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New book documents love of 1980s teen films by John Hughes

"Sweets, you couldn't ignore me if you tried" is more than a heavy-handed kicker by Judd Nelson from 1985's The Breakfast Club.

It's also part of the title of a new book by former Premiere magazine associate editor Susannah Gora, who faithfully documents the golden age of teen movies from John Hughes' directorial debut in Sixteen Candles to Cameron Crowe's decade-ending Say Anything.

Gora recently spoke with the Times about her new book and her attachment to the decade.

You're 32 years old, so I'm guessing you caught the '80s bug a little late.

When these movies came out, I was really too young to see them in theaters. So I really fell in love with them on VHS. The first one of them I saw was The Breakfast Club, when I was in eighth grade.

What affect did it have on you?

It really stuck with me. And it really affected how I actually lived my life in high school. I really did made a conscious effort to become friends from all different cliques, because I saw in the Breakfast Club how rewarding those connections could be.

Your book relies a lot on interviews with the actors who appeared in the movies. Who was the toughest interview to get?

It definitely did take me a long time to get Molly Ringwald to let me interview her. She is someone who generally doesn't talk about these movies. It took me almost a year trying to get to her through common friends and publicists.

I always hear that John Cusack's a challenge to get talking about his '80s work.

I found him to be wonderful. He and I had a really long, interesting conversation about the making of Say Anything. He told me all sorts of stories about every element of production, including, of course, the famous boom box scene where his character, Lloyd Dobler, serenades Ione Skye outside her bedroom and plays In Your Eyes.

Give us a good scoop!

For one thing, John Cusack didn't really want do it with the boom box above his head. He wanted to film it with the boom box on the hood of his car. He felt that it was giving Ione's character too much if he held it over his head. … Finally, the last shot on the last day of filming Say Anything was this shot — of John Cusack holding the boom box above his head. And gosh, it's such an incredible moment in modern cinema history.

How do you a label Breakfast Club as a movie? John Hughes' best movie? His most significant film? Most enduring film?

All of the above! In my opinion, it is his best film. In my opinion, it will forever be considered one of the best films about young people. If it's second to anything, it would only be second to Rebel Without a Cause. It's a permanent part of our youth culture now.

Was Hughes still alive when you began writing your book?

Oh, definitely. I started writing the book in 2007.

Had you tried to contact him for the book?

Yes, I tried very hard to interview him. I had people who knew him and believed in me reach out to him. … I do think I do a good job of putting his essence and spirit into my book.

Do you remember where you were when you heard he'd died?

I was actually with my family. I will never forget for as long as I live what it felt like to see on the television the words scrolling by: "John Hughes, filmmaker, dead at 59." My world had been rocked. … I cried. I was sobbing. It was a lot to take.

If you could have asked him just two questions, what would they have been?

(Long pause) I think I would have asked him — it sounds like a simple question — what was it about teenage that he felt personally so connected to, that he chose well into his adult life to keep making films about? … I'd love to hear in his own words, memories from eighth grade or ninth grade that made that moment in life something he'd never forget. And I'd love to know from him exactly why he left Hollywood and why did he stop.

Steve Spears is the host of the Stuck in the '80s blog and podcast. Read more at

"You Couldn't Ignore Me If You Tried: The Brat Pack, John Hughes and Their Impact on a Generation"

By Susannah Gora

Crown Publishing

New book documents love of 1980s teen films by John Hughes 02/14/10 [Last modified: Monday, February 15, 2010 10:16am]
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