Alan Ruck on 'Freaky', 'Ferris Bueller', 'Succession': 'I became quite bitter about Ferris Bueller'
Slashing its way onto DVD next week, horror comedy Freaky hacks out a hilarious and bloodthirsty new take on the body-swap genre with help from Vince Vaughn and Kathryn Newton.
In it, 17-year-old Millie’s (Newton) school cred is put at serious risk when a deranged serial killer known as The Butcher (Vaughn) takes control of her body and embarks on a feverish killing spree. To make matters worse, if she doesn’t crack the curse within 24 hours, the switch becomes permanent. Talk about a tough day at school.
Blending dark humour with grizzly scares, Director Christopher Landon’s follow up to 2017’s Happy Death Day and its 2019 sequel emerged as one of 2020’s most enjoyable lockdown watches. Plus, according to co-star Alan Ruck — who plays a teacher in Millie's school — the project was just as fun to make as it is to watch: “I had a really good time,” he tells Yahoo.
Read more: Freaky director shares his favourite gore scene in the film
“I enjoyed working with Chris; when people know exactly what they’re doing, everybody can relax and that’s when you get your best work. Then the fact that Vince Vaughn was playing the lead? I was sold,” he smiles. “I was riding in pretty classy company.”
The movie also gave Ruck an opportunity to flex a side of his personality that he rarely gets to showcase. Blasting onto the scene as Ferris Bueller’s nervy best pal Cameron Frye in John Hughes’ 1986 teen classic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the star has been a regular sight on the big and small screen in the years since.
You may have spotted him in 1996’s disaster movie Twister or series like Spin City and, most recently, HBO’s backstabbing hit Succession. In Freaky, he plays Mr Bernardi - a particularly nasty woodwork teacher with a handle-bar moustache that’s even worse than his temperament. For Ruck, getting to lean into vindictive villain mode was definitely part of the allure.
“The karmic payback that happens to my character was a big selling point,” he grins, careful to dance around any spoilery specifics. Still, not everyone was a fan of Mr Bernardi - especially when it came to his very specific brand of facial fur: “My wife likes me with a beard but she does not like me with just a moustache,” he chuckles. “I once grew one of those huge biker moustaches that goes all the way down to your chin and she just hated it. There must’ve been someone in her past who she thought was an idiot who had a moustache like that. That’s the one look she doesn’t care for.”
Read more: Twister remake in development
Still, it hasn’t put him off completely. When we spoke back in February 2021, Ruck was deep in production on the much-anticipated third series of Succession, continuing the story of the feuding Roy family and their frantic quest to hold onto their 1%-er power.
Returning to the role of Connor Roy — the eldest-and-often-patronised son of Brian Cox’s ruthless patriarch Logan — has forced him once more into beard territory. “I’ve got whiskers now because of my character in Succession. We’re filming the third season and my character has a little tight, trim beard. I tend to grow all whiskers because as Brian Cox says, ‘Happy wife, happy life!’”
Created by Peep Show’s Jesse Armstrong and produced by director Adam McKay, Ruck’s involvement in Succession has provided a key moment of reinvention for the 65-year-old actor. After his pent-up performance alongside a freewheeling Matthew Broderick in Hughes’ sick day classic Ferris Bueller's Day Off went from beloved, to iconic, then restrictive, his feelings on the much-loved movie became muddled.
“I had a lot of fun making it. I’d just been on Broadway in a Neil Simon play with Matthew and he was offered that movie. Then I auditioned for Cameron and got it and that was just great good luck,” he says, casting his mind back to when he was 29-years-old.
“I had started acting in Chicago and had moved to New York, then I got that movie and got to go back to shoot in Chicago so I felt like a big shot. I was feeling pretty good about myself.”
However despite debuting to impressive box office returns and plenty of critical praise, Ruck’s involvement with Ferrris Bueller’s Day Off (which turns 35 this year) quickly became bittersweet. “We made about $77m and were the number 10 movie for the year - but then after that things happened in my life where I just couldn’t seem to get any work.” he reveals.
“There weren’t a lot of opportunities for me in films for a few years there and I became quite bitter about Ferris Bueller because I thought, ‘Well, that’s it’. I felt like I was a one-trick pony and everybody had seen the trick and they were done with me,” says Ruck candidly. “There was a while where people would say ‘Oh, Ferris Bueller!’ and I would say ‘yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever. Don’t want to hear it.’”
Thankfully as time marched on and new, varied roles came Ruck’s way, his views on the movie — and the impact it has had on fans across the world — have changed. “All these years later, I’m just really pleased that I was involved with something that so many people have loved for so many different reasons,” he says, looking back with a newfound appreciation.
“It’s just a sweet bit of escapism, right? It’s nice and easy and like putting on a comfortable jumper; you just know you’re going to be okay.”
Read more: How well do you know Twister?
Ferris and Freaky aside, Ruck will next be seen when Succession returns on 18 October - and as you can probably guess, there’s little he can reveal about what the future holds for the Roys. “We have no idea,” he grins when talk turns to receiving scripts.
“Jesse Armstrong and his gang of writers are masters of surprise. Nobody knows anything because the truth is, we don’t get the scripts until the very last minute because Jesse and the writers can’t leave them alone. They’re fine-tuning until the last minute - even on shooting days they’ll come up with pages of alternative lines and you want to do them all.”
Still, he wouldn’t have it any other way: “It’s thrilling. I’m just so happy and fortunate to be working with some of the best writers in the business,” smiles Ruck. “I hope this isn’t my swan song but if I didn’t ever do anything else, this would be a good one to go out on - because it’s just so damn good.”
Freaky is out now on digital download and on DVD from 4 October. Watch a trailer below.