Sixteen Candles' Sweet Teens Graduate to Stardom by Acting Their Own Ages
She breezes into Chicago's highest-snoot restaurant, Le Perroquet, in a flowing white antique dress, with a gray derby covering her orange-unto-red ringlets ("right out of the bottle," she admits with a grin). Annie Hall goes uptown. Even in this room of minks and plastic money, heads turn when she enters. She is a presence, a star. But she is only 16 years old, just a kid. "I want to have caviar and chocolate mousse," Molly Ringwald says excitedly, delighting in the expensive eclectic tastes of her teenhood.
The star of Sixteen Candles is in Chicago's flat, industrial suburb of Des Plaines to make another movie with her Candles co-star, Anthony Michael (call him Michael) Hall, also 16. In an abandoned high school, a casualty of the end of the Baby Boom, Ringwald and Hall play teens again in The Breakfast Club—kids who have to spend their Saturday in detention. Michael plays the brain, which he insists he's not. (In school in New York, he says, "I'm taking 'Math as a Human Endeavor,' a polite way of saying you're a retard.") Molly plays "the girl you grew up hating," she says, "a prima donna. She's like the total prom queen."
The real Molly and Michael are closer to the kids they played in Candles—Molly is Samantha, the picture of teenage angst, a girl who's terribly in like with Mr. Gorgeous. "I've had crushes before," she says, "and a lot of that love stuff hits really close to home." Michael plays the geek who becomes Samantha's buddy. He avoided the clichés of geekness. "I didn't play him with 100 pens sticking out of his pocket," he says. "I just went in there and played it like a real kid." That's because Michael likes the character. "The geek," he says in his defense, "is just a typical freshman."
But do not think that these are average kids. "I'm not a typical teenager," Molly announces. "I'd be lying if I said I was. I'm not normal, but that's good because if I was normal I'd be bored to death. Really."
Molly, born in Sacramento, now of L.A., concedes that back in seventh grade "I just had to have my Lacostes and Polos. But now I'm in high school, and I've matured a little bit. Being a cheerleader has never mattered to me." People on the set call her quiet and serious, a perfectionist. Molly acknowledges that "my moods are like up and down. I cry at the drop of a hat." She describes herself as "kind of a loner. I just watch everything. I'm a real observer, and then I like to write about what I see." She wants to be a writer (her favorite author: J.D. Salinger) and boldly declares "I love school. I'm definitely not a dummy. I like to learn." She wants to go to college (she hopes Berkeley), and she is close to her parents. Her father is a blind jazz musician who performs in clubs. Molly started singing with him when she was only 3, and she likes to read to him (most recent book: The Catcher in the Rye, of course). She gave her mother and traveling companion, Adele, a diamond ring for Mother's Day. She isn't really aware of how much money she makes, but she does want to earn enough to "buy a big club so my father could play in it and my mother could cook—like a piano-bar restaurant. My mother is a major gourmet cook."
The bits of bio keep coming like lines in a yearbook. Her curfew is at 10 on weeknights, 1 a.m. on weekends. Her first movie, at 13, was The Tempest with John Cassavetes; she got great reviews. And as for those reports that Molly and Warren Beatty are, well, an item, Molly just laughs. Beatty saw her in The Tempest and has talked about making a movie with her. "He's certainly not dating me or anything like that," she says. "He's like a friend of the family. He's real handsome, but he's sure a lot older."
Michael and Molly are different in so many ways. In their school on the set (they study three hours a day and work no more than four), the kids are reading Jane Eyre. Molly loves the romance of it. Michael's a bit bored by it; he's getting through with the help of a Cliff Notes study outline. "Molly is more precise. Michael is a little wilder," says the director of Candles and Breakfast, John Hughes. Molly uses her eyes and her face to say it all, Michael his gangly, growing body. Hughes calls him a natural. Michael shrugs, all too modest. "I really don't know how to act," he says. "I studied once for a couple of weeks in New York with the Lee Strasberg school. The teacher would say, 'Now feel the lemon going down your throat,' and I'd think, 'Please! Can't I just go watch cartoons?' Some people get into it too much. I just do it."
He was born in Boston, spent a few years in L.A., but grew up in New York. His parents separated when Michael was 6 months old. His mother is a jazz singer, and he used to hang out with her at the Copacabana in New York. "I was like this little showbiz kid," he says. "But I was never forced to do it. I don't have a big, bitchy stage mother. I love my mother. She's young and she's very hip." Michael started in commercials at 7. He played Chevy Chase's son in National Lampoon's Vacation. Says Hughes, who wrote that movie, "For him to upstage Chevy, I thought, was a remarkable accomplishment for a 13-year-old kid." Hughes signed him to two more pictures with Universal. Michael turned 16 in April, and, he recalls, it was "really one of the greatest nights in my life. I got two film offers, went to Chuck E. Cheese, got a bass guitar and saw James Brown in concert." The cast of Breakfast gave him icons of his rite of passage: a razor, after-shave and condoms.
Michael and Molly are two more leaders in the Young Actor assault of the '80s. Fellow veteran Ally Sheedy (of Bad Boys, War Games and now The Breakfast Club) compares and contrasts them. Michael, she says, is "lovely, very pure, clean. He reminds me of cookies and milk. There's nothing guarded in him." Molly, on the other hand, "appears to be very serious all the time, concentrated. But there's a whole giggly side to the kid, and the bubbles come out of nowhere. We went to see The Bounty one night, and all through the movie she kept saying, 'Oh, my God, Mel Gibson is so gorgeous.' I thought I'd throw up." Kids, we're happy to report, will be kids.
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