There are plenty of fun facts about Ferris Bueller’s parade scene, and no wonder: It's one of the most beloved moments in this '80s cult classic. It features stellar music alongside colorful visuals as a crowd of dancers and brass band members shimmy down a street in Chicago.
Considering how essential Bueller's impromptu performance is to the movie, you might have wondered how they filmed this elaborate setpiece. Stories from behind the scenes of Ferris Bueller's Day Off reveal the surprising drama that occurred while trying to coordinate thousands of actors, performers, and extras. From unscripted lines to licensing troubles, everybody on set worked diligently to produce one of the most memorable movie moments from the '80s.
Filming for the popular parade scene took place over two Saturdays. On the first, director John Hughes used the fact that there was an actual parade to his advantage. Hughes was able to take long, genuine shots of the celebration to establish authenticity.
In the DVD commentary, Hughes talks about how even the event organizers didn't realize what the filmmakers were doing. He said, "It was an actual parade which we put our float into - unbeknownst to really anybody. Nobody knew what it was."
The second day of filming continued a week after the actual parade took place. The crew needed a large number of extras to convince audiences it was a full and authentic event rather than an empty movie set. The filmmakers asked radio stations to put out announcements for locals to appear in a John Hughes movie.
Around 10,000 people reportedly showed up and gave the actors the energy they needed to pull off the performance. Matthew Broderick commented, “For the final shot, I turned around and saw a river of people. I put my hands up at the end of the number and heard this huge roar... I can understand how rock stars feel. That kind of reaction feeds you."
Construction workers and window washers can be spotted jamming out to Matthew Broderick's lip-synced rendition of "Twist and Shout." These were not choreographed dancers or extras hired to play a part - instead, they were just people going about their everyday jobs.
When they noticed the parade and heard the music, they joined in with everyone else. Hughes asked camera operators to film them alongside the actors and extras.
Since the parade scene notably includes a brass band, the filmmakers thought it would be necessary to add some brass to "Twist and Shout" to make it look authentic. EMI and the Beatles did not approve of the changes, however. As music supervisor Tarquin Gotch told Yahoo!:
[EMI execs] weren't happy because the song was [messed] with: brass was added in the editing room because there was a brass band [in the film]... I don't know if the Beatles weren't happy or if EMI wasn't happy, but somebody wasn't happy. You're not supposed to [mess] with the music."
Paul McCartney reportedly said, "If it had needed brass, we'd have stuck it on it ourselves."