‘Pretty in Pink’ Director Howard Deutch on Film’s Legacy and Casting Molly Ringwald

Howard Deutch wasn’t sure he was the right man to oversee “Pretty in Pink.”  The aspiring filmmaker had met producer and writer John Hughes while directing a music video for his previous examination of high school social castes, “Sixteen Candles.” However, he’d never overseen a feature film and the prospect terrified him.

“I was honest with John and told him I didn’t feel equipped,” Deutch remembers. “He said, ‘all you have to do is get those performances for me and you can do it.’ That always made me feel secure when I was feeling insecure about so many other things.”

Thirty five years later, “Pretty in Pink” is a certified classic and remains a cinematic touchpoint for generation after generation of teenagers who see their own heartaches, triumphs, and insecurities reflected in the lives of Andie, Duckie, and Blane. The film was recently re-released in theaters by Paramount for Valentine’s Day and will also be featured in a new Blu-ray edition along with four other Hughes movies. They include “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” “She’s Having a Baby” and, another Deutch-directed offering, “Some Kind of Wonderful.”

Deutch says he’s surprised that “Pretty in Pink” continues to cast a spell on moviegoers, but he thinks he understands the secret to its durability.

“John’s characters were so true to life,” says Deutch. “They were not manufactured. They were slices of John and his journey. Whether it’s Duckie, everybody says, ‘I know a Duckie.’ He was so plugged into the humanity of these characters that they endure.”

Full credit also must go to Molly Ringwald, who anchors the film as Andie, a working class girl with a killer taste in new wave music and vintage clothes, as well as an intense longing for Blane (Andrew McCarthy), her to-the-country-club born love interest. Amazingly, she was not the first choice for the role, with Paramount preferring Jennifer Beals, who had just starred in “Flashdance” for the studio. Deutch and Hughes held out for Ringwald, but the actress needed convincing.

“Paramount wanted me to meet all kinds of actresses,” says Deutch. “But it was written for Molly. I loved her work. I said, ‘you’ve got to consider doing this.’ But she had already moved on. She’d done ‘Sixteen Candles’ and ‘Breakfast Club’ and she wanted to do something different. I pretty much groveled.”

Casting “Some Kind of Wonderful” was a different kind of challenge, one that almost derailed Deutch’s involvement in the picture. The film follows Keith (Eric Stoltz), an aspiring artist from a blue-collar background, as well as his tomboyish best friend (Mary Stuart Masterson) and the popular girl of his dreams (Lea Thompson, who later became Deutch’s wife). The final product was a teen drama, but the initial screenplay was a broad comedy and was centered entirely on an elaborate date.

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