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.
Gottlieb: They had a screenplay called Ladies Man, which was like a version of Fast Times that explained the social structure of high school and had a girl in there, for some reason or another, dressed as a boy and trying to make her way. My writing partner Dennis Feldman and I, we kind of just took it apart. We wrote about six drafts of it. We wrote the draft that was greenlit. I liked the writing that was in this early draft. It was a nice teen movie script. But we really wanted to find the originality in it and find a way to strengthen the subject.
We took Dennis’ script and we just kept shaping it and changing it and re-shaping it and we did one script that we just loved and our title was I Was a Teenage Boy. And that was going to be the article she ends up writing. It still is the article but they changed the title. They thought it sounded too low budget. We had a slightly more outrageous set of jokes and humorous characters that came in and were slightly more surreal and edgy. And they wanted those cut and they wanted to go back to like our next-to-last draft and they greenlit that. Now they brought in a guy who was a really good joke writer, a sitcom guy named Jeff Franklin.
Franklin: She never wrote a draft. Dennis Feldman had written the draft called Ladies Man that was sort of a reverse teenage Tootsie. That’s whose script I rewrote then they brought Lisa in to direct it. It was very intense. It’s a lot of writing to do in three days. Because it was a page-one rewrite. There wasn’t one line of dialogue that survived from the first draft. This is one of those unusual scripts that was shot pretty much as written. This particular group of actors did not do much improvisation or rewriting on the set. Very little of that happened. They pretty much shot what I wrote.
Gottlieb: Jeff came in, he wrote a lot of jokes. He beefed up the horny younger brother which he always said to us, “That’s my speciality, being horny [laughs].”
Franklin: I like writing for Buddy. He was such an archetypal, horny, frustrated, virginal teenage boy. That was, for me, a really fun character to write. Something I related to. He had so many fun lines in this thing. I did like his rendition of “Slow Hand” though. I thought he brought that to life very well.
Turning Adults Into Teens
“When you see the movie there’s a part of you that goes, ‘Oh my God, really? High school? I think not.'”
Of the actors who were cast for Just One of the Guys, only two were actually teens. While Billy Zabka was 19 and Billy Jayne (then Jacoby) was 16, Joyce Hyser and Clayton Rohner were 27 and Toni Hudson was 24. This didn’t translate all that well on screen, as Rohner’s Rick Morehouse looked like he’d been held back a year or three, and Terry’s college boyfriend looked like he could have played her dad. Still, this remains part of the film’s enduring charm, and the actors at least did their best to make the roles seem believable. That they succeeded had much to do with Gottlieb’s decision to send them back to school.
Gottlieb: “You’ve been out of high school for a while,” I said to my leads. “From here on in behave in a very immature manner except when I tell you to be some place at a certain time or tell you to do anything, then you’re full adults, professional. Other than that just act like big babies, really embrace it, be petty little high schoolers, and let’s really get wardrobe done early and settle into these looks that we have.” I had them writing little assignments about what posters were on their walls, what their favorite classes were. Then, we went there and saw how all these high school students looked like they were pushing 40, I mean, so much makeup and stuff. And I said, “We’re cool. We are so fine.”
Joyce Hyser, “Terry Griffith”: I don’t think it mattered that much but I laugh at it now when I think that I was well out of high school. I had to spend a lot of time around younger kids, going back to school, I had to get back in touch with that and one of the things I found most interesting is that no matter how grown up or mature or worldly I was at that point, I had lived a lot of life just due to the circumstances of my upbringing. I always felt, as a teenager, I was very grown up. I helped raise three boys, my parents were divorced, my mom had to work three jobs, and I was in charge at a very young age. I realized that even though I had a lot more knowledge and wisdom, I still was very young at heart. And I still am to be honest. People always joke with me with how young I look for my age and I joke that it’s because I’m immature. Because I never let go of that kid, of that child. I think a lot of that came out in the movie.
Clayton Rohner, “Rick Morehouse”: [laughs] I think we really stretched it. Even before Just One of the Guys you’d see people like 35-year-olds playing high school. Like Welcome Back Kotter or something. We stretched the limit. Then after us everyone started getting closer to their real age in some of the John Hughes movies. It’s really funny.
Toni Hudson, “Denise”: Joyce and I had two totally different careers. I was always the one playing younger. Right now I’m 54-years-old and most people peg me for 38 or 42. So I’m still younger than I am, but older. That’s how it’s been my entire life. It’s just ironic that I was in my 20s playing a teenager. I was used to it. It did get hard in my personal life, I think. In my professional life, too, because no one would take me seriously sometimes because of the way I looked, but then when I opened my mouth I sounded so mature. I didn’t match. My youthful look didn’t match my brain and my heart, my soul. I’m an old soul but a young look, so it was confusing.
Hyser: It’s shocking how old we all were. When you see the movie there’s a part of you that goes, “Oh my God, really? High school? I think not.” But at the same time it doesn’t get in the way either, it doesn’t take you out of the movie. I don’t think that many kids who saw this movie looked at the movie and said, “Oh my God, these people are so old, there’s no way they’re in high school.” Had this movie had more well-known actors in it at the time who were the same age, those are the kind of the things that take you out of the movie. Because we were all unknown, you have no context for us. It’s one of the things that lends itself to making this movie so believable. Even though it is kind of this fun ’80s teenage romp, there’s much more gravitas to the film.
Gottlieb: Casting was great. Everybody was nuts about Joyce and we were nuts about Clayton, and I cast Billy Jacoby, now Billy Jayne. He walked into my office, read, and I said, “Forget about it. I have this 14-year-old Bill Murray in my office. We’re casting him.” Something similar happened with Sherilyn Fenn. She came in, I needed this very sexy, young girl who was ditzy but not stupid. I had all these very specific needs so I cast her with Deborah Goodrich, Toni Hudson. A lot of the side characters, a lot of the secondary characters, were very easy to cast.
Rohner: The funny thing is when I got cast they asked me to bring in some of my clothes, just to see what I had. So I brought in a bunch of my clothes and they said, “Oh these are going to be great.” And I was like, “Oh, fabulous.” Then they said, “For the nerd.” [Laughs] I guess I’m closer to the nerd in real life than the other guy. But yeah those are my clothes that Rick wore as the geek.
Billy Jayne, “Buddy”: I think we invented a whole look. Went into the wardrobe trailer and cut off sleeves and things like that. We came up with the plaid shirt with the sleeves cut off as a thing. I don’t know where that came from.
Hudson: What was interesting was I was supposed to play a girl who used to be fat at my high school. Everyone who knew me at my high school knew me as a fat girl. And as you can see in the movie, Denise is not fat. But everyone at the high school knew her as fat so it didn’t change what they thought. When I’m at the prom with my date [laughs] the cross-dresser, they gave me the one line to define my character. I was slow dancing and said, “I love this because no one here knows I used to be fat.” [laughs]. That’s my one character-defining moment and I don’t know if they wrote that in later after I was cast or if they were wanting to cast someone who was not fat anymore, I actually never asked that question. Denise was fun, she was just that cushion in-between all the big jokes. It was like music, the way the rhythms are in that movie.
Gottlieb: We did tests to more well-known actresses but we all felt Joyce was able to play the girl as very sexy and also engaging and smart and funny. And also be able to play this boy in a way, well Joyce kept saying, “How do we pull this off, how do we pull this off? After they wrap my boobs up with an ace bandage, what are we doing? Yes, I’ll lower my voice.”
Hyser: It was an incredible working experience. Lisa and I clicked right away. They used to call us “The Gang of Two,” and she was amazing and really believed in me and gave me a lot of input into the character which I truly appreciated. She has a great sense of comedy and timing, and that was great. We had [filming] issues early on, she had to end up firing the first cinematographer because he was just like one of the guys, the whole boy’s club thing. Had zero respect, didn’t listen to her, was really horrible with me. And it was just like, boom, she took care of it immediately.
Rohner: I had a huge crush on Joyce. I also knew her before the movie. I mean, she’s really responsible for getting me the part. They were having a hard time finding Rick so she said to her manager, “Well, why can’t Clayton do this part?” So her manager submitted me for the role. I don’t know why my management team was asleep. That’s how I got my audition. Joyce fought for me the whole way through, so I always had a crush on her. I just had to try not to let the crush come through too much, just try to cover it. And it kind of works anyway because he sort of falls in love with her underneath anyway. She’s a very curvaceous boy, I’ll say that.
Hyser: Okay, that is the first I’ve heard of that [laughs]. That’s the first I’ve heard of that, I had no idea. No idea. So funny, too, because he had been dating someone at the time. And I was with somebody.
Making A Man Of A Woman
“I tried very hard to pass. I was determined to make that happen. Terry was determined to make that happen.”
The hardest part of making this movie even remotely believable was convincing the audience that Hyser could look like a boy. In the beginning, she’s poolside in a bikini, which almost made it impossible for anyone to suspend disbelief. But somehow Gottlieb and company were able to turn the gorgeous actress into a well-dressed, believable hipster boy, with results that are far more humorous than awkward.
Gottlieb: That question really goes to the idea that people were fretting much more about when we were shooting, casting wise, which is how are you going to convince anybody that Joyce is a guy? And I said, “Performance.”
Hyser: I always joke about the fact that I’m just a girl with a lot of testosterone [laughs]. From a very young age, I was the oldest of three boys. Always into sports and, for me, it was the kind of thing of if I were a boy what kind of boy would I be? I spent a lot of time sitting in parks — obviously my brothers were a big inspiration for me — and I would hang out with teenage kids. What was really great is the week prior to shooting we went to a high school in Arizona, where we shot the movie, and we got to spend some time with the kids in the high school, in the classroom. Because I was a few years out of high school at that point [laughs] so it was really great and I got a lot of ideas.
Rohner: I thought she was a fish out of water, like me. Who am I to judge? I was Rick Morehouse for God sakes, hiding in the bushes when she met me. He’s not a very critical guy. Pretty accepting. The only person he doesn’t like is Billy’s character.
Hudson: I was shocked actually. She’s quite a voluptuous woman. I mean as we all know she’s well-endowed. And strapping her down and cutting her hair, her facial features needed to become a boy’s.
Gottlieb: I brought in an actor who is a friend of mine who I usually say is the most macho man who ever lived, but he’s not. He just kind of moves and talks in that way so you think he’s a macho sex god when you meet him. And when you get to know him he’s a prissy cat, but still we had him rehearsing with us in L.A. on his walk: the way he sits, the way he moves — it actually helped inspire the scene. It helped us really polish up the scene where Billy gives her ball-scratching training.
Jayne: I thought she did an incredible job because she’s so feminine and so gorgeous and so sexy. To see her basically become this dude was pretty cool. That’s when I knew, oh, this could work. I don’t know what she did for her research… I think that was all just her. I didn’t see fellow colleagues saying, “Hey do it like this.” She had it down.
Gottlieb: We tried a lot of wardrobe, we played around, we got the haircut. The producers were really upset because they said, “Her hair’s too short.” And I said, “No, no. She’s a fan of The Karate Kid, so she fashions herself a little after Ralph Macchio because she thinks she looks a little like him,” but we worked on this so much. My belief always was, “Joyce, if you believe you’re a boy when you’re dressed as a boy and you’re looking at the world and responding to it as a boy and it’s responding to you as a boy, as the director and the audience, we’re watching every moment and we’re the safety net for the cast. We have to make sure everything we do is truthful, real, and believable, and works for the character, the movie, and these themes that are driving everything.” And I said, “This is the thing we are nailing. This is the thing we are incrementally building as we work on this.”
Hyser: I wanted to make it as believable as I possibly could with the understanding that I wasn’t a boy. I always understood that I’m a girl who was passing myself off as a boy. My inner dialogue was always that it amazed me that I was able to get away with this [laughs]. But I tried very hard to pass. I was determined to make that happen. Terry was determined to make that happen. It was the only way she was ever going to really discover her true self. That’s how she felt. So, yes, I did my absolute best as an actor to get away with it.
Jayne: Joyce is not like her character. Maybe she ends up more of a strong girl, but to me she comes off a bit Californian. She seems a little cutesy. That’s not her. She has a real New Yorker-type personality and she’s a straight shooter. So, I thought she did well on both levels, when she played the female and then the female playing a male. Neither one was like her in her personal life. I thought that was good. And Clayton Rohner playing a cool guy [laughs].
“Where Do You Get Off Having Tits?”
“It was completely right for the story we were telling.”
In many cases, it would be inappropriate or even rude to ask an actress about a nude scene. However, in the case of Just One of the Guys, it’s impossible to ignore a scene so well-known some have dubbed it “The Big Reveal.” Hyser obviously doesn’t like that her bare chest has been archived by internet pervs and made available for anyone to ogle, but she also wouldn’t have done it if it weren’t important to the story. It was a truly difficult decision for her, and it was important that Gottlieb and her castmates stood by her the entire time.
Gottlieb: Even before Joyce’s agent said, “She won’t take her top off,” my producers said, “We’re going to be a classy movie. You’ve written a lot of sort of raunchy jokes, but we’re going to house them in a classy movie. What do you think about that?” And I said, “Hey, I love classy, what do you need?” Because, actually, I also want to be a little naughty and not exploit anybody. They said, “We just don’t think it’s necessary to cheapen the female characters by demanding nudity from them.” And I said, “I have to convince an audience that a woman becomes a man and then in the last 10 minutes of the movie I have to convince that audience that that man who is really a woman whose best friend thinks he’s a gay man convinces him that he’s actually a she. And I may need to flash a little boob. Not in an exploitive way, but I’m telling you, I think the girls are coming out in this movie.”
Hyser: I wasn’t going to do it. It wasn’t going to happen. It was funny because I went into it knowing, without a shadow of a doubt, that it wasn’t happening. No-nudity clause in my contract, and Lisa went into it knowing that. Obviously, you see who won. Here’s the thing, she was very smart and also very lucky that we shot the movie in real time, from beginning to end.
Gottlieb: When Joyce’s agent said, “We have the no-nudity clause in her contract,” my producers said, “Great. But we have to tell you that our director, who is a woman, a feminist, and very keen on protecting the dignity and the sophistication of everything we’re doing, you know, we’re making a classy film even though it’s a little edgy. And she’s very committed to that, but if she needs something from the actress there’s a chance she may approach the actress about that.” The agent said, “Joyce is a wonderful actress and she works brilliantly with all her directors and that’s between the director and Joyce. But at the end of the day Joyce will have a veto on this and we have to give her this.”
Jayne: Joyce isn’t really like that where if she had reservations it wasn’t spoken about with other cast members, or it wasn’t on the set. It was between her and Lisa Gottlieb. I didn’t know about that, there was no lamenting. It was a very focused shoot.
Hyser: We did not shoot that scene until the very last couple of days, the whole end scene. By that time I knew everybody, I was really comfortable, I was completely comfortable in the skin of Terry. I was the one who went to her and said, “I do agree and I feel like it really may be the only way to do it.” And we talked about me having a bra on as opposed to nothing [laughs], but that seemed less realistic. So she said to me, “I’ll tell you what, let’s shoot it both ways and then you will get to decide.” I was very comfortable with that and she promised me, pinky swear on the set, that she would never put anything in that I was not comfortable with and I totally trusted her. And that’s exactly what we did. Then they started putting it together and she showed it to me and I just knew it was the way to go.
Gottlieb: As we were getting ready, rehearsing, doing our shots and then waiting for the cameras to turn around, I asked them to get me a little trailer, a little portable space somewhere where I could have a rehearsal with Clayton and Joyce because we were about to shoot this scene and it was the make/break scene for the film. It was totally the money scene for the film because if you don’t believe this scene, nothing that came before and nothing that comes after matters. This is the climax. So I brought them in and I said, “Let’s read through it.”
Rohner: I was just excited, it’s just a great challenge as an actor to make that transition and try to figure it out. Plus, who wouldn’t want to be flashed by a beautiful girl? What healthy all-American boy doesn’t want to do that scene? Lovely. Who’s going to complain about that? And like I said, I liked her, so it wasn’t hard for me. The hard part is getting mad. But that’s part of my job, so there are ways to make substitutions in what we choose to think about in order to make the outcome look the way it’s supposed to look.
Hudson: Joyce and I weren’t that close during shooting. She was so caught up, not in a bad way but in a creative way of fulfilling her task. She would have to switch because it was not shot in sequence. One day she’s the girl, the next day she’s the boy. Flip-flopping back and forth. She was pretty focused. She wasn’t chit-chatty on set. I obviously read the script so I knew it was going to happen. And of course she joked about it, “It’s the day!” It was that kind of fun and it’s the prom scene. There were a lot of people around. It was off to the side anyway in the movie. I think they put up some black flags so it would be a little more private. Not everyone was standing around staring at her. And the scene was handled very nicely, very professional.
Franklin: It would have been disappointing to me if she had not wanted to do it. It was such a great moment when it happened in the script. I think it was probably the most freeze-framed moment of the ’80s, when everyone had their VCR and they had to run up to the machine and hit freeze. There was no internet back then, and the shot went by so fast that it was actually something a lot of people went back — guys — and tried to run in slow motion or freeze it. It was completely right for the story we were telling. Even if they would have had to use a body double or if they would have just had her with a bra on underneath, it would not have had the same impact. I was really happy that she decided to do it.
Hudson: I think you have to reveal it. You can’t just take a guy’s look on his face for it when she’s been playing a boy. But we also know she was a girl because of the beginning of the movie. So we did see her boobs in the bathing suit at the top of the movie. She’s by the pool, college boyfriend comes over. We did know she had tits, as they say in the movie. You could have played the movie where it is revealed, but I think the shocker of it is within that tux. She’s got the short hair, she’s at the prom as a boy, so it’s the juxtaposition for us, taking her in, believing her as a boy, accepting it, seeing her at the prom with me as her date, all that. To rip open the tucked shirt and only see from behind the tucked shirt being opened, I don’t think it would have paid off as much. I think the shock value has to be look how strange that looks. A guy with tits. Lisa was right and luckily Joyce said okay.
Hyser: At that point in time, you have to remember it was 1985, so we had no freeze frame on the TV, we had no such thing as screenshots, we had no such thing really as the internet, and I can tell you that probably, if I were to do that today, I may have looked at that differently. I can’t stand the fact that if you go to any porn site or booby site, I’m all over the place. It makes me sad, really, because it’s actually a very innocent and desperate moment that drives that scene and drives that reveal. And then, when you end up on porn sites, I don’t know, it’s not something that sits too well with me, but it is what it is.
Rohner: A bunch of lascivious guys have always said, “Wow, that must have been fun.” But most people are really sweet about the movie. Like I said, that movie just touches people. Don’t ask me why, I can’t tell you, but it just touches certain people. Because it’s not the most sophisticated movie. It’s rough, it’s a bunch of people trying to find their way in a movie. It seems to strike a chord with sensitive people who had a tough time in high school especially.
Hyser: One of the really cool things though about my fans, I have to say, is that I’ve done a few of these signing conventions, where they come in with tons and tons of pictures. And not one of my fans has brought me that picture to sign. That’s why I truly love my fans.
The Legacy Of A Girl Named Terry
“You don’t appreciate how much this film means to many generations of young people. Male and female.”
Today, Joyce Hyser Robinson sits on the volunteer Board of Directors of the Harold Robinson Foundation, a non-profit that was built around giving the “less fortunate children” of Los Angeles a fighting chance at having a better life by relieving the chronic stress that they face. She helps raise money for this organization with events like Pedal on the Pier, which features a lot of very generous people riding their bikes 100 miles out of the kindness of their hearts. For her current campaign, Robinson is more than halfway to her goal of $50,000, and once she reaches it a lot of kids are going to get to go to camp and experience kindness and affection that they may otherwise never experience.
It took some time, but Hyser eventually realized that she’d been helping so many people far longer than she thought. At autograph conventions and even through Facebook messages, fans have relayed to her how important Just One of the Guys has been to them for a number of reasons. Because of that, at the very least, Gottlieb and her actors would like to create a new commentary for a Blu-ray version of the film. But there was also talk about checking in with Terry Griffith again, when the cast recently reunited for an anniversary screening.
Hyser: I just saw the movie again for the first time in probably 30 years, from the time it came out. I’m not great at watching myself so I saw the movie when it came out. We went to the theater the night that it opened and I don’t think I’ve ever watched it all the way through since then. We had a 30th anniversary reunion, so I sat in the theater and watched the movie. Although I had, as an actor, some cringe-worthy moments [laughs], I was kind of amazed. Even though it was very ’80s in the look and the music, the style, the movie still really holds up.
Jayne: People love that movie. They love it. I was going to say males. But females, too, they love it. I’ve always gotten a real positive reaction. That movie opened a lot of doors for me and it will always be special to me and people seem to, it doesn’t go away. I think it holds up. For performances and comedy and the heart of the movie, that’s timeless.
Rohner: I’m just delighted they enjoy it and it somehow makes them smile.
Jayne: I knew it was going to be great when we were making it. We were pissing in our pants making it. The crew would fuck up so many takes, we would destroy each other’s takes by accident just because we were laughing. I knew they were going to like it. I didn’t realize it would go on so long, and that’s kind of a cliché thing to say. Everyone says that. “Who knew? We didn’t know.” I knew it was going to be funny, really funny. But I didn’t realize it would stand the test of time. And it got killed when it came out. It didn’t play well, they buried it. They didn’t market it. They made it on cable.
Gottlieb: We all think, as do all our fans, that Sony underestimates the power of this film. You don’t appreciate how much this film means to many generations of young people. Male and female. For women it was about bonding with their mothers or their older sisters. For gay women and transgender women it was about seeing a performance of female maleness that, I had no idea this existed, but then I did a live chat for Jezebel a few years ago and I am the savior of the female trans culture. Who knew? It’s actually a very heterosexual film if you look at it.
Hyser: Sadly, the movie still really holds up when you think about the fact that we are still having the same conversation that we had 30 years ago. Women in the workforce, women not getting paid the same amount as men, women not being taken seriously. It’s shocking when you watch that movie. And I sat in the movie theater and I laughed and had a great time, but I remember driving home with my husband and saying, “We had a blast, that was so much fun, but how sad is it that 30 years later we’re still having the same conversation? We’re still fighting those battles.”
Hudson: Everyone’s had those kind of thoughts and moments. Whether it’s gender bending or crushes or feeling inadequate, not fitting in, wanting to fit in, all of those angst issues everybody relates to. If you have this comedic portrayal of it all, it allows everyone to experience it and have a laugh at the same time. It lightens the load, it connects us to ourselves. But everybody can see this movie. Ninety-year-olds can watch it, 13-year-olds, whose parents allow them to, can watch it.
Hyser: We’ve had conversations over the years and have run into each other. Clayton and I saw each other a few times over the years. I ran into Toni at the Hollywood show. But Billy kind of disappeared afterwards. Billy, after that, I never saw him again. Billy stopped being an actor, he became a musician, he pushed it away for a while. He really didn’t want to identify with it and now, it was so great because we didn’t think he was going to show up and then he did and he just really surprised me. It was great and I was so happy to see him. Lisa and I talked about doing a sequel. We were also hoping to do a Blu-ray this year but unfortunately, again, we’re dealing with the studio. It’s weird, even though this movie has a huge cult following, they’re just not paying attention to it.
Gottlieb: I’ve been trying to convince Sony that they should do a 30-year Blu-ray with commentary. Nobody has to be in the room together, just get a studio and set up a moment in a quiet room with a friend of mine in L.A., another one in New York. We could sweep up most of the key people, get us together, do a bunch of narration tracks and you have those extras there. If you wanted we could put together an amazing blooper reel. We did have one at one point. I’m sure it’s in storage with everything else. But even if you didn’t want to do that, you just put out the damn Blu-ray. We have a vibrant online super fan audience. It will sell.
Franklin: This kind of movie would never get made today. That was a different time. I would call them simpler movies. They wouldn’t mind making a movie where they’d spend $20 million and they’d end up making $5 or $10 million on a movie. Not every movie had to be a home run. It was fine to have a bunch of singles, to use a baseball analogy. But the business has changed quite a bit and most of the studios make less movies and they make bigger movies and they’re swinging for the fences and they’re trying to draw in a much bigger audience. I don’t think this movie has that kind of resonance 30 years later to demand that. We’ll see. I’d love it! But I doubt it’s going to happen.
Gottlieb: Joyce has a great idea for a sequel that she ran by me and we both just started talking about it and building on the idea. I would love to write a script for Joyce. At least if she wrote a draft and then I polished her draft, sent it back, work out the story together and then we go in our corners and write separate scenes. I’d love them to hear a pitch from us and it’s not this easy thing to do. It used to be easier. It’s such a popular movie to get in the door but it’s just a different generation of executives.
Hudson: Are you kidding? I would absolutely make a return as Denise. I have a whole different take on it in terms of how I would write the movie. Joyce talked about it at the reunion and has talked about it since then, but she has one angle of it. I have a whole other angle that I think would be genius. I think a 30-year reunion of high school, and the characters are just who they are as adults, but you make them exaggerated and funny for that situation. I’m probably a fitness guru because I used to be fat. Joyce is probably leading some not-for-profit thing for transgender people and writing books about it and traveling the world.
Jayne: I started thinking of the sequel. We had a couple drinks that night, got a little hammered, and I know I came up with a great one but don’t know if anyone wrote it down. She goes into a newspaper thing and Zabka comes back and is going to buy out the paper and now she has to go back undercover and do something. I have three ex-wives.
Hudson: I think you could really take it and make it interesting and very timely. And not a joke at itself. Maybe the little brother has launched his very own nudie magazine empire that has taken off. And the bully, a karate studio magnate. Or maybe he’s not, maybe he now works a shelter, maybe he went totally the other way. You never know. Anyway, that’s one I’m writing with my partner, who I’d like to be Jeff Franklin. Jeff Franklin and I should write that.
Hyser: I had somebody else who came to me, a friend, who also had an idea, he really wanted to do it and had a couple really good ideas. There are some great ideas floating out there, I had my own ideas of something I wanted to do that Lisa really loved. She’s just been fighting with the studio because they have the rights. I think now that certain people are gone from Sony it may, hopefully, within the next year [happen]. Obviously they’ve gone through so much in the past year with the hacking and all that stuff, and maybe we can circle back to it, hopefully before I have to play the grandmother and not the mom [laughs]. But it would be great. Like I said, it’s as timely now as it was then, so I think we can do something really great.