Blame Now & Then For Your True Crime Obsession — Just Ask Stassi Schroeder

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“What a selfish bitch, right?” Vanderpump Rules star Stassi Schroeder laughs over the phone after gushing about her new engagement ring (“I feel like such a douche. I wake up and just stare at it. I really can’t believe it.”). The real topic at hand is one of Schroeder’s all-time favorite movies, Now And Then, and a detail about the 1995 flick that only seems disturbing in the cold, harsh light of adulthood: the resolution of Crazy Pete’s (Walter Sparrow) storyline.
In the final minutes of Now And Then, adult Sam (producer Demi Moore) finally tells her friends (Melanie Griffith, Rosie O'Donnell, and Rita Wilson) that the lonely man who wandered their childhood hometown wasn’t a “crazy” vagrant at all. Instead, Pete was a mourning widower and father whose family had been murdered decades earlier. In the wake of such a massive loss, Pete resigned himself to a life of solitude in Shelby, IN.
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And Sam waited years to release this emotional, life-changing truth.
Now that the 1970s-set coming of age story hit Netflix a few weeks ago, a lot of shocking revelations about the movie’s more murder-y aspects are dawning on a generation. Schroeder, pop culture’s leading Now And Then/true crime obsessive, is at the forefront of the movement — and has so many truth bombs to offer the world.
“When you watch the movie again, it’s like, ‘What the fuck?’ [with Pete],” Schroeder tells Refinery29 after rewatching the film with her fiancé Beau Clark over the past week (would you expect them to use their time as a newly engaged couple any other way?). While Clark apparently defended the extremely late-breaking reveal, his fiancée, an obvious lifetime Teeny (Griffith/Thora Birch) stan, does not.
“He’s like, ‘Well, it’s a movie. And we have to have some way to bring it back to the future,’” Schroeder recalls. “But, like, why didn’t she just tell them? … [Sam, played as a teen by Gaby Hoffmann] never thought to be like, ‘Hey — you know how we spent a whole summer trying to figure this one thing out? Well I did!’ Rude!”
It’s the “figuring out” of the YA drama that brings the Next Level Basic author to her greatest theory: Now And Then is the root cause of our modern obsession with true crime. It’s an idea Schroeder and her friend Lo French first floated on the former’s podcast, Straight Up With Stassi, during an early August episode. “We were trained to like true crime … We all watched Now And Then growing up, and we’re like Oh, spooky, I’m interested in that,” Schroeder says during the podcast.
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The movie certainly employs all the major elements of true crime we expect today. First, a group of novice detectives stumble upon an unsolved crime with a tie to their personal lives. In Now and Then, the young sleuths are determined to find out what happened to Dear Johnny, the owner of Shelby’s most enigmatic gravestone. The newbie detectives scour all the information available, down to vintage newspaper clippings and long-forgotten family heirlooms, to get to the truth. And, they travel impossible lengths to do it. Eventually, the crime is solved, revealing the seedy underbelly of a supposedly pristine small town.
Now that’s a formula Making A Murderer, Serial, The Act, or Dirty John would instantly recognize.
“Being into murder docs or saying you’re like 'Such a murderino' is a phenomenon. It’s such a basic bitch thing right now,” Schroeder points out. “A few years ago, it was just like a few of us who said it. Now if you don’t watch murder shows — who are you? It was interesting to be like, ‘... Is this where we got it from?’ Because we were all collectively obsessed with this movie growing up?”
It’s a question Schroeder may continue to ask on her upcoming podcast tour, Straight Up With Stassi Live, where she will be joined by fiancé Clark. “Every time I think about it, I feel like my heart is in my butthole and I’m just like, going to vomit,” the “excited and nervous” star admits of the event series, which kicks off in October. “We worked on the set. We worked on behind-the-scenes videos to play. We have so many different segments, and I really want it to be more of a show.”
Schroeder, who jokes she pulled a “modern, millennial Teeny” with her Bravolebrity turn, is already saying she would love to host a Now And Then reunion as part of her tour. After all, her December show in L.A. is ripe for some celebrity appearances. “Oh my god. That would be amazing,” Shroeder explains of the possibility. “It could happen. Listen! It’s at the Wiltern. That’s a big spot — I’ll manifest that.”
It's your move, Thora Birch.
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