Already have an account?
Get back to the

16 Fascinating Facts About the ‘Sixteen Candles’ Cast

The '80s teen classic will soon have 40 candles as it celebrates a milestone anniversary!


Few filmmakers had as much of an impact on ’80s pop culture as John Hughes. Sixteen Candles, his 1984 directorial debut, was the film and cast that started it all, introducing the world to the eternally likable Molly Ringwald. In the film, Ringwald played a girl navigating all the ups and downs high school has to offer as she approaches her 16th birthday (which her family forgets, much to her chagrin).

The mix of playful comedy, relatable social dynamics and ’80s style in Sixteen Candles set the template for Hughes and Ringwald’s next collaborations in The Breakfast Club (1985) and Pretty in Pink (1986). The trio of films won over multiple generations of viewers (and inspired many an argument about which movie is best!). Initially Gen X touchstones, they’ve since developed major followings among Millennials and Gen Z as seminal teen texts.

MUST-READ: 20 of the Best Movies from 1984 — Celebrating Their 40th Anniversary This Year

Sixteen Candles will be celebrating its 40th anniversary on May 4 (that’s right, the movie itself will have 40 candles!) and while we have to admit that certain elements of the movie haven’t aged particularly well, we’re marking the major teen movie milestone with 16 fun facts about the Sixteen Candles cast.

Michael Schoeffling, Anthony Michael Hall and Molly Ringwald in 'Sixteen Candles' 1984
Michael Schoeffling, Anthony Michael Hall and Molly Ringwald in Sixteen Candles (1984)Universal Pictures/MovieStillsDB

1. The movie gave Molly Ringwald her big break

Molly Ringwald is the heart and soul of Sixteen Candles, and she felt relatable and real in a way few teen actresses have before or since. The movie was only her third big screen appearance, and it catapulted her to household name status.

Molly Ringwald in 'Sixteen Candles' 1984
Molly Ringwald in Sixteen Candles (1984)Universal Pictures/MovieStillsDB

As soon as John Hughes saw Ringwald’s headshot, he knew he’d found just the girl to play Sam Baker, his protagonist, and he wrote the screenplay with the headshot at his desk. The young actress was also the same age as the character, which made her even more believable in her breakthrough role.

2. Viggo Mortensen almost played Jake Ryan

Viggo Mortensen, the handsome actor best known for intense roles in movies like Green Book, A History of Violence and The Lord of the Rings franchise, came close to landing the role of Sam’s crush, Jake Ryan.

Ringwald even admitted that she hoped he would be part of the Sixteen Candles cast, saying, “He made me weak in the knees. He really did.”

Viggo Mortensen in 1983
Viggo Mortensen, who almost played Jake Ryan, in 1983Ellen Graham/Getty

However, the film’s casting director deemed Mortensen “really interesting,” but ultimately too quiet and not quite right for the role of the most popular boy in school.

MUST-READ: ‘The Breakfast Club’ Cast Then and Now — Catch Up With The 80s Teen Icons

3. The actor who *did* play Jake Ryan left the industry

Michael Schoeffling, the actor who won the role of Jake, seemed to have a teen idol career carved out for him after being in the Sixteen Candles cast. He went on to appear in films like Vision Quest (1985), Slaves of New York (1989) and Mermaids (1990), but quit the industry for good in 1991, making his final appearance in Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken. Since then, Schoeffling has kept a low profile, raising a family and working as a carpenter.

Michael Schoeffling in 'Sixteen Candles' 1984
Michael Schoeffling in Sixteen Candles (1984)Greg Gorman/Universal Pictures/MovieStillsDB

4. Anthony Michael Hall was cast for a surprising reason

Anthony Michael Hall was the Brat Pack go-to for playing nerdy characters. In Sixteen Candles, one of his earliest movies, he plays Ted Farmer, an awkward freshman with a major crush on Sam.

MUST-READ: See the ‘Brat Pack’ Then and Now: The 8 Iconic Actors Who Dominated the ’80s

Anthony Michael Hall in 'Sixteen Candles' 1984
Anthony Michael Hall in Sixteen Candles (1984)Greg Gorman/Universal Pictures/MovieStillsDB

Surprisingly, Hughes cast Hall because he wasn’t the typical geek, saying in a newspaper interview, “Every single kid who came in to read for the part… did the whole, stereotyped high school nerd thing… thick glasses, ball point pens in the pocket, white socks. But when Michael came in he played it straight, like a real human being. I knew right at that moment that I’d found my geek.”

5. Haviland Morris became a real estate agent

Haviland Morris played Caroline Mulford, the popular girl who originally dates Jake Ryan. She then appeared in movies like Who’s That Girl (1987), Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990) and Home Alone 3 (1997), and was in the cast of One Life to Live from 1999 to 2003. Today, she works as a real estate agent in New York City.

Haviland Morris in 'Sixteen Candles' 1984
Haviland Morris in Sixteen Candles (1984)Universal Pictures/MovieStillsDB

6. John and Joan Cusack were both in the Sixteen Candles cast

Before either of them were famous, John Cusack and his sister, Joan, were in the Sixteen Candles cast. They both played small roles as high school nerds.

MUST-READ: John Cusack Movies, Ranked: The 10 Best Films of His 40-Year Career

7. Gedde Watanabe didn’t know how his character would be received

The character of Long Duk Dong, a foreign exchange student meant to serve as comic relief, strikes many viewers as an offensive Asian stereotype. In a 2008 NPR interview, the actor who played him, Gedde Watanabe, confessed that he was “a bit naive” about the controversial role saying, “I was making people laugh. I didn’t realize how it was going to affect people.”

Gedde Watanabe and Debbie Pollack in 'Sixteen Candles' 1984
Gedde Watanabe and Debbie Pollack in Sixteen Candles (1984)Universal Pictures/MovieStillsDB

8. The movie was almost rated R

Sixteen Candles was originally going to be rated R. Hughes wanted his movie to be accessible to a young audience, and put in an appeal to the ratings board, getting it lowered to PG. PG-13 would likely be the best fit, but at the time, that rating didn’t exist yet — it wasn’t introduced until a few months after the film was released.

9. Molly Ringwald’s social life got complicated

You might think being a beloved teen star would make your social life easy. Wrong! In an interview, Ringwald said that because of her newfound status as America’s Sweetheart, “Boys were always too shy to come up to me. If I wanted to go out with anyone, I always had to make the first move.”

10. John Hughes wrote The Breakfast Club first

While Sixteen Candles was Hughes’ directorial debut, he actually wrote the screenplay for The Breakfast Club first, and initially wanted that to be his first movie. However, he ultimately felt that it didn’t have enough commercial appeal, so he wrote Sixteen Candles, a more action-packed and funny film, and made that instead.

Molly Ringwald, John Hughes and Michael Schoeffling behind the scenes of 'Sixteen Candles' 1984
Molly Ringwald, John Hughes and Michael Schoeffling behind the scenes of Sixteen Candles (1984)Universal Pictures/MovieStillsDB

11. Molly Ringwald has mixed feelings about the movie

In an NPR interview, Ringwald said that her view of her ’80s teen movies has changed over the years. As she put it, “I feel very differently about the movies now and it’s a difficult position for me to be in because there’s a lot that I like about them. And of course I don’t want to appear ungrateful to John Hughes, but I do oppose a lot of what is in those movies.”

12. Molly Ringwald contributed to Sam’s wardrobe

Ringwald is an ’80s style icon, and in an interview with The Denver Post, she revealed that her Sixteen Candles wardrobe was inspired by her interest in ska music and said, “I picked out all those clothes. The hat and the layered tops and the dresses. I went to stores on Melrose — can’t remember which ones — with the costume designer and just tried on outfits that I liked.”

Molly Ringwald in 'Sixteen Candles' 1984
Molly Ringwald in Sixteen Candles (1984)Universal Pictures/MovieStillsDB

13. John Hughes wrote a special scene for Paul Dooley

Veteran actor Paul Dooley, who played Sam’s dad, turned down the movie initially, as his character didn’t have much screen time. Hughes ended up writing an extra scene for him, in which he reassures Sam, and it became one of the film’s most emotional moments.

In an AV Club interview, Dooley said, “That became the scene that everybody remembers. All the young girls love that scene. They say to me when they write to me or meet me on the street, ‘I wish you were my dad.'”

14. Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall didn’t initially get along

Reflecting on working with Ringwald in the Sixteen Candles cast, Hall said, “She didn’t have the time of day for me… I was annoying to her!” That all changed as they got to know each other better (it helped when Hughes took them record shopping and they realized they liked the same bands!) and they even briefly dated.

Anthony Michael Hall and Molly Ringwald at a record store during the making of 'Sixteen Candles' 1984
Anthony Michael Hall and Molly Ringwald at a record store during the making of Sixteen Candles (1984)Universal Pictures/MovieStillsDB

15. The house from the movie recently sold

Hughes’ most famous movies are set in Chicago, where he spent his teen years and drew inspiration for his work. In 2022, the Chicago home where Sam and her family lived and many of the film’s most famous scenes took place sold for $1.6 million. We hope the current residents never forget any birthdays!

16. Molly Ringwald had a hilarious moment of life imitating art years later

On Instagram in 2022, Ringwald shared a screenshot of a text message exchange in which her mom forgot her birthday — just like in Sixteen Candles! Mother and daughter were both amused by the situation, and the actress responded with “Life imitates art” and a crying with laughter emoji.

Another fun fact about Ringwald’s birthday? It’s the same as Hughes’. That’s right, both the writer/director and his muse were born on February 18!

Read on for more ’80s favorites!

‘Footloose’ Just Turned 40! Here, 10 Behind-The-Scenes Secrets About the Movie

Matt Dillon Young: A Look Back at the Handsome Actor’s Days as the Ultimate ’80s Teen Idol

From ’80s Teen Star to Boutique Owner: A Look at the Surprising Career of Phoebe Cates

Use left and right arrow keys to navigate between menu items. Use right arrow key to move into submenus. Use escape to exit the menu. Use up and down arrow keys to explore. Use left arrow key to move back to the parent list.