Molly Ringwald's Revealing Interview on John Hughes, Not Being Lindsay Lohan, and More

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Universal Pictures

One of your best films that seems as though it's been forgotten is the romantic comedy The Pick-Up Artist, co-starring Robert Downey, Jr., and set in Atlantic City.

That movie was a very peculiar situation (laughs). James Toback was the director. Gordon Willis, a very famous cameraman, was shooting it. And Warren Beatty was producing it. There were lots of cooks in the kitchen. Warren is the one who pretty much directed me

What did you learn from Warren Beatty?

Warren would take Robert Downey and me into a room and make us break down the entire script. He made us delete all the adjectives. He would even delete stage direction because that was how Stella Adler, his acting coach, trained him. Warren believes that every time a character does something, it should be organic.

Was making that picture a good experience?

It was amazing training for filmmaking. I even wrote a scene. We all sat down and wrote a version of an extra scene, and mine was selected. After I lose all the money and Robert and I are walking in the casino garage, I'm eating Maalox. That's my scene.

Do you want to make other films with Beatty?

We've talked about it, but Warren only makes a project about every twenty years or so.

Of all your film directors, who is the one who understood you the most?

Paul Mazursky on Tempest.

Which director got the best performance out of you?

John Hughes.

Who else had a big impact on you?

My studio teacher, Irene Brafstein. She was hopeless in math and chemistry - all the subjects I was hopeless in, too. But she was pretty amazing about the development of my mind. She helped make me curious about the world. She was also a Francophile. Irene was from Brighton Beach, and was married to her husband for a long time. We would sit and talk about art. She made the world seem like a big, interesting place, and I learned a lot from her. Irene was Jodie Foster's teacher before she was mine. Warren Beatty had an impact on me, too, especially in terms of his interest in politics.

What did Warren Beatty say to you about politics?

I was around politics when I was with him. I soaked it up through osmosis. He's considerably liberal—and I am, too. Warren enjoys taking a differing and surprising point of view on occasion. For instance, I remember him insisting that George W. Bush wasn't as stupid as everyone thought he was.

What's your view about movie stars speaking out publicly on political issues?

Everyone should speak about political issues—as long as they're well informed.

Do you mind being asked your opinions?

I didn't like it when I was a teenager. People wanted to call me an authority on a generation, but I didn't feel equipped to do that because I was still figuring out myself and my life. Now, at age 42, I've lived a little. I know a few things.

There's a certain moral confidence that you bring to your roles. Has faith played a part in your life?

I think I have a very strong moral compass, and it may have come from religion. My parents raised me as a Christian. That's something that never really leaves you. Am I a religious person? No. I consider myself a spiritual person, but I don't believe in organized religion at all.

Is there a prejudice against redheads in Hollywood?

I don't think so. There was Lucille Ball. Julianne Moore is a redhead who's doing really well. Christina Hendricks is on Mad Men.

You write that you're a redhead in color and personality. Explain the personality aspect.

We're a little more offbeat—and we're harder to anesthetize.

Blondes seem to get all the attention.

Sometimes it seems like everyone loves blondes. But the people who like redheads—well, they like them so much it's almost a fetish. My husband only dated redheads. His high school girlfriend was a redhead, and so was his college girlfriend. Then he married me.

That you grew up in Hollywood, on TV and in film, and that you don't have a familiarity with rehab centers - that fact alone makes you fascinating in this town.

Well, I have a really great family, and they're protective. Plus, I was always too curious about life and education. I wanted to learn and discover. I knew that if I went down the road of drugs and alcohol that I would basically die. I haven't had a perfect life. I've had trouble. But I'm a private person and I just don't understand the appeal of making mistakes on a grand scale. It's horribly exhibitionist, and creeps me out.

Lindsay Lohan isn't alone. Why does it seem that so many young actors and young movie stars end up with their lives in tatters because of drug and alcohol abuse?

People turn to addictions to relieve whatever pain is intolerable to them in their lives, and show business certainly isn't the easiest and most sane career to choose.

Are you going to write a memoir about Hollywood?

If I ever write a straight autobiography, it won't be for many years. I think I'd have to wait until certain people are gone (laughs). I signed a two-book deal with HarperCollins, so I'm thinking about the next one. I'm leaning toward fiction.

When Sixteen Candles was released, it was criticized for stereotyping Asians because of Gedde Watanabe's role as the exchange student, Long Duk Dong. One of the news stories at the time quoted some in the Asian community as being "horrified, shocked, and offended." What do you make of that criticism now?

I've never in my entire life met anyone, Asian or otherwise, actually like the character of Long Duk Dong. He was an outrageous, comedic character—regardless of ethnicity. John Hughes likened him to a modern-day Eddie Haskell from the series Leave It to Beaver. Comedy can be cruel, and while political correctness is important in many instances, it would pretty much be the death of comedy if it were taken to the extreme.

As a teenager, who were your film heroes?

I loved Diane Keaton in all her Woody Allen movies. I idolized her, and she was exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up. And Gena Rowlands, who played my mom in my first picture, Tempest—I watched all the movies she made with John Cassavetes.

Now, at 42, have your movie heroes changed?

The other day, I saw Emma Thompson in Last Chance Harvey. There's this scene where she tells Dustin Hoffman why they can't be together. There were so many so many contradictions on Emma Thompson's face. She was luminous, beautiful, and feminine. It's lovely to see a woman of a certain age just being herself, without Botox, so you can watch the emotions.

Your father has been blind from birth. How did he experience your films?

I always sit next to him and describe everything. He likes The Breakfast Club. He gets just about everything that one needs to get from that picture from the words alone.

Now the truth can be told: in your movie Pretty in Pink, wasn't your character, Andie Walsh, just a little bit attracted to Steff, played by James Spader?

Andie wasn't—but Molly was!

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