Reminiscing with Jon Cryer about ''Pretty in Pink''
To mark a new special-edition DVD of ''Pretty in Pink,'' Emmy nominee Jon Cryer chats with Mandi Bierly about the movie's original ending, ''Try a Little Tenderness,'' and more
He’s got TV’s No. 1 sitcom (CBS’ Two and a Half Men) and his first Emmy nomination (the awards air Aug. 27 on NBC), but Jon Cryer still spent 30 minutes chatting with us about Pretty in Pink — celebrating its 20th anniversary with the extras-packed Everything’s Duckie Edition, on shelves Aug. 29. He even apologized for phoning 10 minutes late. Yes, the guy was — and always will be — the Duckman. And he’s totally fine with that…
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: No need to apologize. I know you’re a busy man, Mr. Emmy Nominee.
JON CRYER: That’s actually how I’m requiring everybody to address me. Thank you for knowing that ahead of time — you’ve obviously done your research.
So, do you think this Everything’s Duckie Edition is a mea culpa to fans who still come up to you angry that Andie [Molly Ringwald] chose Blane [Andrew McCarthy]?
Um, I think it’s a historic wrong that will never be completely righted. It’s like the Holocaust in that way. [Laughs] Somebody will kill me for that. Sarcasm is lost in print.
What was your reaction when you first heard you’d be reshooting the movie’s ending? [SPOILER ALERT: In John Hughes’ original script, Andie stayed with Duckie at the prom, and they danced to David Bowie’s ”Heroes.” Test audiences booed.]
I was disappointed. You sorta go, ”Oh, guess I’m not the leading man.” But I think it was kind of appropriate. Duckie always thought he was the leading man, and that was his fatal flaw. I got it at the time. I understood that John was trying to do something about crossing class lines and felt that with the ending as it was, it was sort of saying, ”You know what? Class lines aren’t worth crossing.” And he didn’t want to send that message, because he deeply cares about rich people and about the problems that rich people face. [Laughs] He didn’t want us poor folk to give up on them completely.
What did you think of Andie’s prom dress? It was, aesthetically speaking, quite controversial.
I think the costume designer was trying to transcend the era. I think had she done the ultimate ’80s dress, it would have ended up being a joke. So she tried to do something very sort of French… and baggy. It is what it is. I think it’s very lovely.
Molly Ringwald still has a couple of Andie’s cardigans. Did you keep any of Duckie’s wardrobe?
I kept a couple of jackets that didn’t even make it into the movie. I kept those bolo string ties. And I had the Duckie shoes for the longest time, and then in the mid-’90s, I lent them to Planet Hollywood, which has decided that I wasn’t lending them, I was giving them — despite signed documents to the contrary. They’re probably in the last remaining Planet Hollywood in, you know, Singapore or something. Isn’t that ridiculous? The Duckie shoes should be mine!
Did you know Robert Downey Jr. was also up for the role of Duckie?
I didn’t know at the time. He and I went to the same summer camp, so our paths occasionally crossed in New York, and I knew what a lovely guy he was even then. I knew Fisher Stevens was up for it, because he and I were hopping from show to show: He was doing Torch Song and I was doing Brighton Beach, and then I was doing Torch Song and he was doing Brighton Beach. There was this whole cottage industry of young male actors who were, basically, either understudying for or taking roles from Matthew Broderick at the time. And knowing that Fisher was a really tremendously gifted guy, I thought, Oh, I’m in trouble.
Charlie Sheen was considered for the role of Blane [originally scripted as a square-jawed jock]. How would the film have been different had he been cast?
That’s news to me. Wow. I think what girls loved about Andrew was that he seemed like the thinking girl’s sex symbol. And Charlie was not that. There was always something a little dangerous about him. Then it would have been a choice between the darker guy, who you can sense has a sensitive side, and the geek, who’s been your friend forever. I would always have been the geek who’s your friend. I will never be the dark guy with a sensitive side, as much as I yearn to be.
On the DVD, director Howard Deutch says Duckie’s full-blown dance to ”Try a Little Tenderness” evolved after he saw you impersonate Mick Jagger doing ”Start Me Up.” Where did he see this, and why isn’t that on the DVD?
That was at my audition. [Laughs] I said, ”I read the part in the script where Duckie’s supposed to come into the record store and do a dance. But I do both Mick Jagger and Michael Jackson singing ‘State of Shock,’ actually.” It was meant to be comedic, trust me. I performed a chunk of it for him, and he thought it was very funny. And he was like, ”Just do ‘Start Me Up,”’ because I think the Michael Jackson portion was just too ridiculous for him. Then we couldn’t get the rights to ”Start Me Up” anyway. It was Howie who found the Otis Redding song. Nobody really anticipated that I was gonna go to town on it the way that I did. Although, I completely blame Howie, because he got me together with Kenny Ortega the night before [we shot the scene]. And getting together with a seriously world-class choreographer, you’re gonna come up with something.
I’m sorry, I’m still processing ”State of Shock.”
It’s the most horrifying thing you’ve ever heard, I understand that. But my Mick, at the time, was legendary among my circle of friends. It has since withered.
You seem to have a very healthy attitude toward people’s undying love for — and association of you with — Duckie. Was that always the case, or is it just easier now that you’re on the top-rated sitcom?
No, no, it’s an actor’s greatest dream to do something that people latch on to. Doing that once in your life, you’re lucky. And it’s not like I was playing a horrible character. [Laughs] The guy I feel for is Ned Beatty. The man’s had a career anybody would envy, amazing work after amazing work, but people still walk up to him and go, ”I’m gonna make you squeal like a pig!” That’s a tough situation. I bow to Mr. Beatty, and I whistle past the graveyard.
Why do you think John Hughes’ movies have endured?
John had a real need to believe in teenage icons and create teenage iconography — that’s what he was doing with Breakfast Club. I think he was really tortured in his high school, and [movies] were a way of him psychologically coming to terms with his youth and sort of reordering it in his mind as a storyteller. I think kids will always latch on to people saying, ”Your experience is important. What you’re going through right now is not trivial. We care about it, and we’re right there with ya.”
Do you keep up with teen movies today?
My son is 6, so I’ve gone through a period of seeing nothing but Barney. I read the script for Not Another Teen Movie. They actually wanted me to come in and audition to play the teacher who, when the sewage thing explodes above them, is drenched in human feces. I said, ”Wait, let me get this straight. You want me to come in and audition to be drenched in human feces? No, no, no, For the feces-drenching, I’m offer-only.” I didn’t end up in the movie. I felt like there was absolutely a movie to be made parodying teen movies, but I didn’t think that was it.
Molly says she would at least read a Pretty in Pink 2 script, if there ever was one. What about you?
New characters? Same characters? Them as grown-ups? What? Why? It was an essentially teenage experience, and that’s what it should remain…. Obviously, I’ll read anything…’cause I’m bored.
On the DVD, Deutch admits Hughes had to convince him to hire James Spader, because Spader was that obnoxious when auditioning for Steff.
He was just in character at the audition. He was perfectly friendly and lovely to work with. Sometimes the person is that character, and then sometimes they’re just good at the character. Directors have to make that call. I remember I was reading with actors auditioning for another movie that I was going to be in, and the scene was where two guys nearly come to blows. Without telling me, one of the actors actually pinned me up against the wall and tried to choke me. When he left the room, I just railed for 10 minutes. ”That is so unprofessional. If you want to do that, fine, but you’ve got to tell me.” Finally, when I stopped, the director said, ”But he’s got a quality.” [Laughs] And I was like, ”You’re f—ing killing me.” We didn’t hire him.
You do a great impersonation of Spader on the DVD.
”You’re a bitch.” He’s great. Frankly, I think he steals the movie. He did all kinds of things — like, he wanted to know exactly when the [school] bell was going to ring so he could point up. It was all great.
You came up with the ”candy machine” line [when Duckie’s shoved into the girls’ room]. Anything else you’d like to take credit for now?
What else was all me… ”Blane: It’s not a name, it’s a major appliance.”
That was you?!
That was me. John cast people that he liked, and then he tried to incorporate as much of what they could bring as he could [into the script]. And that’s great… Um, um, the DirecTV installer is here and he looks like he needs to ask me a question. [To DirecTV installer:] Yeah, I had the electrician put one in the crawl space. [To EW:] That’s my favorite phrase ever.
So you’re a DirecTV man.
My girlfriend and I already have three TiVo/DirecTV receivers, so I’m kinda stuck with DirecTV. I’ll lose my entire TiVo library if I go to another brand. There’s real consequences in life, missy. [Laughs]
Last question, then: The DVD comes out two days after the Emmys. What are the odds they’ll be rushing to put ”Starring Emmy winner Jon Cryer!” stickers on them?
The nomination was such a surprise that I haven’t begun to deal with maybe winning. I’m not thinking about it at all. I don’t have a speech. I don’t have anything. I’m just getting drunk that night, because I’ve got a ride home. I’m gonna enjoy myself.