36 Years Since The Breakfast Club, Take a Look at the Original Brat Pack Then and Now

See Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy, Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson, the unrecognizable Anthony Michael Hall and more.

By Natalie Finn Feb 15, 2021 8:00 AMTags
The Breakfast Club, CastUniversal/Kobal/Shutterstock

Don't worry, we didn't forget about any of them.

It's been 36 years since a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal reported for detention at Shermer High in the Chicago suburbs, sacrificing a whole Saturday of their young lives and forming, in the process, The Breakfast Club.

The five principal stars of the classic dramedy, written and directed by John Hughes, all ended up as part of "the Brat Pack," a term first prominently used in a 1985 cover story in New York magazine to describe some hot young (male) things who both worked and partied together.

The story referenced more than a few actors breaking out at the time and considered the first "Brat Pack" films to be 1981's Taps (featuring newcomers Sean Penn and Tom Cruise) and 1983's The Outsiders, and to this day there remain a slew of honorary members of the club, including Robert Downey Jr. But the moniker really stuck to the core five in The Breakfast Club and several other familiar faces from Joel Schumacher's St. Elmo's Fire, which also came out in 1985. 

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Remembering John Hughes (1950-2009)

"The media made up this sort of tribe," Andrew McCarthy, star of St. Elmo's Fire and 1986's Pretty in Pink, protested to People in 1999. "I don't think I've seen any of these people since we finished St. Elmo's Fire. I've never met Anthony Michael Hall."

In February 2020, Hall told Page Six that the Brat Pack designation that started with the New York article "never really offended me or anything. It doesn't bother me, but that's where it came from. The joke was, I wasn't even at the interview!"

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But no one claimed that they all ran in a pack (McCarthy was notably on the outside of the Elmo's inner circle even then). They were, however, a tribe of actors that (almost all) showed up more than once in these seminal coming-of-age films, akin to the pool of talent directors like Wes AndersonJudd Apatow and Martin Scorsese have dipped into multiple times over the years.

"Brat Pack," itself a play on the 1960s-era Rat Pack, was mainly just a catchy name that stuck. So much so that Vogue came up with a "New Brat Pack" in 2015 consisting of the likes of Justin Bieber, Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid, real-life friends who didn't act together but were growing up in public all the same, aided and abetted by reality TV and/or social media. 

We know all about what the class of 2015 is up to, though. Time to check in on the class of 1985:

Molly Ringwald

The star of Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink was the queen bee of the Brat Pack, and, Ringwald told Entertainment Weekly in 1996, she remembered those days "very fondly." However, in a 2018 New Yorker essay, she noted that certain scenes in The Breakfast Club wouldn't fly in the post-#MeToo era. 

"I worried that [my 10-year-old daughter] would find aspects of it troubling, but I hadn't anticipated that it would ultimately be most troubling to me," she wrote.

The 1980s were the height of her in-demand period, and included roles in The Pickup Artist with Robert Downey Jr. and the teen pregnancy drama For Keeps?, while her 1990s highlights included Betsy's Wedding, the 1994 miniseries adaptation of The Stand and Teaching Mrs. Tingle.

In 2008 Ringwald switched into parental mode on The Secret Life of the American Teenager, playing the mother of Shailene Woodley's pregnant teen character, Amy. She then moved to a recurring role on on Riverdale as Archie Andrews' mom, Mary, plays Noah and Lee's mom in the hit teen rom-com franchise The Kissing Booth on Netflix.

In real life she's mom to three children with her second husband, Panio Gianopoulos.

Demi Moore

Georgetown grad Jules in St. Elmo's Fire is having an affair with her married boss, never a good idea. But at least she has the love of her friends to get her through. This is the only "Brat Pack" film that Moore was in, but the affiliation stuck—perhaps in part because she dated co-star Emilio Estevez for awhile.

The Golden Globe and Emmy nominee and author of the scintillating memoir Inside Out went on to star in a slew of films, including GhostG.I. JaneNow & ThenIndecent Proposal and Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, and she earned what at the time was the highest-ever paycheck for a female actor when she was paid $12.5 million for 1996's Striptease. Moore was in the Peacock drama Brave New World and stars in the upcoming Amazon miniseries Dirty Diana, being adapted from the hit podcast.

Moore has three daughters—Rumer, Scout and Tallulah—with ex-husband Bruce Willis. She was also married to Ashton Kutcher from 2005 until 2013, though they separated in 2011.

Rob Lowe

Also one and done in the Pack with St. Elmo's Fire (though he and Moore reunited immediately in the Edward Zwick-directed About Last Night), Lowe's flourishing career and indelible performance in the 1990 thriller Bad Influence took a hit after his sex tape debacle (he agreed to 20 hours of community service and he wasn't charged). Pals with Lorne Michaels, he had stand-out comedic turns in Wayne's World and Tommy Boy, then joined the cast of The Stand (with Molly Ringwald), playing deaf and mute Nick Andros.

Playing speechwriter Sam Seaborn in The West Wing proved to be the real start of his second chapter in 1999, and Lowe has been all over TV ever since, including standout roles in Brothers and SistersCalifornication and Parks and Recreation, as well as a critically acclaimed, almost unrecognizable turn playing Liberace's plastic surgeon in Behind the Candelabra. He starred in a number of series that didn't last more than one season, such as the legal comedy The Grinder and the hospital drama Code Black, but now he has joined the sprawling Ryan Murphy empire as the star of 911: Lone Star—so that one may last awhile. He also hosts the podcast Literally! With Rob Lowe.

Lowe is the father of two sons, Matthew and John Owen, with his wife since 1991, Sheryl Berkoff.

Emilio Estevez

New York magazine deemed The Breakfast Club's lead jock the unofficial president (and treasurer, because he was the one most likely to pick up the tab) of the Brat Pack. Estevez—who also starred in St. Elmo's Fire as Kirby, who pines away for a med student outside of the main clique (played by Andie MacDowell)—had already made a name for himself as one of the cluster of hot up-and-comers in The Outsiders (along with Lowe) and followed that up with the now-cult-classic Repo Man before he taped anyone's buns together and ended up in detention. 

"I'll bet if you asked everyone in the cast who their best friend is, they'd all say Emilio," St. Elmo's Fire director Joel Schumacher told New York. "He's that kind of guy." (For instance, Estevez was best friend Tom Cruise's best man when the Risky Business star married Mimi Rogers in 1987.)

In 1985 Estevez had already written the script for the movie that would become the 1990 comedy thriller Men at Work, which he wrote and directed, as well as starred in with brother Charlie Sheen

Estevez's most notably also starred in Young Guns and its sequel and the three-film The Mighty Ducks franchise, but he has mainly swapped acting for writing and directing full-time. He directed his father, Martin Sheen, in The War at Home, and wrote and directed BobbyThe Way and 2018's The Public, which also included his first turn in front of the camera in almost a decade.

Estevez has a son and daughter with ex-girlfriend Carey Salley, and he was married to Paula Abdul from 1992 until 1994.

Judd Nelson

He was ultimate bad boy John Bender in The Breakfast Club and a burgeoning Republican yuppie who's ready to settle down and marry girlfriend Leslie (Ally Sheedy) in St. Elmo's Fire.

In 1985, he was in the running for the role of cocaine-addled yuppie Tad Allaghash in the big-screen adaptation of Jay McInerney's très '80s novel Bright Lights, Big City, to co-star with Tom Cruise as a similarly cocaine-addled magazine fact-checker who's second-guessing his choices—but the roles ended up going to Kiefer Sutherland and Michael J. Fox, respectively.

No doubt the 1980s were Nelson's leading-man-type heydays, but he has never stopped acting, with highlights including a Golden Globe nomination for the 1988 miniseries Billionaire Boys Club and playing the slick record executive in Airheads, Brooke Shields' boss on Suddenly Susan (which he left after co-star David Strickland's death by suicide in 1999) and a shady label executive who's a rival to Terrence Howard's Lucious Lyon on Empire.

Nelson played the father of his Billionaire Boys Club character Joe Hunt in the 2018 feature-film adaptation of the same name, and more recent film credits include Santa FakeIceland Is Best and Electric Jesus.

Andrew McCarthy

McCarthy played adrift Georgetown University grad Kevin in St. Elmo's Fire—and then rich, popular high school senior Blane, who falls for Molly Ringwald's adorable, intelligent and outcast-because-she's-not-rich-and-makes-her-own-clothes Andie, in Pretty and Pink.

Right after that it was onto playing a window dresser whose muse comes to life in Mannequin and playing a disaffected college student in Less Than Zero (also with Robert Downey Jr. and Pretty in Pink co-star James Spader, both considered Brat Pack-adjacent), but it's Weekend at Bernie's that's watched and rewatched endlessly on cable to this day.

McCarthy's film highlights after the 1980s included The Joy Luck Club and Mulholland Falls, and he was a star of numerous TV shows that only lasted one season, such as Lipstick Jungle with Brooke Shields. But he also leaned into theater (he was starring in Long Day's Journey Into Night with Ellen Burstyn when he told People that the Brat Pack wasn't a real thing) and has become a busy TV director, working on Gossip GirlOrange Is the New BlackThe BlacklistThe Sinner and Good Girls.

He is also, fun fact, an award-winning travel writer—so if you see the "Andrew McCarthy" byline in The New York TimesTravel + Leisure or Bon Appetit, that's the same guy—and he authored a YA novel, Just Fly Away, that came out in 2017.

McCarthy has a son from his first marriage to college sweetheart Carol Schneider, and a daughter with Dolores Rice, his wife since 2011.

Estevez, Lowe and Nelson were the ones featured in New York's Brat Pack story, and an unidentified St. Elmo's Fire co-star predicted that McCarthy wouldn't make it as an actor for the long haul. But it looks as if we'll find out what McCarthy really thinks about those days when his memoir, BRAT: An '80s Story, comes out May 11.

Anthony Michael Hall

From dweeb in Sixteen Candles to more estimable nerds in The Breakfast Club and Weird Science, Hall did have his niche in the John Hughes world (including as Ringwald's real-life boyfriend for a short while)—so it was weird to see him as the cruel bully in Edward Scissorhands

First, however, Hall became the youngest-ever ensemble member of Saturday Night Live when he joined the cast in 1985 when he was 17. He only stayed for one season, but acted steadily in small roles through the 1990s before playing Microsoft founder Bill Gates in the much-talked-about TV movie Pirates of Silicon Valley, opposite Noah Wylie as Apple visionary Steve Jobs.

Hall is the only member of the Brat Pack who ended up unrecognizable in an all-grown-up way when he resurfaced as Gates, and then starred in the USA supernatural drama The Dead Zone, based on the Stephen King novel, from 2002 until 2007. Film highlights include The Dark KnightFoxcatcherLive by Night with Ben Affleck and War Machine with Brad Pitt, and he popped up as Principal Featherhead on Riverdale (with Ringwald) and in a recurring role as a security guard on The Goldbergs.

As for his onetime girlfriend Ringwald, Hall told Page Six in February 2020, "She's wonderful, a great lady. We've been friends since and I've seen her over the years."

Hall doesn't have kids but he is the godfather of Downey's eldest son, Indio. The actor got engaged to longtime girlfriend Lucia Oskerova in September 2019.

Ally Sheedy

Sheedy was already a veteran actress, having had numerous small TV parts and starred in WarGames with Matthew Broderick, by the time she played high school "basket case" Allison in The Breakfast Club and college grad Leslie in St. Elmo's Fire.

In a 2010 interview with NPR's Weekend Edition, Sheedy recalled thinking, "I'm finally popular with these guys. I was not popular in high school. I have some real friends. And we get to work. I was just blissfully happy. And I really do love those people."

(For the record, neither she nor Ringwald—nor Hall, for that matter—was mentioned in that 1985 New York article. The Brats were all heartthrob dudes at first, and Moore was only mentioned once as being "off and on" with Estevez.)

Sheedy starred in the 1986 comedy Short Circuit (her acting was singled out by the New York Times) and played John Candy's love interest in the 1992 comedy Only the Lonely, but she put acting on the back burner to raise her daughter with now ex-husband David Lansbury (Angela's nephew). Also in the 1990s, she battled a pill addiction, a real-life experience she mined to play an addict in the acclaimed 1998 indie drama High Art

TV appearances have included OzThe Dead Zone (with Hall), CSIKyle XY and Pysch, and she appeared in Martin Scorsese's Shelter Island, Welcome to the Rileys with Kristen Stewart and James Gandolfini, and X-Men: Apocalypse.

Sheedy was a bridesmaid at Moore's wedding to Bruce Willis, but then they lost touch. She does, however, remain close to Ringwald, who told Extra in 2019, "I'm really good friends with Ally Sheedy...we'll, like, text for hours."

What were the chances, meanwhile, that Molly Ringwald, 33 years after she chose Blane over Jon Cryer's Duckie in Pretty in Pink, was going to end up in a movie with McCarthy's son?

That's right, she played the mom of Sam McCarthy's character in the indie drama All These Small Moments last year.

"So everything comes full circle," Ringwald told Extra.

Hall mused to Page Six, "It was all just so surreal, it all happened to me at such a young age. I look back now, and it seems so big and I seem so old in my head, but it's just like that for all of us. You look back and you realize, 'Wow, I was just a kid.'"

Sheedy told NPR in 2010 that it was a "mixed bag" entering her 30s as an actress who was so closely identified with one character, and a teenage one at that, but ultimately she considered it a "blessing," especially once she saw her daughter's teenage friends still enjoying the movie 25 years later.

"Not a day goes by," Sheedy said, "where I don't have someone come up to me and tell me they were Allison in The Breakfast Club. Literally not a single day." In 2015, Ringwald told TIME, " If somebody told me that we would be on the phone talking about it 30 years ago, I don't think I would have believed you. I always loved the movie, I loved it when I filmed it, I just didn't know it would have the longevity that it seems to have had."

(Originally published Feb. 15, 2020, at 3 a.m. PT)

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