20 Fascinating Facts About The Brilliant 1986 Film Peggy Sue Got Married
If you got given the chance to live your life all over again, how much about it would you change? That’s the dilemma that Peggy Sue is faced with in the film Peggy Sue Got Married.
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, the film sees Kathleen Turner’s title character attend a high school reunion after splitting up with her cheating husband (played by Nicolas Cage), where she faints then awakens decades earlier during her final year of high school. Below are some fascinating facts about this brilliant 1986 movie.
20. Kathleen Turner publicly called Nicolas Cage out for being difficult to work with
Nicolas Cage has long since been notorious for his extreme and often seemingly illogical choices as an actor, and this was in evidence early on. For his performance in Peggy Sue Got Married, it was Cage’s own decision to wear false teeth and adopt a bizarre accent for Charlie Bodell. Director Francis Ford Coppola (also the actor’s uncle) did not object to this.
However, Cage’s co-star Kathleen Turner was not impressed. “It was tough to not say, ‘Cut it out”, Turner said in a 2018 interview. “But it wasn’t my job to say to another actor what he should or shouldn’t do.” This reportedly made things rather tense on set, with the film’s two leads not getting along well off-camera.
19. Cage sued Turner when she claimed he was arrested three times during production
Years later, Kathleen Turner publicly reflected on her troubles with Cage in her 2008 autobiography Send Yourself Roses. In this memoir, Turner alleged that her leading man “was arrested twice for drunk driving and once for stealing a dog” during production.
Declaring these allegations to be “false and defamatory,” Cage proceeded to sue his old co-star for defamation. The court ruled in Cage’s favour, and Turner was forced to issue a public apology. In addition, both she and the publisher of the book had to make a donation to charity.
18. The cast and crew had to work 20 hours a day, six days a week
According to Kathleen Turner, the cast and crew of Peggy Sue Got Married were all required to work 20 hours a day for six days a week at the behest of director Francis Ford Coppola. This was because Coppola was contractually required to finish the project on schedule, and if he failed to do so he would lose final cut priveleges.
While Coppola is famed for the quality of his films, he does have a well-earned reputation for falling behind schedule. Most infamously, Coppola went massively over-budget and behind schedule on the notoriously troubled shoot of his 1979 classic Apocalypse Now.
17. Kathleen Turner is only nine years older than on-screen daughter Helen Hunt
Peggy Sue Got Married’s plot requires that its star Kathleen Turner play a high school student after she is whisked back in time to the year 1960. She may have been convincing playing a teenager, but Turner was actually 32 years old when she took on the role.
Nor was Turner the only cast member who was a long way off the actual age of her character. Helen Hunt co-stars as Beth Bodell, daughter of Turner’s Peggy Sue and Nicolas Cage’s Charlie. In reality, Hunt is only nine years Turner’s junior, and one year older than Cage!
16. It features an early appearance from Jim Carrey
Peggy Sue Got Married is probably best remembered for its two leading stars, Kathleen Turner and Nicolas Cage, but it also boasts an early role from another future household name: Jim Carrey. The actor and comedian was aged 24 at the time, with just a few film and TV credits on his CV.
Carrey would continue to work steadily through the 80s with roles in Once Bitten, Earth Girls are Easy and Dirty Harry movie The Dead Pool. However, it wasn’t until 1994 that Carrey really broke big with lead roles in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask and Dumb and Dumber.
15. Silence of the Lambs director Jonathan Demme was originally supposed to direct the film
As well-liked a film as Peggy Sue Got Married may be, it’s always seemed a slightly unusual choice for director Francis Ford Coppola, arguably the most esteemed American auteur of the 1970s thanks to The Godfather movies, The Conversation and Apocalypse Now.
However, the 1980s saw Coppola pare things back somewhat and work more as a director for hire. He landed Peggy Sue Got Married after two other directors had parted ways with it: Jonathan Demme (who later directed The Silence of the Lambs) and Penny Marshall (who later made Big).
14. Debra Winger nearly played Peggy Sue
The role that eventually went to Kathleen Turner was initially set to be taken by Debra Winger. The actress was hot in Hollywood at the time following the success of An Officer and a Gentleman and Terms of Endearment, and was cast by initial director Jonathan Demme.
When Demme quit, Winger championed Penny Marshall as his replacement, but the studio were anxious about Marshall’s inexperience at the time. Once Marshall was dismissed, Winger also opted to walk away from the film, clearing the way for Coppola and Turner.
13. Steve Guttenberg was considered for Nicolas Cage’s part
Before Nicolas Cage landed the role of Peggy Sue’s beau Charlie, another prominent 80s actor was in the running. Steve Guttenberg (who had not long since broke big with Police Academy) auditioned for the role and was considered before the filmmakers decided on Cage.
In his autobiography, Guttenberg reflects that – perhaps unwisely – he spent the bulk of his audition being starstruck by Francis Ford Coppola and asking questions about The Godfather. Despite missing out on the film, Guttenberg enjoyed further 80s hits including Short Circuit, Three Men and a Baby and the Police Academy sequels.
12. The original script saw Peggy Sue become the inventor of pantyhose
Any time travel movie raises the question of whether or not a character who goes back in time can change the future. In earlier drafts of the Peggy Sue Got Married screenplay, this was more central to the plot. For one, Peggy Sue tried to prevent the accident that would leave her school friend Rosalie in a wheelchair.
On top of this, the original script saw Peggy Sue use her knowledge of the future for her own personal gain. Originally the script saw Peggy Sue persuade people to invest in Xerox, as well as becoming the inventor of pantyhose (which was in fact invented in 1959, not 1960).
11. The singer who performs Peggy Sue later played Buddy Holly in 1987’s La Bamba
Peggy Sue Got Married takes its title from a 1959 song by legendary rock’n’roll singer-songwriter Buddy Holly. This song is performed in the high school reunion sequence by a Buddy Holly impersonator, Marshall Crenshaw – and this would not be the last time he played Buddy Holly on screen.
The following year Crenshaw would portray Holly himself opposite Lou Diamond Philips in La Bamba, the musical biopic of Richie Valens, another rock ‘n’ roll legend who died in the same plane crash as Holly.
10. It was the final film of John Carradine
John Carradine, who co-stars as the elderly Leo, made his final film appearance in Peggy Sue Got Married. The seasoned actor passed away two years after the film was released, in November 1988, at the age of 82. The actor left behind a significant legacy of over 350 screen appearances dating back to 1930.
Carradine had long enjoyed a particular association with horror movies, having twice played the role of Count Dracula and making numerous films alongside the likes of Vincent Price and Christopher Lee. He also forged an acting dynasty as the father of actors David Carradine, Keith Carradine and Robert Carradine.
9. Dennis Quaid turned down the role of Charlie
Steve Guttenberg wasn’t the only well-known actor considered for the part of Charlie. Before Nicolas Cage was finally cast, the role was reportedly offered to Dennis Quaid. Aged 32 at the time, Quaid was a rising star following roles in The Long Riders, Jaws 3-D and Dreamscape.
However, Quaid decided to pass on Peggy Sue Got Married in order to take the lead in 1986 thriller The Big Easy. This wasn’t a bad career move for Quaid, who went on to more leading man roles in InnerSpace, DOA and Great Balls of Fire. He has continued to work solidly in the years since.
8. We don’t know if Peggy Sue travelled back in time or was dreaming all along
Thanks to its time-travelling plot and ‘baby boom’-era nostalgia, Peggy Sue Got Married is often mentioned in the same breath as Back to the Future. However, while in Back to the Future we know exactly how and why Marty McFly went back in time, Peggy Sue Got Married treats time travel with a lot more ambiguity.
The film never reveals whether Peggy Sue actually travels back in time or is simply dreaming, although there are a number of clues to suggest that it might be the latter. For example, a Jimmy Clanton song called Just a Dream can be heard at a party, and Stephen Foster’s hit Beautiful Dreamer plays during the lodge scene near the end of the film.
7. It was nominated for three Academy Awards
As well as being a box office success, Peggy Sue Got Married attracted a bit of attention during awards season. The film saw Kathleen Turner nominated for Best Actress at the 1987 Academy Awards, where the film was also nominated for Best Cinematography and Best Costume Design.
Unfortunately, Peggy Sue Got Married missed out on all of these awards at the 1987 Oscars, with Kathleen Turner losing out to Marlee Matlin for Children of a Lesser God. Perhaps surprisingly, this was to date the only time in her career that Turner received an Academy Award nomination.
6. Sofia Coppola makes an early appearance in the film
Peggy Sue Got Married marks the first official screen credit of Sofia Coppola, daughter of director Francis Ford Coppola. She had previously made uncredited appearances in several of her father’s films, including the first two Godfather films, The Outsiders and Rumble Fish, and went on to take a key role in The Godfather Part III.
However, it was widely agreed that Sofia Coppola had been out of her depth as the daughter of Al Pacino’s Michael Corleone, and her acting career soon dried up. Within a decade she reinvented herself as an acclaimed writer-director and won a Best Original Screenplay Oscar for 2003’s Lost in Translation.
5. It’s the second 1986 time travel movie to co-star Catherine Hicks
Peggy Sue Got Married co-stars actress Catherine Hicks as Peggy Sue’s old friend Carol. Curiously, it isn’t the only film Hicks appeared in that year that dealt with time travel, as she also took a supporting role in 1986 sci-fi sequel Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.
Widely regarded one of the best Star Trek movies, the 1986 film sees the crew of the Enterprise time travel back to the 80s from the far future. Of the two films, Star Trek IV was the bigger hit, making $109.7 million worldwide, far more than the $41.3 million grossed by Peggy Sue Got Married.
4. It was adapted into a 2001 musical
In 2001, Peggy Sue Got Married was adapted into a stage musical in London’s West End. The film’s original screenwriters Arlene Sarner and Jerry Leichtling returned to write the book for this stage adaptation. In addition, Leichtling – who also worked on the music of the film – penned the lyrics to the original songs for the stage.
English actress Ruthie Henshall took the title role of Peggy Sue, and received an Olivier Award nomination for her performance. Unfortunately the show closed early due to low ticket sales, largely because tourism to London fell dramatically in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
3. It was written by a married couple
Peggy Sue Got Married was written by Jerry Leichtling and Arlene Sarner, a husband and wife writing team. Despite the film’s success, the duo would not go on to pen many more produced films. The highest-profile film penned by Leichtling and Sarner after Peggy Sue Got Married is Blue Sky.
A 1994 drama also set in the 60s, Blue Sky saw leading lady Jessica Lange awarded the Best Actress Oscar. Aside from this, Leichtling and Sarner’s only other produced screenplays as a team were for 1990 TV show Earth Day Special and 1999 TV movie Switched at Birth.
2. A number of the cast worked together again on future films
It’s not too unusual for busy Hollywood actors to wind up working together on multiple occasions, and this was the case for several members of the Peggy Sue Got Married ensemble. Joan Allen co-stars in the film, and she would later reunite with Nicolas Cage on 1997 action thriller Face/Off.
Peggy Sue Got Married was also the second collaboration of actors Helen Hunt and Don Murray. However, whilst in this film Murray is Hunt’s grandfather, he previously played her father in 1983’s Quarterback Princess. Jim Carrey and Kathleen Turner would also reunite in 2014’s Dumb and Dumber To.
1. Roger Ebert called it one of his favourite films of 1986
Peggy Sue Got Married went down very well with critics. Influential critics Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel both listed it among their favourite films of 1986, and it proved to be director Francis Ford Coppola’s biggest money-maker of the decade with box office takings of $41.4 million.
To this day, Peggy Sue Got Married sits on a very respectable 86% fresh rating from the critics at Rotten Tomatoes. However, the film doesn’t have so great an audience score on RT, with the site’s readers giving it a mere 55% approval rating.