair for me to comment, Ethan. But you know I do respect that perspective. I mean, I heard a little bit about it. I think some of those issues and things obviously have not aged well.

But in the spirit of the macro, I don't think it was ever John's intention to be offensive to people. Whether it's regarding ethnicity or sexuality or whatever. So I think that it requires some forgiveness, because over time some things age well and some things don't. And I think that there are some elements that are certainly questionable in those films without getting into the details. But I also think in the spirit of comedy and good humor what he was trying to do intentionally, I think it's worth appreciating the overall effect because really the joy that he trying to bring is more important I feel. And I also feel that there is a paradigm to John's work that I've had a long time to think about. That all of the characters despite, their awkwardness and their foibles and their vulnerabilities, they all kind of wind up a little better off than they started.

ETHAN ALTER: Watching again recently, I forgotten how powerful your moment is where Brian talks about bringing the gun to school.

- I'm here because Mr. Ryan found a gun in my locker.

- Why did you have a gun in your locker?

ETHAN ALTER: Now we're at a very different state where guns are coming to schools. And in your case, it's a flare gun. But still, that seemed really stuck out to me this time. What do you remember about delivering that monologue and getting that scene right in particular?

ANTHONY MICHAEL HALL: Again, the first thing I remember when you mentioned that, Ethan, is John with us. John, this is in the era before video village and before when you'd walk around a set everything's very lightweight these days, right? You have digital cameras, you have LED lights, everything you can pick up and move around. But back in the day in the early '80s there, like there was no video village.

So John would-- we'd have a monitor and he could work from that, but he often liked to sit right with us. So he was often right next to the camera. You'd see the camera operator, the focus puller, the first AC, and John. And he would sit there right with us.

So that's my first memory. In all those intense scenes when we're all battling and we're sitting in the back of the library, John would literally sit right there off camera and he would laugh through the take with you or cry through the take with you depending on the emotion of the scene. You know it was pretty intensive work in terms of filming a drama, you know. But at the same time, there was always joy at work because he was great. He was very flexible and very collaborative and really open to suggestions. And he was great.

ETHAN ALTER: The big question at the end of "The Breakfast Club" that's never really resolved is, do these kids become friends when they see each other on Monday? Is that a friendship that just-- what do you think all these years later? Do you think they did talk to each other again or was it just a moment in time and it never?

ANTHONY MICHAEL HALL: Well, again, another really interesting twist on John's part, right? He makes it-- he kind of opens it up at the end there and kind of leaves it to the audience to decide. I certainly would hope that they do, in both cases, you know? That the original group all the years ago that they would reunite and back each other up come Monday, you know? I would hope so. And the same kind of open-ended question is left with us here in this film. That's an interesting testament, you know. I like filmmakers who have the intelligence to present material and I leave it up to the audience. I certainly hope that they did stay friends, you know?