A Blu-ray re-release of John Hughes’ ‘Weird Science’ is helping Anthony Michael Hall and Kelly Le Brock look back on the film and the 1980s, and share their feelings about a reboot.
On August 2, 1985, John Hughes’ comedy/sci-fi film, Weird Science, was released in theaters. Since it went up against very different films, including the horrors, Fright Night and Phenomena, at the box office, it captured the attention of moviegoers right away. The plot? Two nerdy teenage boys, who are the subjects of bullying at their high school, spontaneously come up with a plan to try and make the girl of their dreams on a computer after getting inspired by the 1931 film Frankenstein. The concept put one question in many film lovers’ minds: could this really work?
Oh, work it did! While it was definitely quite a contrast to John’s two prior big hits, Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club, the experimental feature proved to be unlike anything ever released at the time, and fast-forward to 34 years later, when computers are more of a necessity than a luxury, the film still impressively holds up, and has even become a cult classic. Proof of its incredible lasting power is in the film’s July 22nd re-release on Blu-ray from Arrow Video. It includes an HD version of the feature, additional scenes, an in-depth documentary and more.
So, what makes Weird Science special? Anthony Michael Hall, 51, who played the main role of Gary Wallace alongside Ilan Mitchell-Smith’s Wyatt Donnelly in the flick, and Kelly Le Brock, 59, who played their dream girl creation, Lisa, spoke EXCLUSIVELY with HollywoodLife and told us the reason for the film’s success is because its talented writer and director, who passed away in 2009, had a lot of heart. He understood the struggle of teenagers, especially unpopular ones, and his passion for creativity, which came out in his scripts, turned him into somewhat of an advocate for the misfits.
“He was incredible. I look back and here I was a teenager, I was 15,” Anthony, who starred in many of John’s popular films, said about the first time he started working with him. “I looked like a little bobble head, I looked about 12, and we started working together and this guy was just the coolest guy in the world to hang out with and collaborate with.”
“What’s so cool about him is obviously the legacy of the work, the fact that he used humor,” he continued. “There’s this wonderful sense of redemption with his films, like everybody kind of winds up a little better off than they started out. I think people love his films because he uses comedy to get there and I think he humanizes all these characters. He did it with me and for me as a kid and he did it with many others, so we all owe him a great debt of gratitude. I love that these movies find younger audiences and they continue to find audiences period. It’s a testament to his greatness.”
Kelly shared similar sentiments about John. “John was a genius at comic relief, family situations, and geeks getting the girl,” she said. “And it allows all of us humans who are insecure -and most of us are- to feel like a hero. That’s the beauty of the fantasy of the film, it’s that these boys who didn’t stand a chance with the girls, actually get to be heroes and everyone loves to see the fallen person land on their feet.”
The characters of Gary and Wyatt definitely “landed on their feet”, so to speak, when they created Lisa, a beautiful, confident woman who became less of a sex symbol and more of a teacher by film’s end. Showing the boys how to “loosen up” and helping them throw a mega party all turned out to be a lesson in courage and self-acceptance that no one saw coming.
Kelly’s extraordinary portrayal of Lisa was truly unforgettable, but it almost didn’t happen. “The funny thing is is I turned it down initially,” she revealed. “I was in the South of France doing a film with Sting. I was having a great time and my agent called and said, ‘Do you want to work?’ and I’m like, ‘Work or hang out with Sting?’ Well, f*ck work, I’m gonna hang out with Sting! Then three weeks into filming, they fired the lead lady because it wasn’t working out and I literally went from France to the set (in the U.S.) within a day.” It happened so quickly that Kelly says the crew didn’t even have time to change the wardrobe from the previous actress’ size to hers. “They literally cut the back of the dresses because I had bigger boobies and there was no way I was going to fit in them so they just slit everything up the back,” she explained.
Kelly also admitted she had insecurities about being a new actress when she arrived on set, since it was only her second movie. “I was filming on a set that had already been filming for three weeks and it was very intense,” she shared. Despite the pressure, any Weird Science fan knows that Kelly seemed to perfectly capture the essence of the “Lisa” John had in mind in the script, which he actually wrote while filming another one of his epic masterpieces.
“When we were making The Breakfast Club, we were literally halfway through the movie and he comes up to me in the hallway, and goes, ‘Listen, I started working on my next thing last night, I wrote 35 pages of it,'” Anthony remembered. “‘It’s gonna be you and another kid and you’re gonna make a really hot girl on the computer’, and I go, ‘What?’ That’s how brilliant he was, he was truly prolific.”
When further reflecting on their time making the film, Anthony and Kelly opened up about their most memorable scenes and moments. “Definitely the parents, when I pull a gun on the parents,” Kelly said about her favorite scene. “It’s just so naughty and outrageous and ridiculous but it seemed to work for that moment.”
“The day Kelly showed up on set was pretty damn good,” Anthony teased before fondly mentioning the late Bill Paxton, who played Wyatt’s demanding, hilarious and absurd older brother Chet. “Bill was just awesome. He was so fun to work with,” he recalled, while also gushing about how John would “egg Bill on” to do whatever goofy things he could come up with for his scenes. “The way he laughed in the film was exaggerated but Bill had a great laugh. He was hilarious. He taught me about Buster Keaton and we’d talk about old films. He became a great friend and I miss him, I love him. I had dinner with him a few years before his passing and I was just really shocked and saddened. He was a great guy.”
With the remarkable impression Bill’s role in Weird Science left behind, it’s easy to wonder if the unique film will ever be remade, especially at a time when reboots are more popular than ever. Although it was already made into a television series in the 1990s, it has yet to be remade as a film, but Kelly thinks the producer of the original, Joel Silver, is working on it. “I believe it’s not going to use anybody that was in the original and I think that’s a big mistake,” she admitted. Anthony, on the other hand, says a reboot is up to John’s widow.
“It would really depend on John’s wife because she controls the estate but I certainly feel like there’s a number of films that could be remade, but whether that happens or not is really up to Mrs. Hughes and Universal. But I’m all for it,” he said. “I think The Breakfast Club, for example, could easily be updated and it could be something really cool that would be more hip to a younger audience now and maybe more diverse too.” Anthony also thinks a lot of today’s popular films on streaming sites are just too serious. “We need funnier movies, there’s not enough,” he said.
He may have a point. The success of John’s comedies has left a mark on the film industry unlike any other and has allowed Anthony to keep a steady career as an actor since the 1980s. After a stint on a season of Saturday Night Live as a teen (he laughs saying it was “the worst season” of all 44 seasons), Anthony went on to do a plethora of movies and television shows. His most recent film, Netflix’s War Machine, came out in 2017 and had him starring opposite Brad Pitt in a role loosely based on Lt. General Michael Flynn. He also started his own television and media company, Manhattan Films.
Kelly, a former model who was known for her famous line, “Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful” in older commercials for Pantene, has also been keeping busy. In addition to appearing in various films over the years, and having a “tiny role” in an upcoming film called Charlie Boy from director Timothy Hines, she recently reached out to Pantene and made a bold suggestion. “I just told Pantene that they should bloody well use me again and I should say, ‘Don’t hate me because I’m still beautiful’ because women my age need to be embraced and be allowed to be ourselves,” she enthused. “But I don’t think they’re gonna go for it.”
Speaking of beautiful people, Kelly admitted she’s not a fan of the way beauty is represented today, especially on social media, and she feels “sad” for young girls who are surrounded by a world of filters and “fake eyelashes”. “It’s even more dangerous today than it used to be when I was modeling because there wasn’t all that airbrushing,” she explained. “We had our own hair, our own breasts, all our own stuff. Today, everybody looks the same and it’s hard to be an individual in today’s plastic world.” She also touched upon the irony of being considered a sex symbol in the 1980s since she didn’t feel confident inside. Luckily, that changed when she learned that “beauty has nothing to do with looks” and she now encourages young women to stop worrying about “what bag they need to purchase” and instead, focus on “humanity” and “walk with their hearts” more.
Anthony brought up the younger generation’s activism. “I think the younger generation now are much more open-minded and have a very equitable spirit about them and that’s very encouraging,” he said. “Obviously there’s chaos and there’s all kinds of nuttiness but I think in many ways, the millennial generation gets a bad rap because there’s a lot of great things that they’re doing.”
With 34 years behind them, Anthony and Kelly, who remain close friends, have seemed to follow in the footsteps of Weird Science and get better with age. Their experiences have led them to irreplaceable life lessons that have allowed them to now look back at their younger selves from a different perspective and soak in what matters most.
“It’s not about measuring up how many accolades or likes we have,” Kelly said. “It’s who we’re surrounded with at the end of the day and night. I didn’t really make many decisions when I was younger, I sort of just snowballed into everything, now I’m making decisions. I think that’s a way better way to live. Not just allow things to happen.”
She’s now focusing on being “the charity of people” by helping others in need, whether it’s by giving them “a hug or $10 for groceries”. “I think as Americans, we tend to ignore the invisible and that makes me sad because they’re the ones that need love and hugs,” she said.
For Anthony, growing up at a young age due to the “whirlwind” he went through was a big part of his learning experience and he admits to wishing he was a little less serious back then. Still, his gratitude always goes back to John for giving him the incredible opportunities he did. “It’s never lost on me. I loved working with him and I’ll always honor his legacy,” he promised.
“I think in life, there’s a couple things we’re supposed to get right, finding someone to love, work, and just keeping things simple,” Anthony, who goes by the name Michael in his personal life, continued. “My mother had a great line. She said, ‘Michael, you’ve been very blessed with a God-given talent and what you do with that talent is your gift back to God.’ It’s a reminder that its’s really what we give to life. Takers are so obvious, you see them in every walk of life, but what we give to life, I think, is most important.”