The ’80s were a wild time when everything was brighter and bigger than ever before. But what really stood the test of time were the decade’s films. John Hughes was one of those notable writers and directors who played into universally understood themes. Pretty in Pink was his third directorial project and continues to be one of his most beloved movies.
Tackling themes like class and self-confidence were some of the reasons that Pretty in Pink became such a classic. Despite being released more than three decades ago, there’s still so much to learn about the movie and its cast members!
A Commercially Successful Cult Classic
It seems like an oxymoron to have a movie that is both a cult classic and a commercial success. But that’s exactly what Pretty in Pink managed to do when it was released in February 1986. For a majority of movies that garner a cult-like following, their theatrical run only gains a small number of fans.
Only years after it has been out of theaters does the film tend to gain real traction. Pretty in Pink broke that mold when it made over $40 million at the box office compared to its $7 million budget and managed to receive positive reviews.
A Completely Different Ending
What we saw in the final cut of the movie was not the intended ending. When John Hughes wrote the script, Andie chose to be with Duckie instead of Blane. This ending was what was originally filmed and included in the film. However, they disagreed with her choice when they showed the finished movie to test audiences.
Many of them felt disappointed and even suggested that it supported classism. After hearing the feedback, the filmmakers decided to scrap the original ending and refilm a new one where Andie picks Blane. The new ending made the final cut.
Cast and Crew’s Reactions to the New Ending
They may have changed the ending because of the audience’s reactions, but the people who worked on the movie had their own feelings about the change. John Hughes was disappointed that his intended theme of “love conquers all” was lost on the test audiences.
Director Howard Deutch was heartbroken, and a bit angered that they had to steer away from the film’s original intent. When they reshot Andie friend-zoning Duckie only to chase after Blane, he saw it as an unjust ending, especially for Duckie’s character.
Hughes Got His Happily Ever After
If it wasn’t obvious by Pretty in Pink’s original ending, John Hughes was a hopeless romantic who wanted to write a story of two friends who realized they loved each other. Unfortunately for Hughes, they nixed the original version, and Andie ended up with the rich guy.
But don’t worry, the following year, Hughes wrote another movie called Some Kind of Wonderful that also showcased a love triangle but swapped the genders. In that 1987 movie, Hughes wrote the two friends choosing each other, and no one was happier than Hughes!
Cryer Came to Terms With the New Ending
Obviously, the person who played Duckie would be saddened by the new ending. But Jon Cryer compared his own disappointment to his character’s because Duckie’s downfall was that he always considered himself the main character, so it was only fitting.
Cryer also pointed out that the new ending gave audiences an example of interclass romance. The new ending told people that how much money you have shouldn’t determine who you love. It reminded many crew members of a modern take on the Cinderella story.
New Ending With an Awful Wig
When the filmmakers decided to go ahead and shoot a new ending to the movie, many of the actors had moved on to new projects, including Andrew McCarthy. He was performing in a Broadway production that called for him to sport a buzzcut.
When McCarthy returned for filming, the costume department needed to fit him for a wig. But the wig they went with was not a great one. Even Pretty in Pink’s director, Howard Deutch, admitted that the wig was hard to look at in the final cut.
Book Adaption of the Film
In recent movie history, it has been fairly common to take a beloved novel or book series and adapt it for the big screen. Think Fight Club, The Lord of the Rings, Pride and Prejudice, and Harry Potter. But back when Pretty in Pink came out, it was equally as common to have successful movies be adapted for a novel.
This movie was no different, except for a very small oversight. When they began the novelization process, they based the book on the original version of the movie. This means that, according to the book, Andie does end up with Duckie.
Molly Ringwald’s Role Was Tailor-Made
John Hughes and Molly Ringwald had worked together on two other films−1984’s, Sixteen Candles and 1985’s The Breakfast Club−before coming together again for Pretty in Pink. When Hughes was writing the script his 1986 movie, he pictured Ringwald in the lead role and built the character of Andie around what he knew about the actress.
Though flattered by the gesture, Ringwald initially turned down the role. She was trying to break away from teen projects. After producers considered Lori Loughlin, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Tatum O’Neal for the role of Andie, Ringwald changed her mind and claimed her part.
Feels Good to Be Bad
James Spader slid into the bad boy persona of Steff perfectly. But did you know that he was originally asked to read for the part of Blane during his audition? It’s tough to imagine him in that role now that we’ve seen how masterfully he played the villain!
Spader pushed to read for Steff, and the rest is history. In interviews, he’s always explained how much more fun it is to play the bad guy. This sentiment has rung true for his other acting roles too.
Cryer’s Breakthrough, Hall’s Typecast
Many fans of Pretty in Pink argue that the film’s most iconic character is Duckie, played to perfection by Jon Cryer. The 1986 movie was Cryer’s breakout role, but it wasn’t even meant for him.
Anthony Michael Hall, like Molly Ringwald, had collaborated with John Hughes on several other projects and served as Hughes’ muse for the Duckie character. Hall turned down the part to avoid typecasting and did the same thing for the lead role in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, despite the roles having been written for him.
Suffering a Loss Before the Movie’s Release
The cast and crew of Pretty in Pink suffered quite the loss when one of their own suddenly passed away. Alexa Kenin was part of the supporting cast, as Andie’s gym buddy, Jenna. The movie had finished filming but had yet to be released when Kenin was found dead in her apartment in September 1985.
There were so many questions and zero public answers about the cause of her death. There were no answers about what happened, and the film was released several months after her funeral.
Every Duck Deserves a Duckette
After test audiences convinced the filmmakers to reshoot the Pretty in Pink ending, Hughes wanted to make sure that Duckie’s character didn’t get the short end of the stick. That’s when he enlisted the help of Kristy Swanson.
Her big-screen debut was in a non-speaking role as a student with a thing for Duckie. They managed to shoot this new ending in only one day but realized that they hadn’t named Swanson’s character. When it came time to write the credits, they listed her character as “Duckette.”
Wrong Ending for Numerous Reasons
On-screen, the original ending wasn’t a winner. But off-screen, it was even worse! When they shot the original ending, Ringwald had come down with an awful stomach bug. She tried to act through it but ended up fainting on set during a light dance sequence with Cryer.
Ringwald was promptly put on bed rest for the rest of the day. In multiple interviews, Cryer credits Ringwald’s illness as a potential reason for why their original ending didn’t garner the response the team had hoped it would.
Movie Soundtrack Becomes a Stand-Alone Hit
John Hughes’ movies were known for featuring cool songs as background to iconic moments, like Ferris Bueller lip-syncing to “Twist & Shout” or Simple Minds’ “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” from The Breakfast Club. But what set Pretty in Pink apart was that the movie’s music was compiled to make an official soundtrack.
The original soundtrack was released a few weeks before the movie hit theaters. The album captured the new wave ’80s sound and even made it to the No. 5 spot on the Billboard music chart.
Soundtrack Ranks Among Best of All Time
Rolling Stone magazine loves ranking everything, and it was quite surprising to see that the Pretty in Pink soundtrack nearly cracked the top ten. It was ranked 11th between the soundtrack to Wild Style, which primarily featured hip-hop, and the folk soundtrack for O Brother, Where Art Thou?
The magazine wrote that what set Pretty in Pink’s album apart was the fact that it was dynamic and not just filled with overly popular rock songs. It opted to feature bands like INXS, the Smiths, and Psychedelic Furs.
Makeover for the Movie’s Music
A few years before the 30th anniversary of the movie, the film’s soundtrack got a bit of a facelift when it was re-released on vinyl. As is always true with trends, things like disposable cameras and vinyl records started making a comeback after 2010.
Producers thought it would be a great opportunity to rerelease the classic ’80s soundtrack, and what better way than to remarket it with, you guessed it, a bright pink record! If nothing else, they were bought for the aesthetic, and then consumers fell in love with the music.
The Story Behind the Title
The film’s star Molly Ringwald was chatting with John Hughes when she mentioned a song that she’d been listening to called “Pretty in Pink” by the U.K.’s Psychedelic Furs. The band’s song was released in 1981, but when the song was featured in the movie, it thrust them onto the American music charts.
Hughes couldn’t get the song title out of his head and also thought about Ringwald’s own love for the color pink while he was writing the script. The filmmakers decided that the title fit the film.
Misunderstanding the Meaning
Pretty in Pink introduced the Psychedelic Furs to a wider American audience when their song was chosen to be included in the movie. The band even recorded a pop version of the tune. They were incredibly excited about gaining fans across the pond.
However, the band noticed there was a misunderstanding when it came to the song’s meaning. The movie was a happier one, while the song had darker undertones to it. The expression “pretty in pink” alluded to a naked girl rather than someone in a pink dress.
Specifically Written for the Film
When The Breakfast Club ended with Simple Mind’s “Don’t You (Forget About Me),” the song blew up. Pretty in Pink did the same thing for Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark’s “If You Leave.”
OMD wrote the song specifically for the 1986 movie and only had two days to do so! In fact, the British band had written a completely different original song for the first ending but then had to scramble to write a new one when they reshot that final scene.
A Little Off Beat
When OMD had to come up with a new finale song for Pretty in Pink, it had to be 120 beats per minute because that was the pace of “Don’t You (Forget About Me),” which is the song they used when they filmed the prom scene.
But whoever edited it didn’t pay attention because, if you look closely, everyone is dancing slightly off beat to “If You Leave” because they don’t match up. The song became the band’s biggest song, though many of their European fans loathe the tune.
High School Musical Duckie Dance
Part of Jon Cryer’s audition was acting through the infamous lip sync scene in the record store. All that the script indicated was that Duckie entered while lip-syncing with a lot of energy. From there, it was up to Cryer’s interpretation. No one on set expected Cryer to commit as hard as he did.
The dance sequence that some fans consider the best scene of the film was actually choreographed with the help of choreographer Kenny Ortega who would go on to create the High School Musical franchise.
Try a Little Tenderness
The Duckie Dance is one of the most memorable scenes, but the end result was a bit different than what they had in mind. In fact, they were planning on using an entirely different song. Cryer wanted to take a comedic approach to the scene, so he rehearsed it to Mick Jagger and Michael Jackson’s song “State of Shock.”
“Start Me Up” by The Rolling Stones was suggested, but they weren’t able to get the rights for it. Eventually, the film’s director landed on Otis Redding’s “Try a Little Tenderness.”
Molly Ringwald’s Almost Last John Hughes Film
Molly Ringwald credits John Hughes for making her famous after the two had collaborated on three classic movies together. After the release of Pretty in Pink, Ringwald decided that she needed to stop working with Hughes for a while if she wanted to make it further in Hollywood.
But there was almost a fourth collaboration between Ringwald and Hughes entitled Oil and Vinegar. The script was written, Howard Deutch was going to direct, and Matthew Broderick would star opposite Ringwald. Hopefully, someone will bring it to the big screen soon!
Making a Handmade Dress
Hughes wrote the character of Andie as a creative problem solver who’s drawn to fashion. So, it only made sense that she would make her dress in the movie. But how did the movie’s costume team actually make it?
One of the costume designers went around L.A., found two pink dresses, and combined them into one. The idea behind the dress wasn’t supposed to appeal to the masses. In the same way that Andie didn’t follow the crowd, the dress was to play into the character’s originality.
Andie’s Pink Dress Was… a Dress
In a teen movie, the prom scene is a huge moment for the lead characters to put their best selves forward. However, the pink prom dress that Andie wore at the end of the movie made Ringwald actually cry when she first saw it because she hated it so much.
A few years ago, Ringwald wrote an article for Teen Vogue discussing her hatred for the dress and that the halter neckline was the only semi-positive thing about it. Hughes agreed it wasn’t great but that it fit Ringwald’s character.
Where Would They Be Today?
For the movie’s 25th anniversary, several of the cast members got together for an Entertainment Weekly reunion to discuss Pretty in Pink and its relevance in pop culture after a quarter of a century. Some of the cast members made guesses about what they think happened to their characters.
Molly Ringwald, for instance, was convinced that Andie and Blane wouldn’t have lasted very long as a couple despite overcoming their naysayers in high school. She also thought that Andie and Duckie would have remained lifelong friends.
What Was Duckie’s Sexuality?
During this same reunion, Ringwald jokingly mentioned that Duckie would have come out as gay by that point and proudly showed up to a Pride Parade. In a separate interview, she again mentioned that the affection Duckie showed in the movie reminded her of gay friends she had in real life.
Jon Cryer, who actually played Duckie, couldn’t have disagreed more with that suggestion. He never saw his character that way and stood up for other straight men who get mislabeled for having some feminine behaviors or tendencies.
So, what happened to the cast of Pretty in Pink?
Molly Ringwald as Andie Walsh
Molly Ringwald got her start in show business by starring in the NBC television series The Facts of Life in 1979. She was only on it for one season before the network decided to rework the show and let go of many cast members.
After being released from that show, Ringwald got a Golden Globe nomination for her big-screen debut in the 1982 movie Tempest. Then she starred in two John Hughes movies before her Pretty in Pink role: Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club.
Molly Ringwald Now
After the release of Pretty in Pink and ending her working relationship with John Hughes, Ringwald appeared in some French films. When she returned to the States, she made a cameo appearance in the parody movie Not Another Teen Movie.
Her introduction to the next generation really came with the ABC Family series The Secret Life of the American Teenager from 2008-2013. Most recently, she’s appeared in all three films in Netflix’s The Kissing Booth series and in a recurring role in “Riverdale” on The C.W.
Andrew McCarthy as Blane McDonough
Andrew McCarthy’s big break came when he starred in the 1983 film Class alongside his leading lady, Jacqueline Bisset. He was one of several young actors who belonged to what press outlets referred to as the “Brat Pack,” who starred in some of the ’80s biggest movies, including John Hughes.
Some of these projects included St. Elmo’s Fire in 1985, one of John Hughes’ few movies without Molly Ringwald. The two would only appear on-screen together in another John Hughes project as love interests in 1986’s Pretty in Pink.
Andrew McCarthy Now
After Pretty in Pink, McCarthy performed on the Broadway circuit before returning to film. In 1989, he appeared in Weekend at Bernie’s and the 1993 sequel. He had guest roles on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Monk.
McCarthy branched out into directing for shows like Orange Is the New Black, The Blacklist, and Good Girls. His latest title has been as an author as he has released three books, the most recent of which was a memoir entitled “Brat: An ’80s Story” that came out in May 2021.
Jon Cryer as Phil “Duckie” Dale
Jon Cryer got his start on the Broadway stage in a production of Torch Song Trilogy. He reprised his part in the show across the country in Los Angeles and San Francisco. In 1984, he went back to Broadway as the standby in Brighton Beach Memoirs. For both parts, Cryer was replacing Matthew Broderick.
His first film role was as the leading man in 1984’s No Small Affair. This movie also served as Demi Moore’s movie debut. But Cryer’s breakout role was as Duckie in 1986’s Pretty in Pink.
Jon Cryer Now
After the release of Pretty in Pink, Cryer starred in several short-lived sitcoms before something stuck. That something came in 2003 when he landed one of the lead roles in the sitcom Two and a Half Men. Cryer was in every episode during the entire twelve-season run.
He earned seven Emmy nominations and won twice. In 2011, Cryer was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Most recently, he’s embodied Lex Luthor in a recurring role on the C.W.’s Arrow, Batwoman, The Flash, and Supergirl.
Annie Potts as Iona
One of the more seasoned veterans in the cast, Annie Potts first hit the big screen all the way back in 1978. She starred opposite Star Wars’ Mark Hamill in the MGM comedy Corvette Summer. At the Golden Globe Awards the following year, Potts was nominated for an award for her performance in the movie.
Before appearing in Pretty in Pink, Potts nailed the role of team secretary in 1984’s classic paranormal film Ghostbusters. She went on to reprise her role in the subsequent sequels.
Annie Potts Now
Potts returned in her Ghostbusters role as Janine Melnitz in the 1989 sequel as well as the reboot in 2016. In fall 2021, she will reprise her role in Ghostbusters: Afterlife. Potts also dabbled in voice acting, most notably voicing the characters of Bo Peep in all of the Toy Story movies since 1995.
Between projects, she found time to appear on television series like Ugly Betty, The Fosters, Boston Legal, and Two and a Half Men. Most recently, she’s been playing Meemaw on the show Young Sheldon.
James Spader as Steff McKee
James Spader played the bad guy to perfection, but what was he like before he starred in John Hughes’ classic film? Well, his first time appearing in a big film came in 1981 when he was in Endless Love.
After a few hit-and-misses in the years following that project, Spader snagged his debut as a leading man in 1985’s Tuff Turf. When it came time for 1986’s Pretty in Pink, Spader was initially asked to read for Blane’s part but opted for the villain role.
James Spader Now
After Pretty in Pink, Spader reunited with his costar Andrew McCarthy in 1987’s Less Than Zero. After that, Spader won three Emmys for his role on both The Practice and reprising the spinoff series Boston Legal.
For younger fans, Spader came into their TV time when he joined the cast of The Office as Robert California in two of its later seasons. In 2015, he joined the Marvel Universe in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Most recently, Spader has appeared as Red on The Blacklist.
Harry Dean Stanton as Jack Walsh
Harry Dean Stanton had a whole life before he got into acting as he served in the United States Navy during World War II. He returned home after the war and starred in many independent films such as Escape from New York, Repo Man, and Two-Lane Blacktop.
Not to mention that Stanton also had time to star in plenty of mainstream projects like The Godfather Part II, Alien, Alpha Dog, and Alien. Before Pretty in Pink, Stanton’s breakout role came when he starred in 1984’s Paris, Texas.
Harry Dean Stanton Passed Away
A veteran film star before Pretty in Pink, Stanton continued to star in projects like The Green Mile, Twister, and The Last Temptation of Christ. He even had a cameo appearance as himself on Two and a Half Men with his Pretty in Pink costar, Jon Cryer.
Like James Spader, Stanton appeared in a Marvel movie with a minor role in The Avengers. His last roles were in Lucky, Frank and Ava, and the Twin Peaks reboot. In September 2017, Stanton passed away at 91 years old.