14 Facts About Pretty in Pink

Molly Ringwald, Andrew McCarthy, and Jon Cryer in Pretty in Pink (1986).
Molly Ringwald, Andrew McCarthy, and Jon Cryer in Pretty in Pink (1986). / Paramount Pictures

By the mid-1980s, John Hughes had established himself as the king of teen movies with hits like Sixteen Candles, Weird Science, and The Breakfast Club. Pretty In Pink, Hughes’s final collaboration with teen queen Molly Ringwald, was released on February 28, 1986, and with a $7 million budget, it grossed over $40.4 million at the box office.

The film became controversial because of a new ending, but it also became synonymous with the across-the-tracks girl winning over the cute, popular guy. Hughes wrote the script and co-executive-produced the film, and Howard Deutch directed (the two would re-team the following year for Some Kind of Wonderful). More than 35 years later, Pretty In Pink remains one of cinema's most venerable teen flicks.

1. John Hughes named the film Pretty In Pink because Molly Ringwald liked The Psychedelic Furs's song.

The movie is named after The Psychedelic Furs’ “Pretty In Pink," a song Molly Ringwald told Hughes about. (For the movie, the band recorded a poppier version.) “The title stuck in my head,” Hughes told Ringwald in a 1986 interview with Seventeen. “I thought about your predisposition toward pink. I wrote Pretty In Pink the week after we finished Sixteen Candles. I so desperately hate to end these movies that the first thing I do when I’m done is write another one, then I don’t feel sad about having to leave and everybody going away.” 

The song was not a hit when it was initially released in 1981, but when the movie came out, it launched the Furs’s career in the U.S. Despite its hit factor, Furs lead singer Richard Butler thinks Hughes misinterpreted the meaning of the dark song. “[The movie] was nothing like the spirit of the song at all,” Butler said. “It’s really hard to say whether it was damaging for us. I suppose we got tied in with the story of the film, and if that’s what people thought the story was about and didn’t look much further than that, they were getting a very false impression.”

2. The studio wanted Jennifer Beals to play Andie.

Although Hughes wrote the role of Andie with Ringwald in mind, Paramount wanted a bigger name like Jennifer Beals, who had found great success at the time with Flashdance. “I remember actually hearing that Jennifer Beals was in the running, and it was sort of upsetting to me to imagine her in that,” Ringwald said in the book You Couldn’t Ignore Me If You Tried. “I felt like she was already an adult by then. It just didn’t seem possible, so I was really glad when I was approached about it.” Deutch and Hughes met with Beals, but she turned it down. Instead, the guys stuck with their first instinct and hired Ringwald, who was grateful. “I couldn’t imagine not doing the movie,” she said.

3. Howard Deutch wanted Anthony Michael Hall to play Duckie, but Molly Ringwald wanted Robert Downey Jr.

Deutch approached Anthony Michael Hall to play Duckie, but Hall felt that Pretty In Pink was just rehashing Sixteen Candles. “How are you going to compete with Michael Hall?” Deutch said in You Couldn’t Ignore Me If You Tried. “Hall, after Breakfast Club was, like, the greatest kid in the universe. And Duckie was Michael Hall. But he wouldn’t do it.”

4. Jon Cryer's casting led to a big change to the movie's ending.

Originally, Pretty In Pink ended with Andie and Duckie ending up together. But that changed when Jon Cryer was cast. “Molly dropped the bomb that she would’ve been fine with the original ending if Robert Downey Jr. had played Duckie, but since it was me, she just couldn’t see it,” Cryer said on the film’s 2006 Everything’s Duckie DVD edition. “It was like, ‘Wow, so I’m that unattractive?’ Thanks, Mol!”

Though Deutch wanted Cryer to play Duckie, the director seemed to later regret it. “What I learned was that there are no rules, in the sense that life isn’t fair,” Deutch said in You Couldn’t Ignore Me. “Duckie should have the girl and it was all built for that and it was designed for that. And I could have ended that way, had I not f***ed with one thing: I cast Jon Cryer.”

5. Molly Ringwald thought Andrew McCarthy was "cuted" and pushed for his casting.

The filmmakers wanted Andie’s love interest, Blane, to be “a hunky, square-jawed jock,” but Ringwald herself wasn’t attracted to that sort of guy. Ringwald had some say in the casting, and after Andrew McCarthy auditioned she told Hughes and Deutch her thoughts on him. “That’s the kind of guy I would fall in love with,” she said in You Couldn’t Ignore Me. They thought he was a “twerpy guy” and weren’t interested.

“I did push for him to get hired,” Ringwald said. “I thought he was cute and I thought, if I thought he was cute, then Andie would think he was cute! I liked how he wasn’t typical, and he seemed so right for that part. Andrew McCarthy has always seemed so tortured with indecision, at least at that time, and so was Blane, who really is a tortured soul. And Andrew and his eyes—there’s just nobody who has those tortured eyes.”

6. The original "Duckie Dance" was set to Mick Jagger, not Otis Redding.

What’s now known as “The Duckie Dance” was part of Cryer’s audition process, for a scene where Duckie entertains Andie and Iona (Annie Potts) at the record store, Trax. The script reads “Duckie comes in lip-synching a song with great energy,” so Cryer chose the 1984 Mick Jagger/Michael Jackson tune “State of Shock” and did his best impressions. “It was meant to be comedic, trust me,” Cryer told Entertainment Weekly in 2006. “I performed a chunk of it for [Deutch], and he thought it was very funny. And he was like, 'Just do 'Start Me Up,' because I think the Michael Jackson portion was just too ridiculous for him. Then we couldn’t get the rights to ‘Start Me Up’ anyway. It was Howie who found the Otis Redding song ['Try a Little Tenderness']. Nobody really anticipated that I was gonna go to town on it the way that I did. Although, I completely blame Howie, because he got me together with Kenny Ortega the night before [we shot the scene]. And getting together with a seriously world-class choreographer, you’re gonna come up with something.”

In 2016, Deutch told Entertainment Weekly why he picked Redding’s song for the scene. “It needed to be a heartbreaking song that would express just how Duckie felt—how hurt he is and how much he’s in love with this woman. And we fall in love with him because we all related to that.” They filmed so many takes that Cryer said he tore through his “Duckie shoes.”

7. Jon Cryer devised a couple of Pretty In Pink's now-iconic lines.

In one scene, bullies push Duckie into the girls’ bathroom. “So this is what it looks like,” he says to a group of women in there. “We don’t have a candy machine in the boys’ room,” referring to a tampon machine. “The one time I was in the girls’ room in my junior high school I saw this machine on the wall, and I was like, ‘What is this? They have a candy machine? This is fantastic!’” Cryer admitted in You Couldn’t Ignore Me. Cryer’s also responsible for the Blane appliance line. “His name is Blane? That’s a major appliance, that’s not a name,” Duckie balks to Andie when she tells him her date’s name.

8. Andrew McCarthy had to wear a wig to film Pretty In Pink's new ending.

After it was decided the filmmakers needed to reshoot the ending, McCarthy was called away from The Boys of Winter, a play he was doing in New York that required him to shave his head for his role as a soldier. “It looks like a rodent on my head,” McCarthy said of the hairpiece. “I’m sure if they had known we would still be talking about the movie 20 years later, they would’ve paid for a better wig.” Deutch concurred: “It’s a horrible wig. He looked like an axe murderer.”

9. Pretty in Pink's cast and crew had mixed feelings about the new ending.

The original ending saw Andie choosing Duckie over Blane at the prom, and Andie and Duckie happily twirling to David Bowie’s “Heroes.” (In real life, Ringwald had the stomach flu and almost passed out during the scene.) When a test audience saw the ending, they literally booed at it, saying they wanted Andie to end up with Blane. “That shocked everyone because the architecture of the story was that love endures and overcomes everything,” Deutch told HuffPost. “The girls in the test screening didn’t go for that. They didn’t care about the politics; they wanted her to get the cute boy. And that was it.”

Hughes came up with the idea that Blane would attend the prom alone. “That gave him the breadcrumbs to follow the rest of the ending so that [Blane and Andie] ended up together,” Deutch said. “But that wasn’t an easy thing to unravel.” It took three weeks to film the new ending, in which Andie friend-zones Duckie and chases after Blane. Deutch felt it was “heartbreaking.” “I thought it was unfair and wrong, and that’s not what the movie was intended to be,” he said in You Couldn’t Ignore Me. “It felt immoral.”

Cryer also felt the ending wasn’t exactly right. “I was disappointed,” he told Entertainment Weekly. “You sorta go, ‘Oh, guess I’m not the leading man.’ But I think it was kind of appropriate. Duckie always thought he was the leading man, and that was his fatal flaw.” In You Couldn’t Ignore Me, Cryer said that “I was a little hurt because you feel it reflects on you as an actor, because you didn’t get an audience to invest enough in an Andie and Duckie relationship in such a way that it would be satisfying that they would end up together.” However, Cryer recognizes the point of the new ending was to prove you could bridge the gap between classes. “You can’t give people the impression that it can’t be bridged. You can’t send a message that interclass romance just can’t possibly work.” Pretty in Pink producer Lauren Shuler Donner thinks, “it’s a good message. It’s Cinderella, and I think it will always resonate that way,” she said in You Couldn’t Ignore Me. And McCarthy considers the ending “tapping into the fantasy of what young women want.” (Which is apparently a guy wearing a terrible wig.)

10. Jon Cryer didn't think Molly Ringwald or Andrew McCarthy liked him.

“Molly and Andrew were very reserved people and I’m a very outgoing person,” Cryer told CBS News Sunday Morning. “That could have worked out great, that dynamic, but it didn’t. I think they were irritated by me from day one.” Cryer elaborated to MSN: “I think I made them uncomfortable. They would later label me as ‘needy.’ Not untrue, actually. What I later found out from the director, Howie Deutch, was we were kind of cast to take advantage of that, that it was supposed to be an uncomfortable three-way relationship. And that happened. [Molly’s] so reserved that I always took that as that means she hates me.”

In You Couldn’t Ignore Me, McCarthy confirmed the neediness. “Jon was very Duckie-like when we were making that movie,” he said. “He was very sweet, and very needy, and I had no patience for it.”

11. James Spader played Steff so well in his audition that he almost repelled the producers.

According to You Couldn’t Ignore Me, when Spader auditioned for Deutch and Hughes, he completely immersed himself in the jerky character of Steff. He smoked a cigarette in the room, and crushed the cig on his way out. Hughes and Deutch almost didn’t cast him until they realized just how much he embodied the role. After Spader got the part, Cryer complimented Spader’s prior works. “I figure I got a lock on this teenage a**hole thing,” Spader told Cryer.

12. Andie's prom dress was created from two dresses.

Costume designer Marilyn Vance bought the dresses from two locations in L.A., cut them apart, then reassembled them the two into one pink dress. Unfortunately, Ringwald “hated the pink dress,” Vance told Yahoo!. “She hated it with such a passion.” Thankfully, Hughes disagreed. “I said, ‘I think John should be involved in this. I really do,’” Vance said. “It’s just important enough for him to make that decision. And he said, ‘No way. This is it.’ That was the character. It wasn’t that he loved it or didn’t love it. It was just right for her character.”

Vance also curated Duckie’s over-the-top wardrobe. “Marilyn put me in these insane outfits, and at first I thought why does it have to be so goofy? And then I realized, of course, that’s Duckie’s f**k you to the world,” Cryer said in You Couldn’t Ignore Me.

13. OMD had two days to write "If You Leave."

The British band had originally penned a finale song called “Goddess of Love” for the movie, which appears on their record, The Pacific Age. But when the ending was re-shot, they scrambled to write a new song. “We worked until 4 a.m. writing a rough version and sent a motorbike to Paramount,” band co-founder Andy McCluskey told Songfacts. “John heard it, liked it, and our manager phoned us at 8 a.m. and told us to go back in and mix it.”

But there was a problem: “The song had to be 120 BPM ‘cuz that’s the tempo of ‘Don’t You (Forget About Me),’ which is the track they actually shot the prom scene to,” McCluskey said. “Unfortunately, the editor obviously had no sense of rhythm because they are all dancing out of time in the final film.” The song peaked at number four on the U.S. charts and, to this day, is their best known song even though they have many songs in their discography. “It’s a blessing to have such a big hit, but a shame that it overshadows so many other good songs for the U.S. audience,” he said. “We have many European fans who hate the song.”

14. Molly Ringwald thinks Duckie is gay. Jon Cryer does not.

During a 2010 Entertainment Weekly reunion, Ringwald said Duckie would’ve probably come out by now, and Cryer joked Duckie would’ve shown up to Gay Pride wearing his suspenders and no shirt. Then he said, “I never quite saw him that way, but perhaps that’s because I’m married now.”

“Duckie doesn’t know he’s gay,” Ringwald told Out. “I think he loves Andie in the way that [my gay best friend] always loved me.” Cryer contradicted Ringwald in an interview with Zap2It: “I want to stand up for all the slightly effeminate dorks that are actually heterosexual. Just ‘cause the gaydar is going off, doesn’t mean your instruments aren’t faulty. I’ve had to live with that, and that’s okay.”

Though Duckie didn’t get the girl, Ringwald told Entertainment Weekly she thinks “Andie and Blane probably did not end up together, but Duckie and Andie ended up friends for life.”