Emilio. Ally. Judd. Yes, it kind of sounds like the makings of a great country band. But back in the ’80’s, there would be no mistaking who these names belonged to; tack on last names Estevez, Sheedy, and Nelson, and you have three key members of the “Brat Pack,” celebrities who virtually dominated the decade.
Along with Molly Ringwald, and Anthony Michael Hall, the five were perhaps best known as “a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal.” Of course, that’s the nutshell description of the characters they played in the movie line that famously starts and finishes the iconic John Hughes comedrama, The Breakfast Club.
Just celebrating its 30 year anniversary, the film’s unique format and electric cast-chemistry continues to fascinate the youth of today; the story of five teens stuck in a whole Saturday’s detention with nothing but each other to bounce their family and school frustrations on has been imitated by way of tribute many times over in popular culture, most recently in How I Met Your Mother and Psych.
As Molly Ringwald told US Weekly in 2010: “There’s been nothing to replace it. Until something comes along that can hold a candle to these movies, they will continue to be what they are.”
If that actress’s name doesn’t immediately make you mentally transcend to the decade of big frosted hair, acid wash jeans, tube skirts, and the famous Brat Pack, then here’s a memory refresher:
The Brat Pack that comprised the entire cast of The Breakfast Club, and also included Rob Lowe, Demi Moore, and Andrew McCarthy, were a special breed of young, Hollywood elite stars, owning the big screen, partying together both on and off it; they were also known for being insular bordering on ‘incestuous,’ with all of them seeming to date one another at one point or another.
Feature film St. Elmo’s Fire capitalized on the Brat Pack’s fame, starring most of the bunch to the delight of rabid fans. But perhaps the biggest film featuring some of its members was the dialogue heavy, teen angst come-drama The Breakfast Club, where Simple Minds begged “Don’t You Forget About Me” in the film’s accompanying monster hit-single.
Unfortunately, the public kind of did, as most of the members of the brat pack seemed to suddenly fall off the face of Hollywood’s earth.
Offshoot celebrities who sprung up around the Brat Pack playing bit parts in their films–John Cusack, Charlie Sheen, and Robert Downey Jr. to name just a couple–went on to enjoy huge successes in their acting careers, dwarfing the once upon fame of the original bunch.
So just what happened to the Brat Pack? Read on to discover their stories.
10. Molly Ringwald
Molly Ringwald‘s iconic John Hughes teen film roles still follow her wherever she goes, apparently even on back-to-school shopping trips to Target; last year she tweeted a photo of her smiling 11-year-old daughter standing beside a life-sized cardboard cutout of her Mom as her Sixteen Candles teen persona, attached to shelves flogging her teen angst classics.
But today Ringwald has gone from the mega-movie star of those classics to something entirely different; a Dear Abby advice columnist. These days the former princess Brat Packer collects her paycheque writing “Ask Molly Ringwald” for the UK’s Guardian newspaper, attempting to resolve every conceivable dilemma from eager fans convinced the sage Ringwald has the answers they seek .
So just how in hell did that happen?
After her rapid monster success from roles in Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and Pretty in Pink, it seems Ringwald hit a career wall. The actress reportedly had trouble choosing the right parts, having famously turned down offers of the leads in Ghost and Pretty Woman. Her career faltered from there, as she seemed to choose lemon after lemon role in both television and the big screen. Perhaps tiring of the media scrutiny, Ringwald decided to split town for Paris, France in 1992, where she pursued parts in French language theatre productions and films.
Following a failed marriage to a French writer, Ringwald returned to the U.S.,where she chose to revisit her roots taking roles in both film and TV projects.
Somewhere in between, Ringwald managed to pen a novel, have three children, release a jazz album in 2013 (really!), and finally landing her latest gig at the Guardian last year, at the age of 46.
Ringwald was reportedly as puzzled as anyone over the paper seeking her out for the job. But warming to the opportunity, she told reporters: “I’ve been told, on occasion, that I’m not always the best at taking advice, which is what really makes me the most qualified; I’m great at giving it.”
9. Anthony Michael Hall
It seemed in the 80’s that the adorable geek-actor Anthony Michael Hall was everywhere; but really all it took was two roles in Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club for Hall to make his mark. It seems Hall had something unique to offer the public in his performances; the introduction of the “cool geek.”
But Hall struggled to find parts thereafter, making poor choices in an attempt to avoid being typecast. After cleaning up his act from admitted drinking problems, Hall managed to find his footing again, returning to his nerd roots to play a critically acclaimed turn as one of the most successful geeks of them all, Mr. Bill Gates. He later found a regular gig on the highly successful television series, The Dead Zone.
On the recent suggestion from a reporter that geeks have inherited the earth, Hall agreed, saying: “Who knew that it would have so much cred 30 years later, that geeks would run the world?”
Well, now it looks like Hall’s heading back to high school for more teen angst; but instead of playing the geek yet again, the now 46-year-old Hall will turn the tables by playing a sadistic creative writing teacher on the MTV series, Awkward. The role seems a good choice for Hall, as the Awkward format has reportedly been compared to John Hughes‘ features; the same features that launched the actor into the fame stratosphere way back in the 80’s.
8. Emilio Estevez
Back in the 80’s no one would have wondered any such thing, with Estevez streaks ahead of his brother in the fame game at the time.
He was the jock in The Breakfast Club who made girls take a collective sigh when he kissed the suddenly transformed Ally Sheedy character. While enjoying a decent run of fame thereafter, Emilio Estevez‘s career began to slow down, with his most popular role since playing the warm and fuzzy coach in the family hockey film franchise, The Mighty Ducks.
But Estevez had critics’ tongues wagging again for the first time in ages when he directed his own Dad Martin Sheen in The Way (2010); in the film, Sheen plays a father taking a self-healing pilgrimage trek of the French Pyrenees, where his own son (played by Estevez) died attempting the same spiritual journey.
Famously publicity shy, Estevez has typically been the one member absent from Breakfast Club reunions, including one of the most recent of them in 2009, to commemorate the life and death of the film’s famous director, John Hughes.
It seems Estevez simply prefers keeping a low profile, happily operating a small vineyard on his Malibu property together with his Macedonian wife, writer Sonja Magdevski. But the actor may have trouble keeping that part of his life as quiet as he’d like; the actor’s Casa Dumetz label wines have reportedly been getting noticed by foodies and wine publications alike.
7. Judd Nelson
Poor Judd Nelson. You disappear from the limelight for awhile, and what happens? Apparently, you have to convince the world you haven’t choked! Last year Nelson was the latest actor in a slew of them who’ve had to convince the world they weren’t dead after a quiet publicity period.
It felt like the actor hadn’t been heard of in donkeys, and then out of nowhere, the death rumours swirled the internet in April of last year.
Nelson is, of course, alive and well, having most recently penned some books for Kindle. He has also taken on many acting roles since his famous turn in The Breakfast Club, most recently starring in Just 45 Minutes from Broadway, a film opening later this year.
Nothing made as much impact in the collective conscience, however, as his rebel-teen “John Bender” role.
On a recent appearance on the Today show the now 55-year-old Nelson said of his character, “I’m now that kid’s Dad.” Nelson also said he never imagined the film would enjoy the level of success it did, trying to explain the film’s enduring impact by telling Today: “We were very fortunate. John Hughes, may he rest in peace, wrote a great script.”
Nelson also told Entertainment Weekly of the director: “He was the first guy who saw someone who was young and that did not mean that they were less, it just means that they were young. And so he was very important and I think it’s fascinating that kids who weren’t born when Breakfast Club was first released are finding it again and liking it again. It’s really a tribute to Hughes.”
Virtually unknown before, Judd Nelson exploded on the Hollywood scene following his role as the rebellious headbanger “John Bender” in the film. He might have been what entertainment media writers call “ugly-hot,” but his scratchy voice and rebellious attitude captured the hearts of females, with his macho dude-isms successfully engaging male fans as well.
6. Ally Sheedy
Ally Sheedy got to pal around with fellow Brat packer Molly Ringwald in Austin, Texas recently, to help launch The Breakfast Club‘s 30th Anniversary Restoration– the film that will forever link the two actresses in popular culture.
Sheedy was so deliciously bizarre in the film, playing the aptly nicknamed “basket case,” that Hollywood couldn’t help but fall in love with her alongside Estevez’s jock character. Sheedy’s vulnerable quirkiness was something unique, and led to many other roles and offers; But in a repeated theme felt by her costars, she just couldn’t quite escape the giant shadow of her Breakfast Club character fame.
Making matter worse, Sheedy told reporters she developed a drug problem and sleeping pill addiction, keeping her out of work for a time as she sought help from a recovery centre. She later credited her drug experience with assisting her in her critically acclaimed role as a drug addicted photographer in High Art. Still, she later struggled to find work in her 30’s.
Having had enough of the walk of fame anyway, Sheedy left L.A. to be closer to where she grew up in NYC.
These days, divorced from actor David Lansbury, the 52-year-old Sheedy has a daughter, and continues to do the odd role, including off-broadway shows and more notably taking on a recurring role on Psych. She has also written two books.
5. Rob Lowe
Drugs. A sex tape. Crazy parties. Scandals. It seems like Rob Lowe has kept himself handily on par with half of Hollywood’s current elite with his offscreen antics since his Brat Pack glory days.
Lowe was perhaps the quintessential member of the pack, with his boyish good looks and offscreen dating habits firmly planting him as the hottest male sex symbol of the time.
Most recently, DirecTV tried to capitalize on those enduring good looks by starring Lowe in an ad campaign slamming the perceived inadequacies of cable by manipulating his image; good looking Rob represented satellite, while weird, whacko Rob represented cable. The campaign was eventually pulled after pissing off half the nation (i.e. the cable users).
Lowe couldn’t have been that upset about it, having developed a mighty thick skin back in 1988, following his original sex tape scandal (To think; back in the ’80’s a sex tape could destroy your career! What would the Kim Kardashians of the world have done? ).
Of course, Lowe made a come back with small parts in both television and film, finally landing steady, respectable acting gigs; first on popular television series The West Wing, and next on Brothers and Sisters. Most recently, Lowe played a long-running regular comedic role on NBC sitcom Parks and Recreation before DirecTV recruited the actor to be their poster boy.
And Lowe just keeps on marketing those good looks; he just launched a skincare line via a quirky ad on GQ (above), seeming to poke fun at himself in the popular manner contrived for the DirecTV campaign.
4. Demi Moore
She might be 52, but Demi Moore still rocks the red carpet like she did in the 80’s. She’s been seen most recently cheering on daughter Rumer at Dancing With the Stars, and subsequently tearing up at her flawless performance alongside Rumer’s Dad (and Demi’s own famous ex), Bruce Willis, now 60.
But normally when you think of Demi Moore today, one image comes to mind; younger men. After her divorce from much younger Ashton Kutcher, Moore kept to her dating form, pairing off constantly, it seemed, with ever younger men.
But back in the ’80’s, Moore was better known for dating men in their 20’s while she was also in her 20’s (!), and for her acting roles. After enjoying her fame as an elite member of the Brat Pack with stand out roles alongside Rob Lowe in both St. Elmos’ Fire (1985) and About Last Night (1986), Moore went on to much bigger and better roles, most notably in big budget features like A Few Good Men(1992), Indecent Proposal (1993), and Disclosure (1994).
By 1996 she was the hottest lead in Hollywood, becoming the highest ever paid actress when she earned an unprecedented $12.5 million for Striptease. She may have been the talk of town with the body transformation she underwent for the role, but the film tanked at the box office. Moore tried to keep the publicity train alive with yet another impressive hard-body turn in GI Jane the next year, but the public didn’t seem ready to forgive her for Striptease, and her career took a steady dive from there.
Still, all this time, Moore’s managed to keep herself plum in the middle of publicity land, by looking impossibly ever-more fabulous with age, and robbing the cradle left and right.
But you really can’t knock it; perhaps her younger choice in men really has helped her find her own elixir of youth?
3. Andrew McCarthy
In Pretty in Pink, Andrew McCarthy played the rich kid who fell in love with ‘girl on the wrong side of the tracks’ Molly Ringwald. McCarthy instantly sent females’ pulses racing, with his boy next door appeal and his angel-blue eyes.
The John Hughes monster success placed McCarthy comfortably within the Brat Pack, helping him land roles in St. Elmo’s Fire, Less Than Zero, and Weekend at Bernie’s.
Now, fans of the actor will be delighted to hear that he will be gracing screens once again, after what seems like an eternity, in ABC’s upcoming drama series, The Family.
It may have felt like he disappeared, but McCarthy has in fact taken on several minor film and television roles over the years. However, more recently, McCarthy did seem to prefer to spend his time traveling the world, writing and acting as Editor at Large for the National Geographic Traveler magazine.
The keen writer has written a book, and National Geographic just published McCarthy’s account of a pilgrimage journey to his grand-paternal home in Ireland, titled “A Song For Ireland.”
But it seems McCarthy is now ready to get back to the business of acting, taking on his new regular role in the upcoming Family for ABC, as well as reportedly signing on to appear in the pilot of a new NBC show, Sharing, alongside Christine Taylor.
2. Charlie Sheen
Not officially in the Brat Pack, but squeaking in as the brother of Emilio, Charlie Sheen has to get a mention, as he has received so much media attention since the 80’s– in fact, going on to receive far more enduring publicity and fame than any of the Brat Pack! He also deserves an honourable mention, as he too got his start in a John Hughes film, playing the burnout druggie sitting beside Jennifer Grey at the police station in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
Sheen reportedly stayed up partying for two days straight to achieve an authentic “fried” look for the burnout role–a work ethic he seemed to take right off the screen and into his private life!
Since getting the boot from his long-running comedy TV series Two and a Half Men and the insane public meltdown that ensued, Sheen tried to pick up his act, starring in the decently received Anger Management alongside Selma Blair.
But talk of Sheen repeating old patterns emerged, with the actor turning up onset late or not at all. He famously fired Blair from the show after a reported falling out over her open frustrations over the actor’s antics. Sheen later told reporters he hadn’t fired her, but had her character “written out of the show.” Either way, the show was cancelled last year.
But what does Charlie care? He’s still “winning” as he kept repeating during his meltdown mantra, having a current net worth of $125 million.
1. Robert Downey Jr.
Once again, Robert Downey Jr. may not have been a true Brat Pack member, but well-deserving of a mention; after all, the mega-star of the Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes films was a high school classmate of Brat pack brothers Sheen and Estevez, as well as Rob Lowe, and also went on to take some of his earliest roles costarring alongside many of the Brat Packers.
Downey Jr. played the cool bully trying to score with Kelly LeBrock versus Anthony Michaeal Hall’s geek in Weird Science (above). But he made an even greater impact playing alongside Andrew McCarthy in Less Than Zero as a drug addict. The role may not have been such a stretch for the actor artistically, who was reportedly in the throes of his own well documented addiction at the time of filming.
Although he only ever rested on the fringe of the Brat pack, Downey Jr. managed to propel himself into the epitome of fame while the others faded into his shadow. His insane current career success coupled with his even greater achievement of bouncing back from the rock bottom pit of drug addiction, earns Downey Jr. the number one spot on this list!
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