Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy on How ‘The Breakfast Club’ Helped And Hurt Their Careers
Thirty years after “The Breakfast Club” premiered in theaters, Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy are back in detention. Both actresses attended a SXSW screening of a restored version of their high school classic with 1,300 fans on Monday.
The John Hughes comedy follows five teenagers (among those would later be known as “the Brat Pack”) stuck in school on a Saturday, as they slowly reflect on their secrets and personal struggles. “William Saroyan and Eugene O’Neill have been here before, but they used saloons and drunks,” wrote Roger Ebert in his three-star review at the time.
Ringwald plays Claire, the popular girl, and Allison (Sheedy) is her polar opposite, the outcast dressed in black. Ringwald and Sheedy sat down with Variety at SXSW this year to talk about “The Breakfast Club,” working with Hughes and how the film helped — and hurt — their careers.
Why did the “Breakfast Club” become such a classic?
Sheedy: There hadn’t been a movie like it before. It’s a very particular movie that hasn’t been repeated. I don’t know if you could get away with doing that movie today.
Ringwald: Because there are no vampires in it. Any movie with teenagers now has to have a vampire, a zombie or a werewolf. I think that’s one of the reasons it has this lasting quality, because they haven’t been able to replicate it. It’s not for lack of trying. [The studio] gave John an awful lot of freedom for a relatively untested director. He had done “Sixteen Candles,” but it hadn’t come out yet.
What was John like as a director?
Sheedy: Sometimes when you work with a director, they are up high. He was right with us the whole time. I loved that he’d sit by the camera on an apple box, just sit there happily watching away.
Ringwald: He would get so involved, he’d forget to say cut. We’d keep going, and he’d let us.
Did you choose your own costumes?
Ringwald: I picked my costume. The original concept that we talked about in L.A. showed up in Chicago and just didn’t work. It was a big sweater, but it was a Pepto-Bismol pink, and there wasn’t enough time to have it redone. John took me shopping to the Ralph Lauren store in downtown Chicago.
Ally, did goth exist?
Sheedy: There was no goth.
Ringwald: Yes, there was — the Cure.
Sheedy: That was afterwards.
Ringwald: The Cure was around. They totally were. “The Love Cats” was a big song, because John and I were going to do it in the library. He was going to turn the library into a club.
Sheedy: I didn’t really know about it. I loved that beat poet look. I wanted a long black sweater and for everything to be dark.
Did you keep your costumes?
Sheedy: No, I wish I did.
Ringwald: This was after three months of wearing the same thing every day. I never wanted to look at it again. But I would love to have those boots now.
Did you see the “Dawson’s Creek” episode that re-creates “The Breakfast Club?”
Ringwald: No. Did Michelle Williams play Ally and Katie Holmes play my character? My daughter saw an episode on that show “Victorious” that had a lot of the jokes. It kind of bummed me out. She knew a lot of the jokes, but she didn’t know it from seeing the movie.
Do you ever watch “The Breakfast Club” on TBS?
In unison: No!
Ringwald: The language must have been bleeped out of it. That’s a different experience. I don’t like to watch stuff where they change your lines.
Is it hard to have your adolescence captured on camera?
Ringwald: I kind of like it.
Sheedy: I felt very awkward at the time, but I felt really happy in this experience and kind of loved and free.
Ringwald: And so beautiful! When I look at you in the movie, you look like a perfect kitten.
Sometimes child actors say that it’s hard to grow up in the industry, because people think of them as being young forever.
Ringwald: That’s true. For a long time, people thought I was a teenager way beyond when it was clear I was no longer a teenager. The movie has run so much on television. I think it’s hard for people to separate. But I think enough time has gone by for that to change.
Did that help or hurt you get roles?
Ringwald: I think it’s made it challenging. I also have to take my own personal choices into account. I did leave the country and live in Paris. I think that affected things too. In retrospect, I wanted to have some experiences out of the public eye.
Sheedy: After “The Breakfast Club,” I got to do a whole bunch of things. Then there was a period of time, “the Brat Pack” thing became a backlash. It felt derogatory — these kids had too much too quickly. There was a dip in my career. When you’re working this long, things go in cycles.
Ringwald: I think as time goes on, there are new people and new actors. There’s no escaping that. And you have a comeback.
Did the term “Brat Pack” hurt your feelings?
Sheedy: Yeah. I wanted to become Debra Winger. I kept thinking how was I going to make the shift to adult roles, now that we’ve been thrown this thing called “the Brat Pack,” which basically means young and bratty. It made things a little difficult.
Ringwald: It didn’t feel like a positive or fair moniker for sure. I found it objectifying.