The 1980s high school classic “Sixteen Candles” turns 30 years old this week. Released on May 4, 1984, the iconic John Hughes film turned Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall into stars – starting what would become the “Brat Pack” – and helped kick start the careers of John Cusack and others.
To celebrate the film’s 30th anniversary, here are 16 things you may not know about “Sixteen Candles.”
Ally Sheedy nearly played Samantha
It’s hard to imagine “Sixteen Candles” without star Molly Ringwald. In fact, director John Hughes was said to have written the part with Ringwald in mind, but that didn’t mean she was a total shoo-in. During the audition process, Ringwald almost lost the role to her future “Breakfast Club” co-star Ally Sheedy -- and she and also faced competition from the likes of Laura Dern (“Jurassic Park”).
The age gap
Despite the title, “Sixteen Candles” stars Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall were actually both 15 years old during filming. Michael Schoeffling (Jake Ryan), on the other hand, was 23 at the time. It’s an age gap that makes the movie slightly creepy in hindsight. And meanwhile, Geddy Watanabe was 28.
Lord of the Candles
The role of Jake was nearly played by future “Lord of the Rings” star Viggo Mortensen, and not Michael Schoeffling.
"It was between two men... It was Michael Schoeffling, who ended up being cast, and Viggo Mortensen,” Molly Ringwald revealed to Entertainment Weekly in 2011, adding that she was rooting for the former to be cast. “I was 15 years old, and I flew to New York to read with everyone. It got to the (final) Jake Ryan shot, and we had the kissing scene. And Michael Schoeffling did not kiss me during the audition -- Viggo Mortensen did.”
Anthony Michael Hall was cast because of “Vacation”
Director John Hughes first noticed Anthony Michael Hall when he appeared in “National Lampoon’s Vacation” as Rusty. Hughes, who wrote the film, was so impressed by his performance that he knew he had to have him in “Sixteen Candles.”
"For him to upstage Chevy, I thought, was a remarkable accomplishment for a 13-year-old kid," Hughes later said.
Geddy Watanabe has a complex relationship with Long Duk Dong to this day
“Sixteen Candles” is fondly remembered as a coming-of-age classic, but the film was not without controversy. The character of foreign exchange student Long Duk Dong (played by Geddy Watanabe) was widely criticized as being an insensitive to Asian Americans and an offensive racist caricature.
"It took me a while to understand that," Watanabe told NPR in 2008. "In fact, I was working at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and I was accosted a couple of times by a couple of women who were just really irate and angry. They asked, 'How could you do a role like that?' But it's funny, too, because at the same time I laugh at the character. It's an odd animal."
Jake’s license plate
The license plate number on Jake Ryan’s red Porsche 944 (21850) is an Easter egg that only eagle-eyed John Hughes fans will spot. The number is actually a clever nod to Hughes’ birthday: February 18, 1950.
It was the second time John and Joan Cusack co-starred together
"Sixteen Candles" featured siblings John Cusack and Joan Cusack on screen together for the second time in their then-fledgling careers. The pair had previously starred together in 1983's "Class," and would go on to star opposite one another in "Grandview, U.S.A.," "Broadcast News," "Say Anything…," "Grosse Pointe Blank," "Cradle Will Rock," "High Fidelity," "Martian Child," and "War, Inc."
Jim Carrey was considered for the role of the Geek
Canadian funnyman Jim Carrey auditioned and was reportedly considered for the role of Ted (Anthony Michael Hall). It’s safe to say that snagging the role would have drastically altered Carrey’s career trajectory. Anthony Michael Hall became a member of the vaunted Brat Pack and struggled to find work during the 1990s -- Carrey, on the other hand, didn’t hit it big until ten years later with 1994’s “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.”
John and Jim Belushi's mom can be seen in the church scene
The mother of funnymen John and Jim Belushi appears briefly during the church scene. She's not the only one with a "Saturday Night Live" connection in the scene either: The priest is played by Brian Doyle-Murray, brother of Bill Murray.
It was John Hughes’ directorial debut
Before “Sixteen Candles”, director John Hughes had made a name for himself in Hollywood as a screenwriter. His early writing credits included the forgotten “National Lampoon’s Class Reunion” and the classic Chevy Chase comedy “National Lampoon’s Vacation.” “Sixteen Candles” was where he cut his directing teeth, though. Hughes would go on to make iconic '80s films like "The Breakfast Club," "Weird Science," "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," "Planes, Trains & Automobiles, and "Uncle Buck."
Hughes wrote the screenplay over a weekend
Inspired by a headshot he'd seen of young Molly Ringwald, John Hughes wrote the "Sixteen Candles" screenplay in a single weekend.
A cardboard cake
Arguably one of the most famous cakes in cinematic history, the birthday dessert that appears in the film’s final act wasn’t a dessert at all. The cake was actually a prop made out of cardboard. Yum!
‘The Geek’ got the girl
Sam (Molly Ringwald) and Jake (Michael Schoeffling) may have ended up together in the movie, but the perpetually shot down Ted “The Geek” (Anthony Michael Hall) won over Ringwald in real life. The teens briefly dated between the production of “Sixteen Candles” and “The Breakfast Club.”
What happened to Jake Ryan, anyway?
Although they both struggled in the 1990s, Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall went on to much bigger things after “Sixteen Candles.” But what ever happened to Jake Ryan actor Michael Schoeffling? His memorable turn as the high school hunk should have turned him into a star, too. Despite a few notable roles after “Sixteen Candles,” including parts in “Vision Quest,” “Mermaids,” and “Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken,” Schoeffling retired from acting in 1991. By all accounts, Schoeffling is married with two kids and currently works as a carpenter and furniture maker.
“Sixteen Candles” was not a hit
Despite its status as a bona fide cult classic, “Sixteen Candles” was not a major hit when it first hit theatres. The film debuted at No. 2 in its opening weekend, behind the now largely forgotten breakdancing film “Breakin’,” making just $4 million. The film went on to gross $23 million, but it was barely in the top 50 films highest grossing films released in 1984. “Sixteen Candles” owes much of its current reputation to home video sales and almost constant airings on American TV channels like TBS and AMC in the years since.
There was almost a sequel
Back in 2005, star Molly Ringwald was reportedly developing a sequel to the film, titled “32 Candles.” The movie never materialized (it’s possible that the 2009 death of John Hughes may have played some role in “32 Candles” never getting off the ground), so we’ll never know what became of Samantha Baker, Jake Ryan, Ted “The Geek,” and Long Duk Dong.