The 1980s were a fertile time for teen comedies in general, but even among the other films in the subgenre, the movies of John Hughes rose above the pack. In a series of films beginning with Sixteen Candles in 1984, Hughes charted the teen experience in ways that both critics and audiences came to adore, creating a string of memorable stories that fans still love today.
In 1986, Hughes added to his already impressive teen comedy resume with Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the story of a kid (Matthew Broderick) who’s sick of school and decides to use his intelligence, ingenuity, and determination not to study, but to have the best fake sick day of all time. The film helped make Matthew Broderick into a massive star, but was written so well that even the actors in supporting roles got a boost to instant icon status. Decades after it was released, the actors in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off are instantly recognizable to fans of the film. Here’s what they’re all up to now.
Matthew Broderick (Ferris Bueller)
Though Ferris Bueller would become the defining role of the first decade of his career, and still makes him a recognizable figure, Matthew Broderick‘s breakout role actually arrived three years earlier, when he played computer hacker David in the cyber-drama "WarGames". Roles in films like "Ladyhawke" soon followed, and in 1986 he became everyone’s favorite enterprising teen slacker when John Hughes cast him in the title role of "Ferris Bueller’s Day Off." The film gave Broderick some of the most memorable scenes and most quotable lines of his entire career.
After Ferris was a hit, Broderick kept working steadily in film and television. The decade following that film brought roles in "Glory," "The Freshman," "The Lion King" and "The Cable Guy," and other memorable roles include "Godzilla," "Election," "Inspector Gadget," and more. In 2001 Broderick, an accomplished stage actor with Broadway credits stretching back into the early 1980s, took one of the leading roles in Mel Brooks’ "The Producers," one of the most acclaimed, popular musicals of the 21st century. He still divides his work between stage and screen, and more recent projects include 2019 appearances in the TV series "Daybreak" and "Better Things."
Alan Ruck (Cameron Frye)
Like Broderick, Alan Ruck‘s screen acting career also started to take off in the early 1980s, and after early roles in films like Class and Bad Boys, he landed the unforgettable part of Ferris’ best friend Cameron Frye in "Ferris Bueller’s Day Off." Ruck had the task of playing everything Broderick’s Ferris was not, and did it so well that he stole several scenes in the movie with his anxious comedy.
Ruck continued to work regularly through the rest of the 1980s, but the 1990s was where he really got prolific with his work on the big and small screens. That decade brought roles in films like "Young Guns II," "Speed," "Star Trek: Generations," and his memorable work as navigator Rabbit in "Twister." It also included numerous TV gigs on shows like "Going Places," "Mad About You," "Muscle," and a starring role on the Michael J. Fox-led sitcom "Spin City."
Ruck has continued to work regularly throughout the 21st century, and the late 2010s brought with them a renewed sense of the spotlight around his work. In 2016 he joined the cast of the acclaimed horror TV series adaptation of "The Exorcist," and in 2018 he joined the ensemble cast of HBO’s award-winning family drama "Succession."
Mia Sara (Sloane Peterson)
Mia Sara‘s breakthrough role as a screen actress arrived in 1985, when she was cast as Lili in the Ridley Scott-directed fantasy epic "Legend." She followed that up the very next year with another iconic role in an iconic film when John Hughes cast her as Sloane Peterson in "Ferris Bueller’s Day Off." As Sloane, Sara added a level of cool to the often goofy antics of her co-stars, while still being in on the joke the entire time. It’s a difficult role to play when Broderick is often stealing the show, but she nailed it.
Of course, Hollywood took notice of this opening one-two punch, and Sara spent the next two decades working regularly in film and television. Her other major credits following "Ferris Bueller’s Day Off" include "Queenie," "Shadows in the Storm," "Timecop," "The Set Up," "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," "The Birds of Prey" TV series, and more. Her last major role came in 2012 with "Dorothy and the Witches of Oz." After quitting acting in the 2010s, she became an accomplished poet.
Jennifer Grey (Jeanie Bueller)
Jennifer Grey‘s screen acting credits begin in 1984, and though she performed in fewer than a dozen roles over the course of the decade, several of them proved to be classics. In 1984 she co-starred in "Red Dawn" and "The Cotton Club." Then in 1986 came "Ferris Bueller’s Day Off" and the role of Jeanie, the title character’s jealous and vindictive sister. But the most iconic role was yet to come: In 1987 she starred as Baby in "Dirty Dancing," which became an ’80s cinema phenomenon on its own that’s now on par with "Ferris Buelle"r in terms of its devoted fanbase.
Grey spent the 1990s working steadily in film and television, with credits including "Wind," "Lover’s Knot," "Portraits of a Killer," and the TV series "It’s Like, You Know…". After a brief break from acting following the birth of her daughter in the early 2000s, Grey returned to the screen for roles in everything from "John from Cincinnati" to "Phineas and Ferb" and "Red Oaks." In 2010, after undergoing a physical examination to make sure it was safe to perform given her injuries in a 1987 car crash, Grey competed in Season 11 of the competition series "Dancing with the Stars."
Jeffrey Jones (Ed Rooney)
Jeffrey Jones‘ screen acting career took off in the mid ’70s thanks to roles like John Adams in the miniseries "The Adams Chronicles," and by the 1980s he was an in-demand character actor. After landing roles in "Easy Money," "Amadeus," and other projects, he was cast as Ed Rooney in "Ferris Bueller’s Day Off." Jones’ work as the pompous, relentless dean of students quickly made him one of teen cinema’s most popular villains we love to hate.
Jones continued to pick up major roles after his "Bueller" success, starring in the short-lived, Wes Craven-produced, off-the-wall forgotten sitcom "The People Next Door." Surrounding the failure of that show, he found safe harbor in Tim Burton films like "Beetlejuice," "Ed Wood," and "Sleepy Hollow." Other major roles included being a conduit for the Dark Overlord in "Howard the Duck," "The Hunt for Red October," "The Crucible," "The Devil’s Advocate," and a role as newspaper publisher A.W. Merrick in the acclaimed HBO series "Deadwood."
In 2003, Jones pleaded no contest to a charge of employing a teenage boy to pose for nude photos, and in 2010 he was sentenced to community service for failing to update his sex offender status. These legal issues led to fewer screen appearances in the 2010s, but he did re-emerge in 2019 to reprise the role of Merrick in "Deadwood: The Movie."
Lyman Ward (Tom Bueller)
Lyman Ward‘s screen acting career stretches all the way back to the early 1970s, when he began appearing in guest roles on TV series like "Bonanza," "The Delphi Bureau," "One Day at a Time," and the very first episode of "Laverne & Shirley." He continued to work regularly throughout that decade, and by the 1980s he was appearing in films like "Protocol," "Moscow on the Hudson," and "A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge." As Ferris Bueller’s father in "Day Off," he brought a sense of likable cluelessness to the comedy, particularly in the scene when he dances to the parade music in his office window, unaware that his son is leading the celebration in the street below.
After "Ferris Bueller," Ward continued to work regularly throughout the rest of the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s in both TV and film, with credits including "Murder, She Wrote," "Family Ties," "thirtysomething," "First Monday," "Independence Day," "JAG," "Monk," and many more. In the 2010s his acting work began to slow down, and his last major role was in an episode of "Transparent" in 2015.
Cindy Pickett (Katie Bueller)
Cindy Pickett‘s breakthrough as a screen actor came in 1977, when she was cast on the long-running soap opera "Guiding Light." By the 1980s, more TV and film roles were flowing in, including appearances on "The Magical World of Disney," "Riptide," "Simon & Simon," "Magnum P.I.," "Call to Glory," and more. In 1986 she played Ferris Bueller’s mother Katie, who had to take the brunt of the parenting work on throughout her son’s day off while her husband hung out in the city, taking lunches and dancing in his office. Her onscreen husband Lyman Ward soon became her real-life husband, though they divorced in 1992.
After "Bueller," Pickett continued to work regularly, appearing in series like "Amerika" and "St. Elsewhere" in major roles while also appearing in films like "DeepStar Six," "Crooked Hearts," "Sleepwalkers," and more. More recent credits include episodes of "Burn Notice," "Saving Grace," "The Client List," and "The Mentalist," and in 2018 she co-starred in the post-apocalyptic horror series "Age of the Living Dead."
Edie McClurg (Grace)
Edie McClurg is one of the most recognizable character actors of her generation, thanks in no small part to her role as Rooney’s eccentric secretary Grace in "Ferris Bueller’s Day Off." Her screen acting career took off in the mid-’70s with roles in TV series like "Tony Orlando and Dawn" and "The Chevy Chase Show" special, as well as roles in films like "Carrie" and "Cracking Up." By the time "Ferris Bueller" rolled around she’d been working steadily for more than a decade, with regular roles in TV series like "Madame’s Place," "The Dukes," and more.
After the success of "Ferris Bueller," McClurg became part of John Hughes’ stock company of favorite actors, appearing in his films "Planes, Trains and Automobiles," "She’s Having a Baby," and "Curly Sue." She also continued to work frequently in television, starring or guest-starring in series like "Small Wonder," "Valerie," and "7th Heaven." Though her output had slowed somewhat by the 2010s, she continued to work via series like "CSI," "NCIS," "Mike and Molly," and more. She’s also an accomplished voice actor, with roles on shows including "Rocket Power," "Clifford the Big Red Dog," "Bobby’s World," and "Snorks."
Jonathan Schmock (Maitre D’)
There are a few examples in "Ferris Bueller’s Day Off" of actors who come in for just one scene but leave a lasting impression as they get roped into Ferris’ shenanigans and schemes. Jonathan Schmock is arguably the most memorable of these actors as the maitre d’ at Chez Quis who refuses to believe Ferris is the "Sausage King of Chicago."
Schmock had already been working for a few years by the time he was hired for "Ferris Bueller," most notably on the TV series "Double Trouble," and has continued to make regular appearances in film and TV. His more recent work includes guest spots on "The Goldbergs," "Flaked," "Transparent," "2 Broke Girls," and more, but he’s not just a busy actor — Schmock is also an accomplished and prolific screenwriter, particularly in the realm of TV comedies. His credits include co-developing "Sabrina the Teenage Witch," co-creating "Brotherly Love," and scripting for shows like "Blossom," "Dharma & Greg," "Real Time with Bill Maher," and "Young and Hungry."
Charlie Sheen (Boy in police station)
Charlie Sheen‘s rise to stardom had already begun by the time he was cast as a guy in a police station who hooks up with Jeanie Bueller in "Ferris Bueller’s Day Off." The son of famed actor Martin Sheen, his breakthrough came in 1984 with the release of "Red Dawn," and in 1986 he co-starred in the Penelope Spheeris film "The Boys Next Door." The "Bueller" role was little more than a cameo, but it nonetheless added to Sheen’s recognizability as he became part of the John Hughes hit machine.
More hits soon followed, including "Platoon," "Young Guns," "Wall Street," "Eight Men Out," and "Major League," making the ’80s a fertile period for Sheen. He followed that up with another string of major roles in the 1990s (including the spoof "Hot Shots! Part Deux," appearing alongside his dad in what some consider as the greatest cameo of all time), and in 2000 took over from Michael J. Fox as the lead in "Spin City" (appearing with Ruck). In 2003, he landed the role for which most 21st century audiences know him: Charlie Harper in the hit sitcom "Two and a Half Men." Sheen remained on the show until 2011, when clashes with Chuck Lorre led to his departure. A string of very public issues, from drug abuse to messy divorces, plagued Sheen throughout the 2000s and 2010s, including testing HIV positive. In 2019, Sheen revealed that he’d been sober for more than a year and was in therapy. He also continued to act semi-regularly, and in 2017 appeared in the films "9/11" and "Mad Families."
Ben Stein (Economics Teacher)
In a movie filled with quotable lines, the most famous may come from Ferris Bueller’s monotone economics teacher.
Ben Stein appears in only two scenes, calling out attendance (and repeatedly intoning "Bueller? Bueller?" without inflection) and peppering a lecture on the Great Depression with prompts for participation ("Anyone? Anyone?") only to be met by blank stares and dead eyes. Stein so perfectly embodied the archetype of the tedious, droning high school teacher that he carved out a niche as Hollywood’s go-to guy for playing erudite bores, stuffed-shirts, and meek bureaucrats. Most memorably, he portrayed teacher Mr. Cantwell on "The Wonder Years," an airport customer service rep in "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles," and Rabbi Goldberg on "Family Guy," not counting numerous cameos as himself or in a long-running eyedrops campaign.
Off-screen, Stein was well qualified to play an economics teacher. He was a speechwriter for Presidents Nixon and Ford, and has written extensively on economics and legal issues for the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, and the New York Times. In the ’90s and beyond, Stein became a regular TV presence, as a contributor to Fox News and other outlets as well as a host; he starred on two shows for Comedy Central, the talker "Turn Ben Stein On" and the game show "Win Ben Stein’s Money," where contestants who demonstrated more knowledge than the well-educated, well-read Stein won a portion of his salary.