August 6, 2009 in Nation/World

‘80s teen flick director John Hughes dies in NYC

Hillel Italie Associated Press
 
FILE Associated Press photo

Director John Hughes, seen in this 1984 file photo, died Thursday, Aug. 6, 2009, at age 59.
(Full-size photo)

NEW YORK — Writer-director John Hughes, Hollywood’s youth impresario of the 1980s and ’90s who captured the teen and preteen market with such favorites as “Home Alone,” “The Breakfast Club” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” died Thursday, a spokeswoman said. He was 59.

Hughes died of a heart attack during a morning walk in Manhattan, Michelle Bega said. He was in New York to visit family.

Jake Bloom, Hughes’ longtime attorney, said he was “deeply saddened and in shock” to learn of the director’s death.

A native of Lansing, Mich., who later moved to suburban Chicago and set much of his work there, Hughes rose from ad writer to comedy writer to silver screen champ with his affectionate and idealized portraits of teens, whether the romantic and sexual insecurity of “Sixteen Candles,” or the J.D. Salinger-esque rebellion against conformity in “The Breakfast Club.”

Hughes’ ensemble comedies helped make stars out of Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, Ally Sheedy and many other young performers. He also scripted the phenomenally popular “Home Alone,” which made little-known Macaulay Culkin a sensation as the 8-year-old accidentally abandoned by his vacationing family, and wrote or directed such hits as “National Lampoon’s Vacation,” “Pretty in Pink,” “Planes, Trains & Automobiles” and “Uncle Buck.”

“I was a fan of both his work and a fan of him as a person,” Culkin said. “The world has lost not only a quintessential filmmaker whose influence will be felt for generations, but a great and decent man.”

Devin Ratray, best known for playing Culkin’s older brother Buzz McCallister in the “Home Alone” films, said he remained close to Hughes over the years.

“He changed my life forever,” Ratray said. “Nineteen years later, people from all over the world contact me telling me how much ’Home Alone’ meant to them, their families, and their children.”

Steve Martin played lead character Neal Page in the 1987 hit “Planes, Trains & Automobiles.”

“John Hughes was a great director, but his gift was in screenwriting,” Martin said. “He created deep and complex characters, rich in humanity and humor.”

Other actors who got early breaks from Hughes included John Cusack (“Sixteen Candles”), Judd Nelson (“The Breakfast Club”), Steve Carell (“Curly Sue”) and Lili Taylor (“She’s Having a Baby”).

Actor Matthew Broderick worked with Hughes in 1986 when he played the title character in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”

“I am truly shocked and saddened by the news about my old friend John Hughes. He was a wonderful, very talented guy and my heart goes out to his family,” Broderick said.

Ben Stein, who played the monotone economics teacher calling the roll and repeatedly saying “Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?”, said Hughes was a towering talent.

“He made a better connection with young people than anyone in Hollywood had ever made before or since,” Stein said on Fox Business Network. “It’s incredibly sad. He was a wonderful man, a genius, a poet. I don’t think anyone has come close to him as being the poet of the youth of America in the postwar period. He was to them what Shakespeare was to the Elizabethan Age.

“You had a regular guy — just an ordinary guy. If you met him, you would never guess he was a big Hollywood power.”

As Hughes advanced into middle age, his commercial touch faded and, in Salinger style, he increasingly withdrew from public life. His last directing credit was in 1991, for “Curly Sue,” and he wrote just a handful of scripts over the past decade. He was rarely interviewed or photographed.

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