Pretty in Pink was the first John Hughes script to be produced following his cult favourite The Breakfast Club. Thirty years on Hughes is remembered by many as the godfather of the golden age of teen drama, but how have Pretty in Pink’s stars fared in comparison?
Molly Ringwald (Andie Walsh)
Already a Where Are They Now alum, Pretty in Pink marked Ringwald’s third appearance in a Hughes project, following The Breakfast Club and 1984’s Sixteen Candles. Having switched The Breakfast Club’s prissy Claire Standish for Pretty in Pink’s Andie – Claire’s polar opposite in terms of wealth – Ringwald starred alongside Robert Downey Jr. in The Pick-up Artist and rejoined Pretty in Pink co-star Andrew McCarthy for Fresh Horses. Though her acting career continues to this day – most recently with an appearance in girl band movie Jem and the Holograms – Ringwald remains very much an icon of the ‘80s, best remembered for her performances in Hughes’ films. All those years of embodying teen angst clearly paid off, as Ringwald has recently wrapped up a stint as the Guardian’s resident agony aunt. She’ll return to the silver screen this year in King Cobra, based on a James Franco novel and also starring teen movie favourites Christian Slater and Alicia Silverstone – and James Franco himself, of course.
Andrew McCarthy (Blane McDonough)
Like Ringwald, McCarthy was already a familiar face by 1986. Thankfully his characters in Class (1983) and relationship drama St Elmo’s Fire (1985) were far more likeable than the spineless Blane of Pretty in Pink. While this audience member never rooted for Blane, studios obviously found a lot to like in McCarthy. He worked tirelessly through the ‘80s and ‘90s, and though he’s more often in made-for-TV films than on the big screen these days, things haven’t slowed down much since. He counts Gossip Girl and The Spiderwick Chronicles among his higher-profile appearances.
Jon Cryer (“Duckie” Dale)
Unlike his costars Cryer didn’t make it into the top ranks of the Brat Pack, though on the strength of his Pretty in Pink performance as Andie’s best friend and enthusiastic romancer Duckie, he surely deserved to. Throughout, Duckie is the character who most powerfully and consistently provokes empathy, quite a feat in a film which sets the bar high with Ringwald’s endearing Andie and her emotionally crippled father (Harry Dean Stanton). Following Pretty in Pink, Cryer’s next most successful film was easily 1991’s Charlie Sheen-starring Hot Shots!, an Airplane-style spoof about the US Navy. Alongside appearances in everything from NCIS to Hannah Montana, Cryer’s most notable work this side of the ‘80s was again opposite Charlie Sheen, playing his brother Alan in CBS’s Two and a Half Men.
Annie Potts (Iona)
A minor but extremely memorable character, Potts played Andie’s record store colleague Iona, Pretty in Pink’s approximation of a surrogate mother figure. She is best known for playing secretary Janine in Ghostbusters, and she’ll also appear in Paul Feig’s upcoming all-female reboot. Potts may not be a household name these days, but children of the ‘90s are sure to recognise her husky tones from her voice performances as Bo Peep in Pixar’s Toy Story movies. She’s slated to reprise the role for 2018’s fourth installment.
James Spader (Steff McKee)
Another ‘80s wunderkind, Spader followed Pretty in Pink with Mannequin, a disturbing movie which in essence mashes up of the myth of Pygmalion with Hughes’ Weird Science to tell the story of a young artist (Andrew McCarthy again) who falls in love with his own creation. Spader once again played (at least) second fiddle to McCarthy, but next he landed a role in Oliver Stone’s Wall Street, and in the last few years he’s worked with Spielberg (Lincoln) and Tommy Lee Jones (The Homesman). The repulsive blond-locked alpha male of Pretty in Pink is virtually unrecognisable today, particularly in his last role as the titular villain of Avengers: Age of Ultron. If that’s not success, I don’t know what is.
With the typical incestuousness of ‘80s Hollywood, many of Pretty in Pink’s stars went on to work with each other again, and though they all continued to make a living through successful film and TV careers, these are very diverse. Having played the smarmy Steff, James Spader’s appearance as the sarcastically wisecracking Ultron was both a surprising and completely fitting move which introduced his talent to a whole new generation. The iconic Molly Ringwald may have eclipsed him back in the ‘80s, but it’s Spader who shines brightest today.