Some Kind of Wonderful is 30 years old this year. The movie, written by the great John Hughes and directed by Howard Deutch, tells the story of working-class high schooler Keith Nelson (Eric Stoltz), who works up the courage to ask out his dream girl, Amanda Jones (Lea Thompson), despite the fact that she runs with a more popular, affluent crowd. This occurs to the great consternation of his best friend, a free-spirited drummer named Watts (Mary Stuart Masterson), who’s secretly in love with him. The movie wasn’t a particularly big hit — it accrued only $18 million at the North American box office — but its afterlife on home video and cable has turned it into a certified teen classic.
If the plot sounds like a gender-swapped version of Pretty in Pink…well, it is. On purpose. Hughes wrote Pretty in Pink to explore the ways in which socioeconomic issues affect teenage relationships. The original ending found Andie (Molly Ringwald) ending up with Duckie (Jon Cryer) after her crush Blane (Andrew McCarthy) backed out of their prom date under pressure from his friends. Test audiences hated that ending, so a new one was shot that found Andie ending up with Blane. Hughes didn’t care for that conclusion, feeling that his intended message got lost. He wrote Some Kind of Wonderful to give the idea a second chance. This time, the lead character realized that his best pal was actually his true love, not the unattainable girl in a different social strata.
The theme worked this time, thanks in part to an ace cast. To celebrate the anniversary of this thoughtful and poignant movie, we tracked down fifteen key cast members to see what they’re up to these days. Here’s Where Are They Now? The Cast Of Some Kind Of Wonderful.
15. Lea Thompson – Amanda Jones
Lea Thompson originally turned down the role of Amanda Jones, the girl from the poor part of town who nevertheless gets to hang with the rich kids because of her beauty. The actress had already achieved major success playing Marty McFly’s mom in Back to the Future, and she wasn’t sure the character was all that interesting. Her feelings changed after her next intended blockbuster, Howard the Duck, bombed miserably. Post-flop panic, coupled with a rewrite that gave Amanda some added depth, convinced her to change her mind. It turned out to be a good decision, since this is one of the characters she’s most associated with.
Since Some Kind of Wonderful‘s release, Thompson has remained a busy actress. Aside from the BTTF sequels, she went on to appear in a slew of movies, including Casual Sex?, Dennis the Menace, and, more recently, Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar. She also had a hit TV series, Caroline in the City, that ran for four seasons on NBC. Thompson was even a contestant on Dancing with the Stars in 2014, where she came in sixth place. Currently, she can be seen playing Kathryn Kennish on the Freeform cable network show Switched at Birth.
Thompson’s off-screen life has been equally notable. She married SKOW director Howard Deutch. Together, they have two daughters, one of whom, Zoey Deutch, stars in the films Everybody Wants Some!! and Before I Fall.
14. Elias Koteas – Duncan
Elias Koteas had a breakout role in Some Kind of Wonderful, playing Duncan, the skinhead whom Keith befriends in detention. (Duncan famously shows Keith a drawing of what his girlfriend would look like without skin.) The actor avoided all the cliches of cinematic punks, giving Duncan an appealingly off-kilter comic sensibility. The guy was charismatic beyond words. John Hughes was reportedly so impressed that he added additional scenes for the character into the script.
The role put Koteas on the radar of pretty much everyone in Hollywood. He has become an A+ character actor over the years, bringing his talents to a wide array of film and television projects. Some of his most notable big screen work has been in the 1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film (as Casey Jones), the sci-fi thriller Gattaca, the horror flick Let Me In, David Fincher’s Zodiac, and Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island. On the small screen, he has appeared on The Killing and, currently, as a regular on Chicago P.D., where he plays undercover detective Alvin Olinsky. Later this year, he can be seen alongside Kate Mara and Ellen Page in the drama Mercy.
13. Scott Coffey – Ray
Scott Coffey already had a connection to John Hughes when he was hired to play Ray, the edgy kid who tries to put the moves on Watts after she uses him in an effort to make Keith jealous. The actor had a small role in Hughes’ Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Coffey didn’t get a lot of screen time in SKOW, but he made the most of it, getting laughs with one of the movie’s best punchlines. Watts tells Ray that it’s 1987 and “a girl can be whatever she wants to be.” His straight-faced reply: “I know. My mom’s a plumber.”
Coffey did a lot more supporting parts after his time as Ray. You may have caught him in stuff as diverse as Wayne’s World 2, Tank Girl, and David Lynch’s Mulholland Dr. He still acts occasionally — he’ll be in the upcoming Twin Peaks revival — but these days, you’re more likely to find Coffey behind the camera. His first effort as a writer/director was the 2005 indie comedy Ellie Parker, starring Naomi Watts and Chevy Chase. His second was 2013’s Adult World, with John Cusack, Emma Roberts, and Evan Peters.
12. Lee Garlington – Gym Teacher
New Jersey native Lee Garlington plays the gym teacher who gives Amanda detention. Like many of the Some Kind of Wonderful supporting players, she has a lengthy resume that includes both film and TV roles. She appeared alongside Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams, Robert Redford and Sidney Poitier in Sneakers, and Robin Williams in One Hour Photo. Notable TV credits include Friends, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and The West Wing. In the past year, she has done guest-starring work on Children’s Hospital and iZombie.
One of Garlington’s most interesting post-SKOW roles, though, is one that she had and lost. The actress was originally supposed to be the female lead on the now-classic sitcom Seinfeld. Her character was a waitress who appeared in the pilot episode. When it was picked up to become a series, the producers opted not to renew her contract. (Jason Alexander has publicly claimed that she insisted on rewriting all her lines, which irritated producer/creator Larry David.) The main female character was re-conceived, paving the way for Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Elaine.
11. Kenneth Kimmins – Detention Teacher
One of Amanda Jones’ signature traits is that she’s beautiful and she knows it. Nowhere is this quality more evident than in the scene where she gets herself out of detention by being all flirty and sweet-talking a balding, middle-aged teacher. That teacher, who can’t resist her feminine wiles, is played by Kenneth Kimmins. The actor was a screen veteran before taking on this brief role, having appeared in notable films like Network and Bachelor Party, as well as just about every popular TV series of the 1980s, including Cheers, Dallas, Dynasty, and Silver Spoons.
Kimmins was never a leading man. He is more of a “That Guy” actor (as in “Hey, there’s that guy!“) Nonetheless, he continued to work steadily, mostly in television, as a guest performer. He did, however, have very notable roles on two hit shows. Kimmins played Howard Burleigh on ABC’s Coach and Dr. Klein on Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. Now in his 70s, the actor is harder to find. His most recent acting credit is a 2014 indie entitled Bridge and Tunnel.
10. Jonathan Schmock – Carparker
Jonathan Schmock only has one short scene in Some Kind of Wonderful. While Keith and Amanda dine inside a fancy restaurant, Watts shoots dice with the valets outside. Schmock plays one of them. The actor started his career as a member of the comedy team known as the Funny Boys. That led to screen roles in SKOW and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, where he played the unforgettably snooty maitre d’. Lots of TV work followed, including turns on The Golden Girls, Blossom, Star Trek: Enterprise, and Arrested Development. An established writer, he co-created the hit show Sabrina the Teenage Witch and was a staff writer on HBO’s Emmy-winning Real Time with Bill Maher from 2007-2009.
Schmock continues to act from time to time, with appearances on 2 Broke Girls, The Mentalist, and Major Crimes among his most recent credits. You can also find him working on his other passion: art. His official website has sections devoted to his paintings and his political cartoons, the latter of which presently take humorous aim at the current political administration.
9. Molly Hagan – Shayne
With friends like Shayne, who needs enemies? That’s the lesson Amanda learns, somewhat painfully. Minnesota-born actress Molly Hagan plays Amanda’s bestie, whose friendship proves to be conditional. Shayne pressures Amanda to weasel out of the date with Keith, then drops her like a hot potato when she goes through with it anyway. Prior to SKOW, the actress made her big screen debut opposite Chuck Norris in 1985’s Code of Silence.
Hagan is another one of those performers you’ve seen a million times since. She’s been in movies (the Reese Witherspoon comedy Election, the Zac Efron EDM drama We Are Your Friends) and television (everything from Seinfeld to Friends to Desperate Housewives). We would be remiss if we didn’t also mention her work in Air Bud: Seventh Inning Fetch. Crack timing makes her a natural fit for comedy, but really, Hagan can do anything. Her work schedule remains as busy as ever. Last year, she had a role in Clint Eastwood’s Sully, and at the present time can be seen in a recurring role as Patricia Cordero on iZombie.
8. Chynna Phillips – Mia
Here’s some fun trivia. One of the bit players in Some Kind of Wonderful — someone who really doesn’t even get a decent line of dialogue — went on to become incredibly famous in an entirely different area of the entertainment business. We’re talking about Chynna Phillips, who plays Mia, the girl Hardy cheats on Amanda with. Phillips, the daughter of noted singers John and Michelle Phillips, started off as an actress. It didn’t go all that well. Bigger parts in Caddyshack II and The Invisible Kid failed to help her career.
Fortunately, Phillips, like her parents, had a terrific singing voice, so with longtime friends Carnie and Wendy Wilson, she formed the popular ’90s group Wilson Phillips. The chart-topping song “Hold On” was one of several hits for the trio. Phillips went on to have a solo musical career, marry actor Billy Baldwin, and have children. She competed on Dancing with the Stars in 2011, placing 9th. And, of course, she took part in the Wilson Phillips cameo at the end of Bridesmaids. Phillips is set to make a return to the screen with the upcoming faith-based comedy Youth Group, alongside her husband and her brother-in-law, Stephen Baldwin.
7. Jane Elliot – Carol Nelson
Keith’s mom, Carol, doesn’t get as much attention as his father, who is a driving force in an important subplot about Keith not wanting to attend college. Still, she provides a nice, sympathetic counterpoint to his hard-driving dad. Fulfilling this role is actress Jane Elliot. Prior to portraying Carol Nelson, she shared screen time with Elvis Presley in Change of Habit. It was a lucky break early in her career.
Elliot was primarily a soap opera actress beforehand, and work on daytime dramas is largely what she has stuck with since the movie’s release, some intermittent guest spots on shows like Law & Order aside. She had a recurring role on All My Children prior to Some Kind of Wonderful, and has been a regular on General Hospital since 1978. Nearly 800 episodes later, she is still a cast member, playing Tracy Quartermaine. For this role, Elliot won a 1981 Daytime Emmy Award.
6. Candace Cameron – Cindy Nelson
Keith has two little sisters in Some Kind of Wonderful. The younger of them, Cindy, is the one who annoys him the least. She’s played by Candace Cameron, who was ten when she took on the role. It was her motion picture debut, following TV work on St. Elsewhere and Punky Brewster. Her inspiration for getting into acting came from her brother Kirk, the ’80s teen heartthrob who starred in the smash hit sitcom Growing Pains.
We’re guessing you already know what Candace Cameron (now Candace Cameron Bure) got up to after SKOW. In case you’ve been living in a cave, though, we’ll tell you that she found massive sitcom success of her own, starring as D.J. Tanner on the extremely popular family sitcom, Full House. When that show went off the air, she regularly starred in TV movies and, like several of her costars in the film, was a Dancing with the Stars contestant. (Third place! Take that, Lea Thompson!) Nowadays, you’ll find the actress — a devout Christian and committed wife/mother — plugging StarKist tuna in TV commercials and reprising her role as D.J. on the Netflix revival Fuller House, which will soon be back for an extended third season.
5. Maddie Corman – Laura Nelson
Keith’s other sister is Laura. They really don’t get along. In fact, picking on each other is a favored pastime of both characters. Still, when Laura overhears Hardy planning to lure Keith to a party for the purpose of beating him up, she warns her big brother of his impending doom. Maddie Corman was a breakout player in the movie, winning over audiences with her spunk, sarcasm, and eventual kindness. Annoying little sisters have never been so lovable.
Corman has carved out a pretty impressive resume as a character actress since leaving Laura in the rearview mirror. Her film work includes Swingers, Maid in Manhattan, and Begin Again, among others. On TV, you may have spotted her on Frasier, Law & Order: SVU, Younger, and Smash. The actress, who is married and has three children, remains easy to find. Last year, she appeared on an episode of HBO’s Girls, and her most recent credit is the heavily-hyped ABC miniseries, When We Rise.
4. John Ashton – Cliff Nelson
Cliff Nelson only wants one thing: for his son to attend college. The problem is, Keith really isn’t interested in academia, and that inevitably leads to conflict between the two. John Ashton plays Cliff in a performance that is simultaneously fierce and compassionate. The actor, who has extensive theater experience, previously achieved recognition as the uptight Sgt. Taggart in Beverly Hills Cop before stepping into Cliff’s working-class shoes. He has come to be heavily associated with both roles.
A year after Some Kind of Wonderful, Ashton would land a third trademark character, the not-as-bright-as-he-thinks bounty hunter Marvin Dorfler in Midnight Run. Any actor would kill for roles that juicy. From there, he built a career as one of those ultra-dependable actors who brightens up anything he’s in, from the kids’ baseball comedy Little Big League to the adult thriller Gone Baby Gone. The Fort Collins, Colorado resident also had a sports-themed show on a local radio station for a while. Recently, Ashton starred in the indie drama Uncle John, and he has a horror movie called My Little Baby on tap. When he’s not acting, you’re likely to find him on the golf course.
3. Craig Sheffer – Hardy Jenns
York, Pennsylvania’s own Craig Sheffer plays Hardy Jenns, the rich, narcissistic, cheating boyfriend of Amanda Jones. He gets scarily possessive when Keith starts showing interest in her, leading him to hatch a plot to beat his rival up. Sheffer is one of those actors who can play loathsome characters in a way that makes you love to hate them (think James Spader). Some Kind of Wonderful marked a very early role in his career.
Sheffer’s all-American good looks and onscreen charisma landed him a wide array of parts after portraying Hardy. He starred in Clive Barker’s Nightbreed (a horror flick that has gone on to become a cult favorite), worked opposite Brad Pitt in Robert Redford’s acclaimed A River Runs Through It, and was one of the main characters in the alien abduction thriller Fire in the Sky. Sheffer then went through a lengthy period of making little-seen indies (Head Above Water, Sleep With Me) and cheap-o exploitation fare (Hellraiser: Inferno, Turbulence 2: Fear of Flying). On a more upbeat note, he was a regular on the series One Tree Hill, as Keith Scott. Lately, though, he’s still trapped in nonsense like Steven Seagal’s Code of Honor. It’s time for Hollywood to give Craig Sheffer a great part again so that he can remind the world what he’s capable of.
2. Mary Stuart Masterson – Watts
Here’s the dirty little secret about Some Kind of Wonderful: Keith Nelson isn’t really the main character, Watts is. The story may be told from Keith’s point of view, but Watts is the one who delivers its emotional payoff when her long-hidden love for Keith is finally rewarded. Hughes probably didn’t intend for her to steal the show. It happens because Mary Stuart Masterson gives such an authentic and empathetic performance. She’s the heart of the film.
Somewhat astonishingly, SKOW didn’t turn her into a major star. Masterson scored some lead roles from the heat she generated, yet the movies (Chances Are, Bed of Roses) didn’t register, or, as in the case of Benny & Joon, were stolen by another actor (i.e. Johnny Depp). Only Fried Green Tomatoes really hit a nerve with audiences, although that was an ensemble picture. Nonetheless, Masterson continued to do solid work, regardless of how the final product turned out. She also got to try her hand at directing, with the 2007 drama The Cake Eaters, starring Kristen Stewart.
While the film world hasn’t always known what to do with Mary Stuart Masterson, television certainly has. In recent years, she’s had recurring roles on two major hits: Law & Order: SVU, and, currently, NCIS, where she plays Congresswoman Jenna Flemming.
1. Eric Stoltz – Keith Nelson
Eric Stoltz achieved a significant amount of recognition before playing Keith Nelson. Some of it was good, such as his touching performance as a disfigured teen in the drama Mask. Some of it wasn’t so good, like being replaced by Michael J. Fox a month into the shooting of Back to the Future. Regardless, it was clear that Stoltz was a talented young actor, and his work in Some Kind of Wonderful solidified that fact.
In the years since, he has done a lot of terrific work on several different fronts. Stoltz appeared in critically-acclaimed films like Singles, The Waterdance, Killing Zoe, 5 to 7, and Pulp Fiction (where he plays the dealer who plunges a hypodermic needle into Uma Thurman’s chest). His television work includes Chicago Hope, Mad About You, the Battlestar Galactica spinoff Caprica, and, last year, the CBS show Madame Secretary. Some of his work has come from behind the camera, as well. Stoltz has directed episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, Nashville, Glee, and more. Next up are two feature-length films as a director, Confessions of a Teenage Jesus Jerk and Class Rank.
Who’s your favorite Some Kind of Wonderful character? What do you like most about the movie? Hit us up with your thoughts in the comments.
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