Teen comedies were dominated, and even defined, by John Hughes in the 1980s, and 1985 was no exception. Hughes kicked the year off with The Breakfast Club, then closed out the summer-movie season with the off-the-wall Weird Science. But Hughes was hardly alone in ’85. It was also the year Alan Metter taught us that Girls Just Want to Have Fun and Savage Steve Holland sent Lane Myer down the K-12 in Better Off Dead. With teen comedies thriving, Columbia Pictures wanted to get in on the action, opting for a retelling of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night entitled Just One of the Guys.
The movie almost never stood a chance at becoming a hit. In fact, according to the film’s co-writer Jeff Franklin, Just One of the Guys was only made because the studio was under fire for not having any female directors. Once released, it might have been forgotten had moviegoers not actually liked it. Yes, Just One of the Guys was a cheesy comedy with a bunch of twentysomethings playing high schoolers, but it did all right at the box office and found a second life on home video and cable. The film features some hilarious jokes, had one truly big reveal, and still resonates with confused teens.
To get to the bottom of why this unlikely classic still means so much to its fans, we spoke to stars Joyce Hyser, Clayton Rohner, Billy Jayne, and Toni Hudson, as well as director Lisa Gottlieb and writer Jeff Franklin for the 30th anniversary of Just One of the Guys. Sadly, Billy Zabka was unavailable, but we assume he was busy pushing his muscles to the very limit of human endurance.
From PR Stunt To Production
“Nobody would ever know this story and it’s probably not one that they would like me to tell; however, this is what really happened.”
The story of how Just One of the Guys was written begins with a contradiction. In fact, the only detail that writer (and eventual Full House creator) Jeff Franklin and director Lisa Gottlieb really agree on is that this film began with a script for Ladies Man, which was essentially a high school version of Tootsie. From there, the stories differ greatly. Franklin claims Columbia Pictures came to him with Dennis Feldman’s script that he rewrote on his own in a matter of three days, and it was Franklin’s script that caused the film to be greenlit. Gottlieb, on the other hand, says that production of her remake of Twelfth Night began after she and Feldman rewrote the film together. It’s literally a case of he said/she said.
Jeff Franklin, writer: Back in 1984, Columbia received a lot of bad publicity because they had never had a female director, ever, shoot one of their films. It was very embarrassing for them. They wanted to, as quickly as possible, make that problem go away. And then two things happened. They sort of put a list together of possible female directors they may want to work with and Lisa Gottlieb had just won a competition with a student film that she had done. So, she was on their radar. Then they looked at what they had in development and tried to see what made sense, which female director might fit with the film. Nobody would ever know this story and it’s probably not one that they would like me to tell; however, this is what really happened.
Lisa Gottlieb, director: I loved Twelfth Night. I was involved in a theater production of it where we were putting together a play of contemporary people doing Twelfth Night who also had their lives complicated by having to pretend they were a different gender. I was always immersed in this so I made a short film that won a student Academy Award and basically got me the job to write the script and then direct it. That one was a gender-switching film as well, that’s the half-hour comedy Murder in a Mist about a female detective, a period film, so she’s a female dick. One of the executives at Columbia Pictures was a big fan of it and they had a very big hit with Tootsie and they wanted to make Tootsie in a high school.
Franklin: They found a script that they had in development called Ladies Man. It was something that they liked the concept of and they knew could be made with a very inexpensive budget. One of the executives there was aware of the script that I had written called Summer School and really liked the writing. They came to me and said, “Read this script,” which I did. They said, “Do you like it?” I said, “I like the idea of it.” They said, “Okay, you’re going to be locked in a room on our lot for three days. We’re putting a bed in there and a refrigerator and you cannot leave the lot. You have three days to rewrite this film from top to bottom. And if we like it we’re going to start production the next day. If we don’t like it, then thanks for trying.” No pressure, right? So I did the rewrite, they liked what they read, they opened production offices the next day, and they made a deal with Lisa to direct it. I had never met with Lisa up to that point, so she did not work on the development of the script.