Growing Up With Matthew Broderick

by Laurie Ulster
Originally Published: 

He was born four years before I was, almost to the day, and that means that throughout my adolescence and well into my teenager-hood, he aged right along with me, staying just far enough ahead to remain crush-worthy.

I wasn’t one of those girls to fall for the obvious; I never liked mainstream hunks. But Matthew was different: he had a touch of nerdiness, he stammered sometimes and he just seemed more real and more accessible than the other stars of his time.

Here’s how Matthew and I have grown up, separate but together:

War Games

I’m sure this was the first film in which I ever saw Matthew Broderick, and I fell in love. It was 1983: He was 21, and I was 17, but he was playing younger and I was a particularly dorky teen. I liked boys who were smart, and his character, David Lightman, was so smart that he accidentally accessed a supercomputer used by the U.S. military, and almost triggered a nuclear war. He also had a great love interest in Ally Sheedy, a girl I could actually admire.

Choose chess, David! Oh wait … then we wouldn’t have had the rest of the movie.


Maybe I was supposed to be swept up in the love story between Rutger Hauer and Michelle Pfeiffer, but I only had eyes for Matthew as Philippe “The Mouse” Gaston. He played a thief-turned-hero who helps two cursed lovers find their way back to each other, and I loved him for it. He didn’t get to be the romantic lead in the movie, but he was definitely one in my eyes.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Chronologically, this was next, but I have to confess something: I didn’t see it when it came out. I was 20, so I wasn’t watching movies that took place in high schools anymore. Years later, I caught up. It was strange, almost like a rip in the space-time continuum, because I had aged and he hadn’t! Weird.

But of course, I loved Matthew in it, and since I was in my late 20s when I finally saw it, I got why people had been talking about it for so long. Even with a towel on his head, he’s the king of charisma.

Okay, this next one’s going to throw you for a curve …

Torch Song Trilogy

It was 1988. Matthew was 26, I was 22. He played Harvey Fierstein’s boyfriend, and still won my heart. The movie was brilliant; it made me laugh out loud and cry my eyes out. I was a dramatic writing student at New York University at the time and had a writer’s appreciation for every intense moment, from start to finish. I loved that Matthew Broderick was in the movie, playing against type and doing a perfect job of it.

The Freshman

More perfect timing. I was in my last year of college, and the movie took place at NYU, where I was a student! Matthew plays Clark, a college freshman who takes a job with whom he thinks is a mafia-type criminal, played by Marlon Brando, and when Clark keeps pointing out his uncanny resemblance to the mafia don in The Godfather, he’s told that Vito Corleone was based on him. It’s an in-joke that runs through the entire movie.

There were more movies after that, and I even saw him in a few plays, but the next big one for me was …


It was 1999. He was 37, I was 33, so it was perfect that Matthew was finally playing a teacher instead of a student. His character wasn’t the nicest guy in the world, but he was still playing smart, and I had a crush all over again, even though he couldn’t hold his own against Reese Witherspoon. Really, who could?

We’re going to skip ahead now. Past the terrible Stepford Wives remake, past The Producers, and into the world of animation.

The Tale of Despereaux

It’s 2008. I’m 42, and he’s 46, and I don’t really have a crush anymore. By then we’re both married, Matthew to Sarah Jessica Parker, and me to my wonderful husband Dave. I’m also a mother of two. And thanks to the kids, I find myself watching The Tale of Despereaux¸ and hearing that familiar voice with joy. Is that … ? It is! And he’s both an underdog and a noble, brave character, a combination destined to win me over. He played a tiny mouse with the heart of a lion and the soul of a knight.

Yes. I fell in love with the mouse.

Thanks Matthew, for all the good times. I’ll still be there when you’re old and grey, and we can fall in love all over again.

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