Parenthood is a modern classic by any standard. Ron Howard’s 1989 film introduces us to Frank & Marilyn Buckman and their four grown children. We watch these families interact with each other as they manage everyday problems and mundane disasters. Most of the cast has wonderful character arcs that teach them (and us) symbolic lessons.
Parenthood is a movie about living fully, appreciating and nurturing your family, and learning that while you and your relatives won’t always agree—they’re always with you when it counts. Sappy? Maybe. But it’s one of those heartwarming movies you can drop in on anytime, just to enjoy how young all these people looked back in the day. Watch for plenty of Parenthood spoilers, because duh, as we take a look at Where Are They Now? The Cast Of Parenthood.
18. Jason Robards
As the patriarch of the Buckman family, Jason Robards’s character was not the most involved father, husband, or grandfather. Shame, that. The Frank Buckman we meet is an unapologetic drinker who strongly favors his youngest son. The problem with that is that Larry (Tom Hulce) is a lazy fool trying one get-rich-quick scheme after another until he finds himself in ruins. Eventually, we learn that Frank’s inattentiveness to his children stems from a childhood illness suffered by his oldest son. Frank Buckman lacked the emotional hardiness to be a good, caring father. So he distanced himself from his family to everyone’s detriment. In the end, Frank learns that opening up has rewards that far outweigh the risk. It’s a nice arc.
Jason Robards is no longer with us. He died in 2000 at the age of 78. But he enjoyed over five successful decades in the movie industry, which is a solid run by anyone’s standard.
17. Eileen Ryan
Marilyn Buckman is Frank’s long-suffering wife. She appears resistant to change, and is tired of her son Larry’s crap. Mrs. Buckman is disappointed in her youngest son, and seems to relish the role of caring for her elderly mother. It gives her purpose, which is why she hates the idea of Grandma being shuffled off to the grandkid’s homes to make room for Larry. Marilyn is also not cool with Cool’s (Larry’s illegitimate, mixed-race son) treatment, and the lack of attentiveness shown by Larry. “Just plop him down in front of the TV; that’s what he always does.” Yikes! Over the course of the film, Marilyn reaps the benefits of her newly enlightened husband, which is lovely to see.
Eileen Ryan has, like Robards, spent decades in the acting business. Most recently, she has appeared in popular shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Prime Suspect, and Getting On. She is 89 years old. Oh, and she’s also Sean Penn’s mom.
16. Alisan Porter
Little Taylor Buckman is a spry young lady, and one of the few characters in Parenthood who doesn’t have much of a story arc. Her job is to be a regular kid. That means she gets in weird trouble at school (parent meeting called because she was “kissing all the boys”), has a bevy of weird needs (a Dopey costume, for example), and may projectile vomit when we least expect it. Taylor is the middle child and only female offspring of Gil (Steve Martin) and Karen (Mary Steenburgen) — though we suppose we don’t ever learn the gender of Karen and Gil’s fourth child.
In addition to playing Taylor, Alisan Porter was the lead in Curly Sue, and appeared in I Love You to Death as well. Now in her 30s, Ms. Porter is more singer than actress. She performed on Broadway in The Ten Commandments: The Musical. Most recently, she won season 10 of The Voice. She has released two folk music albums and shows no sign of slowing down.
15. Jasen Fisher
Playing Kevin, the oldest son of Gil and Karen Buckman, was Jasen Fisher’s first movie role. He won a “Young Artist Award” for the performance, and another for playing one of the Lost Boys in Hook. In Parenthood, Kevin has trouble in school due to his emotional outbursts and high level of stress. He has a tough time playing baseball, though he desperately wants to be good at it. The poor kid also has a meltdown at a birthday party after his money is stolen by a bully and later, he loses his retainer. Kevin’s story arc involves his coming to terms with the fact that he’s going to therapy, and later, catching an all-important pop fly at one of his games.
Jasen Fisher had left acting forever by the time he turned 12. Given the tenor of child-acting at the time — that’s probably for the best. Fisher has lived a low-key life since then. Rumor has it that, now in his mid-30s, Jasen Fisher now supports himself in the world of professional high-stakes poker. Neat!
14. Paul Linke
Paul Linke was already a successful TV and film actor when he was cast to play George Bowman, the love interest (and later husband) of Helen Buckman (Diane Wiest). His character is a high school teacher who demonstrates early on that he’s more than ready for the craziness that is being part of the Buckman family. Mr. Bowman is also pretty funny.
Linke had already appeared in popular TV shows like Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley when he was cast in a recurring role on the series C.H.I.P.s. There, he played Officer Arthur Grossman, which made him a household name in the late ’70s-early ’80s. He also had a small role in the comedy-horror classic Motel Hell. Still active in the acting world, Linke has appeared in films like K-Pax and The Guest House. He is currently 67 years old.
13. Rance Howard
A movie veteran of over 65 years, Rance Howard is the patriarch of an esteemed media family. His first movie role was in the classic How to Marry a Millionaire. In Parenthood, Howard plays the dean of the college future-Kevin-Buckman attends. In the dueling flash-forward sequences, Kevin is a model student in one, and a deranged campus sniper in another. That’s back when mass shootings were incredibly rare and short lived — so it was still kind of okay to make jokes about them. Kind of.
At 88 years old, Rance Howard is still an acting dynamo. He appeared in the recent X-Files revival, and did guest spots in Bones and NCIS: Los Angeles. He’s in 8 different projects being released between 2016-2017. That’s more than Ryan Gosling and Hugh Jackman put together. We know, right? Rance Howard has also appeared in 15 movies helmed by his youngest son, director Ron Howard.
12. Clint Howard
Like his big brother Ron, Clint Howard has been acting from a very young age. In Parenthood, Clint plays a character without an arc. He’s Lou, the dickish overbearing parent who has trained his own son to echo his silly win-at-all-costs philosophy. He’s the guy who screams at the coach (without ever volunteering to help out), and freaks out worse than the kids do when something bad happens in the game. Lou even yells unkind things to players (like Kevin) on the team he’s supposed to be rooting for. Gross.
Clint Howard has been acting since 1963. From shows like Courtship of Eddie’s Father, Star Trek, Gentle Ben, and Night Gallery, to modern shows like Arrested Development and Key & Peele. The Ice Cream Man, featuring Howard’s turn as a horror movie villain, will always remain a fan fave. Clint Howard has been featured in 17 films directed by his brother, Ron.
11. Harley Jane Kozak
As Susan Buckman-Huffner, Harley Jane Kozak is married to Nathan (Rick Moranis) and raising her young daughter to be some sort of wee genius. That’s mostly her husband’s icky idea, but she goes along with it — even though she’s a schoolteacher and should know better. Watch for her to complain that Patty, who is barely older than a toddler, hasn’t been paying enough attention to her French. What? Eventually, Susan leaves her inattentive and inflexible husband. Will he compromise his plans in order to win her back? If you’ve seen Parenthood, you already know.
Kozak went on to appear as the wife in Arachnophobia soon after Parenthood was released. Now nearing 60, she still appears regularly in small roles on TV and in films. Lately though, she’s more interested in being a novelist. The five mystery novels she’s had published since 2004 have won her a few prestigious awards and solidified her place as a serious writer. Cool!
10. Alex Burrall
Ever wonder what it’s like to be the only person-of-color in an all-white cast? Alex Burrall could tell you. He played Cool, the out-of-wedlock-born son of Larry Buckman, and one of only two African American actors (the other being the school principal) credited in Parenthood. As Cool, Burrall begins as a boy who is shoved aside by pretty much anything else his dad wants to do. Eventually, he is left at the elder Buckman’s like cumbersome luggage. His heartbreaking questions “Is my Dad going away? Is he ever coming back?” will haunt you more than anything else in the film. It is ultimately Cool who teaches Frank Buckman that it’s okay to really love someone.
Burrall’s spent less than 10 years in the acting game. In that time, he also starred as young Michael in The Jacksons: An American Dream, and played best friend Jimmy Fargo in the series Fudge, based on characters created by Judy Blume. These days, Burrall lives such a low-key life that we couldn’t even find a recent pic of him on Google.
9. Ivyann Schwan
One could argue that Patty Huffner is the cutest kid in all of Parenthood. Whether she’s reading Kafka, figuring out square roots, or punching Rick Moranis in the face — that kid is adorable. Patty is the one whose tiger-dad (Is that a thing?) pushes her to academic excellence at a time when most kids are learning how to play and interact with peers. As a result, Patty has “no ability to relate to other little kids.” Eventually, Patty’s father both lightens and loosens up. Patty appears to take well to her dad’s belated attempts to learn how to be silly.
In the ’90s, Schwan reprised her role as Patty for the Parenthood TV series. She was the only actor from the film to return to her original role. At age 33, Ivyann Schwan is in the music biz, releasing albums and doing gigs, and as of 2012, she is the mother of one child.
8. Rick Moranis
As Nathan Huffner in Parenthood, Rick Moranis is the Napoleonic leader of his household. So long as he can back up his desires with a cherry-picked fact, Nathan is sure that his choices are right for everyone in his family. What if that means never eating Hostess cupcakes or spinning in a circle just for fun? Well, Nathan is fine with that — mainly because he’s super smug. He comes around in the end, embracing moments of frivolity as he learns to value his wife and daughter as people rather than projects.
Rick Moranis was everywhere in the ’80s. From caring for carnivorous plants, being the Keymaster, and shrinking everything in site — Moranis’s career was amazing. Spaceballs is one of the best movies ever. However, Moranis left the film biz permanently when his wife fell ill. Rather than pursue his well-earned fame, Moranis became a stay-at-home dad. He pops up occasionally to do voice work. But anyone waiting for him to appear in the new Ghostbusters is likely to find themselves disappointed, though he revealed late last year that he hasn’t completely ruled out a return to Tinseltown.
7. Martha Plimpton
As Julie Buckman, Martha Plimpton was the on-again off-again girlfriend of Tod (Keanu Reeves). She’s a liberated young woman who isn’t opposed to getting her giggity in her mom’s house, even when her mom is home. Classy.
Julie is smart, and scores highly on her SAT’s before turning up married, pregnant, and in no fit state to be starting a family with a guy who doesn’t even have a job (oops). In the end, we see Julie and Tod give parenthood the old college try (so to speak). Her arc is mostly about learning to be less impulsive and to stick with her decisions.
Martha Plimpton has been in dozens of films including I Shot Andy Warhol, 200 Cigarettes, and Pecker. She’s also had guest spots on tons of TV shows including Law & Order SVU, ER, The Good Wife, and The Real O’Neals. This makes sense, since she’s part of the enormous Carradine family of actors. Now in her 40s, Plimpton is still acting. She’s also an activist for abortion rights and LGBT equality. Right on!
6. Diane Wiest
The character of Helen Buckman is an interesting one. Particularly intriguing is that not only did she go back to using her maiden name after marriage — but her children use her married name as well. Wow! Helen’s first husband was a dentist who, after the divorce, also divorced himself from his children (we’re pretty sure that’s not allowed). Helen struggles with raising a family alone, an abject lack of respect and communication with her children, and a lackluster love life. In Parenthood, Helen deals with her issues with grace and determination. It’s amazing, even in its low-key nature.
Wiest has been in a ton of movies and TV series that you’d totally recognize. She took over for Adam Schiff on Law & Order for a time, and she guest starred on The Blacklist and had a recurring role in HBO’s In Treatment. Currently, Wiest can be seen on the show Life in Pieces. Diane Wiest is currently 68.
5. Tom Hulce
Larry Buckman is the youngest son and biggest screw-up of the Buckman family. He’s never held down a job, never made a decent living, and has borrowed money from numerous family members without ever paying it back. He presumes that everyone he knows is ready and willing to help him out — which is why he doesn’t bother buckling down to get his life straight. He even tries to sell his father’s most prized possession. But all of that is small-time compared to the appalling way he treats his son, Cool. At least he can’t be blamed for giving him that absurd name (and this writer knows a few things about absurd names!).
A Detroit native who began his career with a starring role in Equus, Hulce is better known for roles like Mozart in Amadeus, or Pinto in the king of all college movies: Animal House. Hulce was also the voice of Quasimodo in Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame. He appeared in the fantastic film Stranger Than Fiction, but largely sticks to voice work these days.
4. Joaquin Phoenix
Sometimes it’s hard to recognize a child-actor when you see him/her as an adult. In Joaquin Phoenix as Gary Buckman, it’s almost impossible to see the A-List movie star we know today. He’s just so different looking — even with a recognizable scar in the middle of his upper lip. Phoenix gives an alarmingly accurate performance as Gary, the kid who is sad and rightfully angry at his neglectful dad. Gary deserves more attention than he’s getting, and to his mother’s horror, has developed a covert interest in porn (which he cleverly hides in amarays for other movies). Seeing Gary happy and with a new dad is one of the high points of Parenthood.
Phoenix should have been a big star after Spacecamp, except it was released on the heels of the Challenger disaster and nobody saw it. Instead, he was stuck with mostly small roles before breaking out in To Die For. Aside from a short break from 2009-2012, Phoenix has been acting non-stop since 1982. Most recently, he won major acclaim for his role in Her, where his character falls in love with a computer operating system.
3. Mary Steenburgen
Karen Buckman is a fun and complicated character. In Parenthood, Karen smoked a ton of pot in college but has since settled down with Gil to raise a family. When her youngest child is almost of school age, she debates going back to work and decides that she doesn’t want to. The choice is taken away from her, however, when she turns up unexpectedly pregnant. Karen doesn’t have much of a character arc, in that her character doesn’t really develop or grow much throughout the film. But that’s okay. She’s a loving mom and an honest wife, which turns out to be all you need to make a happy family.
Mary Steenburgen has had a pretty cool life that includes many fine film and TV performances, and a marriage (and divorce) with the great Malcolm McDowell. She’s currently married to Cheers’s Ted Danson, and has one movie coming out in 2016, with another next year.
2. Keanu Reeves
What can we say about Julie Buckman’s ne’r do well boyfriend, Tod Higgins? His abusive and neglectful parents raised a boy who is at once fun-loving and insecure. He trusts too easily and may be looking for a new, better family to be part of. Tod certainly finds that in the Buckmans, but it’s a rocky road. Tod is also a nice kid who takes well to accepting Gary as a new little brother. We’re scared for him when we think he might die in a dragster race he shouldn’t have been in in the first place.
Is there really a need to list all of the accomplishments of Keanu Reeves? He’s sad in a famous meme, is in a famous band called Dogstar, and had a cat named after him in a Key & Peele movie. Keanu Reeves has also given away more money than any of us are likely to see in our lifetimes. That’s because he doesn’t care about money, saying he has enough already to last for centuries. If he’s thinking about that, it might also mean that Keanu Reeves is a vampire. Oh, and he’s also an actor who has made a ton of films—some of which you might have heard of.
1. Steve Martin
Gil Buckman is arguably the central character of Parenthood, though one could also argue that it’s very much an ensemble piece. Gil is the husband of Karen, the father of Kevin, Taylor, and Justin Buckman, and the son of Frank and Marilyn. He’s also the brother of Helen, Susan, and Larry Buckman. That’s a lot to deal with already. He’s having a tough time at work, and a tougher time coaching Kevin’s little league. Gil thinks every problem is not only his fault, but also his responsibility to fix. As the movie goes on, we learn that there are some valid reasons for this. In the end, Gil learns to relax and “enjoy the rollercoaster.”
Steve Martin is another actor for whom listing his movie credits would be unnecessary. Everybody loves at least one Steve Martin movie — whether it’s The Jerk, The Man with Two Brains, Bowfinger, or The Three Amigos. Having reached age 70, Steve Martin has turned his banjo skills into a full-on musical career. He even won a Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album! His most recent album was recorded with Edie Brickell, who we can assume he knows through Paul Simon, another routine guest on Saturday Night Live.
Parenthood is on cable this month, which means that most of you can catch it, DVR it, or stream it whenever you like. There’s never a bad time to revisit this classic. Which character from the film did you relate to the most? Sound off in the comments.
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