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Class of 1984 was shot in approximately 40 days with a budget of about 3 million dollars. The film, which captured the punk image, became a hit, despite reviews which criticized its violent content. In fact, it seemed that the buzz surrounding the movie only helped its box office yield.
“When I made this film, I was trying to warn people about what was to happen,” said director Mark Lester, commenting on the rise of violence in schools. “And I thought if people could see this movie maybe people would start dealing with the issue.”
1. Real life inspired the plot.
Director Mark Lestor found inspiration from several news articles which described violent incidents happening in schools, including a teacher who brought a gun to class for protection. He visited his old high school and was surprised at the way the campus had changed for the worse, including the presence of gangs. “And I thought this is like Blackboard Jungle, the movie that I grew up with,” he said. Check out the similarities between Blackboard Jungle and Class of 1984 here.
2. Patten was the opposite of his character.
Timothy Van Patten was cast as the punk leader after playing a similar type of character in The White Shadow. In real life though, he wasn't anything like the character he played. “He was a sweet, gentle guy who didn’t seem right for this role at all, but he played it beautifully,” said Perry King. In fact, King and Patten got along so well that it made the scenes where they played adversaries a challenge. “Timothy did what Malcolm McDowell did in Clockwork Orange. He brought charm to the role,” Lester said. “He was captivating to watch and interesting.”
3. McDowell was a pro at crying.
Roddy McDowell’s part was originally offered to Dennis Weaver, known for his roles in Gunsmoke and McCloud. However, Weaver turned it down due to the violence. McDowell then jumped at the chance. “He loved it, so he signed right on immediately.” Lester said. “He was fantastic.” In fact, McDowell was such a seasoned professional that he was able to cry on the exact same word take after take, which impressed the director very much.
4. Michael J. Fox appears!
Class of 1984 was shot in Toronto, and while the principal actors were from Los Angeles, many of the actors playing students were from Canada, including Fox. “When I saw Fox’s audition tape, I said, ‘He’s so sympathetic. He’s great,’” remembered Lester. “I immediately hired him. And he was marvelous to work with.” The cast enjoyed working with the new actor too, who had yet to find success on the hit television series Family Ties. Perry King said, “I was hugely impressed by Michael Fox. When he was in the film, he was very new, very inexperienced.”