Weird Science, released on August 2, 1985, was not John Hughes’ biggest hit. The movie came two years after his breakthrough, Sixteen Candles, and six months after his generation-defining smash The Breakfast Club. It was a commercial disappointment, pulling in just $23 million at the domestic box office. Reviews were harsh, although a select few critics, most notably Roger Ebert, defended the film.
Part of the issue may have been that Hughes had, through his two previous efforts, cultivated a reputation for telling smart, deeply identifiable stories that struck a chord with teens and former teens alike. Weird Science had some of that, too, but it was unexpectedly wrapped inside a broad science-fiction/fantasy tale. The plot concerned two unpopular geeks, Gary and Wyatt, who use a computer to create their idea of a perfect woman. When she becomes real, their social stock rises dramatically. So do their problems.
The movie has found its niche in the intervening years. Even if not generally regarded as being on the same level as Hughes’ other movies, it has a large base of admiring fans. Part of the appeal of Weird Science is undoubtedly the cast, which is comprised of actors who played their roles perfectly. Each of them understood that this was an intentionally over-the-top story, and they adjusted their performances accordingly. Let’s get you up to speed on them now.
Here’s where the cast members of Weird Science are today.
15. Robert Downey, Jr. – Ian
In 1985, Robert Downey, Jr. was a star on the rise. By the time he took on the role of bully Ian, he’d already had supporting parts in the John Sayles indie romance Baby It’s You and the drama Firstborn, opposite Peter Weller. He was most recognized, however, as the son of a fairly well-known film director, Robert Downey, Sr., whose 1969 Putney Swope is a cult favorite.
After Weird Science, Downey’s star rose. He appeared in youth-targeted pictures like The Pick-up Artist and Less Than Zero, then transitioned into an acclaimed adult actor thanks to Chaplin (in which he played legendary film star Charlie Chaplin), Natural Born Killers, and Zodiac. Sidelined by a drug addiction and subsequent imprisonment for several years, he eventually found sobriety and returned to acting with a vengeance, going on to play Tony Stark/Iron Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. His work in that role is so iconic that it’s difficult to imagine anyone else inhabiting the character. With his wife Susan, Downey also produces many of his own projects, including the drama The Judge.
He’s set to play Iron Man again in next year’s Spider-Man: Homecoming.
14. Robert Rusler – Max
Robert Rusler portrayed Max, Ian’s fellow harasser of Gary and Wyatt. The surfing and skateboarding enthusiast was born in Hawaii, but later moved to Los Angeles with his family. It was there that he started studying both martial arts and acting. Rusler had only one credit prior to Weird Science – a two-episode stint on The Facts of Life.
Playing Max marked the start of a prolific career. Rusler went on to act in dozens of films and TV shows. A year after Weird Science, he had a sizable part in A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge. Other notable movies in which he appeared are Shag (which cast him alongside Phoebe Cates and Bridget Fonda), the Bruce Willis comedy The Whole Ten Yards, and the recent horror anthology Tales of Halloween. On the tube, Rusler played Lt. Warren Keffer on the popular sci-fi series Babylon V. Next year, he’ll be seen with Lance Henriksen and Starship Troopers‘ Dina Meyer in The Unwilling.
13. Wallace Langham – Art
Texas-born actor Wallace Langham played the role of Art, one of the other teens in Gary and Wyatt’s social circle. (He was billed in the credits as Wally Ward.) He’d previously appeared in two made-for-TV movies, but Weird Science marked his motion picture debut. It was not the last audiences would see of him.
Still using the Wally Ward moniker, Langham progressed to a variety of TV roles, most notably playing Ratner in the short-lived television spinoff of Fast Times at Ridgemont High. A variety of film roles also followed. Some were memorable (The Chocolate War), others less so (The Invisible Kid, a comedy that marked an early credit for pop singer Chynna Phillips in her pre-Wilson Phillips days). Eventually, Langham went back to his real name and found his first true taste of fame playing Phil on the acclaimed HBO series The Larry Sanders Show. Since then, he has evolved into a solid character actor/utility player, appearing as a regular on the hit shows Veronica’s Closet and CSI, as well as in films like Little Miss Sunshine, The Social Network, and Draft Day.
Langham can currently be seen in a blink-and-you-miss-it cameo in War Dogs, as a weapons salesman attending a Las Vegas convention.
12. Chino Williams – Fats
Weird Science is infamous for a particular scene, and it’s not the one in which Lisa asks those “little maniacs” Gary and Wyatt what they “want to do first.” No, it’s a scene in which Gary, Wyatt, and Lisa go to a nightclub. Surrounded by mostly African-Americans, Gary proceeds to talk like an old blues musician, in an accent that could charitably be described as stereotypical. In 1985, the sequence was out of place, at best, and politically incorrect, at worst. Today, many people view it as borderline racist.
The man Gary primarily talks to is Fats, played by Chino “Fats” Williams, a native of Louisiana. He was one of those actors called upon to play a certain type. He often chewed cigars onscreen and had an appealing, but no-nonsense Southern demeanor. Other screen credits include the first three Rocky movies, The Terminator (as a truck driver) and, later, both Road House and House Party. Additionally, he was a recurring character on the hit ’70s series Baretta. Chino Williams’ last performance was in the 1996 film Killin’ Me Softly. He died on April 5, 2000, due to complications from kidney failure.
11. John Kapelos – Dino
Canadian actor John Kapelos had a history with John Hughes when he came on board to play Dino, a patron at the aforementioned nightclub that the gang visits. He had a prominent role in The Breakfast Club, playing the janitor who secretly sides with the teens against the authoritarian principal, and popped up briefly in Sixteen Candles, as well.
Kapelos has been a fixture of both film and TV ever since Weird Science. Among his most notable titles are Roxanne (with Steve Martin), Nothing in Common (with Tom Hanks), Legally Blonde, and the FX series Justified. In total, he has over 180 screen credits. Most recently, the actor was seen on Amazon’s show Transparent. He’s got multiple new indie films in the can, including 22 Chaser, a drama co-starring Smallville‘s Aaron Ashmore. Off the screen, Kapelos runs his own production company, Carpuzi Films, and has released several music CDs. You can keep up-to-date with all his projects on his official Facebook page or by following him on Twitter.
10. Bill Paxton – Chet
Bill Paxton has had an interesting life. The Texas native, then 8, was one of the spectators who watched JFK emerge from the Hotel Texas on the day that he was assassinated. He played a Nazi in Pat Benatar’s music video for “Shadows of the Night”. He visited the site of the real Titanic with his Titanic director James Cameron. And he was turned into a talking pile of feces for Weird Science.
Paxton came to the movie with prior credits that included Stripes, The Terminator, and Streets of Fire. After playing Wyatt’s dim-witted, sadistic brother Chet, his career really took off. Roles in Commando and Aliens followed right afterward. Over the next three decades, Paxton would prove himself to be a diverse actor, capable of working in any genre. Twister, Edge of Tomorrow, HBO’s Big Love, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are just a few of the notable projects he’s brought his considerable talents to. In 2001, he directed Frailty, which is widely considered one of the best and most frightening horror films of modern times.
Paxton remains a much in-demand actor. He will soon be seen alongside Tom Hanks, Emma Watson, and John Boyega in James Ponsoldt’s The Circle, as well as in the TV adaptation of the movie Training Day.
9. Britt Leach / Barbara Lang – Gary’s Parents
Gary’s parents were portrayed by Britt Leach and Barbara Lang. Leach was a character actor with a knack for unusual, often comically blank facial expressions. He was typically cast as characters who were either not-too-bright or authoritarian to the point of obnoxiousness. After Weird Science, he continued to work regularly on both the big and small screens. Baby Boom, The Great Outdoors, and Tales From the Crypt are among the places he could be seen. His last screen credit was 1991’s Steve Martin comedy Father of the Bride. These days, Leach is retired, but he did try his hand at publishing a website a few years ago.
Barbara Lang, meanwhile, is a bit of a mystery. Before playing Gary’s mom, she only landed two other acting gigs: one episode of Charlie’s Angels in 1981 and an episode of Soap that same year. Two years after Weird Science, she had her fourth — and final — role, on an episode of Mr. Belvedere. Her present whereabouts are unknown.
8. Ivor Barry / Ann Coyle – Wyatt’s Grandparents
They don’t have huge roles, but Ivor Barry and Ann Coyle get one of the funniest moments in Weird Science when Wyatt’s grandparents are frozen and shoved in a cupboard with goofy expressions on their faces.
Barry was an actor from Wales who came to Hollywood and appeared in many of the most popular shows of the ’60s and ’70s, including Bewitched and Ironside. His career was wrapping up by the time he was cast in Weird Science. His only other feature film credit afterward was 1988’s Action Jackson. There were also a very small number of TV cameos, such as Punky Brewster and Highway to Heaven. Barry died of heart failure in 2006.
Ann Coyle only had three screen credits in her entire career: Weird Science, the “lost” Franken & Davis comedy One More Saturday Night in 1986, and a single episode of American Playhouse. The reason for her sparse resume is that she spent most of her life working in advertising, only becoming an actress after retiring from the field. Like Barry, Coyle is no longer with us. She passed away in October of 1990.
7. Michael Berryman – Mutant Biker
For horror fans, Michael Berryman was a household name when he played the mutant biker whose gang invades the boys’ party. The actor had famously — and memorably — portrayed Pluto in Wes Craven’s well-regarded The Hills Have Eyes. Berryman was born with hypohidrotic ectodermal dysplasia, a rare condition characterized by hairlessness, lack of teeth and fingernails, and distinct facial features. He used these things to his advantage, carving out a long acting career, primarily in horror.
When he was done terrorizing Gary and Wyatt, Berryman continued to bring his screen presence to literally dozens of feature films. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Spy Hard, and Rob Zombie’s The Devil’s Rejects are a few of the titles he’s worked on. Most recently, he appeared with fellow horror staples Bill Moseley and Kane Hodder in the John Schneider-directed Smothered. The actor has several low-budget horror movies lined up, including Potent Media’s Sugar Skull Girls, the story of three demonic sisters who are raised from the dead.
6. Vernon Wells – Lord General
Australian actor Vernon Wells’ first movie was Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, in which he was cast as a maniacal biker. Not a bad debut. His second movie was, you guessed it, Weird Science. He played Lord General, a character who looked like he came right out of a Mad Max picture. Producer Joel Silver was so impressed with his screen presence that he quickly cast Wells in the Arnold Schwarzenegger action extravaganza Commando. He was later seen in Joe Dante’s criminally underrated sci-fi/comedy Innerspace, plus a lot of independently-produced genre fare. To many, he is known for inhabiting the role of Ransik on Power Rangers Time Force.
Wells continues to work regularly. He recently starred with Steven Seagal in the action movie The Perfect Weapon, and with Lance Henriksen and Eric Roberts in The Sector. Next year, you can see him in Death House, a horror flick that features a veritable who’s who of genre stars: Adrienne Barbeau, Tony Todd, Sid Haig, Felissa Rose, and the great Barbara Crampton among them. You can stay up-to-date with all his latest happenings by visiting his official website.
5. Judie Aronson – Hilly
Judie Aronson, AKA Wyatt’s crush Hilly, made her motion picture debut in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter a year before Weird Science was released. The Los Angeles native displayed a knack for comedy, with her ability to deliver a punchline and register a reaction in a quirky, appealingly offbeat way. This skill served her quite well on the various sitcoms on which she guested, such as Charles in Charge and Growing Pains. During the 1990s, she popped up in a few episodes of Beverly Hills 90210 and in the music video for Nelson’s “(Can’t Live Without Your) Love and Affection.”
Acting isn’t as much of a priority these days. Aronson had a brief appearance in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (with Robert Downey, Jr.) back in 2005, but her resume has been fairly light in the last decade. She has, however, been very busy as the owner of Rockit Body Pilates, a workout center in Manhattan Beach, CA. You can check out her Twitter account, where she even has a picture of herself reunited with many of her Weird Science co-stars.
4. Suzanne Snyder – Deb
Suzanne Snyder, who played Hilly’s friend/Gary’s love Deb, originally planned to become a medical student, but a burgeoning modeling career put her on a different path. Being a model led to a few minor acting gigs, followed by Weird Science. Most of her subsequent movie roles were in films that became cult favorites: Night of the Creeps, Return of the Living Dead II, and, most notably, Killer Klowns From Outer Space. Over the years, Snyder has also done bit parts on TV shows like Silver Spoons, Family Ties, and Seinfeld.
Her most visible part in the last decade was a small role in the 1997 Matthew Perry/Salma Hayek rom-com Fools Rush In. Snyder’s last screen credit was a 2013 indie entitled Dancing on a Dry Salt Lake. She has frequently appeared at horror conventions to meet fans, sign autographs, and take photos. These days, she is a proud mother to four children.
3. Ilan Mitchell-Smith – Wyatt
Ilan Mitchell-Smith had an impeccable sense of comic timing for a young actor. It’s a surprise, then, that his acting career lasted only about eight years. Playing Wyatt in Weird Science was his breakthrough role, and it led to a couple mostly inconsequential films afterward. His 1988 picture The Chocolate War, however, is fondly remembered by many of those who discovered it on VHS or cable back in the day. Mitchell-Smith’s other major role was as Andy McAlister on the TV series Superboy. His final job as an actor was on one episode of Silk Stalkings in 1991.
Mitchell-Smith opted to walk away from show business, in favor of pursuing an education. In 2005, he received a doctoral degree from Texas A&M University. These days, you’ll find him in the English department of California State University, Long Beach, where he works as a professor of Medieval Literature. Tabletop gaming is an interest outside the classroom, and he has been very active in that world, organizing events and writing game reviews.
When not working, Mitchell-Smith spends time with his wife and two children. You can say hello to him via his Twitter account.
2. Anthony Michael Hall – Gary
John Hughes liked to write for the young stars he discovered. Pretty in Pink was written specifically for Molly Ringwald, and Weird Science was created for Anthony Michael Hall, who proved such a winning “dork” in Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club. The screenplay gave Hall ample opportunity to display his comic chops, while also touching on the very identifiable issue of adolescent sexual impulses.
Although it didn’t exactly light up the box office, Hall kept right on working. He snagged leading roles in Johnny Be Good and Out of Bounds, then became a one-season cast member on Saturday Night Live, along with Robert Downey, Jr. After a successful run on the TV series The Dead Zone, Hall reinvented himself as a character actor. The Dark Knight and Foxcatcher are just two of the high-profile movies in which he delivered supporting work. He will be seen in several upcoming pictures, including the Ben Affleck-directed Live by Night and David Michod’s War Machine, which will find him alongside Brad Pitt, Ben Kingsley, and Tilda Swinton.
1. Kelly LeBrock – Lisa
Kelly LeBrock had two iconic moments in the 1980s: uttering the catchphrase “Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful” in a Pantene commercial, and playing Lisa, the virtual dream girl come to life in Weird Science. Appearing in the film after melting Gene Wilder’s heart in 1984’s The Woman in Red, LeBrock obviously fulfilled the sex bomb aspects of the role. But she also showed real comedic flair. Her dry delivery was perfect for Lisa, providing a nice counterpoint to the character’s va-va-voom-ish qualities.
Although she continued to act, it wasn’t a huge priority for LeBrock. She only took roles occasionally, the highest-profile of them being her then-husband Steven Seagal’s 1990 action flick Hard to Kill. She largely backed away from show biz to raise their three children. (LeBrock turned down Beetlejuice and Tim Burton’s Batman for this reason.) A bitter divorce from Seagal followed, with the actress leveling abuse charges toward her ex. Aside from the intermittent acting gig, she has also done some reality television, appearing on VH1’s Celebrity Fit Club and the UK version of Hell’s Kitchen.
LeBrock’s most recent credit is the 2015 TV movie A Prince for Christmas. These days, she is very involved in charity work, having done things on behalf of autism and children’s cancer organizations, among others. She even dabbled in creating homeopathic medicine for kids. LeBrock has additionally been known to enjoy connecting with fans at conventions.
Who’s your favorite Weird Science actor? Do you know what ever became of Barbara Lang? What do you little maniacs want to do first? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.