Generations of movie buffs recall Alan Ruck from his iconic role as Ferris Bueller’s neurotic friend Cameron in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” But like a lot of actors who star in a runaway hit, Ruck found that instant fame was not all it was cracked up to be.
Ruck said that after that 1986 blockbuster, he struggled to find acting jobs. He was so closely linked with Cameron that he couldn’t get cast as other characters.
“The Bueller thing got to be a pain in my ass when people would bring it up during that period,” Ruck recalled in a recent chat on Marc Maron’s “WTF” podcast. “And I would go, ‘I’m done.'”
Alan Ruck Worked Odd Jobs After ‘Ferris Bueller’
Ruck, 65, is now starring in the HBO Max show “Succession.” But for a while there, he was at loose ends, unable to catch a break in Hollywood or New York.
“In those years where I couldn’t seem to scare up any work, I was like, ‘Oh, well. I guess [‘Ferris Bueller’] was my shot,'” Ruck told Maron.
“That movie came out in ’86. And then I stumbled around New York,” he continued. “In 1988, I did a pilot in Thailand about a photojournalist in Vietnam. And I really wanted it to go [get picked up]. In a network way, it was like ‘Succession.’ Things weren’t going great.”
Then, back in L.A., he worked on a pilot that failed and paid him nothing. “Flat-ass broke,” Ruck contacted a temp agency for work. He wound up at a Sears warehouse in East L.A. for several months. Humbled, the actor just punched the clock and kept his head down, hoping no one recognized him from “Ferris Bueller.”
After that, Ruck became a bartender. But by the mid-1990s, he was back to acting, landing parts in the movie “Speed” and on the ABC show “Spin City.” And now he’s starring in an Emmy-winning TV show. It just goes to show that in Hollywood, there are second acts.
‘Ferris Bueller,’ an Instant Classic, Drew Mixed Reviews from Critics
“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” follows the exploits of Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick), a teenager from a wealthy suburb north of Chicago, his friend Cameron (Alan Ruck) and his girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara) as they ditch school and explore the city, dodging school officials and parents along the way.
The movie grossed over $70 million at the box office and became a beloved classic. But it garnered mixed reviews from critics, some of whom panned the movie for its broader social implications. Ferris, who is unquestionably spoiled, uses what was at the time relatively pricey technology to help him ditch school.
“What should’ve been a joyful romp turns into a stale, sour-edged celebration of the New Conformist, an affluent, technology-addled cherub without a rebellious whim in his brain,” the Los Angeles Times griped. While Ferris is certainly plenty rebellious as far as his principal, Ed Rooney (Jeffrey Jones) is concerned, he doesn’t rebel against the conventions of the day.
The Philadelphia Inquirer compared the film unfavorably to “Risky Business,” saying that while the latter hinted at the shortcomings of wealth, “Ferris Bueller” “insists just the opposite.” The Chicago Tribune’s Gene Siskel panned it, saying it lacked meaning or purpose until the very end.
Still, other critics – including the Chicago Sun-Times’s Roger Ebert – took a shine to the movie, calling it “fun,” “sporadically hilarious” and “slight, whimsical and sweet.” And audiences seemed to agree. Ultimately, “Ferris Bueller” earned a place in the annals of film history with multiple classic scenes and breakthrough performances.
Watch the movie’s official trailer here: