You’ve gotta love 80s comedies. Whether it was Weekend at Bernie's poking fun at a corpse, Arthur’s lighthearted take on alcoholism, or Pee Wee’s Big Adventure featuring, well, Pee Wee Herman, it seemed like nothing was off limits. And then there was the 1986 film Short Circuit—which opened this month almost 30 years ago—a ROLF out-loud comedy about unmanned military drones that featured Fisher Stevens as a live-action Apu from The Simpsons. In this day and age, it’s hard to believe that a remake is actually in the works, much less that it’s scheduled to come out this year. Until then here’s an update on the original cast to help you keep the memory of Johnny Five alive.
ALLY SHEEDY. In Short Circuit, Ally Sheedy was sort of the film’s Sarah Connor—that is, if Terminator's Sarah Connor was an animal lover who drove an ice cream truck for a living. By the time she appeared opposite Johnny Five, Sheedy was already a big star thanks to such movies as The Breakfast Club and Wargames, and a much-publicized romance with Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora. In fact, by the time the sequel to Short Circuit started filming, her rates were so high the studio could only afford to use her voice and she never even appeared on camera. In the late 80s, she left Hollywood and moved to New York to work on indie movies. In 1988 she starred in the independent film High Art, but her roles since then often have been anything but. Skeptical? Just Google Red Shoe Diaries 4: Auto Erotica, Buried Alive II, or the TV show Psyche. In 1992, she married actor David Landsbury. The two had a daughter together, but they divorced in 2008. These days, Sheedy lives in New York City and this fall will appear on Direct TV’s show Full Circle.
FISHER STEVENS. For us, the most memorable transformation in Short Circuit wasn’t Johnny Five’s journey of existentialism, but rather Fisher Stevens’ portrayal of Ben, the Indian scientist from Bombay. His role required growing a beard, dying his hair black, and darkening his skin with makeup. He also wore brown contacts and put on an East Indian accent. Never one to take his roles lightly, Fisher described how he prepared (yes, he actually prepared) for his role as Ben: “I went to India, and I studied Hindi. I got into yoga. And this is in 1985. I lived with Indian people. I really immersed myself. I used to be a total Method actor, so I was really deep in the deep end. And I had a great time. And the malapropisms, they worked. I thought they were great. So I really loved it.”
His acting didn’t earn him an Oscar, but apparently it did earn him a travel ban by the Indian government. But Fisher didn’t let that stop him from dating Michelle Pfeiffer for three years or from landing television gigs on shows like Frasier, Law & Order, Friends, and Lost. Over the years, he has acted and directed dozens of stage productions, including roles in the Torch Song Trilogy and Brighton Beach Memoirs. In 2009, the Indian government reportedly lifted his travel ban, after more than two decades. The following year, he started a film company and won an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature for co-producing The Cove.
STEVE GUTTENBERG. In Short Circuit, Steve Guttenberg gets the laughs (and the lady) by playing Newton Crosby, a soft-hearted programmer who helps create robots of mass destruction. The Gute’s movie career had begun to slow by that point, and while he later made appearances in sequels to the Police Academy, Cocoon, and Three Men and a Baby franchises, the actor went through the 90s largely unseen. In 1992, he divorced from actress Denise Bixler. He began to reemerge in 2005 with an appearance on Veronica Mars and was a contestant on season 6 of Dancing with the Stars. (His farewell performance was a tango with dance pro Jonathan Roberts, which the judges referred to as a “mango”.) In 2012, he published his biography, The Gutenberg Bible: A Memoir. But perhaps his most memorable achievement came in 2008, when a video went viral of the actor jogging pantless through Central Park. Later, Guttenberg admitted that the footage of him and his tackleberries was, in fact, a publicity stunt, but the video will live on in all its grainy unholiness.
G.W. BAILEY. Ah, typecasting. Short Circuit’s casting director must have high-fived himself when he got G.W. Bailey to play Steve Guttenberg’s main nemesis, Captain Skroeder. After all, Bailey was already famous for his role in the Police Academy where he played Steve Guttenberg’s main nemesis, Captain Harris. After Short Circuit, Bailey would appear in the film Mannequin as Captain Felix Maxwell, proving the guy just couldn’t get a promotion no matter how hard he tangoed at the Blue Oyster. In 1999, the Texas native divorced wife Eleanor June Goosby and had to trade in his Los Angeles mansion for a studio apartment. Eight years and five Police Academies after his turn in Short Circuit, Bailey landed a role in the TNT show The Closer and its spin-off, Major Crimes. Since 2001, Bailey has served as the executive director of the Sunshine Kids Foundation, a charity that helps young kids with cancer.