“Searching for John Hughes” is not the book that author Jason Diamond originally set out to write. He found himself “drunk and lying,” telling a high school enemy about his planned biography of the great filmmaker John Hughes. That tome never got finished.
Part memoir and part “Heart of Darkness,” “Searching for John Hughes” examines the works of the late filmmaker, the abandoned work of a young author, depression, creating under trying circumstances, and a life spent, in one way or another, looking for the sense of belonging found by the characters of films like “The Breakfast Club.”
amNewYork caught up with the Brooklyn-based author in advance of his event at Strand Book Store this week to talk about alternate paths and whether the films of Hughes hold up today.
Here’s an unanswerable question: If you finish the biography, how does your life change?
Everything may have changed. I think I would have peaked very early. I needed to keep failing and screwing up to get to the point I’m at now. And I’m not at some great high mountain, but I’m happy and pretty grounded. If I had been this miserable, crappy, drunk 20-something who somehow got this pathetic excuse for a biography into the world, I think I would have been pretty horrible.
When was the last time you watched “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”? And after living with these films for so long — both in writing the biography and then this book — what’s the experience like of sitting down now to watch a Hughes film?
I would say I watched “Ferris Bueller” three weeks ago. And I hadn’t watched it in the post-book era. And I realized that I feel like I’m a part of the story, weirdly enough — not the movie, but the Hughes story. ... I feel closer to his movies. I’ve watched them from every possible angle, from nerdy teenage fan to wannabe movie critic. I feel a deeper connection, and it’s incredibly rewarding.
There are 500 cable channels, all of Netflix, Hulu and YouTube, and a billion podcasts. What’s the elevator pitch as to why a 15-year-old should seek out Hughes’ ’80s films today?
I would never walk up to a random teen and hand them “The Breakfast Club” or “Pretty in Pink.” I think it takes a certain kind of kid. I was watching these movies in the ’90s, and by then thy were already 10 years old. There’s a certain kind of kid seeking something that’s their own, that they can build on. ... Teens will always be in search of their identity and teens will always be looking for something to relate to. Those movies definitely still speak to people and give them an idea that they’re not alone in the world.