John Hughes wanted to make a very realistic film about what it was truly like to be sixteen. In 1984, he made that happen when he released his debut film, Sixteen Candles. The muse of the movie was none other than ’80s starlet, Molly Ringwald.
The movie was deemed a classic teen film, portraying teen angst and all that comes with it in a perfect and witty manner. Entertainment weekly once ranked Sixteen Candles as one of the “Best High School Movies” in the history of cinema.
It’s been nearly four decades since its release. Here’s all there is to know about this cult classic!
Molly Ringwald Was John Hughes’ Muse
John Hughes created the character of Samantha Baker after he saw a headshot of then 15-year-old Molly Ringwald. The whole film was inspired by her. This may sound creepy, but Hughes pinned the headshot on a bulletin board and wrote the script in one weekend.
Molly Ringwald inspired so much of the film that the actress later said it was almost like playing herself. The film was John’s directorial debut, the first movie he ever wrote and directed. Hughes then followed it up with The Breakfast Club in 1985 and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off in 1986.
Filming in Skokie, Illinois Wasn’t Very Fun
The film was shot at Niles East High School in Skokie, Illinois. Most of John’s movies are set in the state of Illinois because that’s where he’s from. However, filming in this particular spot was apparently upsetting for Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall who were both 15 at the time.
The two main actors were underage, as opposed to their fellow castmates like Michael Schoeffling who was 23. When they were stuck in the Skokie hotel, Michael was off drinking booze and having a blast.
Anthony Michael Hall Is Written Into Film
Anthony Michael Hall was chosen for the movie by John Hughes himself, who saw how well he performed in National Lampoon’s Vacation (another Hughes film). John knew he wanted to have Anthony in another one of his films.
So, just as Molly Ringwald inspired practically the whole movie, Hall also took a part in shaping the movie. John Hughes wrote the character of Ted, the geek farmer, with Anthony Michael Hall in mind.
Viggo Mortensen Almost Got the Part of Jake Ryan
Viggo Mortensen was this close to being cast as Jake Ryan. To Ringwald’s dismay, he didn’t make the cut. In an interview with Access Hollywood, she confessed, “I really wanted Viggo Mortensen. He made me weak in the knees. He really did.”
In the end, Michael Schoeffling snatched the role, even though he almost didn’t make the cut because he was terribly shy in his audition. His butt was saved by producer Michelle Manning who insisted, “He was so stunning and dreamy that we cast him.”
Molly Ringwald’s School Dance Dress
The dress that Samantha (Molly Ringwald) wears to the school ball was originally intended to be worn by another character, Randy, played by Liane Curtis. However, Ringwald saw the dress and fell in love with it on the spot. She begged the producers to let her wear it instead.
Of course, everyone knew that she got what she wanted because, well, she was considered Hughes’ muse. Hughes agreed to the dress swap and had to run around at the last minute to find a new dress for Randy’s character.
Sweating on Set
The film’s budget wasn’t enough to cover air conditioning in the school, so the cast suffered some serious heat. It was often over 100 degrees while filming! Havilland Morris, who played the character of Caroline, had to change her dress every so often because she sweated profusely.
Samantha’s bedroom (Molly Ringwald’s room) was also uncomfortably sticky to film in because the set for that particular room was set inside the high school gymnasium. Poor actors! It’s hard to function under such conditions.
Gedde Watanabe Snuck His Way In
The character of Long Duk Dong was played by Gedde Watanabe. In reality, the actor is nothing like his character. Watanabe was actually born in Utah and really doesn’t have even the slightest hint of a foreign accent. In fact, the guy doesn’t even speak Japanese, just English.
Watanabe told Vulture that in order to get the role, he borrowed the thick accent of one of his Korean friends. “It wasn’t a very smart idea because I was basically lying and would have to tell them at some point that I only spoke English… The casting director, Jackie Burch, was talking to me like I was from another country. Finally, I had to admit I was lying.” Incredibly, when Hughes found out, he laughed it off!
The One Deleted Scene…
Only the most die-hard Sixteen Candles fans would know this fun fact. There’s actually a secret additional sequence that didn’t make the final cut. Not the theatrical cut, nor the VHS copies, and not even in the DVD extras! So, where you can find this hidden gem?
The only place where one could have watched this scene back in the days was in the TV version of the film released in the ’80s. The extra scene was set in the school cafeteria and was shot simply to fill an additional minute of time.
The Iconic Birthday Cake Was Made of Cardboard
The final scene in which Samantha and Jake are sitting in front of each other with the gorgeous birthday cake he got her with 16 lit candles has become a signature scene for the movie. But it turns out that the cake wasn’t what viewers imagined it to be.
Unfortunately, to our dismay, the memorable cake in that iconic scene is actually made out of cardboard. The reason is that the cake kept melting while they were filming the scene. Eventually, the team gave up and replaced the cake with a cardboard model.
Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall Didn’t Get Along at First
Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall really didn’t like each other much at first. Anthony Michael Hall played the nerdy Ted Farmer, and Molly was his crush, Samantha Baker. It took a while for the duo to build chemistry.
Hoping to sort this pickle out, Hughes, took the two actors to a record store together so they could bond over music. When they discovered that they had a similar taste in music, they began to form a friendship (which eventually evolved into a romance!).
Molly Ringwald Insisted on Wearing Her Hat
One of the movie’s costume designers begged Molly Ringwald to ditch the hat she wears at the beginning of the film. However, the stubborn star decided to put it on anyway, feeling that it felt perfectly in line with her character.
Fun fact: After Sixteen Candles’ release to cinemas, teenage girls all over the nation started to wear similar hats. Clearly, Ringwald was the ultimate trendsetter. The girls even wore their hats tilted back in much the same way as Ringwald did in the movie!
Schoeffling Was Older Than Hall
Just like his character, Anthony Michael Hall was in his teens when he starred as Farmer Ted in Sixteen Candles. The same goes for Molly Ringwald, who played a high schooler and was indeed, herself a high schooler when she was cast in this classic film.
However, the odd one out was the actor Michael Schoeffling, who was eight years older than Hall and Ringwald. Schoeffling played Jake Ryan, the school’s heartthrob. Unlike his costars, he didn’t remain in the industry for very long after the movie wrapped up.
A Sequel Called 32 Candles Was in the Making
In 2003, USA Network announced that they were hoping to shoot a sequel to the classic movie, called 32 Candles and based on the 32nd birthday of Sam Baker. It would be a TV film that would bring back the original cast one last time.
Unfortunately, the plan fell apart due to unspecified reasons. While many of the actors were excited over the potential sequel, Molly Ringwald wasn’t. She was reluctant to join any reboot related to her breakthrough film. According to her, it “isn’t a good idea to do remakes of great classic films.”
Jim Carrey Auditioned
Farmer Ted might have been a completely different person, as actor Jim Carrey auditioned for the part but ultimately wasn’t cast. Instead of Sixteen Candles, Carrey was cast to the short-lived sitcom from 1984 entitled The Duck Factory.
So, why did they choose Anthony Michael Hall over the rest? John Hughes explained, “Every single kid who came in to read for the part did the whole, stereotyped high school nerd thing. You know – thick glasses, ballpoint pens in the pocket, white socks… But when Michael came in, he played it straight, like a real human being. I knew right at that moment that I’d found my geek.”
It was John Hughes’ directorial debut
Director John Hughes went on to create some classic movies including Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. But Sixteen Candles was his directorial debut, proving that the director had incredible talent from the get-go!
Before Sixteen Candles, John Hughes had written script material for National Lampoon’s Class Reunion, Mr. Mom, National Lampoon’s Vacation, and Nate and Hayes. When he made his own film, he gushed over how pleased he was to finally direct his own screenplay.
He Wrote the Movie in a Single Weekend
Before John Hughes wrote Sixteen Candles, he asked his agent for a pile of photos of aspiring actors. That’s when he came across Molly Ringwald, the one girl who caught his attention. Previously, she had starred in the show Facts of Life.
In an interview with CBS, Molly Ringwald revealed, “He put my headshot up over his desk and wrote ‘Sixteen Candles,’ basically over a weekend.” Loud music also helped Hughes to remain in the zone as he raced through his creative script.
He Thought of Casting Ally Sheedy
Among the stack of headshots John Hughes went through, there was another soon-to-be-famous face – Ally Sheedy. Even though Ringwald was ultimately the one who inspired him, Sheedy stood out from the stack as well.
Sheedy had already starred in two movies: the 1983 coming-of-age drama Bad Boys and the thriller War Games. When Sheedy failed to be part of Sixteen Candles, she joined the actors over at Oxford Blues where she played an American student who mans a rowing boat.
Ringwald and Hall Would Crash Bar and Bat Mitzvah Receptions
As noted before, the filming of Sixteen Candles took place in the small village of Skokie in Cook County, Illinois. So, while the adult cast members passed their time in clubs and bars, Hall and Ringwald, who were minors, had to do other things.
The underage actors made use of their environment, which in their case was the hotel. The hotel used to host many Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, as the village had a large Jewish community. So, they would talk their way into these festivities to hang out with kids their own age.
John Hughes Was Asked to Make Some Changes
Paul Dooley and Glynn Carlin, who were cast to play Sam’s parents, the Bakers, weren’t sure they liked how their characters were being portrayed, as these fictional parents forget their daughter’s birthday while focusing on her older sister’s wedding. They aren’t exactly shown in the best way.
Paul and Glynn felt that the movie should show a different side to the parents. In general, they felt like the film should have parents who weren’t just cartoonish or downright neglectful. They joined forces to persuade Hughes to rewrite certain sections of the script.
A Shared School
Fun fact: Sixteen Candles shared the school in which they filmed with the comedy blockbuster Risky Business, which was released the year prior. Both movies filmed their corridors and classrooms in Niles East High School.
Viewers can spot the entrance of the school, which is featured in both films. In Risky Business, it’s shown as part of a nightmarish sequence, as Joel Goodson (played by Tom Cruise) storms in late for an exam.
Molly Ringwald’s Favorite John Hughes Set
Molly Ringwald appeared in several of the Brat Pack movies at the time, and it was clear to everyone that she was John Hughes’ muse. Of all the films she made with the director, Sixteen Candles was the one she had the most fun shooting.
But in recent years, Molly Ringwald shared that she has some mixed feelings about the humor in her early movies. In a 2018 article for The New Yorker, she said that she views the sexism in Sixteen Candles in a very different light nowadays.
It Only Became a Success When It Was Released on VHS
Released nearly four decades ago, Sixteen Candles has enjoyed long-running stardom, despite some of its cringy humor aging badly. The classic film performed great at the box office, earning nearly $24 million on a budget of just over $6 million.
However, Sixteen Candles’ popularity really took off once it was released on VHS, kick-starting a cult following. Janet Maslin described the movie as a “cuter and better-natured teen comedy than most,” adding that “most of the movie is cheerful and light.”
There Were Siblings Among the Cast
One of the biggest names to emerge from this film was John Cusack, who took the supporting gig of the character Bryce, one of Farmer Ted’s geeky friends. The Cusacks, though, who were living in Evanston, sent another one of their kids to the movie’s set.
They sent Joan Cusack to play another geeky child. In the film, she has a neck brace on and can be seen sitting on the school bus. Another scene sees her struggling to take a sip from a water fountain.
Jake’s License Plate Wasn’t Random
Towards the movie’s end, Jake arrives in a red car to greet Sam as she comes out of her sister’s wedding. His vehicle shows license plate number 21850. The number wasn’t chosen at random. This is actually John Hughes’ birthday date:
The 18th of February 1950. Interestingly, Molly Ringwald’s birthday is also the 18th of February – 1968. This may have inspired the director to add a double birthday bit to the story’s plotline. In the movie, Farmer Ted tells her that they share a birthday.
Sam’s Grandparents Were the Actors in The Twilight Zone
Amid the strenuous preparations for Ginny’s wedding, Sam and Ginny’s grandpas turn up on the family’s doorstep. The second they appear, the Twilight Zone theme song plays eerily in the background, a reference to the actors playing the characters.
The grandfathers, named Howard and Fred, are played by actors Edward Andrews and Max Showalter respectively. Both of them had previously appeared in episodes of The Twilight Zone. The rest of the movie features a rock playlist, with songs by Patti Smith and the Thompson Twins.
Where Are They Now? Molly Ringwald
Ringwald starred as 16-year-old Samantha Baker, whose folks end up forgetting her birthday because they’re too busy planning her sister’s wedding. After the movie wrapped up, Molly went on to star in The Breakfast Club, The Giving Tree, Pretty in Pink, The Holograms, and the Kissing Booth Franchise.
The famous actress also became a writer, releasing her autobiography, Getting the Pretty Back, in 2010. She also wrote When It Happens to You: A Novel in Stories. In addition, Molly dropped a jazz record called Except Sometimes (2013).
Where Are They Now? Anthony Michael Hall
Anthony Michael Hall played the freshman nerd who is called “Farmer Ted” by his friends. After riding with Samantha on the bus, he begins to have a major crush on her. After the movie wrapped up, Hall went on to star in The Breakfast Club and Weird Science before being cast in Edward Scissorhands, Six Degrees of Separation, The Dark Knight, and Halloween Kills.
Other than acting, Hall also makes music. He released his debut album, Hall of Mirrors, in 1999 through his personal Ram Records label. Hall also formed the literacy program called The Anthony Michael Hall Literacy Club to assist at-risk youth. As for his personal life, the actor proposed to his girlfriend Lucia Oskerova while on a vacation to Italy in September 2019.
Where Are They Now? Michael Schoeffling
Michael Schoeffling portrayed Samantha’s crush Jake Ryan, who falls for her after getting tired of his girlfriend Caroline. After the shooting wrapped up, he starred in Vision Quest, Slaves of New York, Sylvester, Mermaids, and Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken before retiring from acting in 1991.
The former actor and model, who shares two children, Zane and Scarlett, with his wife Valerie Robinson, has stayed out of the spotlight since the 1990s. Nowadays, he owns a woodworking shop and shows his face from time to time on his daughter’s social media accounts.
Where Are They Now? Haviland Morris
Haviland Morris made her silver screen debut portraying Jake’s girlfriend, Caroline. She starred in the film in the same year she appeared in Reckless. The actress has since starred in Love or Money, A Shock to the System, Home Alone 3, Cherry Crush, Jack & Diane, Rick, Burning Blue , and Better Off Single.
Haviland then played Claire Baxter on One Life to Live from 1999 to 2003. She also guest-starred on the series One Tree Hill, As the World Turns, and Quarry. Nowadays, she is a licensed real estate agent. She shares two kids with her husband, Robert Score.
Where Are They Now? Gedde Watanabe
Gedde Watanabe starred in the film as foreign exchange student Long Duk Dong, who lives with Samantha’s grandparents. He has since then appeared in Volunteers, Gremlins 2: The New Batch, Alfie, and Two for the Money.
He’s also voiced the character of Ling in the animated Mulan films. Other projects of Watanabe’s include Gung Ho, Down Home, Sesame Street, ER, and The Disappointments. As for his recent projects, the actor directed his first short film, She Had It Coming, in 2020.
Where Are They Now? Justin Henry
Justin Henry’s played Samantha’s little brother, Mike Baker. Sixteen Candles was Henry’s second feature film. After the movie wrapped up filming, the actor then appeared in Martin’s Day, Sweet Hearts Dance, Finding Home, The Junior Defenders, and Reaper.
Eventually, he took a break from Hollywood in 2014. Justin then returned to showbiz in 2019 for a guest appearance on “The New On Cinema Oscar Special.” Apart from acting, the NY native also co-founded the Slamdunk Film Festival in 1998.
Where Are They Now? Blanche Baker
Blanche Baker starred in the film as Samantha’s older sister, Ginny Baker, whose wedding pulls the spotlight from Samantha’s Sweet 16. After the film wrapped up, Baker then starred in Raw Deal, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Girl Next Door, Curiosity Killed the Cat, The Grand Theft, Coin Heist, and Alice Fades Away.
Apart from acting, Baker is also a director, producer, and writer. She has worked on projects such as The Coffee Shop and Make America Safe. Baker has also played in the theater, appearing in plays including Lolita as well as the Off-Broadway production of Steel Magnolias.
Where Are They Now? Joan Cusack
Joan Cusack’s role as Geek Girl number one, who shows up on the bus as well as at the gym dance night, was one of her first acting gigs. Since then, she has appeared on Saturday Night Live before being cast to star in Working Girl, Men Don’t Leave, Toys, Addams Family Values, and In & Out.
The NY native has come a long way. She’s been nominated for two Oscars! As for her personal life, the comedian, who is the owner of the Judy Maxwell House shop in Chicago, has been living with her husband Richard Burke since 1996. They share two sons – Dylan and Miles.
Where Are They Now? John Cusack
John Cusack’s role as Bryce, one of Ted’s best friends, was his second job as an actor. Afterwards, he rose to fame with roles in Better Off Dead, Hot Pursuit, Eight Men Out , and Say Anything. His other memorable roles include starring as Rob Gordon in High Fidelity and Jonathan Trager in Serendipity.
Apart from acting, John Cusack has produced more than ten projects, including the movie Hot Tub Time Machine. He’s also written five screenplays, including High Fidelity. Recently, in 2020, the actor starred in Amazon Prime’s Utopia.
Where Are They Now? Paul Dooley
Paul Dooley starred as Sam’s father, Jim Baker, who was actually the first one to remember her Sweet Sixteen birthday. After the film wrapped up, the actor then went on to star in projects including Flashback, Shakes the Clown, Mother of the Bride, Clockwatchers, and Runaway Bride.
He also voiced Sarge in Cars. As for his personal life, Paul married screenwriter and poet Winnie Holzman back in 1984. They have one daughter, Savannah. He’s also the father of Robin, Peter, and Adam, whom he shares with ex-partner Donna Lee Wasser.
Molly Ringwald Had a Crush on John Hughes
It wasn’t a secret that Molly Ringwald got her way on the set of John Hughes’ movies. If she didn’t like something about one of her lines, he’d take it out, no questions asked. The director even removed a sexualized scene in The Breakfast Club for her.
In Ringwald’s memoir, she revealed: “I had a mad crush on him…without a doubt. It’s pretty heady stuff to have somebody who is so inspired by you that they are writing movies (for you), and studios are doing them.” She added, “I felt like he really got me. I felt completely understood.”
Ringwald Stopped Working With Hughes Because He Changed
Unfortunately, Hughes and Ringwald’s relationship came to a painful halt after they finished shooting the movie Pretty in Pink. When the director offered his muse another leading role in one of his movies, she was already 20 years old, and bold enough to turn it down.
She felt the script needed some improvement and didn’t really like the storyline at all. Apparently, John Hughes took her reaction to her heart. In her memoir, Ringwald shared: “When John moved from Chicago to L.A. after The Breakfast Club, he changed… I still respect him a lot, and if he gave me a good script, I’d read it. But I don’t think we’ll work together again real soon.”
Hughes Was Overly Sensitive
Molly Ringwald wrote in her memoir that she felt that John Hughes was a bit too sensitive. “He always seemed to be incredibly, incredibly sensitive. Overly sensitive. I mean, there were a couple of times when he got upset with me because he just completely, like, misunderstood.”
According to the starlet, she felt like she couldn’t fully grow up into a mature adult unless she ended her business relationship with Hughes. It was a chapter of her life that she needed to terminate. “I wanted to grow up, something I felt (rightly or wrongly) I couldn’t do while working with John,” she revealed.
He Sent Her a Massive Bouquet of Flowers
Years after they stopped working together, in 1994, Molly Ringwald reached out to John Hughes. She sent him a letter in which she wrote how important he was to her. She didn’t want him to think of her as an ungrateful brat.
“A week after I sent my letter, I received a bouquet of flowers as big as my apartment from John, thanking me for writing,” Ringwald told People Magazine. “I was so relieved to know that I had gotten through to him, and I feel grateful now for that sense of closure.”