Films grow up with their maturing maker. Director John Hughes stays alert to young adults' concerns in the late '80s
New York — FILMS written, directed, and produced by John Hughes are always eagerly awaited - especially by young audiences, who've turned pictures like ``The Breakfast Club'' and ``Ferris Buehler's Day Off'' into major movie events. Mr. Hughes's films are shown in theaters around the world, despite the special problems of translating teen-age slang into a variety of languages. His greatest success outside the United States has come in Japan, where adolescents and young adults are strongly attracted to his youth-oriented stories and characters.
Although his fame is based primarily on teen-age pictures, from ``Sixteen Candles'' to ``Pretty in Pink,'' his work has shown definite signs of growing up in recent months. As he matures, his characters are growing older and a little bit wiser, as well.
His last movie, ``Planes, Trains & Automobiles,'' became a success by substituting two adult comedians (Steve Martin and John Candy) for the teen-agers who normally populate his films. His latest picture, ``She's Having a Baby,'' continues the trend toward maturity. It centers on two characters, played by Elizabeth McGovern and Kevin Bacon, who might have shown up in ``Weird Science'' or ``Some Kind of Wonderful'' awhile back - only now they're out of school, newly married, and making the big decision to start a family.
Making a recent New York visit to launch ``She's Having a Baby,'' filmmaker Hughes assured me that he still keeps young people in mind when he's writing, producing, or directing a movie. He says he'd never make a picture that he wouldn't let his own children see - and they're only eight and 11 years old.
But he acknowledges a new grown-upness in his movies, and says this is a reflection of the time we live in.
``The '80s are coming to a really fast conclusion,'' says Hughes in a sober tone. ``I think the market crash had something to do with it. It's amazing how quickly people have awakened: `Oh, gee! I guess you can't get something for nothing!'
``A lot of these old adages - like, don't tell me, `There's no substitute for hard work' - are true. In the early part of this decade, it was people pursuing sensations. I think now they want substance.''
In the past, Hughes has rarely been accused of overdoing substance in his comedies. But his current position as a major hitmaker is giving him more freedom to follow his own tastes. This includes a preference for avoiding action-packed stories and the violence that often goes with them.
``I'm probably going to stay in comedy,'' says the filmmaker. ``I like it. If I have any medicine to dish out, it's nice to coat it with a little laughter and a little entertainment.
``I like films about interesting characters. I'm not a big plot guy, or a `high concept' person. I like a movie that teaches me something about a particular character I really like. I mean, `The Godfather' for me - when I watch it on tape, I go bzzz past all the murder stuff, and I go for those conversations.''
Hughes likes his movies to be about recognizable people in recognizable, real-life situations. He says his new movie - about love, marriage, and having a baby - is exactly what he's aiming at, because it deals with a crucial period in many people's lives. ``It is important and significant,'' he says of this period, ``not because of what happens, but what doesn't happen. It's that settling-down period. After you're done with school and you're married or with someone - or not, it doesn't really matter - it's Saturday night, and you can't pick up the phone and call all your friends. You have to go to work on Monday morning. You're responsible for a lot of things. And life is getting quiet.
``Now what? What do you do now? It becomes much more difficult, because the decisions that you make are enormous. Am I gonna get married? Am I going to bind my life to this person?''
Hughes expects his characters will keep growing and evolving in future films. Right now, for instance, he's thinking a lot about how fathers deal with their families. And there's every chance that ``the dad situation,'' as he calls it, will appear in his movies before long.