Karen Leigh Hopkins was supposed to play a gym teacher in the John Hughes classic

By Kelli Bender
March 26, 2015 03:30 PM
Jamie McCarthy/Getty; Everett

Karen Leigh Hopkins hasn’t forgotten about The Breakfast Club.

As the film celebrates its 30th anniversary and is re-released in theaters this week, news of Hopkins’s scrapped role in the movie is starting to spread. Wanting to tell her version of the story, the actress and screenwriter recently opened up to The Hollywood Reporter about being cast and then abruptly cut from John Hughes’s teen classic.

Youngstown, Ohio, native Hopkins said that she was cast as the film’s young gym teacher shortly after she started auditioning for acting roles, and she thought the part would be her big break.

“John told me that my part was meant to bridge the gap between the students and the establishment. For my big scene I’d deliver a speech in the library to the five kids saying, ‘This is just a small part of your total life history,’ ” Hopkins explained. “What that meant was that even though everything feels intense in high school, that time ends and then real life begins. And the life I had dreamt of felt like it was just beginning.”

She never got to deliver that speech. After arriving in Chicago and filming for a few days, Hopkins received a call from casting director Jackie Burch, who told her she was being sent home.

“It felt sort of like, well, exactly like high school. One day you’re in with the cool kids and the next day you’re an outcast – as in out of the cast,” Hopkins said of the experience.

Hopkins had filmed several scenes as the gym teacher before leaving, and she hoped those moments would still make the final cut. She was heartbroken to go to the movie and find that her role in it had vanished altogether. To this day, Hopkins is still unclear about why she was sent home and taken out of the film.

“It was a surprise when friends recently sent me articles from Vanity Fair (an excerpt from the new book John Hughes: A Life in Film) and the New York Post saying that my Breakfast Club character was merely there to provide a gratuitous nude scene where the kids sneak out and watch me showering through a peephole,” she shared in her THR piece. “What shower scene? I don’t remember one in the script, and I never filmed one. John kept conveying that my part was meant to be the slightly older person who makes it safely to the other side of high school and shows it can be done.”

Ultimately, some good came from Hopkins’s shocking dismissal from The Breakfast Club. After being rejected, the actress turned to writing and churned out a script for The Kindness of Strangers in just 14 days. Paramount producer Ned Tanen bought the script after recognizing Hopkins’s name from producing The Breakfast Club. Kindness of Strangers was never made, but selling the script encouraged Hopkins to keep trying.

Today she is known for writing the screenplays for movies like Stepmom and Because I Said So, but she still thinks about her place in Hughes’s canon.

“As the 30th anniversary re-release of The Breakfast Club approaches, the mention of my role in the press has felt oddly validating,” she shared. “It’s given me permission to reflect on that time and affirms that being a part of the film wasn’t a figment of my fertile imagination. It was a beloved movie – a cult classic – and I will always wish I could’ve been a permanent part of it, but that doesn’t erase the joy of simply being cast and getting to shoot it.”

As a side note, you can still catch Hopkins in all her ’80s glory as an aerobics instructor in the 1983 John Candy and Eugene Levy movie [Going Berserk]. The gym teacher role suddenly makes a bit more sense to us.

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