Judd Nelson made his name playing a bad boy as Bender in John Hughes’ 1985 classic The Breakfast Club, and he’s still breaking hearts in his role in the melodramatic new film Just 45 Minutes from Broadway, which opens Oct. 3 in L.A. and Oct. 17 in New York. The movie, directed by independent film stalwart Henry Jaglom (who adopted the film from his stage show of the same name — not the George M. Cohan musical), follows a Yiddish theater family whose internal rivalries come to a head at their home outside New York City. The film creatively intertwines scenes from the stage show, which ran for a year in Santa Monica, Calif., with new scenes filmed for the movie alone. Nelson spoke with EW about the film, growing up Jewish, his feelings on a Breakfast Club reunion, and why he’s come in and out of the spotlight over the years.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When I finished watching Just 45 Minutes from Broadway, all I could think was “Wow, I’m glad my family is a bunch of academics and not actors.”
JUDD NELSON: I’m the only actor in my family, so I can’t really say if they are like that or not. But every family has some drama to it, right? They say blood’s thicker than water and I think that means that something that should be easy is not.
You grew up Jewish, and the pivotal scene in this film happens around a Passover seder table. Was the scene anything like your seders growing up?
What’s funny is that I’m playing the non-Jew in this. The whole Passover seder is a mystery to him. Whereas you know, I remember when I was young enough to recite the four questions, so it’s not much of a mystery to me. But certainly there’s no real interpersonal drama going on in my family during seder. Seder’s first, all drama will be secondary. What’s so funny is that every family does the hiding of the affikomen slightly different, right? Does the father hide it or do the kids hide it? It’s very funny.
Do you find religion more important to you now than it was 20 years ago?
There is this kind of tone to world politics and world affairs these days that seems to be shaded somewhat by religious affiliation. Things that maybe were thought to be less important 20 years ago now seem to be more important.
And even movies getting involved.
Exactly. A rather bizarre series of events that a movie or a trailer for a movie should cause murder? That’s kinda crazy. I think that we are all in danger if we don’t have a sense of humor about things.
Henry Jaglom’s work in films like Déjà Vu and Festival in Cannes has always been slightly outside the mainstream. Were you a fan before coming to this project?
Yes, I’ve known Henry for a long time and I’ve always found his work to be very unique and idiosyncratic. And that’s good because a lot of times these days a committee makes the film, whereas in Henry’s case it’s Henry making the film.
What’s exciting to you about independent film now? Does it seem easier or harder to get something made?
I think that a great movie can primarily come from a great script. And who knows where a great script can come from. It can come from a professional writer, it can come from a housewife who in her spare time writes it, it can come from a policeman who on his off days who is thinking of something and writes it down. So there’s just as much possibility that a great film will come from an independent production as it will from a studio production. So I think that every opportunity for anyone to make a film is good.
What are you working on next?
I have two in the can, one is called Bad Kids Go to Hell and the other is called Nurse 3D and those ones are completed and are waiting for release. And I’ve been writing a lot. I think I’m slowly going to emerge and try to get one or many set up somewhere and maybe work myself behind the camera. But I really like the writing process a lot.
You’ve gone in and out of the spotlight over the years. Is that on purpose?
I believe yes and no. As the world economic situation kind of swirls around the toilet, there are less projects being made and so you have to be maybe less picky, which is unfortunate and you have to get work where you can get it, and at the same time trying to keep yourself out of trouble — and I do find trouble kind of easily, so it’s nice that I keep myself busy.
Do you love or hate the idea of a Breakfast Club reunion?
I enjoyed working with all those people. I’ve enjoyed working with almost everybody that I’ve ever worked with. And the notion of seeing them again or working with them again, I have no problem with that. And I like working as a family, as a team, as a unit, and so all those projects that I worked with people that felt like that, I’d love to revisit those and I don’t think that success is necessarily a mountain peak, maybe it’s a raised plateau, maybe there’s room for everyone, not just one person. I don’t think you have to put someone down in order to go up.
I grew up with your movies and I love seeing the nods to The Breakfast Club in more recent pop culture, like on How I Met Your Mother and Psych.
It’s very cool. Certainly in the homage-esque tributes to The Breakfast Club, it shows the strength of John Hughes’ script and what he was doing in his films. He was the first guy who saw someone who was young and that did not mean that they were less, it just means that they were young. And so he was very important and I think it’s fascinating that kids who weren’t born when Breakfast Club was first released are finding it again and liking it again. It’s really a tribute to Hughes.
There’s been such a change recently and more young actors are carrying movies on their own.
Absolutely. I think it’s probably tough for a lot of these younger actors because boy, it seems like everybody’s got a phone on their camera and everyone’s prying into everyone’s personal life, I think it’s probably hard to just do your work.
Have you seen f—yeahjuddnelson?
That’s pretty funny right there. I will track that down.