Skip to main content

Judd Nelson’s character in The Breakfast Club is arguably the most significant. Bender, the chaotic criminal with a tender heart, has some of the most iconic moments in the whole movie. Who else but Nelson could properly master that fist pump while on the school football field? His spontaneous, risk-taking persona is part of what makes the film so memorable.

Yet unfortunately, the “bad boy” vibe that Nelson mastered rubbed off behind the scenes as well, which almost caused the actor to get fired from the film. Keep reading to find out why Molly Ringwald almost got him fired.

Molly Ringwald
Molly Ringwald | Bob Riha, Jr./Getty Images

Judd Nelson used method acting throughout the film 

Despite the rest of The Breakfast Club cast members already being locked down for their roles, the casting directors of John Hughes’ film had a hard time casting Bender. The bad boy criminal had to be played to perfection. It wasn’t until they auditioned Nelson that they knew he was born for the role. Susannah Gora’s book, You Couldn’t Ignore Me If You Tried, describes the casting process for Bender.

“While casting, Burch had a board on which she would post photos of the actors as she cast them in their roles. ‘I am a very visual person,’ she explains, ‘and I remember I had all four people up on the board, and I was waiting for that fifth ingredient. And when I put Judd’s picture up there, I knew I had my Breakfast Club.’”

Gorah’s book later goes on to describe Nelson’s audition. 

“Nelson took the Walkman off his head and threw it onto the floor, leaving the sound on. With the angry echoes of Johnny Rotten still blaring tinnily through the headphones, he began his audition. Remembers (Ally) Sheedy, ‘I was really kind of dazzled by him. He was so unpredictable, he did not stick to anything John wrote in the audition. Nelson stayed with it, and then he went off on his own riff. He went all over the place, and John loved it.” 

Judd Nelson got so into his character that John Hughes was ready to fire him 

During a Reddit AMA, Molly Ringwald answers questions about her career. One Reddit user asks if the rumors are true about Nelson almost getting fired.

The user asks, “I read this on IMDB about breakfast club: ‘John Hughes almost fired Judd Nelson because of his negative attitude towards Molly Ringwald off-camera. Paul Gleason convinced Hughes that Nelson was a great actor and was merely trying to stay in character.’ Is this true? What kind of behavior was going on? How has this impacted the making of the movie?”

To which Ringwald responds,

“This is true. I think Judd was doing the method actor thing during rehearsals. He was wearing Bender’s clothes and trying to annoy me. I was fine but John Hughes was very protective of me. We ended up having a powwow, led by Ally. I remember her telling me, ‘We have to get him focused. Like a laser!’ I think a bunch of us, including myself, called John and asked him to reconsider. I am thankful he did.”

Bender was originally going to be played by John Cusack


‘The Breakfast Club’: Mind-Blowing Behind the Scenes Facts

According to You Couldn’t Ignore Me If You Tried, Cusack was originally going to play the role of Bender. It’s hard to imagine the sensitive, puppy-eyed actor playing a rebellious bad boy, and the casting director for the film seemed to think so too. Gorah’s book reveals how upset Cusack was that he didn’t end up with the part. According to the film’s casting director Jackie Burch, Cusack was “totally wrong” for the role, Something, “which I think he’ll never forgive me about.”