Directed by Howard Deutch and written by the late, great John Hughes, Pretty in Pink is one of the most enduringly popular Brat Pack movies. It centres on a lower-working class girl from an ‘alternative’ social circle who unwittingly finds romance with a rich, popular boy – without realising that her platonic male best friend is in love with her.
Let’s take a look back at this beloved 1986 romantic comedy-drama with some facts you probably didn’t know.
20. John Hughes wanted Anthony Michael Hall to play Duckie
The role of Andie was always going to go to Molly Ringwald, and thanks to Ringwald, McCarthy was cast as Blane pretty quickly. However, the role of Duckie was much harder to cast, probably since he’s the comedic centre of the movie. Originally, Hughes thought that Anthony Micheal Hall would be perfect for the role, having already worked with him twice before.
Hughes had managed to play geeky but lovable before when acting in The Breakfast Club, which also proved he could work with Ringwald. Hall turned down the role, but not because he thought it was too close to what he did in The Breakfast Club. Instead, Hall thought the part was too similar to what he did in Sixteen Candles, another project he starred in with Molly Ringwald.
19. The movie made the wrong song famous
It’s fairly common knowledge that the movie Pretty in Pink got its name because it was directly inspired by the song of that title by The Psychedelic Furs. The song is featured prominently in the movie, and so many expected it to become the iconic song of the film, in the same way that Don’t You (Forget About Me) became inextricably linked to The Breakfast Club. In a weird twist, however, fans latched on to a completely different song from the soundtrack that wasn’t intended to be the standout piece of the film.
The song was If You Leave by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, which plays at the end of the movie. Orchestral Manoeuvres wrote the song in one go in just two days, and were surprised when it became one of their most popular releases. They still often participate in reunion tours, and feature the song prominently in their set, in case there are any fans of the movie in the audience.
18. Ringwald forced the producers to cast the ‘twerpy’ Andrew McCarthy
Molly Ringwald was allowed to have some say in the casting of Blane, and when St Elmo’s Fire star Andrew McCarthy auditioned, Ringwald decided that he was the one. The producers and director were not at all keen, however, as they saw McCarthy as a “twerpy” guy. Still, Ringwald held her ground until they cast him. Ringwald’s reasoning for the choice was actually pretty shallow: she just wasn’t attracted to the ultra-masculine jock type character that Hughes had envisioned.
Instead, she thought that Blane should be handsome in a subtler and softer way, resulting in McCarthy’s casting. With that said, this very personal and fairly superficial choice ended up making the movie far more realistic. After all, the target audience for a John Hughes movie was also far less likely to be attached to a hulking jock type character – but they did end up being very endeared to McCarthy.
17. Andie originally chose Duckie at the end
If you’ve ever watched Pretty in Pink and thought that Andie’s choice of Blane over Duckie seems to come out of nowhere, well, that’s because it does. The original script had an entirely different moral message, with Andie realising that the oddball was actually her perfect match. The director was surprised when in test screenings, audiences responded badly to the match-up.
Instead, those watching seemed to want Andie to end up with the kind but bland Blane, who was not actually set up to be a true love interest. The movie was quickly changed, with a new ending added to allow Blane and Andie to get together. Producers also added a happy ending for Duckie, which basically consisted of Duckie being stared at and immediately getting over his Andie crush.
16. McCarthy looks gaunt, wears a wig for his re-shot scenes because he’d already entirely changed his look for a play
Calling a cast back to set to reshoot parts of a movie is always a tricky thing to navigate, especially when scenes featuring principal characters need to be redone. Unfortunately for Pretty In Pink, the entire finale needed to be reworked at the last minute, which meant the stars of the movie were all called back. It was an easy ask for much of the cast, but was significantly more difficult for Andrew McCarthy, who played Blane.
By the time reshoots were called, McCarthy was already performing in New York in a play which called for significant changes to his appearance. Not only did McCarthy have to lose a significant amount of weight, he also had to shave his head for the part. Look closer and you may notice in the scenes near the end of the movie that Blane is noticeably more gaunt, as well as sporting a not entirely convincing hairpiece.
15. Ringwald fainted when she shot the original ending
The original ending of Pretty in Pink didn’t go down well with audiences, and there are a couple of possible explanations for why that could have been the case. Maybe the people at the test screenings truly didn’t think that Andie and Ducky were a good match, or that Blane ended up being more compelling than he was intended to be. However, it also could have had something to do with the fact that Molly Ringwald was uncomfortably ill throughout the shooting of the original ending.
Ringwald was so weak from stomach flu shooting Pretty in Pink’s original finale that she fainted onto Jon Cryer while they were dancing together at the prom. Ringwald was at one point bedridden for almost a full day of shooting, which meant the crew had to scramble to come up with ending scenes they could film around her. At least according to Cryer, this may help explain why audiences didn’t react well to the original Duckie and Andie ending.
14. Blane was written as a ‘square-jawed jock’ in the screenplay
The romance of Pretty in Pink revolves around Andie’s choice between two very different kinds of guys. One is a quirky misfit much like herself, while the other represents the affluent and aspirational society she wishes she could be a part of. Given that premise, the actors playing the two love interests of Duckie and Blane actually look remarkably similar.
Their personalities are not that far away from each other, even if one is far more bombastic and cheeky than the other. It turns out that the two men used to be far more like polar opposites, however, with Blane originally being a jock-type character in the script. As for why Blane is so un-jock-like in the film, that comes almost entirely down to Molly Ringwald’s own choice in casting.
13. Cryer reprised the role of Duckie twice
For many actors, once they have played a character and finished the movie in question, their relationship with that character is over. With that said, it’s not unheard of for performers to have favourite parts that they’re happy to reference and revisit. For Jon Cryer, Pretty in Pink’s Duckie is one of those roles, to the point where he’s donned the Duckie garb twice since the movie.
First off, Cryer dressed as Duckie for Halloween in an episode of Two and a Half Men, to the delight of the audience. Cryer then dressed up in the costume one more time to battle James Corden in a lip-sync duel. It’s hard to say who won, but given that we got to see two Duckies giving the song their all, the winners are probably the audience.
12. Ringwald and Hughes planned a follow-up movie, but never worked together again
Pretty in Pink ended up being the last collaboration between Molly Ringwald and John Hughes, but it wasn’t supposed to be. Both intended to work on many more movies together, with Hughes already having the script written out for the next one when Pretty in Pink was shooting. The movie they were supposed to make was titled Oil and Vinegar, and was supposed to star both Ringwald and Matthew Broderick.
In Oil and Vinegar, Ringwald would play a rough-and-tumble rebel type who was attempting to hitchhike. In the script, she is picked up by the character who would have been played by Broderick, and who is on his way to his wedding. The two spend the night in a motel, discussing all things love and growing up. It sounds pretty good, don’t you think?
11. Ringwald thinks Duckie was secretly gay
Several theories have emerged about why Duckie and Andie didn’t get together at the end of the film. Maybe the original ending was spoiled by Ringwald’s stomach flu, maybe the two just didn’t have the right chemistry, or maybe test audiences just really liked Blane. However, Molly Ringwald had entirely another theory about why Duckie’s infatuation with Andie never worked out.
She shared this at a reunion of the cast, when asked what she thought all of the characters would be doing following high school. Her first opinion was that Andie and Blane probably didn’t last beyond high school, and that Andie and Duckie definitely stayed fast friends. However, she was equally confident that by the present day, Duckie would have come out about his true sexuality, which would definitely explain why he and Andie didn’t work out.
10. John Hughes’ next movie allowed Pretty in Pink’s original ending to play out
Given that Pretty in Pink didn’t have the ending John Hughes originally wanted, it’s not surprising that he wrote another story that allowed that ending to play out. The year after Pretty in Pink, Hughes started work on Some Kind of Wonderful, another movie wherein two friends realise that they might be in love. In Some Kind of Wonderful, the same love triangle plays out with the genders switched; in this film, it is the girl who realises that her feelings might be more than platonic.
Likewise, it’s the male best friend who finds himself torn between his quirky BFF and a popular girl who is suddenly paying him a lot of attention. In the movie, Eric Stoltz’s character eventually chooses his best friend, played by Mary Stuart Masterson, over the cute girl next door played by Lea Thompson. Some Kind of Wonderful did not become as iconic as Pretty in Pink, perhaps confirming that audiences don’t like stories where two best friends fall in love?
9. The film shares a high school with 1978’s Grease
Unlike those of some other high school movies, the setting of the school itself in Pretty in Pink has yet to become iconic. The movie has plenty of classic locations but they’re mostly outside of the school, from Duckie’s iconic bedroom to the record store where Andie hangs out. However, if you pay more attention to the scenes shot in the hallways and classrooms of Pretty in Pink, you might do a double take or two.
If the interior of Pretty in Pink’s school starts to look familiar to you, that’s because it also features in another classic coming of age movie. The school depicted in Pretty in Pink is the same school seen in Grease, which also features a romance between two people from opposite ends of the social spectrum. Both have iconic fashion moments, even if the soundtrack for one is far less musical theatre than the other.
8. Molly Ringwald and Andrew McCarthy didn’t get along with Jon Cryer
The chemistry between Pretty in Pink’s main characters might seem very real, but in reality Molly Ringwald and Andrew McCarthy found it hard to get along with Jon Cryer, who played Duckie. Still, Ringwald and Cryer seemed to get along perfectly well in a 2010 Pretty in Pink reunion arranged by Entertainment Weekly, so maybe it’s all in the past. Despite having to play best friends, Cryer and Ringwald didn’t hang out much on the Pretty in Pink set, with Cryer usually sitting apart.
Ringwald and McCarthy meanwhile hung out all the time, eating lunch together and chatting between takes. Cryer later explained that his two co-stars were pretty shy and reserved at the time, while he was extroverted and outgoing. Cryer naturally assumed that they found him annoying and too exuberant, so he tried to tone it down around them.
7. The film features two tragic tributes at the end
Many films close with a tribute, whether it’s to somebody long passed who inspired the work or an elderly cast or staff member who passed once the movie was in post-production. Pretty in Pink features a tribute at the end, but it is made even more tragic by the fact that the tribute was to one of the movie’s young stars. Pretty in Pink’s closing credits tribute is dedicated to Alexa Kenin, a young actress who plays Jena in the movie.
Kenin tragically died without ever seeing the finished film, as she was murdered in New York shortly before it was released. In another tragic twist, the movie also features a dedication to Bruce Weintraub, the set and production designer for the movie. Weintraub sadly died of AIDS shortly after production on the film finished, and, like Kenin, did not live to see a final version.
6. It was Molly Ringwald’s idea to make a film based on the song Pretty in Pink
Molly Ringwald truly loved Pretty in Pink, and how much freedom she had to shape her character in the film. The reason Ringwald was given so much control is actually pretty surprising: the whole movie was her idea in the first place. Ringwald had gotten obsessed with The Psychedelic Furs song Pretty in Pink, and she approached Hughes directly to make a movie of the same name.
Hughes was immediately interested and asked if he could build the character of Andie entirely around her. It’s obviously impressive that Hughes managed to build characters and a whole plot just from the hook of an 80s pop song. It’s fun to think about what would have happened if Ringwald had had a different favourite song at the time, and what movie we could have gotten instead.
5. James Spader turned down the chance to play Blane
James Spader was one of John Hughes’ first choices to play Blane, Pretty in Pink’s upper-crusty but sincere love interest. Spader was early into his career when casting for Pretty in Pink came around, so you might think he would be quick to accept the role of romantic lead in a major new movie. In a surprise twist, however, Spader declined the role of Blane, and opted to play the more minor role of bully Steff instead.
When asked why, Spader responded that it was always more fun to play a villain, and so he tried to as often as possible. This bears out in Spader’s filmography, considering he also played a villain in The New Kids, a movie that was released the year before Pretty in Pink. However, in The New Kids, Spader’s character was significantly more villainous than just a snooty school bully.
4. Duckie’s ‘candy machine’ line was ad-libbed
Pretty in Pink has plenty of iconic moments, from Duckie’s epic lip-syncing to his and Andie’s first reunion in school. However, the movie isn’t famous for its laugh-out-loud comedic moments, despite its quippy dialogue and funny characters. The exception is Jon Cryer’s genius improvisation when Duckie is thrown into the women’s bathroom.
Picking himself up off the ground and attempting to look casual, Cryer glances around before finally delivering an iconic line. After pointing out the doors on the stalls and how clean the mirrors are, Duckie quickly remarks “We don’t have a candy machine in the bathroom”. The line soon became one of the most memorable parts of the film, since it perfectly showcased Duckie’s charisma but also his geeky naivety.
3. There is a nod to another classic film of the era
Many 80s movies feature the alternative, cool character who doesn’t care what anybody thinks and is there to help the protagonist figure out what they want. In Pretty in Pink, that character is Iona, the owner of the record store who cycles through different awesome fashions and constantly advises Andie on love and relationships. Iona is a pretty legendary character in her own right, but the actress who plays her, Annie Potts, has played some other iconic people in her time.
Most famously, Potts played Janine Melnitz in Ghostbusters, the sarcastic secretary for the paranormal pest-control team. In Pretty in Pink, Potts even manages to work in a tribute to the Ghostbusters movie, which was released just one year earlier. In Ghostbusters, Potts’ character answers the phone by saying “Ghostbusters, what do you want?!” In Pretty in Pink, Potts’ character is similarly blunt, answering the phone by saying “Trax, what do you want?!”
2. The film is Molly Ringwald’s favourite of her own
Molly Ringwald was one of the most prolific teen actresses of the 80s, and a prominent member of the Brat Pack. Ringwald featured in many prominent movies in the decade, even collaborating with director John Hughes on a number of occasions. However, of all the films that she worked on in the 80s, Ringwald has been fairly open about Pretty in Pink being her favourite.
This probably stems from the fact that Ringwald was very similar to her character Andie at the time, even if Andie’s fashion was definitely more over the top. The two both had serious interests in music and fashion, and had the same mix of individuality and insecurity as each other. When developing the part, Hughes interviewed Ringwald for hours about her tastes, hopes and fears, resulting in a character she could truly relate to.
1. Ringwald hated the pink dress
Despite loving everything about her character, and having a lot of power to decide things about her, there was one thing Ringwald didn’t like about playing Andie. Unfortunately for her, the thing she disliked was arguably the most iconic thing about the movie, and the thing she would be associated with for a long time. It turns out, Ringwald hated the prom dress she was forced to wear in the movie, which the character of Andie had supposedly lovingly constructed herself.
Despite the idea of the dress being that Andie took two old-fashioned dresses and made something fashion-forward, Ringwald herself thought the dress was frumpy and uncomfortable. Even diehard fans of the film are divided about the dress, with some agreeing that it looks like a pink potato sack. Others still seem to think it’s a delightfully retro dress, which might just mean that opinions have mellowed over time.