It doesn’t matter if the ‘80s predate you, because everyone knows that Molly Ringwald remains the ultimate teen queen. She earned this title after her starring roles in a trio of John Hughes’ films (Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and Pretty in Pink) forever embedded in cinematic and cultural history. And while Ringwald never stopped working, and has quietly returned to the spotlight over the past decade (via parts on TV shows Secret Life of the American Teenager and, currently, Riverdale), she left town after her heyday. Actually, she left the country.
“I moved to France,” Ringwald, now 51, says on this week’s UnStyled podcast of a momentous, unexpected decision in 1992. “I had been very uninspired living in Hollywood. My plan was just to go there, do this movie, and then come back. But I fell in love with France, and then eventually I fell in love with a person,” she says of first husband, writer Valery Lameignere.
It was just the kind of break that America’s Sweetheart needed at the time. (Again, if you weren’t around in the ‘80s, Ringwald was one of the most recognisable faces on the silver screen) “I knew I was unhappy, but I didn’t really attribute it to the fact that I was a celebrity and not necessarily equipped to be a celebrity,” says the star, who filmed Sixteen Candles with her mentor, writer-director John Hughes, at age 15. “It wasn’t really my plan to become incredibly famous incredibly young. It disrupted things. I’m basically a pretty introverted person.”
By her early twenties, she says, “I felt incredibly uncomfortable, like I couldn’t breathe.” Making matters worse? Despite her considerable talent and star power, Ringwald couldn’t land any interesting age-appropriate parts, because most directors failed to imagine her as anything other than the most famous teenager in the world. That meant the loss of major, Oscar-nominated roles that cemented the careers of the women who got the parts instead: Ringwald was in contention for The Fabulous Baker Boys (one of Michelle Pfeiffer’s breakout performances), Working Girl (still Melanie Griffith’s most celebrated turn), and Silence of the Lambs (for which former child star Jodie Foster won her second Academy Award).
These days, Ringwald often faces typecasting of a different sort in TV and film: as a mom. Currently, her biggest stage is on one of teen TV’s juggernauts: The CW’s dark, soapy Riverdale, on which she plays Mary Andrews, mom to protagonist Archie (KJ Apa). Though a recurring, occasional role in previous seasons, Mary joins the cast full-time in season four — a plot point created in the wake of the real-life death of Luke Perry, who played Mary’s estranged husband Fred.
Ringwald says she became close with fellow teen idol Perry, who died this past March at age 52. “He was the person — every time I flew into Vancouver I would get a text from him, Are you here? Are you here yet? When are we having dinner? He was my touchstone there, the person I saw all the time.
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As it happens, Perry also adopted a pet pig from Ringwald — sort of. To hear that story, and much more about Ringwald’s reflections on the complicated legacy of her beloved films, how much further the Time’s Up movement needs to go, and more, listen to this week’s podcast by listening to UnStyled and subscribing via Apple Podcasts today.