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, a fantastic fantasy-drama-comedy hybrid that is now nearly 35 years old.
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, who had of course already helmed such classics as The Godfather and Apocalypse Now, Peggy Sue Got Married sees the titular character (played by Romancing the Stone star Kathleen Turner) attend a high school reunion after splitting up with her cheating husband (played by Nicolas Cage).
Peggy Sue proceeds to faint at the reunion, and she wakes up decades earlier during her final year of high school, giving her the chance to relive her life and make some drastic changes, whilst at the same time learning to appreciate some of the things, and people, she had before. Below are some fascinating facts about this brilliant 1986 film.
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.
This unusual approach was already in evidence early on with his performance in Peggy Sue Got Married.
It was Cage’s own decision to wear false teeth and adopt a bizarre accent for his performance as Charlie Bodell.
While director Coppola (also the actor’s uncle) did not object to this, 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 laments, “Nicolas didn’t manage to kill the film, but he didn’t add a lot to it either.”
Turner continued. “For years, whenever I saw him, he’d apologise for his behavior. But I haven’t pursued the idea of working with him again.”
All of which might have been okay – but Turner also alleged that Cage “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.
Cage won the case, and Turner was forced to give 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 (which included a very young Jim Carrey) were forced to work a punishing schedule.
The actress says that production on the film required them all to work 20 hours a day for six days a week.
This was due to director Francis Ford Coppola being contractually required to finish the project on schedule.
Had the director failed to meet this target, the studio would not allow him to have the final say on the film’s cut.
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 Apocalypse Now.
17. Kathleen Turner is only nine years older than on-screen daughter Helen Hunt
Peggy Sue Got Married’s plot required 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!
Peggy Sue Got Married was one of Hunt’s first roles; 11 years later she made As Good as It Gets, which won her a Best Actress Oscar.
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.
However, the film 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.
Carrey promptly became the biggest comedy star of the era, and is still working regularly today.
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.
Coppola was arguably the most esteemed American auteur of the 1970s, thanks largely to The Godfather movies and Apocalypse Now.
However, the 1980s saw Coppola pare things back somewhat in the visionary filmmaker stakes, and work more as a director for hire.
However, in the case of Peggy Sue Got Married, Coppola only took the reins on the project after two other directors had parted ways with it.
Initially, the film had been set to be directed by future Silence of the Lambs Oscar-winner Jonathan Demme.
Following Demme’s departure, Penny Marshall was poised to make the film as her directorial debut for a time.
14. Debra Winger nearly played Peggy Sue
The role that eventually went to Kathleen Turner was initially set to be taken by Debra Winger, cast by initial director Jonathan Demme.
The actress was hot in Hollywood at the time following the success of An Officer and a Gentleman and Terms of Endearment.
Winger stayed with the project after Silence of the Lambs director Jonathan Demme quit due to that old Hollywood problem of ‘creative differences.’
The actress was then keen to make the film with director Penny Marshall, who would go on to make Big, Awakenings and A League of Their Own.
However, the studio got nervous about Marshall – an actress and comedian, who had never directed before at the time – tackling such a big movie.
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 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.
Guttenberg was an up-and-coming star at the time, having not long since broken bug with the first two Police Academy movies and Cocoon.
Guttenberg’s star would continue to rise throughout the decade with Short Circuit, Three Men and a Baby and further Police Academy sequels (although he bowed out after the fourth one).
However, Guttenberg’s career slowed down significantly in the 90s, and these days he usually pops up in bit parts and TV movies.
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 thing, it saw Peggy Sue try 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.
This last point would have been inaccurate, however, as Peggy Sue has travelled back to 1960, and pantyhose were actually invented in 1959.
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 was itself a ‘sequel’ of sorts to Holly’s 1957 single Peggy Sue, which was probably his best known song.
In the movie, Peggy Sue (the song) is performed at the high school reunion when Peggy Sue (the character!) is named queen of the reunion.
The singer in the reunion house band is named Marshall Crenshaw, and it would not be the last time he performed Buddy Holly on screen.
The following year Crenshaw portrayed Holly opposite Lou Diamond Philips in La Bamba, musical biopic of Richie Valens – another rock’n’roll legend who died in the same plane crash as Holly.
Marshall Crenshaw only has a few acting credits to his name, and has worked more extensively as a songwriter and musician.
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.
That having been said, several films shot beforehand with Carradine were released after Peggy Sue Got Married.
The actor left behind a significant legacy of over 350 screen appearances dating back to 1930.
He has a particular association with the Universal horror movies, having twice played the role of Count Dracula.
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.
Quaid has continued to work solidly, and is soon poised to play Ronald Reagan in a biopic of the former US President.
8. We don’t know if Peggy Sue travelled back in time or was dreaming all along
Thanks to its time-travelling plot, Peggy Sue Got Married is often mentioned in the same breath as Back to the Future.
The films clearly have a lot in common, as they’re ultimately more interested in the relationships of the characters than time travel itself.
However, the most obvious difference is that in Back to the Future, we know exactly how and why Marty McFly went back in time.
In the case of Peggy Sue Got Married, however, it’s all played out with a lot more ambiguity.
The film doesn’t reveal 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 was nominated for Best Actress (for Kathleen Turner), Best Cinematography and Best Costume Design at the Academy Awards.
Unfortunately, Peggy Sue Got Married missed out on all of these awards at the 1987 Oscars, with Turner losing out to Marlee Matlin for Children of a Lesser God.
Perhaps surprisingly, this was to date the only time that Kathleen Turner received a Best Actress Oscar nomination.
This in spite of the fact that Turner has twice won at the Golden Globes, for Romancing the Stone and Prizzi’s Honor.
The actress’s career slowed down significantly by the late 90s, in part due to her struggles with rheumatoid arthritis.
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 all three Godfather films, The Outsiders and Rumble Fish.
However, Peggy Sue Got Married was the first time Sofia Coppola was given screen credit under her own name, as opposed to her child actress stage name Domino.
Coppola appeared in a few more films before landing her most high-profile role in 1990’s feverishly anticipated The Godfather Part III.
However, it was widely agreed that she had been out of her depth as the daughter of Al Pacino’s Michael Corleone, and Coppola’s acting career soon dried up.
Within a decade Sofia Coppola became 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.
Hicks 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.
Catherine Hicks would go on to take the lead role in celebrated 1988 horror movie Child’s Play.
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 in 2001.
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, as tourism to London fell dramatically in the wake of 9/11.
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.
This 1994 drama, also set in the 60s, saw leading lady Jessica Lange awarded the Best Actress Oscar.
Aside from this, Leichtling and Sarner’s only other produced screenplays were for 1990 TV show Earth Day Special and 1999 TV movie Switched at Birth.
However, Sarner has had two scripts produced without Leichtling: 1999 TV movie Ricky Nelson: Original Teen Idol, and 2002’s Julie Walking Home.
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.
This was certainly 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.
Many years later, Jim Carrey and Kathleen Turner would reunite when Turner made an appearance 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, attracting a largely positive response.
Influential critics Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel both listed it among their favourite films of 1986.
Today, the film sits on a very respectable 86% fresh rating from the critics at Rotten Tomatoes.
However, Peggy Sue Got Married doesn’t have so great an audience score at RT, with the site’s readers giving it 55%.
Years later, it also made the long list for the American Film Institute’s top 100 comedies ever, although ultimately it failed to make the cut.
The film was also a decent-sized hit, earning $41.4 million – making it Francis Ford Coppola’s biggest money-maker of the decade.