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Yes, Molly Ringwald starred in all of your favorite ’80s movies – “Pretty in Pink,” “The Breakfast Club” and “Sixteen Candles” – but don’t even go there. At least that’s the cautionary heads up I get from her press people, that I should refrain from asking any such questions. Even Ringwald acknowledges she’s kind of over it. Heck, she’s not even a fan of ’80s music anymore. That’s how bad it’s gotten.
But then the Brat Pack star starts gabbing about the original “Pretty in Pink” script and Duckie and Jon Cryer’s “gay vibe,” and she keeps going and going. And then she goes some more.
“This has nothing to do with my jazz show,” Ringwald remarks, noting the tour that brings her to West Bloomfield on March 20, “but you caught me in a chatty mood.”
Having gone from teen-movie star to jazz crooner, and writing books in between, you’ve had one of the most interesting career trajectories. Did you expect to end up here, with a jazz album, at this point in your career?
Well, I certainly don’t feel like I’ve ended up anywhere. This is something that I am doing as a side project. I’m still very much an actress and will continue to act and write, so it’s just something I do in addition to, but it’s hard for people to wrap their heads around that.
In our society – and not to say you’re doing this – people really want to identify, like, “OK, now you’re in this box, now you’re in that box,” and try to make sense of it. Like you said, I’ve had a really interesting career trajectory and have done a lot of different things, and this is just one of the things that I am doing – but this is not what I’m going to exclusively do.
It’s funny you refer to people putting you in these boxes, because if anyone can relate it’s the gay community.
Of course. I think it’s just what we do, and sometimes the boxes are a little bigger or they’re a little nicer, but it’s true – we all do it, and how I perceive people is something I try to watch out for. It’s just human instinct. We want to identify what it is, and then we want to judge it.
For the album, “Except Sometimes,” you selected lesser-known standards, but aside from “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” from “The Breakfast Club,” what’s your relationship with these songs?
I grew up mostly listening to traditional jazz, which I still love, but it’s really kind of like my dad’s music, which is pretty old-timey. The music that I do is still the Great American Songbook, but I think my band is technically considered hard bop. It’s more modern. But the songs – they’re just songs that I grew up loving and listening to throughout the years. I know a tremendous amount of songs just by loving this music, and I always thought that if I ever put a jazz band together, these are the songs that I want to sing. And then I did.
You sing, you act. What’s the relationship between the two when you’re reinterpreting classics?
I started out as a singer and I started out with traditional jazz, and then I moved to musical theater – and this is during the age of “Annie” the first time around – so I was a real belter and very focused on holding a note when I was younger. As I’ve gotten older I’ve really approached the music more as an actor and as a writer, sort of relishing the words and their meaning and what I’m saying. I mean, I can still hold a note if I want to, but it’s not actually the thing I find most interesting in vocalists.
You brought up “Annie,” so I have to ask if you’ve seen the trailer for the new adaptation that was just released.
It’s funny you should ask! About 10 minutes ago I was watching that with my 4-year-old daughter, and it’s so funny: I guess I’m so focused on other stuff, and I met with (“Annie” director) Will Gluck’s company yesterday and I knew that he was doing “Annie,” but I didn’t realize that they were doing a modern adaptation of it. It totally threw me! I’m like, “Whaaaat?! Why is Cameron Diaz dressed like that? What’s going on?!” It definitely threw me. It looks like it’s gonna be good.
I do love Will.
Me too. I also like the idea that it was originally set in the Great Depression era, but we’ve really kind of gone through another depression.
Have you worked with Will?
Not yet. I’d like to. I just met with him yesterday, so hopefully we’ll do something together.
Now you’ve got me thinking of “Easy A,” which Will directed, and other recent teen movies like “Pitch Perfect.” You were a teen star, and you had a big part in many of the most revered teen films ever made, so what’re your thoughts on the more recent ones? Have you seen them?
Well, I had to see “Pitch Perfect” because they used a lot of “The Breakfast Club” and they had to get my permission to do that. It was funny, because I get asked to use stuff all the time and I’m trying to pull back a bit in terms of just the usage, so after I made that decision they asked me and I was like, “No, I’ve decided not to,” and they just kept coming to me (saying), “Please, please!” Finally the producer was like, “Please just watch it.” Then they sent me a videotape and I was like, “This is kind of sweet.” And it was such a big part of the movie that I felt it would be really hard if they didn’t (use it)!
My daughter loves it. She’s actually seen “Pitch Perfect” but she hasn’t seen “The Breakfast Club.” I feel like I’m gonna have to show it to her pretty soon because it’s gotten spoiled.
There’s a “Pitch Perfect” sequel that’s calling your name. You should get on that.
Oh, I will! (Laughs)
So, it’s obvious that you have a special relationship with the gay community. You have for a while. How much of a role has the gay community played in your career?
Well, it’s definitely requited. It’s a mutual love, you know. It really goes back to those movies and what you were talking about: feeling like you’re in a box or feeling like an outsider. Anyone who’s ever felt like an outsider or like they didn’t belong really gravitated toward those movies. Also, I started doing musical theater at a really young age and was doing “Annie” in the first West Coast production in San Francisco and LA, and all the dressers were gay. That was the first time I found out what that meant. I feel like I’ve had some connection to the gay community for a really long time, and I’ve always felt really comfortable and accepted and loved in the gay community.
You’ve had Duckies in your life since you were a little girl, then.
Mm-hmm! The person who’s the godfather of my elder daughter Matilda is a character that Duckie (from “Pretty in Pink”) was based on. I’m sure you’ve heard me saying that I think Duckie’s gay – and, you know, everybody kind of loving or hating that – but the real person is gay and he’s married to a man and I’m the godmother to his daughter that he just had by open adoption. So, I mean, I had a reason for saying that, because the way that character was presented. A lot of gay boys that don’t know they’re gay yet do get crushes on their best friend. They sort of idealize their best friend like Duckie did with Andie and like my friend Matt did with me.
After you claimed that Duckie was gay to the press, Jon Cryer said he thought otherwise.
What did he say? Well, obviously, I think … I think Jon has always been … there’s something, and I guess now you would call it “metrosexual.” You know, he kind of had the gay vibe but is not gay.
Jon basically said that not all effeminate nerds are gay.
(Laughs) Yeah, that’s true. That is true. But you know what, it’s interesting because in the original script, the original idea was to have Duckie and Andie get together – and by the way, this is all me saying this. I don’t know or think that Jon was even aware of any of this. Like, I think he didn’t totally understand. Now, if he was here to talk about it, he would probably disagree with me, but anyway … in the original script I was supposed to end up with Duckie but we so didn’t have that relationship. The movie would’ve been a little bit different with other people who were up for the same part. Robert Downey Jr. was up for that part and we did have that kind of chemistry, so I don’t know.
From what I gather, you don’t really like talking about the ’80s anymore.
Yeah, well, you know. It’s funny, the one kind of music that I really don’t listen to hardly ever except for a few selective people is ’80s music. And it’s so big right now! And people love it so much. But I don’t know. If I listen to music, I’m usually listening to jazz or, if I go back, maybe ’90s sometimes, but ’80s? Not!
Because you’re over that era?
Maybe! Yeah, maybe. I don’t know. I mean, there are things that I like, there are certain fashion things I love about the ’80s, but I don’t know – maybe it’s just the saturation. I’ve heard it so much! It’s like Motown – I could stand to never hear a Motown song again. You can put it in a vault for 200 years and then bring it out again and that would be OK. I mean, how many times do you really need to hear “Where Did Our Love Go”?
Before we part, I’d like to congratulate you on surviving child-stardom.
Oh, thank you!
No meltdown, no crotch shots. How did you manage?!
Yeah, I know, I know. My 10-year-old daughter is, of course, really interested and intrigued by acting and celebrity and all of that stuff, and I’m of course trying to protect her from that. “You can do it when you’re older,” and she’s like, “But whyyy?! You did it! You’re OK!” and I’m like, “I’m an anomaly.”
An Evening with Molly Ringwald. 8 p.m. March 20. Berman Center for the Performing Arts, 6600 W. Maple Road, West Bloomfield Township. http://www.theberman.org.