- Navigation -

Star Watch: Sad Wise Eyes in a Boy's Face
By BOB THOMAS, Associated Press Writer

Among the pack of young actors who now dominate the film world, none has better credentials than Matthew Broderick.

He was, after all, star of two Neil Simon hits on Broadway, "Brighton Beach Memoirs" and "Biloxi Blues." In television he appeared in the South African drama by Athol Fugard, "Master Harold ... and the Boys." In films he has enjoyed box-office success with the suspenseful "WarGames." This summer Broderick stars in the latest John Hughes paean to those lazy, crazy high school days, "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." Paramount Pictures is providing a big push, convinced that Hughes'golden touch with young audiences will continue.

Broderick was recently here from his New York base to join with Hughes in a publicity exercise. They made a good pair: Hughes, the outgoing, overage adolescent who still wears his hair like a teen-ager; Broderick, quiet, thoughtful with sad, wise eyes in a boy's face.

Alone in his Sunset Strip hotel suite, Broderick talked about "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." He plays a brilliantly devious high schooler who fakes illness to ditch school and romp through Chicago with a few pals -- Alan Ruck and Mia Sara. In the film's major scene, Broderick leaps on a parade float and blasts a rock number to the cheers of thousands.

"I was very scared," the actor admitted. "Fortunately, the sequence was carefully choreographed beforehand. We worked out all the moves by rehearsing in a little studio.

"It was shot on two Saturdays in the heart of downtown Chicago. The first day was during a real parade, and John got some very long shots. Then radio stations carried announcements inviting people to take part in 'a John Hughes movie.' The word got around fast, and 10,000 people showed up.

"For the final shot, I turned around and saw a river of people. I put my hands up at the end of the number and heard this huge roar. It was truly a unique experience. I had never worked in front of strangers before, and once I got over the scariness, it felt pretty tremendous. I can understand how rock stars feel. That kind of reaction feeds you." At 24, Broderick's youthful face allows him to play a high schooler, but he vows that it's the last time.

"In 'Project X,' which I just finished, I played a 23-year-old," he added." I like playing adults, and I don't want to return to high school. But then, I've said before.

"In 'Brighton Beach Memoirs,' I had a line that said I was in my 15th year. When I thought about it, I realized the character was actually 14. And I was 20 and 21 during the play." Matthew Broderick came naturally to acting. His father was the late James Broderick, a stage and film actor best known for the TV series, "Family." His mother, Patricia Broderick, is an artist who also wrote and directed plays.

"The first time I can remember wanting to be an actor was when I was 4 or 5," he recalled. "I was applying for a library card, and there was a line for 'occupation.' I had them write in 'actor.'" But when I was growing up, the prospect of appearing in front of people frightened me. I didn't want to be scared, so I resisted acting. I finally tried it in high school (playing Snoot in 'Midsummer Night's Dream') and decided I liked it.

"My father had become an actor the hard way. His father was a mailman, his mother was a cleaning lady. He came to New York for acting school and slowly carved out a career. There were periods when he was out of work for as much as a year, and those were bad times. Yet he never had to take any other kind of work.

"I had it easier. My first big role was in 'Torch Song Trilogy,' which was a hit." Neil Simon spotted Matthew and cast him as Marsha Mason's son in "Max Dugan Returns," and then in the two semi-autobiographical plays. Broderick has also managed to work in two Horton Foote films, "1918" and "On Valentine's Day," as well as the fantasy "Ladyhawke." Is there anything in his life except work?

"Sure is," he grinned. "I've been trying to make time for myself, and I've finally succeeded. This is the first time in five or six years that I haven't had a script waiting for me. I just want to wander for a while _ not far. It'll probably be within a five-block radius of my apartment in Manhattan. I just want to regroup for a while."