What the Hell Happened to Matthew Broderick?


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?

miller billoxi blues

Matthew Broderick – Biloxi Blues Playbill

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.

broderick - max dugan

Matthew Broderick – Max Dugan Returns – 1983

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.

Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy – War Games – 1983

Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy – WarGames – 1983

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.

Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy – WarGames – 1983

Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy – WarGames – 1983

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.

broderick - ladyhawke

Matthew Broderick – Ladyhawke – 1985

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.

Next: Biloxi Blues and stage adaptations


Posted on January 12, 2013, in Movies, What the Hell Happened?, WTHH Actor and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 144 Comments.

  1. not all that black and white . Another factor when looking if a movie is a hit is date it was released. Some movies that where considered modest hits now would been considered big box office hits then vice versa.


  2. true. I know marketing is a separate cost the production budget going on.


  3. Siskel & Ebert Review “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”

    We love the John Hughes classic, but what did the iconic film critics think of it?


  4. Cast Of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off: How Much Are They Worth Now?

    Matthew Broderick

    Estimated Net Worth: $45 Million. Matthew Broderick is without a doubt the biggest star to rise from Ferris Bueller‘s success which isn’t surprising given his starring role as Ferris. It was definitely his breakout role and led to more roles in Project X, Glory, Infinity, Godzilla and voicing adult Simba in The Lion King. He has had many more roles and was recently seen in the 2015 film Trainwreck and has had small parts in different TV series. He can definitely afford to be choosy about his roles considering he already has a net worth of $45 million.


  5. Iam currently watch you can count on me and must say broderick really is the weak link. He never transitioned into adult roles well. He shows no inflection in his voice. SHowed no emotion as an emotional adult drawn into an affair. he excelled better in playing teens in light comedy but has no flair for dramatic roles playing adults. His portrayal seems awkward and stiff.


  6. Another reason he never became bigger star if you noticed he tried to stray away from ferris type roles playing uptight guys.audience someitmes hate when actor tries to something else. They like actor having trademark role they can latch on to


    • In all honesty, I just think that Ferris Bueller was a diamond in the rough so to speak for Matthew Broderick. Please tell me if there were any other times he played a brash, effortlessly cool (borderline sociopathic), young hotshot? Matthew should be for a man of his otherwise questionable range, lucky that he landed/nailed what would become such an iconic character of ’80s cinema/teen movies. Maybe if he could’ve somehow, prolonged his working relationship w/ John Hughes I could kind of see where you’re going.

      If anything, Matthew perhaps really had nowhere to go but down. In other words, he was somebody who may have peaked too early. Like I said, Matthew Broderick’s main appeal was his otherwise inoffensive, boy next door image. Once he outgrew that, he really didn’t have much else to fall back on.


  7. I am sure he was probably offered other ferris like roles but turned them down so he was not typecast. roles like election and cable guy are taking 180 degree turn from feeris


  8. I Was here trying to find out if this is the same Mathew Broderick who is married to the actress Sarah Jessica Parker- But I’m no wiser- Is he or isn’t he?


  9. mattew was one of those actors like freddie prinze jr who never fully translated into adult roles. fans could not accept him in it. He does better in light comedy then drama. He does not have the dramatic chops. In you can count on me he was flat as a man in moral dilema over his affair. Laura and mark ruffalo where amazing in the movie but matthew was the weak link.


  10. What Happened to Matthew Broderick – News & Updates

    Matthew Broderick is obviously most famous for his starring role in the hit comedy film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. However, he is a lot more than that one role. From voice acting to stage acting, this popular 1980’s entertainer has worked very diligently in entertainment following that one major success. You may be familiar with his work voicing adult Simba in the Lion King movies. Even that was a long time ago, though. What has Matthew Broderick been doing more recently? In this article, I’m going to be discussing how Broderick was able to become such a hit in Hollywood, while also making sure to address where he has taken his career more recently. Without further ado, let’s learn a little bit more about this guy.


  11. Ferris who? Matthew Broderick’s true calling is as a bit player for Kenneth Lonergan

    Nevertheless, there is a clarity and a consistency to the way Lonergan uses Broderick. He doesn’t appear in a great variety of character-actor guises; all three parts are, to some degree, milquetoast men more reminiscent of his character from Alexander Payne’s Election than the roles that made him famous: the teenage hacker in War Games and, of course, the titular flim-flammer in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Ferris Bueller looms so large in his filmography that when Broderick has been cast as a teacher, as in Election and Margaret, it always feels to some degree like a metatextual move. Yet I’m not sure it should feel that way, because looking at the fullness of Broderick’s career in general and his character-actor parts for Lonergan in particular makes Ferris, not his adult schmucks, feel like the outlier.

    That’s backed up by Ferris Bueller’s Day Off itself, in which Broderick manages to seem both exactly like what writer-director John Hughes had in mind for his teenage hero and also bizarrely miscast. Ferris introduces himself to the audience in the midst of a scheme to fake illness and stay home from school so he can (eventually) go on a day trip into Chicago with his girlfriend, Sloan, and his depressed best friend, Cameron. He speaks to the camera conspiratorially as he goes about the business of deceiving his parents and school administrators. Yet Broderick doesn’t really sell Ferris as a consummate con artist; the movie’s screenplay does most of that work, having the principal huff and puff about how he’s gonna catch that wily Bueller. Broderick also fails to drive home something else the movie keeps claiming about Ferris: That pretty much everyone at school loves the sweet bejesus out of him. Broderick, while far from unlikable as a performer, pitches Ferris somewhere between cutesy dork and supercilious jerk.

    To some degree, this isn’t Broderick’s fault. His take on Ferris probably is what Hughes thought a slick, charming, beloved popular kid is like. Hughes possessed enormous sensitivity as a filmmaker, and it’s easy to see why his movies have been elevated above more hormonal, less nuanced teen pictures. But some of his weaker teen movies, like Ferris Bueller, pay lip service to that emotional side while celebrating a bland version of the status quo (as in the supposedly feel-good sequence where hundreds of Chicago citizens instantly fall in love with Ferris’ spirited lip-syncing). Though Broderick was well past his teenage years when he filmed Ferris Bueller, he still didn’t have the electric charisma necessary to enliven Hughes’ wan conception of a teenage trickster.

    Broderick feels more at home in movies like You Can Count On Me, though Lonergan was far from the first filmmaker to recognize Broderick’s normcore bona fides. Before even the aforementioned Election, Broderick had a run of mainstream studio movies where he played notes ranging from nebbishy befuddlement to nerdy discomfort: The Cable Guy, Addicted To Love, and the 1998 remake of Godzilla, for which he did sort of a poor man’s Jeff Goldblum routine. But the only good movie in that pre-Election bunch trades on the spectacle of Jim Carrey absolutely steamrolling his co-star, while Election necessitates Broderick not just playing kind of a dork, but indulging in self-deception leading to a downfall nearly as spectacular as possible for a mild-mannered Midwestern history teacher (short of engaging in the kind of teacher-student affair that fells his colleague early in the film).


  12. Matthew Broderick to do a heck of a job as Katrina: American Crime Story’s FEMA chief

    Matthew Broderick has made a multi-decade career out of his nice-guy persona, but he’ll have to put in some extra effort if he’s going to charm the pants off of viewers of his new TV gig. According to a press release sent out this afternoon by FX, Broderick is set to co-star as disgraced FEMA chief Michael “heckuva job, Brownie” Brown on the second season of American Crime Story, titled, appropriately, Katrina: American Crime Story.

    The real-life Brown resigned from his post as head of FEMA after becoming the face of the agency’s epic screw-up of Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. Most infamously, then-president George W. Bush told him, “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job,” while touring the rubble of a ruined New Orleans, a sentiment that was, to put it mildly, not shared by the thousands of people trapped with no food or water at the Superdome at the time.

    According to NBC News, the Brown is now a conservative radio talk-show host in Denver, because of course he is. American Crime Story has yet to set a return date.


  13. Even though I’ve read this before, It doesn’t seem that I ever commented on Broderick (I enjoyed reading some other comments though). I’d say my favorite adult roles of his are “Election” and “The Last Shot” (the film is a little “The Producers” like though, now that I think about it). It’s understandable why his film stock diminished, as many of the films that he was in didn’t rate well, and I do agree with other comments that pointed out that he played many characters who were were kind of dopey sad sacks too often, which really differed from his early roles in “WarGames” and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, which were more inspired. I thought he was good in “Glory” too, but like some comments said, I think there were just too many times in which he played a role which either didn’t have that much of an effect on the film’s story or could’ve been replaced by someone else and hardly anyone would’ve noticed.


  14. I see Matthew Broderick is getting some good roles again

    Didn’t he go through a period of depression, move out of the house or something? During production of Deck the Halls (2006), he could often be heard saying to himself, “I’ve hit rock bottom”.

    Here are roles he almost did, according to IMDB:
    He was considered for the role of Joel Goodson in Risky Business (1983), which went to Tom Cruise.

    He turned down the role of Johnny Utah in Point Break (1991), which went to Keanu Reeves.

    He was considered for the role of Brad Hamilton in Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) which went to Judge Reinhold.

    He was considered for the role of Douglas Quaid in Total Recall (1990), which went to Arnold Schwarzenegger.

    He was considered for the role of Steve Gray in The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (2013). The role went to Jim Carrey, his co-star in The Cable Guy (1996).

    He was going to star opposite Steve Martin in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988), until somebody realized that he would look like Steve Martin’s grandson.

    He turned down the lead role of Maverick in Top Gun (1986), which went to Tom Cruise.

    He turned down the role of Michael Boll in Bad Influence (1990), which went to James Spader.

    He was considered for the role of Homer Wells in The Cider House Rules (1999) during its early development.

    He was originally cast as David Kahane in The Player (1992) when Sidney Lumet was directing.

    He was originally cast in No Small Affair (1984) in 1981 opposite Sally Field, but dropped out when Martin Ritt suffered a heart attack.

    He was originally cast as Jeffrey Willis in The Flamingo Kid (1984), but dropped out. Matt Dillon replaced him.

    He turned down the lead role in Jeffrey (1995), which went to Steven Weber.

    Prior to voicing Simba in The Lion King (1994), he was considered for the role of Prince Eric in The Little Mermaid (1989).

    He turned down the role of Alex P. Keaton on the sitcom Family Ties (1982), which went to Michael J. Fox.

    He was considered for the role of Walter White on Breaking Bad (2008), which went to Bryan Cranston.

    He was considered for the lead role in Batman (1989), which went to Michael Keaton.

    —Anonymous (128 views)

    9 replies 71 4 hours ago

    Crazy number of bad decisions.

    Yet he remains a household name because of one wise decision: Ferris Bueller.

    Can’t see him in Top Gun but he was probably closer to what the screenwriter had in mind for Risky Business–Joel is supposed to be a lot nerdier than Cruise, though you could argue that having someone like Cruise in that role is what made the movie (the good looking guy/girl who doesn’t know he’s good looking thing.)


    reply 21 4 hours ago

    I don’t think they were necessarily bad decisions for him. He never seemed interested in being a movie star as such – and many of those roles could have pushed him into that territory.

    He seems happy to be consistently working and, relatively speaking, flying under the radar.

    Even though he was only in one sequence, I loved him in Manchester By The Sea. He’s not afraid to be unlikable.


    reply 31 4 hours ago

    For the most part, I think he did right by deciding against most of those roles. I couldn’t imagine him being the lead in Risky Business, Top Gun, Total Recall, or Point Break. I think those movies would have bombed with him as the lead.

    He will always be Ferris Beuller to me.


    reply 41 3 hours ago

    A friend who majored in theater and teaches drama can’t stand him onstage. He says he never does anything. He just lopes around. And I’ve seen him on clips—mostly NY1’s OnStage—where that does seem kinda true.


    reply 71 3 hours ago

    There was one hilarious review of him in It’s Only A Play where a critic said something along the lines of “It’s a wonder he can talk at all since it’s obvious rigamortis has already set in.”


    reply 9 5 hours ago


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