BRIAN: Dear Mr. Vernon. We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. What we did was wrong, but we think you’re crazy to make us to write an essay telling you who we think we are. What do you care? You see us as you want to see us: in the simplest terms, the most convenient definitions. You see us as a Brain, an Athlete, a Basketcase, Princess, and a Criminal. Correct? That’s the way we saw each other at 7 o’clock this morning. We were brainwashed.
– Opening monologue, The Breakfast Club (1985)
Above is one of the most famous monologues in film history. This is the tale of how it almost never was… or, at least, how it was almost never famous.
Floating around online is an early draft of The Breakfast Club script (PDF link). There is no date attached, nor does it specify exactly which draft it is: the front page is entirely missing. It is, however, significantly different to the film which made it to the screen. Detailing even the major changes is a task for another day, and would involve comparing the script not only with the final film, but also the deleted scenes on the recent brand new Blu-ray release.
But I thought comparing that opening monologue to the one in this unspecified draft might be fun. Let’s take a look at it…
…what’s that? It isn’t present in the film’s opening at all?
Yes, that famous opening monologue is entirely missing. There’s other images which made it into the final film, of the “rare tour of a high school at dawn on a Saturday”: the ‘Senior Spirit Soars’ banner, the graffitied locker. But the monologue – and its link with the imagery of the computer room, changing room, etc – is completely absent.
So, the question you’re presumably asking now: is the same monologue present at the end of the film in this draft? The answer is yes… but perhaps not quite how you’d expect.
Firstly, let’s remind ourselves of the version of the monologue in the final film, as it’s actually slightly different to the version at the beginning.1
BRIAN: Dear Mr. Venon. We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. But we think you’re crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us: in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain…
ANDY: …and an athlete…
ALLISON: …and a basketcase…
CLAIRE: …a princess…
JOHN: …and a criminal.
BRIAN: Does that answer your question? Sincerely yours, The Breakfast Club.
Now, let’s take a look at how that moment is scripted in the earlier draft:
CLOSEUP – VERNON
He’s puzzled by the paper. It’s not at all what he expected. We hear, one by one, the kid’s voices fade up, beginning with Brian.
Dear Mr. Vernon… We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. But we think you’re crazy to ask us to write an essay telling you who we think we are. What do you care? You see us as you want to see us. John’s crazy and bad, Cathy’s beautiful and spoiled2, Andy’s strong and mature, Allison’s looney tunes and Brian’s brilliant. That’s pretty much how we see ourselves. What we found out, sir, was that we’re all crazy and bad and beautiful, and spoiled and strong and mature and looney tunes and brilliant. Take it or leave it… Sincerely yours, the Breakfast Club.
The basics are there… but stripped of any power at all. The descriptions of our heroes are just that: descriptions, not archetypes. “Beautiful and spoiled” is nothing compared to “a princess”. Moreover, part of the power is those archetypes being spoken in the first person: this early draft keeps those descriptions resolutely in the third, distancing us from everything we’ve just watched. Hell, even the sheer rhythm of the speech feels all wrong.
In rewriting, John Hughes turned the speech from something normal into something extraordinary. And by adding the monologue to the beginning of the film too, he not only increased its power tenfold, but gave the film a structure it previously lacked. As originally scripted, we simply meet our characters, and start the detention. In the final film, we immediately want to know the answer to the big question: what will our gang discover about themselves throughout the film?
It’s easy to get attached to the first draft of any writing, whether it’s something as complex as a screenplay, or just a short blog post. We all know that redrafting our work is the key to making it better. And yet emotionally, it’s sometimes difficult to force ourselves to do what needs to be done. We can all occasionally get attached to thinking our first stab at something is “pure”, and any subsequent attempt to improve it could ruin things.
The truth: if John Hughes can’t get it right first time, there’s no reason to think you have. And if he’d stuck to his first draft here, we’d have lost out on one of the single best moments of 80s cinema.
The art of writing is in the rewriting. That’s the cliche. But the above is the proof.