Pretty in Pink: Director Howard Deutch looks back on the famous ending 30 years later
It’s been 30 years since Duckie danced his heart out to “Try a Little Tenderness,” Iona shot at teens with a staple gun, and Andie got the happily ever after she deserved. “I think it was the right choice,” director Howard Deutch tells EW of Andie’s (Molly Ringwald) decision to pick Blane (Andrew McCarthy) over Duckie (Jon Cryer) at the prom.
The famed resolution to the 1986 John Hughes favorite even came as a shock to many people close to the film. “We reshot the ending,” Deutch says. “Andrew McCarthy had a crew cut and I had to get him a wig. The whole idea that Duckie doesn’t end up with Molly — which is [what] the whole original script was built towards —was kind of a surprise to all of us.”
The surprise is airing once more, as, in honor of the cult classic’s 30th anniversary Sunday, HBO has made Pretty in Pink available to fans on its on-demand streaming platform HBO NOW, and the Brat Pack flick returned to select theaters for two days earlier this month, courtesy of Fathom Events and Paramount Pictures. “It holds up,” Deutch says of the movie, crediting late director Hughes for its continued relevance.
“John’s writing had such truth to it about behavior and about people and why they make the choices they make,” explains Deutch, who went on to direct The Replacements and My Best Friend‘s Girl. “There were slices of John in each one of his characters. It’s not like he manufactured them, it was all part of who he was.”
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Despite Hughes’ golden touch, Pretty in Pink‘s creative team didn’t really know how the film would fare at the box office. “Nobody thought of it as a big hit movie,” the director recalls. “On set it was like, we gotta get it done quick because that movie was a $27 million movie, and there [were] 20-something days to shoot. I was under a microscope but I remember when we were doing it, that entire feeling of ‘This is special’ — this is not just funny… this may have a chance to be heartbreaking as well.”
That intersection of comedy and tragedy can best be seen in Duckie’s iconic record store scene, where Cryer dances and lip syncs to Otis Redding’s “Try a Little Tenderness.” “It needed to be a song that would show and express just how Duckie felt,” Deutch says. “We need to understand how hurt he is and just how much he’s in love with this woman. And the result is that we fall in love with him because we all relate to that.” The director brought in choreographer Kenny Ortega to craft the scene, but ultimately it was Cryer who made it one of Pretty in Pink‘s most memorable moments.
“There are things in that movie that Cryer contributed that people don’t know about that’s so connected to the character,” Deutch says. “Like that line he has ‘Blane? Blane sounds like a kitchen appliance, that’s not a name.’ That’s all Cryer’s improvisation.”
Cryer recreated the dance with James Corden on The Late Late Show last year, proving Pretty in Pink still has a pop culture presence after all these years. Should the movie have taken place in the 21st century, though, would that whole scene still have gone down at Trax? “I have a feeling, knowing John, they would still be working at a record store,” Deutch jokes. “The one record store that was left.”