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Why 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off' upset Paul McCartney


Ferris Bueller’s Day Off remains one of the most beloved and absurdly reachable movies of the past 40 years. Complete with deft comedic writing, killer performances from each member of its cast, and a healthy helping of fourth wall breaking absurdity, there’s just something so infectious and fun about the journey that is the central character’s fight against responsibility and expectation. Never has a slacker been so astute, and never has a manipulative bastard been so likeable.

That mostly comes down to Matthew Broderick’s portrayal of Ferris. While he creates messes that other’s are left to clean up and constantly lies his way through his adventure, Ferris never comes off as smarmy or villainous. There’s a certain Bugs Bunny quality to Ferris, and Broderick’s performance, where his charm and affability make him immune to his heinous misdeeds. As director John Hughes put it, “Certain guys would have played Ferris and you would have thought, ‘Where’s my wallet?’ I had to have that look; that charm had to come through. Jimmy Stewart could have played Ferris at 15. I needed Matthew.” Simply put, just like the characters in the story, everyone in the audience eventually comes under Ferris’ spell.

Everyone, that is, except Paul McCartney. One of Ferris Bueller‘s most famous scenes involves Ferris, Sloan, and Cameron crashing a parade in downtown Chicago. Ferris finds his way onto a German float, where he sings Wayne Newton’s ‘Danke Schoen’ before bursting into a glorious rendition of The Beatles’ version of the old school rock and roll tune ‘Twist and Shout’ that gets everyone in the city up and dancing. That infectious energy apparently didn’t endear the film to McCartney, who took issue with the rearrangement of the track.

“I liked [the] film but they overdubbed some lousy brass on the stuff!” McCartney told writer William Dowling in 1989. “If it had needed brass, we’d had stuck it on ourselves!”

Hughes was a massive Beatles fan, proclaiming to have “listened to The White Album every single day for 56 days” while shooting the movie. The script even included references to John Lennon, but when Hughes heard McCartney’s reaction, he “offend[ing] a Beatle. But it wasn’t really part of the song. We saw a band [onscreen] and we needed to hear the instruments,” as he explained on the DVD commentary.

Part of McCartney’s consternation could also be rooted in the fact that he had no say in the song’s usage or altered arrangement. When The Beatles publishing company was sold without the band’s knowledge to ATV Music, and later when Michael Jackson bought ATV Music and merged it with Sony Publishing, McCartney lost his ability to dictate whether his songs could be used in media. Even if it was simply because of the overdubbed horns, pissing off Paul McCartney never seems like a sensible idea.