TIME movies

Sixteen Candles Turns 30: Where Are the Stars Now?

Molly Ringwald, Director John Hughes and Mark Schoeffling Universal Pictures

Thirty years after Sixteen Candles defined the teen movie, what's become of its exceptional cast?

It was bracing a few years back, at least for those of us of a certain age, to see Molly Ringwald cast as a grandmother on TV’s The Secret Life of the American Teenager. Wasn’t it been just yesterday that she was the archetypal American teenager herself in Sixteen Candles? How can it have been 30 years since that iconic film opened in May 1984?

It would be impossible to overstate how large Sixteen Candles looms in the imaginations of three decades’ worth of moviegoers. Not only did the film make stars of Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall and others, not only did it mark the directing debut of John Hughes, but it also became one of the signature movies of the 1980s and the template for most high school comedies of the last 30 years. Hughes’ genius was to see teens as they saw themselves, to appreciate that their seemingly trivial moments of high drama really were high drama, and to let them know that, no matter how freakish they felt, they were not alone.

It’s tempting, then, to see the kids of Sixteen Candles as icons frozen in time. But they’ve moved on, as we all do, some to greener pastures, some not so green. If Ringwald and her schoolmates held a 30th class reunion, these are the stories they might tell of their lives.

Molly Ringwald Universal Pictures; Kevin Winter—Getty Images

Molly Ringwald (Samantha Baker)

At 15, Ringwald became Hughes’ muse on the strength of her headshot alone; he wrote the lead role in Sixteen Candles with the Tempest actress in mind. She famously followed the film up with starring roles in Hughes’ The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink. She graduated to more mature roles in The Pick-Up Artist, Fresh Horses, and Betsy’s Wedding, but her movie career never returned to its Hughes-era heights. She fared better on TV, in projects from the Stephen King mini-series The Stand to her mom/grandma role on ABC Family’s The Secret Life of the American Teenager. Now 45, Ringwald has yet to announce any new projects since the five-year run of Secret Life ended in 2013.

Michael Schoeffling (Jake Ryan)

Playing nice-guy dreamboat Jake Ryan was Michael Schoffling’s big break at age 23; he won the part over fellow unknown Viggo Mortensen. Still, after playing similarly soft-spoken hunks in Vision Quest, Slaves of New York, Longtime Companion, Mermaids, and finally 1991’s Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken, he quit showbiz. He moved to Newfoundland, Pa., married, raised a family, and worked as a carpenter building custom furniture. Now 53, he’s been absent from the screen for 23 years, so we never had to watch Jake Ryan get old.

Anthony Michael Hall Universal Pictures; Gilbert Carrasquillo—Getty Images

Anthony Michael Hall (Farmer Ted)

Hall, 15, had so impressed Hughes when he played Rusty Griswold in the Hughes-scripted National Lampoon’s Vacation that Hughes wrote for him the part of Farmer Ted, simply known as The Geek, in Sixteen Candles. After his immortal performance in that film, followed by his similar roles in Hughes’ The Breakfast Club and Weird Science, Hall was typecast forever more in geeky parts. Even a late-teen growth spurt that had him playing jocks in Johnny Be Good and Edward Scissorhands couldn’t erase his geek cred. He played Bill Gates in the 1999 TV movie Pirates of Silicon Valley, the Christopher Walken role on USA’s The Dead Zone for five seasons, and villain Walter Sykes on SyFy series Warehouse 13 (2011-12). The 45-year-old will be back on the big screen in November, alongside Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, and Steve Carell, in the indie drama Foxcatcher.

Haviland Morris (Caroline Mulford)

Morris was 24 when she made her film debut in 1984’s Reckless, the same year she played Jake’s beautiful, bored girlfriend in Sixteen Candles. Her later films included Who’s That Girl?, Gremlins 2: The New Batch (alongside Gedde Watanabe), Home Alone 3, and The Baxter. On TV, she did numerous guest spots on Law & Order and its spinoffs, as well as One Tree Hill and (most recently, in 2012) The Good Wife. Now 54, Morris has a day job as a Manhattan realtor, but she continues to act; her next film, naval drama Burning Blue, is due in theaters next month.

Blanche Baker Universal Pictures; Steve Mack—Getty Images

Blanche Baker (Ginny Baker)

The daughter of Oscar-nominated Baby Doll star Carroll Baker, Blanche Baker was already an Emmy-winning TV actress (Holocaust) when she landed at 27 the Sixteen Candles role of Ginny, Samantha’s soon-to-be-married sister. She went on to appear in the movies Raw Deal and The Handmaid’s Tale and on TV in Law & Order and the 2009 HBO movie Taking Chance. Now 57, she stars as a vengeful housewife in the thriller Jersey Justice, debuting on DVD this month.

Paul Dooley (Jim Baker)

Dooley has made a career of playing put-upon dads, from Robert Altman’s A Wedding and Breaking Away to Sixteen Candles, in which he co-starred at age 55. He’s continued to play such roles on film and TV, including Dream On, Waiting for Guffman, The Practice, ER, Desperate Housewives, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Cars (and Cars 2), and Super Fun Night. Now 85, Dooley made his most recent appearance earlier this year on an episode of Parenthood.

Carlin Glynn (Brenda Baker)

Glynn was 39 when she made her Tony-winning Broadway debut in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, a musical co-written by her husband, playwright/director Peter Masterson. Five years later, the 44-year-old played Ringwald’s mother in Sixteen Candles. The following year, she co-starred in The Trip to Bountiful, directed by her husband. Her other films included Gardens of Stone, Judy Berlin, and Whiskey School (her final feature, from 2005). She retired from acting in 2006. Glynn (now 74) and Masterson are the parents of Mary Stuart Masterson, who starred in Hughes’ Some Kind of Wonderful.

Justin Henry (Mike Baker)

For his first performance, as Dustin Hoffman’s son in Kramer vs. Kramer, seven-year-old Henry became the youngest actor ever nominated for an Oscar. He was 12 when he played Ringwald’s bratty brother in Sixteen Candles. He continued to act sporadically during the 1980s in such films as Martin’s Day and Sweet Heart’s Dance. After college, he seldom acted but remained in showbiz, as the founder of the short-life Slamdunk film festival (1998-2003) and as an executive at streaming video site Veoh. Now 42, he appears on screen in the sci-fi/horror feature Reaper, due in theaters later this year.

Edward Andrews (Howard Baker)

By the time 69-year-old Andrews appeared as Samantha’s paternal grandfather, Howard, in Sixteen Candles, he’d had a long and distinguished career as a film and TV character actor, with roles in such films as Tea and Sympathy, Elmer Gantry, The Absent-Minded Professor, Send Me No Flowers, and Tora! Tora! Tora! After Candles, he appeared in one more film, Gremlins, before his death in 1985 at age 70.

Billie Bird (Dorothy Baker)

Bird had a long career in vaudeville and theater before enjoying her film breakthrough as a comic actress in her sixties in The Odd Couple. She was 75 when she played Samantha’s paternal grandmother, Dorothy, in Sixteen Candles. Afterwards, she was a series regular on Benson, appeared in two Police Academy sequels, and acted in the Hughes-scripted comedies Home Alone and Dennis the Menace. Her last film was Pauly Shore’s Jury Duty in 1995. She died in 2002 at age 94.

Gedde Watanabe Universal Pictures; David Livingston—Getty Images

Gedde Watanabe (Long Duk Dong)

Born Gary Watanabe, the 28-year-old actor was so convincing in his audition (and later, on screen) in the role of hard-partying Chinese exchange student Long Duk Dong that few observers realized he was born and raised in Utah. Watanabe went on to play memorable comic roles in Volunteers, Gung Ho, and Gremlins 2: The New Batch. He showed off a more dramatic side during his six-year stint as a nurse on ER. Now 58, he’s continued to make an impression in such recent films as Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Parental Guidance, and his most recent work, last year’s 47 Ronin.

Carole Cook (Grandma Helen)

A protégée of Lucille Ball’s, comic actress Cook had appeared in such films as The Incredible Mr. Limpet, The Gauntlet, and American Gigolo when, at 59, she got to co-star in Sixteen Candles as the grandma who feels up pubescent granddaughter Samantha. Her movie roles since have included Grandview U.S.A., Lost & Found, and Home on the Range. The 90-year-old’s last acting appearance was a 2006 guest spot on Grey’s Anatomy.

Max Showalter (Grandpa Fred)

Before his turn at 66 as Samantha’s wisecracking maternal grandfather in Sixteen Candles, Showalter had been a movie character actor for four decades in such films as Niagara and Bus Stop (both with Marilyn Monroe) and Elmer Gantry (with future fellow Sixteen Candles grandpa Edward Andrews). In fact, Sixteen Candles was his last appearance. His retirement lasted 16 years until his death at 83 in 2000.

Debbie Pollack (Marlene Lumberjack)

Pollack made her screen debut in Sixteen Candles as Marlene Lumberjack, an Amazon who takes an instant liking to Long Duk Dong. She went on to a recurring role on the soap Santa Barbara and other TV guest roles on such shows as St. Elsewhere, Newhart, and ER. She took a 14-year absence to raise a family and get a stockbroker’s license, but she returned to TV in recent years with guest spots on Criminal Minds (2011) and American Horror Story (also 2011). Her most recent appearance was as a mystery woman during the 2012 series finale of Desperate Housewives.

Liane Curtis (Randy)

Having made her film debut in John Sayles’ Baby, It’s You (1983), Curtis was 18 when she played Ringwald’s pal in Sixteen Candles. It remains her highest profile to date, though she also appeared in such films as Critters 2: The Main Course, Girlfriend From Hell, Queens Logic, and Benny & Joon, as well as TV guest spots on such shows as ER and Sons of Anarchy. Now a music producer, the 48-year-old Curtis will be seen on screen in Body High, a comedy due for release this spring.

John Kapelos (Rudy)

The Sixteen Candles role of bridegroom Rudy was one of 27-year-old Kapelos’ first film roles. He reunited with Hughes (and Anthony Michael Hall) in Weird Science and The Breakfast Club (where he played all-knowing janitor Carl, perhaps his best-known role). Since then, he’s appeared in countless TV shows and movies, including Roxanne, Internal Affairs, Forever Knight, Seinfeld, The West Wing, Legally Blonde, The Dead Zone (which reteamed him with Hall), Queer as Folk, Desperate Housewives, Modern Family, and Justified. Watch for the 57-year-old in August’s action film Underdogs.

John Cusack Universal Pictures; Luca Teuchmann—Getty Images

John Cusack (Bryce)

His Sixteen Candles role as geek sidekick Bryce was only 17-year-old Cusack’s second film role, but by the following year, he’d graduated to lead in such films as The Sure Thing and Better Off Dead. By the end of the decade, with Say Anything, he became one of his generation’s favorite leading men. He followed that up with such indelible films as The Grifters, Bullets Over Broadway, Grosse Pointe Blank, Being John Malkovich, High Fidelity, and 2012. He spoofed his own ’80s teen stardom in 2010’s Hot Tub Time Machine. Watch for the 47-year-old in several 2014 films, including thriller The Bag Man, David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars, and Beach Boy Brian Wilson biopic Love & Mercy.

Joan Cusack (Geek Girl #1)

Sixteen Candles wasn’t the first film that 21-year-old Joan Cusack appeared in alongside her brother John (that would be 1983’s Class), and it was far from the last. As an unnamed geek, Cusack enjoyed a memorable sight gag involving a drinking fountain. She went on to star on the ill-fated 1985-86 season of Saturday Night Live (along with Anthony Michael Hall) before moving on to acclaimed comic roles in such films as Broadcast News, Working Girl (which earned her an Oscar nomination), Addams Family Values, Grosse Pointe Blank (a collaboration with John), In & Out (another Oscar-nominated role), Runaway Bride, Toy Story 2 (and 3), School of Rock, and Chicken Little. The 51-year-old is due later this year in the comedy-drama Welcome to Me.

Jami Gertz (Robin)

Like Ringwald, Gertz was an alumna of the prep-school sitcom The Facts of Life when she landed a role in Sixteen Candles; at 18, she got to play Caroline’s scissor-wielding friend Robin. Gertz went on to star in such iconic ’80s movies as The Lost Boys and Less Than Zero. Despite such prominent films as Twister, Gertz has focused in recent years on TV roles, including long sitcom stints on Still Standing and Entourage. Now 48, she’s a star of the current ABC comedy The Neighbors.

TIME movies

A La Mode: 10 Unforgettable Pie Scenes in Movies

Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet's peachy pastry-baking session in Labor Day recalls prominent pie moments from pictures past

  • Upper Crust

    We used to think that there were so many pie scenes in movies because the dessert is so evocative: home and hearth, family holidays, and late-night comfort — even at a lonely roadside diner. But now, we think it’s probably just because pie is so deliciously messy.

    Take, for instance, the already much-discussed pie-baking scene in the new movie Labor Day, where Josh Brolin’s demonstration to Kate Winslet of how to make a delicious peach pie serves as the same kind of gooey-yet-artisanal foreplay as the pottery-wheel scene in Ghost. To prepare for the scene, Labor Day novelist Joyce Maynard (who put her family recipe into the book) and former Martha Stewart food stylist Susan Spungen came to the set as consultants, and Brolin baked countless pies as rehearsal.

    Of course, the flip side of baking a pie is destroying it – especially in the movies. That perfect crust gets pierced, filling and crumbs are mashed together — or, sometimes, the whole pie just gets thrown into someone’s face. If movie pies mean love and warmth, they also mean gluttony and humiliation.

    Here, then, are 10 movies that made us reconsider what pie is really all about.

  • American Pie

    American Pie
    Universal Pictures

    The most notorious pie scene ever comes in this 1999 teen sex comedy that raised the bar (or lowered it, maybe) for gross-outs and embarrassment for the sake of laughs. Actually, the movie’s overarching joke – and it’s a film that grasped this before most – is that, in the Internet era, there’s no longer any expectation of privacy, so you shouldn’t expect your most shameful sexual secrets to remain secret for long.

    This holds true repeatedly for the virginal Jim (Jason Biggs). Told that a woman’s genitals feel like warm apple pie, Jim spies his mom’s freshly-baked pastry cooling in the kitchen and does to the pie what Alexander Portnoy once did to a piece of liver, only to be caught in the act by his dad (Eugene Levy). Hard to tell who should be more embarrassed: Jim? Or Biggs, who will forever be known as the actor who humped a pie?

  • Waitress

    Fox Searchlight

    Here’s a whole movie about pies — ones that are lovingly constructed by Southern diner waitress Jenna (Keri Russell). In her expert, flour-dusted hands, each pie is a masterpiece, and each has a meaning, related to whatever Jenna was feeling at the time she baked it. Some of her custard- or fruit-filled desserts are happy pies, but many are miserable, since Jenna is a virtual prisoner of her Neanderthal husband, Earl (Jeremy Sisto). He’s wary when she becomes pregnant, but outright livid when she wants to enter a pie bake-off with a cash jackpot, since he fears (justifiably, it turns out),that both the baby and the contest will distance his wife from him.

    In fact, Jenna has an affair with her OB/GYN (Nathan Fillion), an illicit bond cemented with gifts of pie. Still, for all the movie’s ominous atmosphere and romance-gone-wrong, it’s actually a very sweet film — one that ends with a pie-themed lullaby, and with all the characters getting their just desserts.

  • Shane

    Silver Screen Collection / Getty Images

    Alan Ladd’s reluctant gunslinger hero is a man of few words, but then, so much of Shane is about things that must go unsaid. After all, the title character’s arrival at the Starrett farm threatens to displace paterfamilias Joe (Van Heflin), both as the father figure most admired by little Joey Starrett (Brandon de Wilde) and in the affections of Joe’s wife, Marian (Jean Arthur).

    Shane and Marian are both too decent to act on their mutual attraction or even acknowledge it in words, but Joe seems to recognize that something is up when, with Shane as their dinner guest, Marian serves up the most delectable-looking apple pie in movie history, on the good china, with extra dessert forks. Soon, the pie-fueled Shane and Joe are trying to out-macho each other by chopping away at an old tree stump Joe has been unable to uproot by himself. The two men dig into it the way they dug into the pie, politely but ravenously, while a flushed Marian looks on.

  • Stand By Me

    Stand By Me
    Columbia Pictures

    We know at the beginning of Stand By Me that Gordie (Wil Wheaton) is destined to grow up to be a writer. In fact, it seems like he’s going to become Stephen King (who wrote “The Body,” the story that is the movie’s source), judging by the grotesque campfire story Gordie tells his pals. There are no ghosts or ghouls, but the story of “Lardass” Hogan is a cautionary revenge tale of a bullied youngster with a disgusting denouement worthy of King’s Carrie.

    In Gordie’s story, the harassed fat kid wreaks vengeance on his community at the local pie-eating contest. Before the blueberry feast, he swallows a bottle of castor oil and a raw egg. After stuffing his face with pie, Davey projectile vomits a blue gusher over the crowd, prompting a chain reaction of vomiting, or what Gordie calls “a complete and total barf-o-rama.” Gordie’s audience of 12-year-old boys is enraptured, but if you’re a grown-up watching the movie at home, you might feel inclined to fast-forward past this part.

  • Blazing Saddles

    Blazing Saddles
    Time Life Pictures / Getty Images

    Not only does the climax of Mel Brooks’ classic Western spoof Blazing Saddles break through the fourth wall, it hurls a fusillade of pies through it. The movie’s final brawl between the good townsfolk of Rock Ridge and the desperadoes hired to drive them from their homes spills over onto an adjoining soundstage at the Warner Bros. studio lot, bursting through the set where a musical is being filmed. Once the gang of chorus boys has joined the melee, the fight moves to the studio commissary, where a pie fight is announced, and the entire cast gets creamed (including a group of hapless visitors on a studio tour).

    Chief villain Hedy Hedley Lamarr (Harvey Korman) ducks into the men’s room, but not even he can stay dapper and fastidious for long; when he reappears, he’s been pied, too. It’s not the biggest pie fight in screen history, but it’s one of the funniest — and probably the most famous.

  • Sweeney Todd

    The foulest pies on film are surely those baked up in Tim Burton’s gory adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s musical satire on capitalism. Vengeful 19th-century London barber Sweeney Todd (Johnny Depp) gets the rich and powerful to climb to his second-story salon and bare their necks to his razors. The bodies go through a trap door, down a chute, and into the basement, where they become fodder for Mrs. Lovett’s (Helena Bonham Carter) savory meat pie shop on the ground floor. (When she boasts in song that she offers “the worst pies in London,” she’s not kidding.)

    Soon, her business is booming — and so is his, despite the lack of repeat customers. Still, there seems to be an endless supply of hateful aristocrats and corrupt bureaucrats. So many, in fact, that you find yourself perversely rooting for Sweeney and Mrs. Lovett to keep cranking out the pasties.

  • The Help

    Further proof that revenge is a dish best served in a pie tin comes in The Help, where housemaid Minny Jackson (Oscar-winning Octavia Spencer) comes up with a recipe for poetic justice after Hilly (Bryce Dallas Howard) fires her for daring to use the white folks’ toilet. In an apparent good will gesture, Minny bakes Hilly a chocolate pie and serves her a couple of helpings – then reveals to her that not all the brown filling in the pie is chocolate.

    The incident comes back to haunt Hilly at a charity raffle where she wins one of Minny’s chocolate pies (a real one) and assumes she’s being insulted. Fortunately for Minny, Hilly can’t retaliate against her without making public her own humiliation. Minny refers to her poo-filled pastry as “the Terrible Awful,” but she could also have called it Humble Pie.

  • Dr. Strangelove

    Stanley Kubrick wanted to end his 1964 satire of nuclear doomsday in a very specific way: a pie fight between Russian and American officials in the War Room beneath Washington where the President (Peter Sellers), adviser Dr. Strangelove (also Sellers), General Buck Turgidson (George C. Scott) and other officials have tried and failed to prevent the rogue missile launch. But Kubrick felt the filmed result wrecked the tone of the movie, taking it from dry ironic absurdity to slapstick silliness. Plus, Turgidson had a line about the young president being struck down in the prime of his life by a pie; in the months following the JFK assassination, that line suddenly seemed in bad taste.

    Kubrick cut the film so that it would end with Strangelove miraculously rising from his wheelchair (“Mein Fuhrer! I can walk!”, followed by a montage of mushroom clouds. The footage of the pie fight seems to have been lost, but still photos remain, giving a good idea of the gooey chaos that, even in a movie whose punchline was the destruction of the world, was just too over-the-top. (You can see the stills in the behind-the-scenes documentary embedded on this page, starting at about 35:30.)

  • The Great Race

    Inspired by the epic pie fight staged by Laurel and Hardy in their short “Battle of the Century,” director Blake Edwards decided to throw the biggest pie fight of all time in The Great Race. The comedy about a cross-continental early 20th-century auto race between daredevils The Great Leslie (Tony Curtis) and Professor Fate (Jack Lemmon) takes a detour in a European kingdom called Carpania, where the rivalry blunders into a vast bakery.

    According to Hollywood lore, the ensuing battle involved some 2,500 pies made with real fruit and custard, and it took three days to shoot. It runs for a good five minutes on screen, with Curtis remaining miraculously immaculate long after the rest of the cast looks like walking Jackson Pollock paintings. (Finally, Natalie Wood lands a good solid hit to Curtis’ face.) It may not be the funniest pie fight ever, but it’s surely the grandest.

  • Heartburn

    Nora Ephron made some witty movies about cooking (Julie & Julia) and love (Sleepless in Seattle), but food and love didn’t always go together harmoniously in her films. Think of Meg Ryan irking Billy Crystal with her persnickety salad and pie order (or embarrassing him with her fake orgasm in the deli, for that matter) in When Harry Met Sally, or Ryan scolding a gluttonous Tom Hanks for eating the party tray garnish in You’ve Got Mail, or Ryan and her sisters having a flour fight while trying to cook Thanksgiving dinner in Hanging Up. But nowhere is the food-love connection messier than in Ephron’s screenplay for Heartburn, based on her autobiographical novel about her marriage to Carl Bernstein.

    In the Mike Nichols-directed film, the Ephron character, food writer Rachel (Meryl Streep) spends a lot of time enchanting the Bernstein character, political columnist Mark (Jack Nicholson), with her repertoire of recipes. Yet neither her cooking prowess nor even her pregnancy is enough to keep him from straying. In the movie’s climax, at a dinner party, she’s confronted with his latest betrayal. She walks to the kitchen counter, returns with a cream pie, thrusts it in his face, calmly asks him for the car keys and drives out of his life forever.

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