What the Hell Happened to Matthew Broderick?
Matthew Broderick is a triple threat. He has been a star of stage and screen. His filmography includes iconic roles like Ferris Bueller and the voice of the Lion King. He’s even fought Godzilla. But these days, you are far more likely to see the former Ferris Bueller on Broadway than starring in a hit movie. The former A-lister’s film career is still active, but it has definitely cooled.
What the hell happened?
Broderick started his acting career in theater. He was noticed by a New York Times theater critic in an Off Broadway production of Torch Song Trilogy which led to roles on Broadway.
Broderick starred as Eugene Morris Jerome in two plays written by Neil Simon. Brighton Beach Memoirs and Biloxi Blues were the first two-thirds of Simon’s Eugene trilogy. The third play, Broadway Bound, starred Jonathan Silverman who would go on to play Eugene in the film version of Brighton Beach Memoirs.
The three plays were semi-autobiographical accounts of Simon’s life. The successful plays lead to Broderick getting offers for film and TV roles. Originally, Broderick was offered the role of Alex P. Keaton on Family Ties. But he backed out when he realized bigger offers were on the horizon.
Brighton Beach Memoirs also lead to Broderick being cast in his first film role, Max Dugan Returns. The movie was written and produced by Neil Simon. Max Dugan was released in 1983 and starred Marsha Mason, Jason Robards and Donald Sutherland. Sutherland’s son, Kiefer, also appeared in a small role.
The film was not a hit at the box office, but it was a start.
Later that year, Broderick co-starred opposite Ally Sheedy in the Cold War thriller, WarGames.
Broderick played a computer whiz who accidentally hacks into a top secret military computer which has unlimited control over the nuclear arsenal of the United States. He thinks he is played a computer game, but he may have unwittingly started a nuclear war. Sheedy played a classmate whom Broderick impresses by changing her grades at school and Dabney Coleman played the scientist responsible for automating the US nuclear defenses.
WarGames was inspired by Stephen Hawking. The original script was titled The Genius and it was about a dying scientist and a rebellious kid. The kid in the script is the only person smart enough to understand the scientist. According to co-screen-writer, Lawrence Lasker, “I found the predicament Hawking was in fascinating – that he might one day figure out the unified field theory and not be able to tell anyone, because of his progressive ALS. So there was this idea that he’d need a successor. And who would that be? Maybe this kid, a juvenile delinquent whose problem was that nobody realized he was too smart for his environment.”
Beverly Hills Cop director, Martin Brest, was originally hired to direct WarGames. But the producers found his take on the material to be too dark. Brest was fired after twelve fays of filming and replaced by Saturday Night Fever director, Jon Badham. According to Badham:
[Brest had] taken a somewhat dark approach to the story and the way it was shot. It was like [Broderick and Sheedy] were doing some Nazi undercover thing. So it was my job to make it seem like they were having fun, and that it was exciting.
Badham has said that Broderick and Sheedy were “stiff as boards” when he arrived at the set. They were concerned about being fired along with Brest. So, Badham tried to put his young actors at ease in order to give the film a lighter tone. To lighten them up, he had them do things like race around the sound-stage with the loser having to sing to the crew. When Badham lost the race, he sang The Happy Wanderer which he said was the silliest song he could think of.
Reviews were mostly positive. Roger Ebert raved that the movie was a “masterstroke” and gave WarGames his highest rating. But Vincent Canby of the New York Times wrote a dissenting opinion in his review. He compared the movie to a video game that “once played, tends to disappear from one’s memory bank.”
WarGames opened in third place at the box office behind Psycho II which also opened that week. Return of the Jedi was the #1 movie that weekend. Although it never held the top spot at the box office, WarGames became the 5th highest grossing film of 1983 behind Trading Places.
1983 was an incredible year for Broderick. He starred in a hit summer movie and he became the youngest actor to win a Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play for Brighton Beach Memoirs.
In 1985, Broderick co-starred opposite Michelle Pfeiffer and Rutger Hauer in Richard Donner’s fantasy film, Ladyhawke.
Broderick played a thief called The Mouse who helps a couple of star-crossed lovers. The couple (played by Hauer and Pfeiffer) were cursed. During the day, Pfeiffer’s character is transformed into a hawk. At night, Hauer is transformed into a wolf. With the help of The Mouse, they attempt to free themselves of the curse.
Originally, Kurt Russell was cast as Pfeiffer’s love interest. Donner wanted to cast Hauer as the evil captain of the guard. Hauer turned down the villain role, but when Russell pulled out of the project during rehearsals he was replaced by Hauer who had expressed an interest in the part. Broderick’s role was originally offered to Sean Penn and Dustin Hoffman.
Ladyhawke received mixed to positive reviews. But it was not a hit at the box office.
Posted on January 12, 2013, in Movies, What the Hell Happened?, WTHH Actor and tagged cable guy, ferris bueller, glory, godzilla, Lion King, matthew broderick, stepford wives, tower heist, war games. Bookmark the permalink. 135 Comments.