Behind the Scenes with the Costume Designer of “Pretty in Pink”

Posted on February 17, 2016 at 3:37 pm

My friend Jen Chaney had a great interview with Marilyn Vance, who designed the wonderful costumes in the Molly Ringwald/Andrew McCarthy/Jon Cryer classic, “Pretty in Pink.”

“I relate personally to this film,” says the Brooklyn native, who grew up, like Andie, without a lot of money, but with an enormous amount of creativity when it came to fashion.

“My mother was buying me clothing, and I hated her taste,” she recalls. “But I never wanted to hurt her feelings. So I would go to my room and cut everything up and remake it. I taught myself how to do that.”

She talks about sweet-talking Jon Cryer into Duckie’s edgy outfit. And the biggest surprise in the interview is this:

The wealthy kids in Pretty in Pink were, ironically, largely outfitted in clothing purchased at K-Mart.

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Behind the Scenes Film History

The Breakfast Club — 30 Years Later

Posted on February 20, 2015 at 3:43 pm

Copyright Universal 1985
Copyright Universal 1985

“The Breakfast Club,” is one of the best of the John Hughes films about teenagers. No American filmmaker portrayed the lives of contemporary teenagers with as much affection, sensitivity, and understanding as Hughes, with Molly Ringwald the very best of his favorite group of actors. In The Breakfast Club, five high school kids spend a Saturday in detention. In the highly stratified world of high school, each of them is in a different group and no other circumstance would bring them together. There is the popular girl (Ringwald), the rebel (Judd Nelson), the jock (Emilio Estevez), the nerd (Anthony Michael Hall), and the loner (Ally Sheedy). Forced to spend time in the same room, they argue, insult each other, and then confide in each other more honestly than they could feel comfortable doing with the people they think of as part of their group of friends. It has become such a classic that it played a crucial part in the recent hit “Pitch Perfect.”  The cast of “Glee” paid tribute as well. And the movie is referred to in the opening moments of today’s new high school movie, “The DUFF.”

Molly Ringwald talked to Time Magazine about her thoughts three decades later.

There really hasn’t been anything to replace it. It’s kind of a classic because it all takes place in the one day, so there’s just one wardrobe. There were less chances for it to look incredibly dated. The theme is something that is still really relevant today, which is that no matter who you are, no matter where you come from, everyone kind of feels the same, which is that they don’t belong. And that’s a sort of powerful theme.

On the other hand, she notes, if the breakfast club met today, the kids would not talk to each other. They would be too busy texting.

E! has a list of “Breakfast Club” quotes that still ring true today.  And critic Christy Lemire revisited the film and found it held up pretty well, even though she now sees it as a critic and a mother, rather than a contemporary of the characters.

I’m happy to report that, three decades later, “The Breakfast Club” remains timeless. It still reflects the narcissistic torment of teen angst: the feeling that nobody understands what you’re going through (certainly not your parents) and that your troubles are all-encompassing and insurmountable. It’s still consistently funny and endlessly quotable. Hughes had an unparalleled knack for writing teenagers — hyper-verbal characters full of self-aware, sharp humor who were also capable of making themselves vulnerable and revealing their hearts. It’s paced beautifully and moves seamlessly in tone from light moments to heavier ones.

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Film History School Stories about Teens

Interview: Matthew Llewellyn, Composer for Wally Lamb’s “Wishin’ and Hopin'”

Posted on December 20, 2014 at 9:40 am

Wishin’ and Hopin’ is Lifetime movie airing December 21, 2014, based on the novel by Wally Lamb. It stars Molly Ringwald and Meat Loaf with narration by Chevy Chase. Composer Matthew Llewellyn was kind enough to answer my questions about creating a score for this nostalgic holiday story.

How did you first come to this project and what were the guidelines for the score?

Copyright Matthew Llewellyn 2014
Copyright Matthew Llewellyn 2014

I first heard about the project back in June from producer Andrew Gernhard and director Colin Theys of Synthetic Cinema International. That’s when I learned that the film was to be based on the New York Times best-selling novel by Wally Lamb. It sounded like an amazing opportunity to write a period-sounding score that could be fun and light but also very dramatic and emotional. This would be a vastly different score from our last collaboration on the Chiller TV (NBCUniversal) horror film “Deep in the Darkness”. There weren’t any specific guidelines for the score other than it needed to be very thematic and really evoke the holiday spirit.

What did you to do evoke the retro/nostalgic vibe of the story?

The first step was to write memorable themes that could reappear throughout the film and help tell the story. Initially, we were only going to have a few themes just for the major characters (Felix, the Nuns, and Rosalie) but as I started getting further along in the composing process I ended up writing many more themes. (Madame Frechette and Zhenya) The most important thing I needed to do was to nail the tone of the film. We discussed a variety of styles for the score and eventually landed on a traditional orchestra sound. It just seemed like the right choice for this kind of movie and I couldn’t be happier with the result.

What are the special challenges of scoring a film set at Christmas? Do you make use of some of the season’s traditional music?

There was quite a bit of period music in the film that really helped ground it in the 1960’s. Before I started composing, Colin and I kicked around the idea of re-recording certain Christmas songs and possibly producing new arrangements but the schedule was too tight so they licensed all the songs heard in the film and I composed the film’s original score around them. I didn’t use any specific Christmas material in my score, however it was important that my score sounded “one” with the songs.

Molly Ringwald is the daughter of a musician and a singer. Did she have any comments or suggestions? Or did you begin work after all the shooting was done.

I started working on the film during the editing process so I’m not sure how involved she was in making those decisions.

Were there any scenes that were especially challenging to score?

The hardest scene to score was the climax of the film when the children have their Tableau Vivant performance. This was especially challenging because in the scene there are a group of kids singing on stage while all hell is breaking loose backstage. My job for this scene was to not only accentuate the madness backstage but also keep the energy up and hectic when the picture went back to the kids on stage.

What was the first score you ever worked on and what did you learn from that experience?

I actually didn’t start writing music until college so it’s hard for me to pinpoint what my first score actually was. I do however remember my first scoring project at Berklee, called “Salt Marsh”. It was a very short scene, only about ninety seconds, of birds in the wild. I thought about posting it recently as a “throwback-Thursday” on Facebook but it doesn’t represent my work today as a composer.

What music do you like to listen to at this time of year?

I have an extremely eclectic taste in music; I actually went to KROQ’s Almost Acoustic Christmas a few days ago and saw some of my favorite bands like Alt-J, Weezer, and No Doubt. I am definitely a sucker for Christmas music though, being a big fan of the classics. I find myself listening to a lot of Frank Sinatra around the holidays; he will always be the king in my book.

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Based on a book Composers Music Television

The Brat Pack Becomes a Book Club

Posted on September 23, 2012 at 3:58 pm

Andrew McCarthy, now a distinguished travel writer as well as an alumnus of Brat Pack movies like Pretty in Pink, has a new book called The Longest Way Home: One Man’s Quest for the Courage to Settle Down, the story of his journey from a restless traveler who could not make a commitment to his girlfriend of four years to a devoted husband and father.  Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia, says “McCarthy ponders some of the biggest and most frightening questions surrounding intimacy: How does a loner connect? How does a traveler settle down? How do we merge into families without losing ourselves? The answer seems to be that all these things are impossible…and yet somehow we do it anyway. There is much to be learned, and much to be admired, in this elegant, thoughtful story.”  His article about a camping trip with his son that required some chocolate bribes is featured in the current Parade Magazine.

McCarthy joins his “Pretty in Pink” co-star, Molly Ringwald, whose collection, When It Happens to You: A Novel in Stories, has received excellent reviews.  Her recent appearance at The Moth, telling a story about her daughter’s difficulties in school, is available on iTunes.

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Molly Ringwald Says Writing is Like Acting

Posted on August 25, 2012 at 3:59 pm

Molly Ringwald, star of the John Hughes films Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, and The Breakfast Club, is now 44 years old and a mother in real life and on “The Secret Life of the American Teenager.”  And she is the author of a new book, When It Happens to You: A Novel in Stories. In a piece that appeared in the New York Times this week she discusses the connection between acting and writing.

The appeal of diving into a character has always been the back story: everything that my character has been through up to the point when the audience first encounters her. I have eagerly invented intricate histories that I shared with no one — except during an occasional late night boozy discussion with other like-minded and obsessive actors.

I remember writing one such biography before filming “The Breakfast Club”; it is one of my greatest regrets that I didn’t think of saving it for posterity…What I do recall was imagining my character Claire’s unhappy home life. There were hints to it in the script that John Hughes had written — “It’s like any minute … divorce” — but no explanation was given as to why the parents were divorcing. I envisaged the fights (an overly “social” drinking mother, an emotionally crippled and withdrawn father) that Claire endured along with her older brother (I gave her an older brother whose existence never made it into the film).

It is fascinating to consider that the same imagination that goes into creating the performances we see on screen can be used to create a novel — and that some day that novel could become a screenplay that could inspire some actors to create their own expanded views of the characters’ lives to make their performances richer, deeper, and more complex.



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