John Hughes' death sheds intimate light on his inspiration and desire to bring families together.
The "teen king" film maestro of adolescent angst had some powerful feelings about high school himself: his wife of 39 years was his high school sweetheart. Adolescence was an era during which he famously referred to himself as a "misfit loser," which must not have turned Nancy off. They married in 1970, and then John took off for art school. Readers' Blog: Everyone says that getting married young is a bad idea...or is it?
The Hugheses based themselves in Chicago and practiced a relatively Midwestern mentality in the face of showbiz and fame. They had two sons, John III, now 33, and James, 30. John's film career took off in the early 1980s, and the family spent the next three decades moving between Chicago and Los Angeles. In interviews John sometimes voiced frustration over uprooting them for his career.
In various interviews in the 1980s and '90s, John revealed that his wife and boys were a major source of ideas when he was looking for creative projects to pursue. In a 1991 New York Times interview, John said that Home Alone, which has been rated the biggest money-making comedy ever, hatched from a family vacation when John had Nancy and their boys at the airport ready to take off for vacation. He said he looked around, wondering if they'd remembered everything. Then it dawned on him, "What if we forgot one of the kids? Bang. This is cool. This could be a movie." Home Alone was born. He later said he'd been wanting to make a movie that would bring parents and kids together.
John Hughes routinely counted on loved ones in real life to help him drum up inspiration. His notorious National Lampoon franchise was also based on "simple truths about people and families," and he's said that Sixteen Candles was based on an old friend whose family forgot their birthday because of a wedding. The famous soundtracks in his films, one of the trademarks for which he's best known, weren't always his own musical taste: "My son has always been around to give me a second opinion," Hughes once revealed. "He grew up around movies and scoring all the time, and has very good opinions. As he got into music, I turned to him for advice."
In 1994 Entertainment Weekly interview he hinted at wrapping up his film career in favor of family. ''I'm getting ready for grandchildren. I really don't see doing [movies] past 50,'' he said. John and Nancy were reportedly visiting their sons and grandchildren in New York City when John died of a heart attack yesterday morning.
Photo courtesy Flickr user Kafka Pie.