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Ferris Bueller: John Hughes and Chicago

Fbdo_2_keyart John Hughes’ family moved to the Chicago suburbs when he was in 7th grade, and he attended the very same high schools that are depicted in his movies.

“Chicago is what I am,” said Hughes. “A lot of Ferris is sort of my love letter to the city. And the more people who get upset with the fact that I film there, the more I’ll make sure that’s exactly where I film. It’s funny–nobody ever says anything to Woody Allen about always filming in New York. America has this great reverence for New York. I look at it as this decaying horror pit. So let the people in Chicago enjoy Ferris Bueller.”

For Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Hughes got the chance to take a more expansive look at the city he grew up in. “We took a helicopter up the Chicago River. This is the first chance I’d really had to get outside while making a movie. Up to this point, the pictures had been pretty small. I really wanted to capture as much of Chicago as I could, not just the architecture and the landscape, but the spirit.”

John Hughes also had an opportunity to reveal a more sophisticated side of Chicago’s culture. “When I was in high school, the Chicago Art Institute was a place of refuge for me. I went there quite a bit. I loved it. I knew all the paintings. I knew the building. And this was a chance for me to go back into this building and show the paintings that were my favorites.” 

When it came time to shoot the parade sequence, Hughes lucked out – it was the time of year when the annual General Von Steuben German-American Appreciation Day Parade was held. “There are a lot of German references in the picture,” Hughes said, “because a lot of the original citizens of Chicago were Germans. There are a lot of German street names – ‘Bueller’ was a German name.”

The parade sequence was John Hughes’ favorite part of shooting this movie. “We had 10,000 people out there – all of Chicago – and not one incident. That’s Chicago! Those were real faces, real people.” 

“Hughes Takes Time Off From Teen Films,” Chicago Sun-Times, 6/15/86
“John Hughes’ Rational Anthem: I Won’t Grow Up,” Chicago Tribune, 6/8/86
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off DVD Director Commentary
“Molly Ringwald Interviews John Hughes,” Seventeen, Spring 1986
Tony Reeves, The Worldwide Guide to Movie Locations, A Cappella Books, 2001.

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