Thirty years ago, The Breakfast Club opened in theaters. John Hughes’ 1985 film about five high schoolers from different cliques who spend a Saturday in detention realizing they’re more alike than different is one of the most beloved coming-of-age movies of all time.
In light of the anniversary — and the re-release of the movie in March — TIME caught up with Molly Ringwald, who played Claire Standish, the princess of troublemakers, and turned 17 after the film premiered.
When she is not acting, Ringwald is a jazz musician, touring to promote her 2013 album Except Sometimes, and author of the “Ask Molly” advice column for the Guardian. Her next film will be Jem and the Holograms, the big-screen adaption of another 1980s classic.
Here’s why Ringwald says no one will forget The Breakfast Club anytime soon.
TIME: So what are your initial thoughts about The Breakfast Club, 30 years later?
Ringwald: If somebody told me that we would be on the phone talking about it 30 years ago, I don’t think I would have believed you. I always loved the movie, I loved it when I filmed it, I just didn’t know it would have the longevity that it seems to have had.
Why do you think it has had that longevity? How do you think it holds up?
There really hasn’t been anything to replace it. It’s kind of a classic because it all takes place in the one day, so there’s just one wardrobe. There were less chances for it to look incredibly dated. The theme is something that is still really relevant today, which is that no matter who you are, no matter where you come from, everyone kind of feels the same, which is that they don’t belong. And that’s a sort of powerful theme.
Did you relate to your character Claire at the time?
No, I didn’t. I wanted to play that character because I felt like she was really different. She was more like my older sister, who was very popular in school. That was me stretching as an actor.
I was originally considered for the role of Allison [played by Ally Sheedy in the film]. I was the one who wanted to play Claire, who was actually called Cathy when I first read the script. I thought she was a challenging character because I felt like she was the most unsympathetic just right off the bat. She was not somebody that you immediately felt bad for because she was so privileged. I thought that would be sort of challenging, to make her sympathetic.
What’s your favorite memory from filming?
It was a really special movie. One of the reasons why is because it was filmed in sequence. So when you’re watching the movie, you’re seeing everything sort of as we did it. And also it was only John’s second movie as a director (Sixteen Candles was the first) so it was still really new for him. Every time we would do something, he would be right there. So he was really like the other member of The Breakfast Club.
Any worst or embarrassing moment from the filming?
Well, I was really embarrassed [by the way] the whole dance sequence happened. In the original script, it was supposed to be just my character dancing. And I’ve never really considered myself a dancer. I took dance lessons, but I was more of a singer. I was like “Ahhh God, I don’t know about this.” So [Hughes] was like, “What if we make everyone dance? Would that be better?” I said, “Yeah, let’s do that.” And so that’s sort of how it ended up being a whole dance sequence, which I can’t really say improves the movie. It’s one of the most dated parts of the movie.
Do you ever wonder what the movie would look like if it was made in 2015?
Yeah, no one would have talked. We would have all just been sitting there with our phones texting our friends.
Why did you decide to reinterpret “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” [the Simple Minds song in the movie]?
When I was doing my album and putting the song list together, John Hughes passed away. I never intended to cover that song, but it kind of came out of a rehearsal where he was on my mind, and I was thinking about that song. So I said to my pianist, “Do you think there’s any way we could make this into a jazz ballad?” We started to noodle around with it, we recorded it, and I put it on the album as a tribute to him.
Are you still in touch with the other Breakfast Club cast members?
You know, we run into each other every so often, usually at an event for The Breakfast Club. I’ve seen Michael [Anthony Michael Hall] the most and have stayed in contact with him. The only one I haven’t really seen is Emilio [Estevez]. I don’t think I’ve seen him in years.
Do you think there are celebrities who make up a 2015 version of the “brat pack”?
That’s hard to say. I feel like the brat-pack thing was a fabrication by the press and made us sound like we were all hanging out together and partying. And it was just the group of actors who were working at the time.
I think of Lena Dunham and people who are working with her. It’s more about the zeitgeist and what’s going on in the moment, and she comes to mind. That could be because I’m reading her book right now, but I feel like she has her finger on the pulse. What I think is interesting about her and about how times have changed, is that she’s a woman, and she’s not just acting, but she’s also creating. She’s the director, and she’s the writer. It’s taking all of that to the next step. That’s the direction it should be going.
When you were on the cover of TIME, Richard Corliss described you as “our model modern teen.” How did that feel?
I can’t really say I felt like the model of a typical teen because I felt like my own experience was so different. But I definitely feel like the characters that I played were sort of “girl next door, Midwestern.” Since I was the face of those girls, it was easy to confuse the two.
Any memorable reaction to the cover?
I was so young, I wasn’t a TIME magazine reader. I was more into Seventeen magazine. So I knew that it was kind of a big deal because of the way adults responded to it in my life.
I remember talking to Warren Beatty who, when I told him that I was going to be on the cover of TIME, was like “What, what, what?!” Then he told me it takes at least five years to get over being on the cover of TIME magazine, which I thought was a funny response. I was sort of, “What’s the big deal?” To me, it was just another cover.
But in retrospect, it’s amazing. I got to go to a party in New York that was only for all of the people who had been on the cover of TIME magazine, so I got to be in a room with the Clintons, who were Presidents — well, I love how I say Presidents — but it was Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary. I got to meet Toni Morrison and Mikhail Gorbachev and Bill Gates. It was amazing to be in this room with these incredible people and to feel like I was a part of that in some way.
(Read Molly Ringwald’s cover story in the TIME Vault: Is There Life After Teenpix?)
Do you think it’s harder to be a teen in 2015 than in 1985?
It’s harder. The Internet has changed the teen experience, and cyberbullying didn’t exist in the same way. Bullying definitely did. It was touched on in The Breakfast Club. Emilio’s character bullies that kid.
The fact that you can put stuff out there as a tween or a teenager, not really think about it, and make a permanent record, that’s really hard. And that’s really hard for parents, teaching their kids and making them understand that their life shouldn’t necessarily be lived in public. That’s something that I’m constantly talking about with my kids.
And it’s definitely harder to be a celebrity. You’re expected to give up so much more of your personal life than you were when I was coming up. You’re followed [by] TMZ and the Internet and everyone taking pictures with their phones when you’re sitting in a coffee shop or in a public bathroom. It’s just constant. I don’t think that I would have done it if it would have been like that. I felt like I was able to have some semblance of a real life. There was a separation between the two that I’m not sure exists in the same way now.
How has running an advice column given you a different perspective on life?
I find people interesting. For me as a writer, it gives me some insight into what we struggle with. Sometimes it’s hard though. Sometimes I get these questions, and the only thing I can think of is, “You’ve gotta go to therapy.”
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