The days of the independent (but still enormous) record stores may be gone, but Empire Records remains. A movie that captures the alternative spirit of a store where the staff are more like family than friends, when music wasn’t downloadable, YouTube-able, or buyable online. Empire Records was one of the most quintessentially ‘90s movies ever made, from the outfits to the attitudes, and now, more than twenty years later, we still love watching it.
But what happened to those quirky staff members, the corporate boss, the washed up musician and the shoplifting punk? While we could spend a lot of time speculating about the lives of the characters after Empire, there’s no way to know. We do know what happened to the cast though. From Hollywood movie stars to the ones who quietly faded out after the 90s, here’s what’s up with the cast of Empire Records in 2016.
Damn the Man! Save the Empire!
13 Anthony LaPaglia (Joe Reeves)
The ultimate cool boss, Joe, was somewhere between a friend and a father figure to the staff of Empire. By the time he starred in the movie, he already had a solid acting career behind him, although Joe remains one of his most recognizable roles. Since then, he has been in a huge variety of projects, and is probably best known for his starring role in Without A Trace for most of the ‘00s.
Over the years, he’s won a variety of acting awards on stage and screen, including a Tony (A View From The Bridge), a Primetime Emmy (Frasier) and a Golden Globe (Without A Trace). He also very nearly appeared in both the Sopranos and Django Unchained, although scheduling conflicts and production issues kept him out of those roles. Now, he is working on two films: dark comedy The Toy Gun alongside John Hannah, and Tomboy, A Revengers Tale about a gangster’s vendetta.
12 Maxwell Caulfield (Rex Manning)
With his flowing shirts and (slightly less flowy) hair, Rex Manning is the man of the day – even though he’s washed up, arrogant, and really pretty disgusting as a human being. Rock’n’Roll…
Having been in acting since the ‘80s, Empire Records wasn’t a movie to make or break Caulfield’s career, but its popularity still makes it one of his best known. He’s performed in film, television, on stage, and lent his voice to audiobooks and video games over the years. Some of his biggest roles since Empire have been as Mark Wylde on Emmerdale and Jim Brodie on Casualty (both long-running British series). Last year he was touring Australia with a production of Legends, and while he has no major projects on the horizon, Rex is doing just fine.
11 Debi Mazar (Jane)
Rex Manning’s long-suffering assistant got her happy ending (or so we assume) when Jane ditched Rex and got together with the wonderful Joe by the end of the film. Mazar also got something of a happy ending – although her career is by no means over yet. She’s been in a huge range of TV and film, including smaller roles on hit shows like Law & Order, Ugly Betty and Friends and recurring roles in Entourage and That’s Life.
Now starring as Maggie on Younger, Mazar is also working in reality TV alongside her husband, Gabriele Corcos. The two hosted an internet show about Italian cooking, titled Under The Tuscan Gun, and now co-host Extra Virgin on the cooking channel. They have also released a cookbook, Recipes and Love From Our Tuscan Kitchen.
10 Rory Cochrane (Lucas)
Hipster before hipsters were even a thing, the wisdom-spewing, turtle-neck-wearing cause of all the Empire Records madness should never be allowed to close again. However, actor Rory Cochrane is far more responsible (and hopefully less pretentious) than his on-screen personality, and has built a solid career in television since the ‘90s. He’s now probably best known as Tim Speedle on CSI: Miami, although he also had a recurring role on 24 as Greg Seaton.
He has also appeared in Argo alongside Ben Affleck and A Scanner Darkly alongside Keanu Reeves. Most recently, he was in Soy Nero, a 2016 film about a Mexican deportee's journey for citizenship. Beyond that, he has kept his private life very quiet, and stayed clear of the lure of reality television to focus on acting.
9 Johnny Whitworth (AJ)
The artsy manager who spends the movie pining after sweet (although not quite perfect) Corey, AJ gets one of the happiest endings in the movie as he gets the girl (and a push to go to art school!). Whitworth worked in film for the rest of the ‘90s, with smaller roles in films like The Rainmaker and Can’t Hardly Wait before he started to mix it up with more TV roles.
Like co-star Cochrane, he ended up in a recurring role in CSI: Miami, and also appeared in Cold Case, Without A Trace and The 100. He didn’t leave film behind, though, and worked on projects such as Limitless and 3:10 to Yuma. These days, he can be found on NBC’s Blindspot as the (hilariously) named “Ruggedly Handsome Man” as well as in Finding Her, a drama about a missing girl in Brooklyn (in theaters this May).
8 Robin Tunney (Deb)
Deb made an incredible entrance in Empire Records, when she stormed straight into the staffroom and promptly shaved her head. Tunney actually did shave herself bald for the role as the troubled clerk, but that wasn’t ever her biggest film of the ‘90s.
The year after Empire Records, she starred in The Craft, making her one of the most recognizable actresses of the decade. While she hasn’t has any roles with quite as much attention since, she’s still happily acting. Best known for her lead role on The Mentalist from ’08 to ’15, she has also appeared on House and in Prison Break. Her latest project is the Netflix original rom com series Love, where she plays Waverly.
7 Renee Zellweger (Gina)
Brassy, confident Gina revealed that she wasn’t quite as confident as everyone thought in an epic Empire meltdown that was the most emotional part of the film. Post-Empire, Zellweger shot to A-list stardom, becoming one of the biggest names of the next ten years. She became best known for the smash-hit rom com series Bridget Jones Diary, alongside other huge hits like Jerry Maguire, Chicago, and Cinderella Man. She won an Oscar for her performance in Cold Mountain, and was nominated for two more (for other films).
She has won a further 24 awards, including a BAFTA and three Golden Globes. However, a few years ago she took a hiatus from the acting world after some less-than-stellar movies. She has since returned to the limelight with a new look that shocked many fans, although the star brushed it off as just part of getting older. She’ll be back in a familiar role later this year, though, as Bridget Jones’s Baby comes to screens to complete the Bridget Jones trilogy.
6 Ethan Embry (Mark)
The adorably quirky clerk who coined that ultimate phrase ("Damn the Man, save the Empire!"), Mark was pure comic relief for the film. He has gained much more recognition as a serious actor since, although, like many of his co-stars, he has shifted more from film to television. In the late ‘90s, he appeared in a few teen comedies – That Thing You Do (alongside Tom Hanks) and Can’t Hardly Wait (with other Empire alum Johnny Whitworth).
While he still works in film, he is better known for his TV roles, including in Brotherhood, CSI: Miami (clearly something of an Empire favorite!), Drop Dead Diva and Once Upon A Time. Most recently he has appeared in the Netflix original series Grace and Frankie, as well as a one-off role in The Walking Dead.
5 Coyote Shivers (Berko)
The boyfriend (or ex-boyfriend, potentially) of Deb and a local musician, Berko is the one who hands the mike to Gina for that final rooftop song. Although Coyote Shivers has appeared in a few other films over the past twenty years, his is primarily a musician rather than an actor, and his film career was centered on that.
Sadly, his music career never really took off either. After playing in a few bands and releasing three solo albums, he seems to have given up the dream with nothing new released since 2004. Sadly, he’s also been dealing with legal troubles after the end of his marriage to NCIS star Pauley Perrette, who took out a restraining order against him. Although he has married again, the legal issues continue, with Shivers ending up in jail last year for violating the order.
4 Brendan Sexton III (Warren)
If ever you were a punk kid who tried to steal some CDs, you wished that you could have lifted them from somewhere as cool as Empire Records. Although he was reported to the police, Warren got to hang out with the staff, and even after coming back to hold them at gunpoint (obviously), they made him an ID badge as an honorary staff member…
The youngest cast member, Empire Records was only Sexton’s second role. He continues to work in film, and appeared in Black Hawk Down and Boys Don’t Cry. He has dabbled in television, with a recurring role in The Killing in 2011/2012, as well as in the music industry with his record label Big Bit of Beauty. He has three more films currently in the works, two thrillers (The White Orchard, Faceless) and a drama (New Money).
3 Liv Tyler (Corey Mason)
Easily the most recognizable star of Empire Records, Liv Tyler left her days playing a fuzzy-sweatered speed freak behind and became one of Hollywood’s A-List. She appeared alongside Ethan Embry in That Thing You Do before rocketing to fame with the blockbuster action flick Armageddon.
Her next huge role was as Arwen in the Lord of the Rings franchise, one that bumped every actor involved to the next tier of stardom and netted them all a shelfload of awards. As well as playing the stunning elf, she became the face of Givenchy, returning to her modelling roots. More recently, she launched a television career in 2014, as Meg Abbott in The Leftovers, and has a fantasy-horror film (Wildling) out later this year.
2 James ‘Kimo’ Wills (Eddie)
The “brownie dealer” (wink wink) of Empire may have had a bit part, but with such a small named cast, we thought we’d throw him in for good measure. Since Empire, he’s appeared in a few more movies and small TV roles but with some big gaps in between them.
You may have spotted Wills in Buffalo Soldier or White Oleander, or most recently in 2013 in Tuna, an hour-long indie comedy. He’s got a Twitter account where he tweets about comic books and lala land, but he doesn’t seem to be doing anything in particular as an actor. Living off Rex Manning Day residuals?
1 Ben Bode (Mitchell Beck)
Another relatively small part, Beck appeared as the embodiment of the man – a heartless owner who would rather sell out (or own a toilet store). Obviously vanquished in the end by Joe and the cool kids, Mitchell was everything we hated all wrapped up in a cheap suit. Empire Records was Bode’s second ever part, and afterwards, he moved primarily to television to carve out a solid career.
He’s spent the past twenty years playing smaller parts for bigger shows (including House, The Young and the Restless, Dollhouse, The Loop, Cold Case, Boston Legal, and Law & Order) and doing it well. His latest roles have been on Lab Rats in 2014, and Stitchers earlier this year. Bode seems to have made a career out of being the kind of guy you know you know from somewhere, but you can’t quite figure out where that was.
Anybody we missed out? When was the last time you caught up with Empire Records? Let us know in the comments!