They don’t make movies like they used to.
Okay, that’s a pretty cliché thing to say and it is highly subjective thing to believe. It’s also something old people say—which means I am old. But movies today are different than the ones I grew up with as a child and teenager. It’s not even a matter of the quality of the current films—it’s much more about the stories and tone of today’s pictures.
When I was a kid in the 80s and 90s it felt like there was a wider selection in terms of the types of films that were being made. There was family friendly comedies like The Princess Bride and more adult orientated comedies like Beverly Hills Cop. Big films like the Star Wars franchise were of course being made but also adult dramas like Broadcast News were produced. There was also the “teenage comedy” and that genre was a big part of the Hollywood landscape in the 1980s.
Molly Ringwald has been appearing in television and movies since she was a very young girl. The actress still has a strong presence in the entertainment world today. She had a part on the recent television series, The Secret Life of the American Teenager. Ringwald can also be seen in the new movie, Jem and the Holograms.
The actress has had a long and fruitful career in the industry but she will always be linked to the 3 collaborations she had with the legendary filmmaker, John Hughes. Hughes practically invented the teenage comedy and his films in the 1980s were hugely influential. Projects like Weird Science, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Some Kind of Wonderful contained Hughes’ signature humor, heart in abundance and young characters in the forefront that always felt honest and relatable.
The late John Hughes made countless classic films in his career but the ones that seem to truly resonate with audiences the most are the films that starred Molly Ringwald. The duo teamed up for 1984’s Sixteen Candles, 1985’s Breakfast Club and 1986’s Pretty in Pink. Ringwald got to cover a wide range of teenage emotions and experiences in those films and every one of her performances felt genuine. Her authenticity was probably strengthened by the fact that Ringwald was a real teenager playing her age in those roles. Hollywood often casts actors in their 20s to portray characters in their teens. Her age definitely helped her performances but in no way was that the only thing she brought to her iconic characters.
The thing that made Ringwald unique was her ability to capture perfectly the complexity of an American teenage girl. She could play egotistical but still allow the audience to relate to her (Breakfast Club). She could make you laugh in one scene and then break your heart in the next (Sixteen Candles). She perfectly captured the uniqueness and gravity of teenage romance (Pretty in Pink). I personally believe her work as a young actor is as good as anyone…ever!
I spoke to Molly Ringwald about her classic roles from the past, Jem and the Holograms and what she is hoping to accomplish next.
You have been performing since a very young age. Were you always drawn to the arts and entertainment?
I was singing with my dad’s jazz band when I was 3. It was something I always knew I was going to do since I was a kid. I really had to make a decision as an adult if I was going to continue to pursue it—and obviously I did. I always knew I was going to do something in the arts whether it was singing, acting or writing. So far I have done all 3.
Did anything outside of the entertainment world ever tempt you to maybe follow a different path?
I’m interested in a lot of stuff that doesn’t involve entertainment but I never really considered anything else for a career seriously. I’ve always known I was going to do something in the arts.
You did such an amazing job of portraying young characters in a realistic way. Was it ever difficult for you to connect with the “normal” young characters you were playing on screen when in real life you were one of the biggest movie stars in the world?
I don’t think so. I knew my life was different than the characters I was playing. I had a pretty normal life. I had a protective family. I had lots of friends I grew up with. Everything I was feeling, whether I was a movie star or not, was the same type of insecurities and concerns that any other teenager would have.
Did you feel like a role model at all during those teenage years? Did you feel a responsibility to be a role model for young people—both on and off the screen?
I never really considered myself a role model. I didn’t feel comfortable with that role. It was thrust upon me because I seemed well adjusted and I wasn’t a druggie. People just assumed I was a good role model. It wasn’t something I wanted to do.
I did a movie about teen pregnancy (For Keeps?) and I didn’t want it to be irresponsible. I didn’t want teen pregnancy to look like a lot of fun because that isn’t what teenage pregnancy is like in most instances. I tried to be responsible in that way. But in my personal life I didn’t want to tell people how to live because I was still trying to figure things out for myself.
How do you view your past work today? Can you understand why so many, including myself, view a lot of your films as classics?
Those movies have become iconic. They have been passed down through generations. They are a touchstone for so many different generations. Every teenager watches those movies.
I just showed my 10-year-old daughter Breakfast Club. She was a little young to watch Breakfast Club—but all of her friends had already seen it. It was an interesting experience to revisit the movie through my daughter. I appreciate the iconic status of those movies. But they were so long ago for me. They are almost like looking at baby pictures for me.
When you say it’s like looking at “baby pictures”—is it ever embarrassing for you to watch yourself act at such a young age?
No. It has the same feeling as when you look at baby pictures and say, ‘ahhh, I was so young. I was so cute. I was so skinny.’ I feel those things. I feel like I am looking at my kids more so than I am looking at me.
I don’t think they really make movies like The Breakfast Club anymore. I don’t really see those themes and ideas expressed on film in the same way today. Do you think Hollywood has abandoned those kinds of stories?
They try to make them. But John Hughes had a special talent and a special gift. Nobody has been able to replicate them. They had special casts and everything just came together for those films.
The new film that I’m in, Jem and the Holograms, is kind of a teen movie—I’m obviously not the teen in it. The director of the film, Jon M. Chu, really loved those John Hughes movies and he tried to bring what he loved about them to Jem and the Holograms. I was asked to do the film. I met with Jon and I really liked him. I liked the idea of the movie and I agreed to do it.
Jem and the Holograms is based on a cartoon from the 1980s. Were you familiar with the series before you made the film?
I was a little too old (when the cartoon was first released). I was a little too grown up. It wasn’t on my radar but I kind of vaguely knew about it.
At this point in your career—what kind of projects are you looking to do?
I want to do all kinds of different things. I will eventually like to write and direct my own stuff—if they ever stop making movies exclusively about superheroes. If they make movies about people again I would love to do that. I have my fingers in a lot of different pots. I’m still doing music. I am doing all kinds of different stuff. Anything that sort of interests me creatively…I kind of just go there.
You said that Hollywood is “making movies exclusively about superheroes.” Do you think that trend will go away soon and maybe smaller stories about people will get readily made again?
I feel like we are in this trend with superheroes. A few years ago it was vampires. We go through trends and right now its high concept movies. I like seeing superheroes as much as the next person but I think there needs to be more variety out there.