Poor Terry Griffith. The girl just cannot catch a break. Sure, she’s young and gorgeous and adored by her college boyfriend. But none of that’s going to help the budding reporter land an internship at the local newspaper. In fact, in Terry’s mind, being female is part of the problem. To prove that she is merely a victim of sexism, Terry decides to do what all teenage girls would do in that same situation: transfer to a new school and pretend to be a teenage boy. So goes the plot of Just One of the Guys. We caught up with the film’s director, Lisa Gottlieb, who helped us uncover 18 fun facts about the 1985 gender-bending teen comedy.
1. Just One of the Guys made a big impact on many gay and transgender women.
“I would say the most interesting and surprising thing I learned about Just One of the Guys is the huge influence it had on young gay and transgender women,” says Gottlieb. “I learned this when we did a live chat on Jezebel a few years ago. For hours, women posted their stories and I was genuinely moved.”
2. Its origins are Shakespearean.
Just One of the Guys is loosely based on The Bard’s Twelfth Night, with Terry playing the role of Viola/Cesario.
3. Lisa Gottlieb and Mitch Giannunzio wrote several drafts of the script, but you'd never know it from the credits.
“I wrote six drafts of the screenplay with my writing partner, Mitch Giannunzio,” says Gottlieb. “We got the project green lit. We were denied writing credit and the producers did not invite Mitch to the wrap party. I brought him to the party.”
4. “Guy” Terry was based on Ralph Macchio.
“Dresses like Elvis Costello, looks like the Karate Kid... I'm gonna get him,” was the declaration made by Sherilyn Fenn, as high school vixen Sandy, when she caught a glimpse of Terry. Which was no coincidence. “We based Terry the guy on Ralph Macchio, a.k.a. The Karate Kid,” says Gottlieb. “We saw the physical resemblance and went with it. Remember that Columbia [the studio that released Just One of the Guys] was the studio that made The Karate Kid movies and the first one was a giant hit as we were prepping.”
5. The movie had a direct connection to The Karate Kid.
Terry’s resemblance to Ralph Macchio must have made playing the role of Greg, the school bully, much easier for William Zabka. He also played the leg-sweeping nemesis to Macchio’s Daniel LaRusso in The Karate Kid. In 2018, Macchio and Zabka reunited to reprise those roles for Cobra Kai, a Netflix spin-off of The Karate Kid.
6. Sherilynn Fenn really did think Terry was cute.
“I thought Joyce made a really cute boy,” Fenn told The A.V. Club in 2014. “I did! I was like, ‘She’s actually cute!’ It was sweet. Instead of making Friday The 13th, Part VIII or whatever, I was making the girl-meets-boy, girl-meets-girl-dressed-as-boy movie.”
7. Jennifer Jason Leigh was up for the lead.
Though she played a teenager in the film, “I think I was 26 when we made the movie and I had to screen test for it,” actress Joyce Hyser, who played Terry, recalled to the Kickin’ It Old School blog in 2010. “There were three women who tested and one of them was Jennifer Jason Leigh. Going into it I was a little nervous about Jennifer because she got a part over me once before, but once the test was over I felt pretty confident. I did not think that anyone could play that part as well as I could.”
8. Joyce Hyser was a video vixen.
A year prior to Just One of the Guys, Hyser starred in Dan Hartman’s video for “I Can Dream About You,” which was featured on the soundtrack for Streets of Fire. Ten years later, she was featured in ZZ Top’s video for “Pincushion.”
9. Actor Paul Lieber was Hyser's "Manly Man" coach.
“In early rehearsals in L.A., the production hired a friend of mine named Paul Lieber,” says Gottlieb. “Paul is a gifted actor. He gives off an ultra-macho manly man air, even though he loves and respects women. He’s definitely not an a**hole but can play one on TV. Joyce Hyser and I hung out with him for a week or so to hone in on his behavior, his movements, his line delivery, his sense of himself in relation to the world around him, etc. It was great!”
10. Terry's boyfriend was Kelsey Grammer's roommate.
Leigh McCloskey, who plays Terry’s boyfriend Kevin, was a classmate—and roommate—of Kelsey Grammer’s at Juilliard.
11. Hyser was interested in making the movie because of its take on gender identity ...
“Although it may be cloaked in a silly teenage romp I was absolutely drawn to this project because of its subversive gender identity messages (for both young women and young men),” Hyser told Kickin’ It Old School. “The film actually operates on so many different levels and deals with so many teenage issues from homophobia to the pressure that is put on kids to conform to a certain ideal, that it always surprised me that at the time of its release it was not really judged for the sum of all its parts.”
12. ... But she hadn't intended to bare it all.
In order to prove to the guy she’s been pretending to be a guy around that she is in fact a girl (got that?), Hyser rips open her shirt toward the end of the movie. While it seems like the most logical way to get the point across, Hyser was not sold on doing a topless scene. (She even had a no nudity clause in her contract.) It was Gottlieb who finally persuaded Hyser to reconsider. “I added in the boobage,” the director told Jezebel in 2010. “I went to Joyce and I said, ‘I keep rewriting these scenes… Honestly, I think you’ve gotta show ‘em.”
13. Rosanna Arquette wanted Hyser to keep her top on.
“At the time, one of Joyce's best friends was Rosanna Arquette,” Gottlieb told Jezebel. “Rosanna said, ‘I would say you shouldn't do it because no one will ever look into your eyes again as long as you'll live. On the other hand, people will look at you and see those breasts forever, even when you're an old lady.’ And I said, ‘Wow, I'll strip myself after hearing that reason.’”
14. James Brown helped Clayton Rohner perfect his moves.
The Godfather of Soul spent three days on the set to help Clayton Rohner, who plays Terry’s social experiment-turned-love interest Rick, perfect his dance moves.
15. Rohner beat out James Le Gros for the role of Rick.
Just One of the Guys marked Rohner’s movie debut. But he had some stiff competition from fellow up-and-comer James Le Gros. “We had these dueling auditions back and forth and back and forth and back and forth for the part,” Rohner told MisenPOPic in 2009. “Then I ended up getting it, although James had gone on to do great things.”
16. Sexism spilled over onto the set.
“Terry” wasn’t the only one faced to deal with a bit of sexism on the set. “I fired our first cinematographer because he refused to shoot my shot list during screen tests and kept declaring, ‘Don't worry sweetie, I'll make your film look good,’” recalls Gottlieb. “I said, ‘Have you read the script?’ He said, ‘Don't waste my time, honey.’ So I fired his ass. I did not wish to waste anymore of his time.”
17. The studio disappeared during post-production.
“While we were shooting on location, Coca Cola bought Columbia Pictures,” Gottlieb recalls of the studio that produced the film. “This was the early days of massive corporations buying and selling the studios. We returned and were editing on the lot in Burbank. I met with the music, publicity, and post executives to plan, inform, collaborate on marketing strategies, etc. All the things filmmakers need to muck about in so they are done well. One day, weeks later, I showed up in the executive building and they were all gone. Offices empty, security guards checking ID and barring entry. It was truly weird.”
18. A sequel could very well happen.
“Joyce Hyser and I had lunch a while back and she pitched me a hilarious idea for a sequel,” says Gottlieb. “So far we haven't sold it, but we also haven't tried that hard. We need a producer. But we would love to do it. It's a hoot!”