'Adventures in Babysitting' turns 30: Keith Coogan tells stories from the set

Keith Coogan, who played Brad, dishes on the film.

July 3, 2017, 1:20 PM
PHOTO: Anthony Rapp, left, as Daryl, Elisabeth Shue, as Chris, Keith Coogan, as Brad, and Maia Brewton, front center, as Sara, in a scene from "Adventures in Babysitting."
Anthony Rapp, left, as Daryl, Elisabeth Shue, as Chris, Keith Coogan, as Brad, and Maia Brewton, front center, as Sara, in a scene from "Adventures in Babysitting."
Touchstone Pictures

— -- It's been 30 years since audiences watched Elisabeth Shue lead her babysitting charges around downtown Chicago in "Adventures in Babysitting," but for Keith Coogan, who played 15-year-old Brad in the film, the memories are still vivid.

Cogan, who turned 17 at the start of production in 1987, said in a 2016 interview with ABC News that fans still love to discuss the movie with him.

"I've had people say that this was their first film that their parents took them too that they remember going to the theaters to watch," he said. "[But for me], I think it’s about crazy. I think these kids leave the suburbs and they go into town and everybody they meet is absolutely crazy. It's a loony bin in the city."

For many, including Coogan, "Adventures in Babysitting" is a classic. The PG-13 film centers on Chris Parker (Shue), who, after being stood up by her boyfriend, agrees to babysit for a Thor-obsessed girl, Sara (Maia Brewton), Sara's older brother Brad (Coogan) and Brad's friend Darryl (Anthony Rapp). After Chris' friend calls in need of help, the foursome ventures into downtown Chicago where they run into one problem after another. Coogan said that when he first heard about the project, he was desperate to be a part of it, as he wanted to work with director Christopher Columbus. His agent set up an audition, and, at the advice of his mother, Coogan brought a computer to the waiting room in an attempt to distract the others who were trying out for the part.

"[Actor] Jonathan Ward was in there too, very close, and me and Jonathan had been up for many [of the same] parts before. I was like, 'He's the only one I could see as Brad. This is going to be an issue," he said with laugh. "I read for Darryl as well, and Anthony Rapp also read for Brad. But he is Darryl! You can't get another Darryl."

Casting babysitter Chris Parker proved to be a challenge too. Coogan said he did screen tests with a number of actresses who went out for the part, including Phoebe Cates and Valerie Bertinelli. But, he added, nobody quite captured the essence of the character like Shue.

"I still have a huge crush on Elisabeth Shue," Coogan said. "I've done a couple of films like 'Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead' with Christina Applegate, where I saw a very young woman carrying a multi-million dollar picture for a major studio and the pressure must be tremendous. But I am amazed at the level of professionalism and the dedication to the work. [Shue] really did carry the picture."

Most of the production, he said, took place in Toronto, though there were some moments that had to be shot on location in and around Chicago. One example: the scene in which Shue and the kids sing "The Babysitting Blues" in a famed nightclub, FitzGerald's.

"We went in on a Sunday to a recording studio in Chicago with Albert Collins and the Icebreakers. There was some structure for the song but they basically, in one or two takes, pounded out the music for it and Albert's part, brought us in, and [Shue] did her part with Albert and we did our back-ups," he recalled. "The next day, we're at the blues bar with that as playback, and we're lip syncing to it, but Albert Collins had never lip-synced in his life, so there was a learning curve."

"It was thrilling," he added. "We shot 13,000 feet of film in three days with three cameras!"

Another Chicago-centric scene featured a bit of movie magic. Coogan said the scene where his character is stabbed in the foot during a gang fight on the train was actually shot in reverse.

"We put the knife in, connected monofilament [fishing line], rolled the cameras, pulled it out, ran it backwards, and it - thunk! - goes right into the shoe," he revealed.

"I'm so thrilled that people have a soft spot for it," he added of the film. "You can't trade that for the world. You cannot buy it. And to be a very small part of something like that - it is really exciting."