The film that kicked off the John Hughes 1980s teen comedy streak is celebrating its 30th anniversary. Sixteen Candles put so well into perspective the emotional aggravations and insecurities that come with being a teenager. It also, of course, made huge stars out of Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall. Plus, it gave us the line, “no more yanky my wanky.” That’s gotta be up there with anything from The Godfather or Casablanca, right?
With Sixteen Candles rolling into its 30s, there’s no better time than now to dig up some trivia on how John Hughes went about making the 80s teen favorite.
1. Anthony Michael Hall won John Hughes over from his performance in Family Vacation. Hughes was so impressed with Hall’s geeky behavior in Vacation that he wrote Sixteen Candles‘ “geek/farmer Ted” character with Hall in mind — which of course then lead to his Breakfast Club part.
2. Viggo Mortensen was almost cast as Jake Ryan. It seems weird to think about, but we almost had Aragorn as Samantha’s love interest. Viggo Mortensen went up against Michael Schoeffling for the part, but lost because producer Michelle Manning thought Schoeffling was “dreamier.” Molly Ringwald later admitted that she was hoping Mortensen would get the part: “Michael Schoeffling did not kiss me during the audition – Viggo Mortensen did.”
3. Viggo Mortensen wasn’t the only future star to audition for the movie. Jim Carrey reportedly tried out for Hall’s part of “the geek,” and both Laura Dern and Robin Wright auditioned for Molly Ringwald’s role.
4. John Hughes gave a nod to himself with the cars’ license plates. The license plate on Jake Ryan’s Porsche reads 21850, which happens to be director John Hughes’ birthday (2/18/50). The plate on Samantha’s father’s car reads “V58”, which stands for “Vacation ’58”, a story written by Hughes while working for National Lampoon Magazine.
5. Hughes wrote a rough draft of the script over the course of a weekend. Hughes wrote the first draft of Sixteen Candles over the course of a weekend with Molly Ringwald specifically in mind for the part of Samantha. In a “completely not at all a little bit creepy way” Hughes posted Ringwald’s headshot on his bulletin board for character inspiration.
6. New York Magazine editor, David Blum, coined the nickname “Brat Pack.” Sixteen Candles might not feature the complete brat pack of Emilio Estevez, Rob Lowe, Andrew McCarthy, Demi Moore, Ally Sheedy, Molly Ringwald, Judd Nelson and Anthony Michael Hall, but it did kick off the Hughes teen movie run. Blum coined the term after profiling Emilio Estevez and noticing that Estevez and his buddies Lowe and Nelson, acted in a rather “bratty” behavior, asking to get into movies for free and just bringing a lot of attention to themselves.
7. Anthony Michael Hall and Molly Ringwald bonded over music. Initially, Ringwald and Hall didn’t care much for each other. In an effort to create a little co-star bonding, Hughes took both of them shopping at a music store where they discovered they liked some of the same groups. One of those groups was The Rave-Ups, which Molly scribbled on Samantha’s notebook.
8. Relatives of Saturday Night Live’s original cast were in the church. The reverend is played by Bill Murray’s brother, Brian Doyle-Murray, and the woman sitting next to Samantha’s Ginny sits next to is John Belushi’s mother, Agnes Belushi.
9. Not surprisingly, the Sixteen Candles’ homes have become local tourist attractions. Unless you like the idea of strangers routinely stopping to take photos in your driveway, it’s probably best to avoid buying a home that was used in a cult movie. Both Jake and Samantha’s homes have become popular photo spots for fans of the film who happen to be passing through Evanston, Illinois. Both homes look relatively the same as they did 30 years ago — only Jake Ryan’s 16,000 square feet, 22 room mansion is no longer covered in toilet paper.
10. Gedde Watanabe caught some backlash over the Asian stereotype of Long Duk Dong. Political correctness and comedy don’t often get along, and as funny as the character Long Duk Dong is, it’s pretty obvious that he leans hard on Hollywood’s dated stereotype of Asians. In an interview with NPR, Watanabe — who was 28 at the time — admitted that he was a little naive about his character:
“I was making people laugh, I didn’t realize how it was going to affect people. It took me a while to understand that. In fact, I was working at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and I was accosted a couple of times by a couple of women who were just really irate and angry. They asked, ‘How could you do a role like that?’ But it’s funny, too, because at the same time I laugh at the character. It’s an odd animal.”
11. Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall spent their downtime crashing Bat Mitzvahs. When filming wrapped on weekends, some of the cast members would hit up local bars in the area, but Rigwald and Hall were both 16 at the time and stuck in the hotel. In an effort to kill a little boredom, Ringwald and Hall crashed a Bat Mitzvah that was happening at their hotel in Skokie, Illinois, where the cast was being housed.
12. John Cusack’s beloved WLS is now talk radio. The shirt John Cusack’s character is wearing at the dance reads WLS, which at the time was a pop music station in Chicago. Times change though and now it’s all talk, all the time.
*Bonus fact: If you’ve seen the movie on television then you probably remember the cafeteria scene. This scene is only included in the televised broadcasts and was never in the theatrical version, nor on the VHS or DVD versions.