I don’t want this to look like a f—ing Brady Bunch story. Oh, the ’80s — wasn’t that cute,” says 28-year-old actor Anthony Michael Hall. That’s not an unreasonable thought, considering that Hall has spent more than a decade riding the ups and downs of growing up on celluloid and TV after making his mark as the scrawny, braces-wearing king of the freshman geeks in John Hughes’ 1984 comedy, Sixteen Candles. Currently, Hall costars with Justine Bateman as a geek from the dark side, a busboy who ends up murdering a feline and a few humans for creative purposes, in New Horizons’ new-to-video black comedy The Death Artist.
”I’ve had to make a lot of transitions,” he says. ”I’ve had to hustle and take things you don’t necessarily want to be in — and things you do that went in the wrong direction.” After a series of Hughes hits (Weird Science, The Breakfast Club), he turned down leading roles in Pretty in Pink and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, spent the 1985-86 season on Saturday Night Live (”I found out I wasn’t a stand-up comedian”), acted in several flops (Out of Bounds, Into the Sun), landed high-profile stuff like his supporting role as Will Smith’s gay lover in Six Degrees of Separation, and even directed Hail Caesar, a very low-budget Showtime comedy starring Samuel L. Jackson.
Although he realizes Brat Pack movies carry a kind of stigma, Hall is glad to have endured: ”I don’t care if you’re a plumber, you wanna be congratulated.” The old films also help him find work. ”That’s what people identify him with, for better or worse,” says Death Artist associate producer Darin Spillman. ”We were remaking a 1950s film [Roger Corman’s A Bucket of Blood] and wanted someone identified with a new generation.”
Ask Hall about Death Artist, and he offers, ”It is what it is.” But despite his cynicism, the actor, who lives alone by the beach in L.A., says he is grateful for the opportunities he’s had and is excited about two upcoming films: Exit in Red, a Showtime thriller with Mickey Rourke, and Trojan War, a comedy from Swimming With Sharks director George Huang. ”It’s like a ’90s John Hughes film, only I’m the cameo,” says Hall. ”Hopefully, the projects will just get better. If they give John Travolta $20 million, then I’ll hang out for a while.”