“Chronologically, you’re 16 today,” Samantha Baker says while staring at herself in the mirror. “Physically, you’re still 15. Hopeless.”
With her shock of cherry red hair and incomparable pouty mouth, Molly Ringwald tapped into the pulse of 80s teendom as Sam Baker in John Hughes’s Sixteen Candles.
The 1984 coming-of-age classic, which was a hit with critics and moviegoers alike, turns 30 today. (Like, were some of you even born yet?) And despite floppy disks, obscene neck braces, polaroids, and the term “P.O.-d” going out of style, Sixteen Candles will forever remain timeless in its adolescent angst.
As much as the minor comedic roles that John and Joan Cusack played are worthy of honorable mentions, let’s take a look at the main cast members and see what the what is...
Sweet sixteen Sam may have had to deal with her family forgetting her birthday, as well as being humiliated by a horny toad freshman Geek with braces, but hey, at least she got the hot guy with the hot car in the end.
But before Molly Ringwald rolled her eyes into her breakout role as Sam Baker in Hughes’s Sixteen Candles, she had already been acting from the time she was five. After doing several theater productions in her hometown of Sacramento, California, Ringwald landed a stage role in Annie at 10. After a short gig on The Facts of Life, she was cast in the film Tempest, for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe. Then came the 80s teen years of film domination, thanks to director John Hughes, who cast her in not only Sixteen Candles, but also Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink. Other flicks like The Pick Up Artist, For Keeps, and Fresh Horses moved her right along into her 20s...and into Brat Pack status.
In 1992, Ringwald's Francophile ways took her to the City of Lights, and she acted in foreign films where she spoke fluent French. But she eventually returned home and began appearing in TV series like Stephen King’s The Stand and Townies. By 1997, she returned to theater, taking on roles in How I Learned to Drive, Cabaret, the London production of When Harry Met Sally, Tick Tick Boom!, and Sweet Charity.
These days you may have recalled her (non-teenage) role as Anne Juergens in ABC’s The Secret Life of the American Teenager. And for you jazz obsessed, perhaps you’re aware of Ringwald’s close ties to jazz, being that her father is pianist Bob Ringwald. In 2013 she released a record in the genre, entitled Except Sometimes (2013), which includes a cover of Don’t You (Forget About Me) by Simple Minds. She dedicates her version to John Hughes.
Two words to describe senior Jake Ryan? Hubba. Hubba. While Molly Ringwald’s character was true to her real age, Michael Schoeffling was 23 when he played sensitive senior jock Jake Ryan in Sixteen Candles.
Although he rose to international man candy status through that role, Schoeffling had been modeling for mags like GQ and was a medal-winning world champion wrestler (thankfully, not the WWE kind).
Post Sixteen, Schoeffling appeared as Matthew Modine’s wrestling partner Kutch in Vision Quest and in 1990s Mermaids, opposite Winona Ryder and Cher. In 1991 the dashing actor decided to call it quits on acting due to lack of roles in the industry and focused on carpentry to help raise his two kids with his ex-model wife in Virginia.
Anthony Michael Hall
He was simply known as the Geek in Sixteen Candles with his full-on metal braces, puberty-filled vocal chords, and horrific dance moves, but in the end, the skirt-chasing Geek got Sam’s panties (albeit on a 10-minute loan) and got to drive a Rolls Royce and make out with the prom queen. Not a bad way to jump start your film career, Anthony Michael Hall.
Before Hall hopped onto the Sixteen bandwagon, he starred in John Hughes’s National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983) as Chevy Chase’s son Rusty. Acting since age eight, Hall found his stride as the ultimate nerd of his generation with other Hughes’s flicks like The Breakfast Club and Weird Science.
But starting from the mid 80s, he made a point to break out of the geek typecast by joining Saturday Night Live and appearing in flicks like Johnny Be Good, Edward Scissorhands, and Six Degrees of Separation. In the world of TV, he is best known for his leading role in Stephen King’s Dead Zone, which was a huge cable series hit in the 2000s.
And here's a bit of fun Brat Pack trivia for you: Hall is godfather to fellow Brat Packer and former Weird Science co-star Robert Downey, Jr.'s son, Indio Falconer.
Despite a drinking problem that caused him to take a two-year sabbatical from acting in the late 80s, Hall has been sober since 1990. These days he’s been doing TV stints, appearing in a 2010 episode of Community and guest starring in Syfy’s Warehouse 13.
Do you hear the resounding Gongggg?! Ugh. Asian stereotypes reach an offensive fever pitch in Sixteen Candles through Gedde Watanabe’s portrayal of Long Duk Dong, the loopy Chinese foreign exchange student.
While you can’t blame critics for lambasting the film for its racist choices—Long Duk Dong’s gross mispronunciations of the English language, his hanging in a tree suddenly draped in a kimono, and his presence being introduced by the sound of a gong—film critic Roger Ebert had defended Watanabe’s depiction, saying he "elevates his role from a potentially offensive stereotype to high comedy."
Although the Japanese-American actor admitted he was “a bit naive” about how his role as “the Donger” would end up being controversial and degrading, his career has continuously been filled with Asian-centric roles that require him to use an Asian accent. (In real life, he doesn't have an accent, nor can he speak Japanese.)
Born in Utah, Watanabe moved to San Francisco in his late teens to pursue entertainment. His breakout role was in Sixteen Candles (the “butt-cutt” must’ve surely helped), which led him to starring in Gung Ho in 1986, opposite Michael Keaton, and UHF in 1989, co-starring “Weird Al” Yankovic.
After appearing as Hiroshi in Sesame Street in the late 80s and also doing voiceover work of Japanese characters for The Simpsons, Watanabe played gay nurse Yoshi Takata on ER from 1998-2002. In 1998 he was the voice of Ling in Disney’s Mulan and reprised the role in 2004 for the sequel and the subsequent video game.
At 58 Watanabe continues to split his time between television, film, and voiceover work. His latest film credit is starring in the Keanu Reeves’s flick, 47 Ronin, as a Kabuki actor troupe leader.
And that’s basically “what’s happening, hot stuff.”