Pretty in Pink & Some Kind of Wonderful Director Howard Deutch Celebrates the Legacy of John Hughes [Exclusive]
Paramount Pictures is celebrating John Hughes in a big way this month. Available this week, the studio is releasing the John Hughes 5-Movie Collection on Blu-Ray. It contains some of Hughes’ biggest comedies of all time. Included in the set are Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Pretty in Pink, She’s Having a Baby, Planes, Trains and Automobiles and Some King of Wonderful. We caught up with the director behind two of these all-time classics, speaking with Howard Deutch about his time working alongside John Hughes and what it means to be a part of this legacy.
Only three of the films included in this new set were actually directed by the coming-of-age maestro, with the other two only being written by John Hughes. The man is responsible for giving us some of the biggest hits of the ’80s. And he wasn’t always available to helm some of those scripts himself. Enter acclaimed filmmaker Howard Deutch, who took the reins on Pretty in Pink in 1986 while Hughes himself was directing Ferris Bueller. Deutch would then return to Paramount in 1987 to direct Some Kind of Wonderful while Hughes was making Planes, Trains and Automobiles. She’s Having a Baby, directed by John Hughes, would hit theaters in 1988.
While Hughes was busy making this semi-autobiographical tale starring Kevin Bacon and Elizabeth McGovern, Howard Deutch would go on to direct his third John Hughes movie that same year with The Great Outdoors. But this John Candy-Dan Aykroyd comedy classic is housed under the Universal banner, where Hughes made his hit comedies Sixteen Candles and Weird Science, and not included in this particular new set. That didn’t stop us from asking him all about it while we chatted about John Hughes’ wide-spanning career and all the iconic films included on this release.
Of course Howard Deutch has time to look back at Pretty in Pink and Some Kind of Wonderful. At the time of their releases, many critics felt the two movies were a bit too similar. We discuss that notion with Deutch, and the fact that he met his longtime wife Lea Thompson on the set of Some Kind of Wonderful. We delve into quite a bit of history, and explore what it truly means to be a part of this legacy collection. And we start off first by asking about She’s Having a baby, because out of all the films included here, though not directed by Howard Deutch, it may provide the most insight into who John Hughes really was at the time he was turning out so many classics.
You are one of my all time favorite directors. This is pretty exciting to get to talk to you today.
Howard Deutch: Oh, thank you.
So many great movies…But the first one I want to talk about is not your movie. She’s Having a Baby. I think it is one of the most underrated John Hughes movies ever released. In your eyes, how closely did Kevin Bacon come to portraying John Hughes in that movie? I know it’s loosely, and actually quite a lot, based on John Hughes himself and his time spent as an advertising copywriter. Between John Hughes and Kevin Bacon, and that movie…How close did they come to locking in on John Hughes’ real life?
Howard Deutch: Kevin is a great actor, and he spent a lot of time with John. He got awfully close in terms of the behavior, and the kind of values…And I think he came very close…Closer than anybody else has come.
Would you consider that movie sort of a biopic for John’s Early life?
Howard Deutch: No. I just think there are slivers of John that he captured in the performance. But you could see John in Matthew [Broderick] as well in Ferris. You know, a lot of the behavior in Ferris is…Knowing John as well as I do, that’s a lot of John in there in…In Matthew Broderick’s performance as well.
John wrote three movies you directed with Pretty in Pink, Some Kind of Wonderful and The Great Outdoors. Do you feel that John sort of seeped into any of those particular characters, and did you purposely direct them that way?
Howard Deutch: Oh, absolutely. Those characters, Ducky…All those people are him. That’s where the characters are. Oh, I better not take it out. All these characters. When I get asked why they endure…Why they seemed to last, and why they’re different? Why people believe in them because? They’re not manufactured. They’re not like product. They’re really personal. Parts of him, when he was writing, are in those characters. No, absolutely. There’s a lot of John in all of that.
I want to see Some Kind of Wonderful on opening weekend, it’s one of my favorite movies of yours. It’s not my favorite. The Great outdoors is definitely my favorite out of the three. But that weekend after I had seen the movie. I thought Siskel and Ebert were a little hard. They claimed that Some Kind of Wonderful was just a clone of Pretty in Pink. And they wrote it off. I remember being so mad at them, yelling at my TV, ‘No, it’s not!’ That’s the only place I ever got my movie news back in the day. Were you ever irritated with their take on the idea that you repeated yourself from Pretty in Pink going into Some Kind of Wonderful? And how wrong they actually were? Some Kind of Wonderful is my favorite over Pretty in Pink. I don’t know how you feel about it all.
Howard Deutch: They’re all my Children. I love them equally, so I always go to that answer. But, no. I heard there were critics who called Some Kind of Wonderful as Pretty in Blue. All kinds of stuff. I’m a fan of big fan of Mike Nichols. And you know, Mike Nichols said about critics, ‘They’re the guys who come down from the hill after the battle and shoot the wounded.’ So I always relate to that now, about critics. And in retrospect, when they look back at what they like and what they don’t like…They’re usually wrong. So now…It hurt a lot then. Yeah. But it doesn’t anymore.
Did you know at the time how much that movie would continue to resonated with people? And still to this day? Some Kind of Wonderful, I always feel like it did kind of get lost in the shadow of Pretty in Pink.
Howard Deutch: No, no. I knew it didn’t open well. And it was not considered a hit. That was devastating. But, you know, test of time. It’s a long time, 30 years or more. And so it’s meaningful, because it proves that movie did work, and that people embrace it. And I had a teacher, the great Milton Katselas, who was a great director and acting teacher. He was my mentor. And he always said, ‘Next time you do something, make sure you could put your arms around it.’ Because I have done a movie that didn’t work, and we were talking about it, and the idea of putting my arms around it…I always feel like I did do that with Some Kind of Wonderful, even though it was a rough movie to make. So it’s rewarding that it did turn out all right.
Why was it such a tough movie?
Howard Deutch: I initially was doing it, and then I couldn’t cast it. So I left the movie, and they hired another director. That didn’t work out. And I went back to the movie with a different kind of descriptive. It had been changed to being more dramatic. So I recast the movie, and I was on a train that had already left the station. It was that kind of thing. I was always playing catch up.
How did you wind up with three John Hughes movies when he was directing a lot himself?
Howard Deutch: I started in the movie trailer business, and I did some of the his early 16 Candles and Breakfast Club trailers. We met that way. And I was directing music videos. I did one for 16 Candles. And he liked my work. We got along because neither of us were film school guys. We were more from advertising, and from the streets, and learning that way. Not fancy. And so we connected. He knew I wanted to do a movie, and he had that scripted Pretty in Pink, and he wanted to produce. He wanted…There was a big part of him that was entrepreneurial, not just the creative brain, but also he wanted to build an empire, and he thought he better start producing soon. And that’s how Prettty in Pink happened, because he wanted to produce and I wanted to direct and it worked out
Knowing your work, these three movies are definitely your films. They do have John’s voice in them. How much was he on set? Or was he there at all? How did he kind of incorporated what he wanted into what you were doing as an artist yourself?
Howard Deutch: He was the best producer you could dream of for your first movie. He was there when I needed him and invisible when I didn’t. And he just plain had a big, fat net under me. You know, fall into it if things got overwhelming the very first day of shooting. I remember when we shot the scene in that record store. I said, ‘Uh, cut.’ And he once said, ‘No, no, say cut the way were friends, you know?’ I mean, he treated it like that, and he fought for me, for that job. Because a lot of executives at Paramount wanted a woman, understandably, for that job. And John went to bat for me. Which isn’t that common in Hollywood. And he didn’t have the power than that he ultimately had. So he put himself at risk. He was like, ‘No, I want Howie Deutch to direct this movie and that’s how it’s gonna be.’ And I watched that. I overheard that phone conversation from his house, and he didn’t know I heard it.
Looking at the movies on this set, half of them are missing. And that’s because the other classics are at Universal. Why was John Hughes doing half his movies at Universal and half at Paramount that whole time?
Howard Deutch: Because Ned Tanen was very close with John. He had produced 16 Candles, and Ned Tanen was at Universal. And then Ned moved over to Paramount. So John followed him.
But The Great Outdoors is on Universal, and that came later. So some of that stuff was still happening over there.
Howard Deutch: Yeah, Yeah. You know, I think what happened was maybe they bought the original script, which was called Big Country.
I remember that? Yeah.
Howard Deutch: I still think it was a mistake to change that title. But anyway, yes. So a lot of it has to do with his relationship with Ned. Ned was his mentor, producer, you know, and that Ned’s the one who really rolled the dice with John. And other than his writing, he wrote the Vacation movies, and he wrote Mr. Mom, but Ned is the one who gave John his break to direct 16 Candles.
What was it like working with John Candy on that movie? Was The Great Outdoors a vacation to make, or was it as rough as Some Kind of Wonderful?
Howard Deutch: No, it was brutal. It was brutal. And I was unhappy, and John was unhappy. Candy was unhappy, because John Candy had grown a big beard for that movie. It, like, covered his face. And Universal said, ‘You’ve got to tell Candy to shave the beard.’ I said, ‘I can’t. That’s his character. He loves that beard.’ So then I said to John,’You gotta shave the beard because Universal…’ So when I told him, he was very unhappy about that. It meant a lot to him. He felt like, ‘That’s my character.’ So…But he was an absolute dream of a person and an actor. Always professional. He just wished that he could get the beard. He wasn’t crazy about working with the bear. He was scared of the bear, and I made him do things that you know, a little bit, you know, it was dangerous. So he’s in the same frame with the bear sometimes. But it was a pleasure to work with him. And it was a treat because he was loved. People loved what he did. Very special. An extraordinary person and hilarious.
You bring up that bear, and I don’t wanna bring up Siskel and Ebert again, but when that movie came out, I had seen it. And I loved it the first weekend it was in theaters. But then I watched their review. And they point out the stick that’s in the one scene, like tickling the bear. Do you ever think of going back now and digitally correcting that? Or do you think now that those kind of mistakes are funny? How did you feel about back then?
Howard Deutch: We never spotted it. We would have never let that go if we’d seen it. We never saw it. Somehow it got by us. Just like that Starbucks cup in Game of Thrones. You know what I mean? There’s that scene in Game of Thrones. I never saw that stick, or we wouldn’t have done it. But, you know, I live with it because that’s the nature of the business. Everybody wants to point out a mistake.
I don’t know that I would have ever seen it if they hadn’t a pointed it out. I think Siskel and Ebert were pretty unfair on that movie too.
[Howard Deutch: I agree with you. That’s the Mike Nichols quote I always think about, you know, ‘They’re the guys who come down from the hill after the battle and shoot the wounded.’ And believe me, after you make a movie, you’re pretty wounded. So that’s what makes me feel better.
I know people have their movies that they watch all the time. I think I watch The Great Outdoors at least once a year. I watched it not too long ago, not knowing I was going to do this interview. I just watched it because I love it and wanted to see it again.
Howard Deutch: Yeah, it’s funny. People all over the world love that movie. And, you know, when we test screened it, it had some of terrible test scores.I remember Tom Pollock saying to me, ‘You’re never gonna work in this town again?’ Like my career was over. And then that Monday, that weekend, it made a lot of money. And then Monday morning, my phone was ringing, you know? But it was a terrible experience, having a live through that.
But removed from it, it’s a pretty good deal. We’ve got a great movie now.
Howard Deutch: Yeah, but I didn’t have to have a heart attack making it.
You’ve been making television most recently. And you’re doing so many hit shows. How did you decide to move over from movies to TV? Did you know that TV was start exploding like it has?
Howard Deutch: No, no. I was wrongly snooty about it. I was like, ‘No, I’m doing movies. Not television.’ Because that’s where I was raised, in movies. And television was always considered a step down. But then there were less and less movies. Less and less work available because the movie business was falling apart and there was noting but bad scripts. HBO was always asking me to do something. And I thought, ‘I’m going to do it.’ And I did that show Big Love for them. And that’s how I started. And ever since then, you know, television has become the dominant form of our entertainment, in our business, not movies. So, I was just fortunate that I got that offer.
Last question. What is your favorite John Hughes movie is?
Howard Deutch: I think my favorite Johnny movie is The Breakfast Club. I think it’s his great work of art, you know? It’s just masterful and moving and original. I always think it should be done as a Broadway play. I know…John at one point was going to do it like that. I mean, it’s Universal for all people. You learn a lot about these characters and yourself when you watch it. It never becomes stale. So I think for me, The Breakfast Club is number one.
Do you think you would have a hand in pushing that towards Broadway if that opportunity came up? Or is that something you don’t wanna get involved in?
[Howard Deutch: Oh, I’d always do anything of his. I would love to be involved.
The John Hughes 5-Movie Collection is available now on Blu-ray. From teenage heartache to adult comedy-of-errors, get all the essential John Hughes movies including Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Pretty in Pink, Some Kind of Wonderful, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, and She’s Having a Baby in one awesome collection!