Ferris Buellers Day Off turns 35: Secrets behind the most iconic lines

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Legend has it, John Hughes wrote the script for “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” in just six days. The joke at the time was, imagine how good it would have been had he spent seven. 

Released 35 years ago Friday, the ’80s flick follows a charismatic troublemaker (Matthew Broderick) who cajoles his mopey friend, Cameron (Alan Ruck), into skipping school and having a jam-packed day of fun in Chicago. 

The irresistible comedy, which Hughes also directed, didn’t exactly set box office records. It finished in second place its opening weekend, and 10th for the year. 

Since then though, “Ferris” has become a classic, burrowing its way into pop culture like few other teen comedies — a generally disposable genre. 

Part of its durability lies in its abundance of memorable scenes. Its quotability quotient is off the charts, a result of Hughes’ genius script as well as winning performances by the cast. 

Here are the stories behind the five most enduring lines. 

“Bueller? Bueller?” 

Ben Stein, the amateur actor and law professor, wasn’t even supposed to be in the film. Hughes, who had met Stein through friends, planned to use Stein as an off-screen voice calling the roll in Bueller’s class. 

But Stein’s unique monotone delivery had the cast and crew in stitches, inducing Hughes to move him in front of the camera. 

The director told Stein to improvise a lecture on a topic he knew about, and an unforgettable scene was born. 

The “Bueller?” line has since become an expression used to indicate a lack of reply. 

Stein has said that the line will likely lead his obit, and he’s leaning into it. He’s asked that his tombstone read, “He loved dogs,” and, “Bueller? Bueller?” 

“My best friend’s sister’s boyfriend’s brother’s girlfriend heard from this guy who knows this kid who’s going with the girl who saw Ferris pass out at 31 Flavors last night. I guess it’s pretty serious.”

Even today, “Ferris” fans approach Kristy Swanson and ask her to recite the line. She happily obliges. 

“It’s fun to do,” Swanson told The Post. “And that line has never left my brain. It’s one of those things where you never forget.”

But she almost didn’t get to say it. 

Hughes had originally envisioned Swanson — then 15 — as the girl who chats with Ferris on a high school pay phone and asks, “How’s your bod?” 

But scheduling issues forced Hughes to instead give Swanson the role of Simone Adamley, an eager girl who explains to the teacher why Bueller might be absent. 

“That line was a tongue twister, for sure,” Swanson says. “I had to sit down and go over it and over it in my head. There were some mistakes [while shooting]. I don’t know how many.” 

Either way, Swanson impressed Hughes. He invited her a few days later to play Ducky’s love interest in “Pretty in Pink.” 

“He’s very popular, Ed. The sportos, motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, wastoids, dweebies, d–kheads, they all adore him. They think he’s a righteous dude.” 

Edie McClurg, who plays the cheery school secretary, Grace, to principal Ed Rooney (Jeffrey Jones), was brought in for an audition because of her Midwestern looks. 

This memorable line was part of the scene hopefuls read during the casting for Grace. McClurg, who has family in Chicago, decided to deliver it with a notable Midwestern accent. 

At the end, McClurg thought it would be funny to improvise, and she threw in the “righteous dude” line. 

Hughes cracked up and gave her the role. 

“You’re Abe Froman, the sausage king of Chicago?” 

The scene in which Ferris pretends to be a bratwurst bigwig in order to be seated in a fancy French restaurant, was likely inspired by real events. 

Ferris Bueller was probably based, in part, on Ed McNally, a classmate of Hughes’ at Glenbrook North, the school where the film is set. McNally grew up down the street from Hughes and is now a Manhattan lawyer.

Back in their day, McNally and Hughes once faked their way into a sold-out comedy show by claiming they were an advance crew for Kirk Douglas, who happened to be in town shooting a film. 

These days, there are Abe Froman T-shirts, and a few years ago, an Abe Froman sausage cart popped up outside of a Chicago skyscraper. 

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” 

One of the more charming aspects of Bueller’s character is that he talks directly to the audience — a technique that Hughes had never used before. 

“Matthew was a little uncomfortable talking to camera,” the late director said in 1999. “We were both sort of feeling our way through this technique.” 

That fourth-wall-breaking gave the film some of its bigger laughs, including Bueller cracking, “Never had one lesson,” after playing a clarinet badly. 

The technique also gave the movie — and many of its viewers — its mantra. 

“Life moves pretty fast” spells out the movie’s theme and leaves the audience with advice on how to live. 

“Ferris is almost a magical character,” co-producer Tom Jacobson says in “You Couldn’t Ignore Me If You Tried” by Susannah Gora. “He is a showman and a storyteller, and he has this exuberance that is a celebration of life.”

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