Now That She's Done Everything Else, Wargames' Ally Sheedy May Not Settle for Being a Movie Star
06/20/1983 at 01:00 AM EDT
As a little girl, Ally Sheedy spent precious little time watching the grass grow. A dancer with the American Ballet Theatre at 7, a published author at 12, a TV-commercial actress at 15, she is now, at 21, a blossoming movie star. But wait. Sheedy, despite a big role as computer whiz Matthew Broderick's sweetie in WarGames, doesn't want to be the next teen idol. "The glamour thing with the pools and the glitter grates on me," she explains. Still, she's not immune to the appeal of having baby-faced Broderick as a co-star. And as for Sean Penn, who played her lover in her first film, Bad Boys, "He's a young James Dean," she contends.
Fine, but who's Ally Sheedy? On TV she's played a drug addict, a runaway, an unwed mother and a child prostitute. No help there. Ally eschews drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, even roles that call for nudity. Dressed down in jeans and no makeup, she looks and talks like a college kid, which she is. A senior at the University of Southern California, she is majoring in acting and is trying to keep the Hollywood hype in perspective. Why not just sit back and be famous? "Stardom at 21 seems insane," she says.
Her life-style is her counterattack against unreality. She, her boyfriend and another actor share a house—without a swimming pool—in the unfashionable L.A. neighborhood of Van Nuys. It's an hour commute to school, and she gets there in her new Jeep, the one indulgence she has bought with her movie moolah. "I pay for school myself," she says proudly. "I don't want my parents to pay for anything."
Her parents always encouraged Ally's independence. She is the eldest of three children born to a high-powered advertising executive father and an equally high-powered literary agent mother. When Ally—short for Alexandra—was 9, her parents divorced. She and her siblings divided their week between the two Manhattan households. "My father kept saying to us, 'You'd better get real good grades.' And my mom was one of the early members of women's liberation. She surrounded herself with artistic women who liked to talk and argue."
When Ally was in the seventh grade, she wrote a story about Queen Elizabeth I and a mouse. Encouraged by her mother, whose clients have included author Marilyn (The Women's Room) French and composer Elizabeth (Runaways) Swados, Ally submitted the book to McGraw-Hill, which published it. She Was Nice to Mice sold 125,000 copies and is about to be reissued. When she appeared on The Mike Douglas Show to plug her book in 1976, she was asked what she wanted to do for a career. Acting was her answer, and an alert agent called her soon afterward. "My mother said, 'Ally, you can try being an actress, but if your schoolwork slips or I find you're looking in the mirror too much, the commercials are out.' "
Her immediate success in TV commercials (Burger King, Clearasil) was followed eventually by roles on Hill Street Blues and other shows. The approach of stardom led Ally to consider dropping out of college last year. "I thought the kids might resent me for getting movie roles so young," she explains. "But after talking to my parents, I realized that finishing school was not only important to them, it was important to me."
Though acting is her profession now, writing remains high on her list of priorities. She keeps a daily journal to improve her skills and says she is working on "some magazine pieces about what it's like to be a young actress." Her boyfriend of two years, Eric Stoltz, 22, also looms large in her life. "But no wedding plans!" she protests. "We're too young." Set to co-star with Cotter (Blood Feud) Smith in summer stock in Aspen next month, Ally is delighted with the way things are going. "I'm lucky to be doing something I like—acting," she says. "But there are a lot of other things I want to do." Like? "Finish school, bake bread, have a baby. I'd hate to stop growing now."