Matthew Broderick, the eternal teenager of American cinema

Work Alexis Lebrun March 21, 2022

Today, the New York comedian embodies most of his roles in the theater, but it was on the big screen in the 1980s that he quickly became a cult actor for an entire generation. On the occasion of Matthew Broderick’s 60th birthday, TCM Cinéma looks back on his high-profile beginnings with three of his most significant films made before he was 30.

Shall we play a game?

When the general public discovered Matthew Broderick’s youthful face in War Games (John Badham) in 1983, he was only 21 years old and had already broken the precocity record by becoming the youngest Tony Award winner in the world. Supporting actor in a Broadway play. But it’s John Badham’s now cult feature film that brings it out all over the place, producing a surprise hit. I must say that the film appeals to the public of that time. We are in 1980, and the Cold War is far from over: renewed tensions between the USSR and the US make the population fear a nuclear apocalypse. Indeed, WARGAMES speaks almost exclusively of this angst, as the film is about a young hacker who, by inadvertently logging into the US Army’s computer system, threatens to unwittingly provoke a nuclear war, thinking he is trying a new game on his computer.

This cheeky young geek is played by Matthew Broderick with a smirk, and almost four decades after the film’s release, this first starring role remains one of the most iconic of an actor’s career. “War Games” testifies to an era that we thought had ended only a few weeks ago: it testifies to the growing concern about nuclear weapons and the risk of “mutually assured destruction”, while at the same time marking a turn in the cinematic presentation of new information and communication technologies. technologies that were then as promising as they were disturbing, from video games to hacking and remote control. It is even stated very seriously that WARGAMES influenced certain decisions taken by Reagan and American deputies in terms of cybersecurity …

Life moves pretty fast…

After this unforgettable face-to-face encounter with the WARGAMES computer, Matthew Broderick takes on the role of a character who will never leave him: Ferris Bueller. This lazy high schooler becomes an icon of the 1980s, inviting the public to follow his adventures with his girlfriend and hypochondriac best friend, while truant in Chicago driving a Ferrari to an original soundtrack. as iconic as the feature film from which it is taken and which was released in France as LA FOLLE JOURNÉE DE FERRIS BUELLER (John Hughes, 1986). The American director is an absolute expert on teenage films, and he excels at this: inspired by Matthew Broderick, he speaks directly to the audience, breaking the fourth wall, and this is facilitated by the freedom of tone of the script. make it eternal. It is impossible to forget, for example, the incredible parade scene where Broderick unleashes all his youthful ardor into the Beatles’ version of Twist and Shout…

A true declaration of John Hughes’ love for the city of Chicago, FERRIS BUELLER is what they call the film of a generation, but its regular viewing should be prescribed to everyone just for the sake of Broderick’s performance. A few years later, the actor would successfully transition to an incomparably more dramatic register, playing the legendary Colonel Robert Gould Shaw at the head of an all-African American regiment in one of the greatest Civil War films, the epic GLORY (Edward Zwick, 1989), where his performance is inevitably overshadowed playing a young Denzel Washington (Oscar for Best Supporting Actor) and Morgan Freeman. Matthew Broderick was a little offended by the movie awards, but the two Tonys he owns and the fan love he gets in the theater should comfort him, and how many actors can boast of becoming iconic before they turn 25?

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