The Breakfast Club celebrates its 30th anniversary this year and Universal Home Entertainment released a new, restored Blu-ray of the 1985 classic, complete with all new bonus features. John Kapelos, who played the school janitor Carl, is featured prominently, but he had even more to say as we found out when we interviewed him.
The John Hughes film is about five high schoolers (Anthony Michael Hall, Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy, Emilio Estevez and Judd Nelson) in detention on Saturday. The only adults are the detention supervisor Vernon (Paul Gleeson) and Carl, and a few parents who drop them off in the morning. I got to talking with Kapelos about his scenes that got cut from the memorable film, his other John Hughes movies including Sixteen Candles and Weird Science, and his music career which will include a tribute to The Breakfast Club on his upcoming album.
Nuke the Fridge: Has The Breakfast Club never really gone away for you in 30 years?
John Kapelos: Not really. It was certainly part of my early career. In the last 10 years or so, I run into more and more people, executives, actors or writers in their ‘40s of a certain stage and status. They will come up to me fawningly saying, “I was in high school when The Breakfast Club came out.” So it seems to be intensifying as the years go on actually.
Nuke: Every time there’s an anniversary, does it come back even stronger?
John Kapelos: On the big round anniversaries it does. The last big anniversary was the 20th anniversary and we all attended the MTV Music Awards. Unfortunately this anniversary has a bit of a sad tinge to it. As opposed to 10 years ago, certain people, Paul Gleeson and John Hughes, in addition to Dede Allen and John Corso, are no longer with us.
Nuke: Did Breakfast Club come about because of your relationship with John Hughes on Sixteen Candles?
John Kapelos: Yeah, I had a really good initial meeting with him on Sixteen Candles and did The Breakfast Club. He told me, “I’ve got this movie called The Breakfast Club and I really want you to be part of this.” Then I see in Variety magazine that they’ve started lensing The Breakfast Club. My heart sank because I said, “I guess that train has left without me.” Literally the next day I got a call from John saying we’d like you to come in and do this part. They’d shot a scene with Rick Moranis and it didn’t work out. I would say yes, it started at Sixteen Candles and fate intervened to make sure that I did The Breakfast Club.
Nuke: There was a theory that Carl went to that school and gave the janitors a hard time when he was a kid, then grew up to become the janitor himself. Did you agree with that theory?
John Kapelos: [Laughs] That was never explicitly written. That was a thing that John had mentioned. I started creating a backstory that Carl was voted most likely to succeed, or the man of the year as they say when you see a shot of him in the trophy case. My story was that he left, he went off to college, he had his heart broken. His dreams were thwarted and he just decided to haunt the school so applied for a job as a janitor. The important thing was that he actually was a student at that school and he was at one point on the fast track. Something happened to him that diminished his status and lowered his expectations. It gives him a sort of bittersweet vibe when he comes in and tells them like it is, Senor Buzzkill as I like to call him.
Nuke: It’s so important that the movie is about these five kids finding their identity and challenging authority. Was it also important that there is an adult that challenges the principal’s authority too?
John Kapelos: That’s a really unique way of looking at it. The fact of the matter is the authority figure in the role of Vernon is a little bit of a clown, isn’t he? Somebody’s got to call him on this stuff. It always seemed to me, what was the story with him? He was in his own sort of detention world anyway, having to look after this group of students. He was put in detention himself and how did he get stuck with this job and what do other teachers thing about him? My feeling is probably not much, right? So he’s there to learn a few lessons himself. Everyone seems to be learning lessons in that Saturday but you’ve got to mock the authority figure. They do a lot of it but I also think Carl’s job was to say, “Hey, come on, man. If you were 16, what would you think of you? Don’t condescend to these kids. Don’t treat them like they’re less than you because they are going to be equals, and they are equals.” His inability to see that is really his blind spot. It’s kind of emblematic of Hughes’ view of adulthood in general. I would sort of say that the adults in a John Hughes movie are kind of like the adults in a Charlie Brown cartoon. Regardless of what they’re saying, there’s always sort of a patina of uselessness to what they’re saying.
Nuke: When you finally saw The Breakfast Club were you surprised and impressed by all the other scenes you weren’t in?
John Kapelos: You know I shot a lot of stuff that didn’t make it in the movie. There’s a whole sequence where I tell them what they’re all going to be like today, 25-30 years from now. That was all cut out. That’s just before I say, “By the way, that clock’s 20 minutes fast.” There’s a whole monologue that got cut out of the movie, which was a bit of a drag. But I was greeted by Dede Allen, the famous editor who edited Bonnie & Clyde and a lot of other great movies. She greeted me outside the Alfred Hitchcock soundstage at Universal when I was there to do my looping on it. She was a very nice woman but kind of stoic and not very effusive. Uncharacteristically, she puts her arm around me and says, “You know, when I cut Gene Hackman out of Bonnie & Clyde… You know that sequence you shot with the kids where you tell them where they’re all going to be 25 years from now?” She makes the scissors with her hands and goes, “Well, that’s out.” Then she preceded to tell me a couple other things that we shot that were just gone. When I look at the movie now, it’s obvious it is the movie that it is. They had to make those decisions because the stuff that I shot that didn’t make it into the film were frankly extraneous. It didn’t serve the main story of the kids in detention. So I can understand it intellectually. I can’t help but miss those scenes.
Nuke: Yeah, have those ever been on the DVD?
John Kapelos: No, and my sources tell me that they never will see the light of day. That’s been passed to me from several people saying that there is apparently one DVD of all the extras that apparently Nancy Hughes, John’s widow, has. That DVD has no plans to ever see the light of day.
Nuke: Was that John’s wishes that the deleted scenes not be released?
John Kapelos: I don’t know, to be honest with you. I don’t know, Fred, whether they were explicitly his wishes, but I think that implicit in his work was the fact that this is finished, it’s done. I would imagine that any extra footage that existed would have been destroyed, and if it had been edited, he would have kept the only copy of it. My assumption is that that stuff is lost in the sands of time.
Nuke: After Breakfast Club, did John sign you right up for Weird Science?
John Kapelos: Yeah, when we were doing Breakfast Club he had mentioned Weird Science. Realizing what had happened with Sixteen Candles, I sort of thought to myself I’ll believe it when I see it. And I did see it. He materialized with that and we shot Weird Science shortly thereafter. I actually shot most of that in Los Angeles as opposed to Chicago. That whole bar sequence we shot in LA at Universal.
Nuke: Did that strike you as a very different John Hughes movie with science-fiction and magic, even when you shot the scene in the bar?
John Kapelos: Yeah, to me it was like, “Wow, the same guy wrote this?” I got the continuity of the boys and their eternal quest to find something different. So I sort of saw a continuity in Michael Hall’s character from Sixteen Candles more than Breakfast Club. After reading it and absorbing it, I realized it was well within the John Hughes wheelhouse. That’s the thing about John. As much as he did teen movies, he didn’t want to be typecast into doing a certain type of teen movie. The Breakfast Club is more of an intense teen movie and almost reads like a play when you read the screenplay, but Weird Science is, as you said, more fantastical and strange. That was a totally different experience than The Breakfast Club because I shot on this huge soundstage with hundreds of extras. We did a lot improvising and Michael Hall was talking back to us. That was done in many different ways, shapes and forms. That was shot so many different ways from Sunday so I had no idea what was going to actually end up in the film. John had a high shooting ratio. In the days of film, John would shoot maybe 15, 16 takes. In film days that’s expensive. He would usually let seven or eight takes go by as it was written, and then after that, with the actors that could do it – myself, Michael and a few others – improvise some stuff. It wasn’t totally freewheeling improvisation but we’d talk about it before and set up, “Maybe say this and this,” sort of a cut and paste method. From that came a lot of interesting stuff, and obviously the studio backed him on that because they realized that if, on the 20th take, he has Macauley Culkin slapping his face with his two hands, all of a sudden, film gold.
Nuke: What kind of music do you perform?
John Kapelos: My new album is primarily a jazz album tinged with a lot of humorous overtones. I cover a Noel Coward song which is “(Don’t Put Your Daughter on the Stage), Mrs. Worthington.” It’s not Al Yankovic slap your knee funny, capital K Komedy stuff. It’s more subtle, refined. It’s music that has a humorous element but that you can hear over and over again. Comic albums or comic songs sort of have a high burn rate. You don’t want to hear them too many times. These songs are things you can hear again and again and again. They’re all in the jazz setting. I covered the song “Don’t You Forget About Me” on the album. I do sort of a groovy cover of that.
Nuke: When is that album going to be out?
John Kapelos: I’m going to be putting up a Kickstarter in May for my album. The name of the album is Too Hip for the Room. It’ll be released on iTunes and on my record label, Carpuzi Records. We intend on putting up a Kickstarter in May and I’m going to be releasing the single sometime in April. I’m not exactly sure when. We’re going to be doing a music video for it so I’m going to try to get Molly, Michael and Judd if he’s interested to come in and be part of the video. If they are, man, that’s going to go viral. I’m hoping and praying it shall be so.