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‘Pretty in Pink’ Director Settles That Duckie Ending Debate

Should Andie have picked Duckie or Blane? Director Howard Deutch explains.

Paramount Pictures

Pretty in Pink may be one of those timeless movies, a favorite of audiences – and families — across generations, but it opened a mind-boggling 35 years ago, on February 28, 1986. The drama – which centers on a love triangle between poor girl Andie (Molly Ringwald), rich kid Blane (Andrew McCarthy), and charming semi-loser Duckie (Jon Cryer) – was written and produced by the late John Hughes, and directed by first-timer Howard Deutch. He’d earned his shot at features after helming music videos for Billy Joel’s “Keeping the Faith” and Billy Idol’s “Flesh for Fantasy.” The film, with its tremendous music, an off-the-hook supporting cast (James Spader, Harry Dean Stanton, Annie Potts, Andrew Dice Clay, Kristy Swanson, Gina Gershon), and infamously re-shot prom sequence, remains as heartfelt and winsome as ever.

Deutch subsequently directed two other films written and/or produced by Hughes, namely Some Kind of Wonderful and The Great Outdoors, and married Some Kind of Wonderful’s leading lady, Lea Thompson, with whom he has two daughters, Madelyn and Zoey, both also in the business. Beyond the Hughes films, Deutch directed the underappreciated Keanu Reeves football comedy The Replacements and dozens of TV shows, ranging from Melrose Place and True Blood to The Strain and Young Sheldon. Deutch recently chatted with Fatherly to support Paramount Home Entertainment’s February 23 release of the John Hughes 5-Movie Collection, a Blu-ray set that includes Pretty in Pink, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, and the Blu-ray debuts of Some Kind of Wonderful and She’s Having a Baby. The discs include hours of extras, most of it previously available, though a new Deutch conversation accompanies Some Kind of Wonderful. During our interview, Deutch recounted collaborating with Hughes, shared his thoughts about Pretty in Pink’s revised ending, and proudly marveled at the careers of his wife and daughters…

What’s it been like watching Some Kind of Wonderful and especially Pretty in Pink endure for decades and become pop-culture classics?

I’m not that aware because I’m in the bubble of this business and Hollywood. To me, it always feels like “Can I get another job? Can I stay working?” It’s never, “Oh, I was involved in something that endured for a long time.” Unless it’s something like this where I’m doing an interview or I’m out in Hollywood and someone mentions something, it’s too close. I don’t ever relate to it like that.

You’d directed music videos, but Pretty in Pink was your first feature. Were you ready, terrified… both?

Totally terrified. I felt ready, but, of course, terrified. And lucky, very lucky.

Directors give notes to actors, but what kind of notes did John Hughes, as a producer and working with you as a first-timer, give you?

He was so supportive. It was the first movie he produced, so it was a big deal to him, because part of him was so creative, a big part. The other part was entrepreneurial. It was very important to him that this hat he wore was a positive experience and people respected him as a producer. He was there for me completely, and never gave me notes. We’d discuss scenes. I’d get a call at 3 in the morning. “What do you think of this?” But it was always collaborative. It was never, “Do it this way,” or “Don’t do this.” I remember standing with him and (director of photography) Tak Fujimoto, shooting the prom, and it was something about staging. Tak said, “How do you want it? Do you want it this way or that way?” John was waiting for me to decide. Tak looked at John, and said, “What do you think? Which way should we do it?” John said, “Howie?” I said, “I’m not sure.” He said “Well, make a decision. Any decision is better than no decision.” He wouldn’t decide for me. He was always deferential like that, open and available. He was an amazing producer.

Since you’re talking to Fatherly, what kind of a dad do you feel Jack (Harry Dean Stanton) was to Andie?

He was, on the most important level, a great dad. He loved her, and he was honest with her in the end. You could see what kind of character she had, and she got that from her father.

Let’s discuss the ending. Did you want to see Andie with Duckie or Blane? And did the film you’d made until the ending was re-shot, tip your hand as to who you were rooting for?

The original ending was Duckie gets the girl. That was what the script was, and what I was executing. When we showed it to the audience, they rejected it. They wanted her to get the cute boy she wanted. To them, forget the politics, it was, “She wants the cute boy. She wants Andrew.” We had to figure out a way to change the entire structure so that it worked.

How well did the revised ending work for you?

It worked better. We were in the audience, and when you see them go crazy as opposed to be unhappy, that works for me. I’m not that guy, as a director, who’s like, “Well, I don’t care about the audience.” I do care. I had a great teacher, Milton Katselas, who used to critique me whenever I was like, “But the audience!” He’d say, “Screw the audience! What do YOU want?” What I want is for the audience to be happy. A big part of my job is entertainment. If they aren’t entertained and satisfied, if they feel the experience isn’t rewarding and satisfying… That’s an important part of what I do. So, I was very happy with the new ending.

If the movie were made today, would Andie end up with Duckie or Blane?

Oh, I think it’s the same. She’d end up with Blane.

If you made Pretty in Pink now, after 35 years of directing movies and TV shows, how different do you think it’d be? And, would you want another shot, or is what you made in 1985-86 a document to who and what you were as a filmmaker at the time?

That, yeah. I wouldn’t change it. That doesn’t mean there isn’t another form it might take. John and I talked about doing it as a Broadway musical at one point. But as a film, I think it’s held up for the very reasons you mentioned, which is people believe it. They want to watch it because they get invested in those characters. So, I wouldn’t want to change anything.

Let’s also show some kind of love to Some Kind of Wonderful. That’s another favorite for many people. What runs through your mind when you look back at it?

I was lucky it worked because during the process I found myself not sure it’d work. I lost faith in the movie I was making. So, it was a difficult movie for me. But it did work, and I’m grateful, thankful it did.

Does doubt still motivate you?

I still have it. Doubt is a very important part of the process. When you start believing your positive reviews or think you know what you’re doing better than anyone else, and you’re not open and available to anyone, that’s the beginning of the end. So, doubt, yes, is a positive and important thing for me. I doubt everything. It’s difficult because I put myself and everyone else through a lot of torture, but I get the best result that way.

Actors and filmmakers often take mementos from sets. Heading into Some Kind of Wonderful, did you ever imagine you and Lea Thompson would walk away with… each other?

(Laughs) Oh, no. No, no, no. Absolutely not. She was engaged and I didn’t think she’d ever been interested in me. So, no. Triple no!

Lea has been directing for years. Your daughters have acted, written, and produced. Is that a DNA thing or were they so exposed to the business that it was inevitable?

It’s their mom. Lea is a great artist and has raised them to be artists. She taught them from the earliest times that art, drawing, not staying in the lines, all the stuff that I think plants the seeds you can water as they grow to become artists. So, it’s their mom.

Are you being modest? Isn’t there a little of you in there?

Not really! It’s really because of Lea. I didn’t hurt the process. I didn’t think I worked against it, but it’s primarily her.

How proud are you of their careers? All three?

Enormously. They’re all doing great. Zoey is on fire as an actress and producer. Madelyn just wrote an amazing script for a movie studio. Lea is doing great. She’s got a bigger career than me as a director. So, I’m just going to sit back, get fat, and watch TV.

You’ve concentrated on directing TV the past several years. How eager are you to do features again?

There’s a movie with Shirley MacLaine that I’m hoping to do next called Lucy Boomer, about a woman who worked at the White House for 40 years. That’s the movie I want to make.
 

The Blu-ray extras reveal that Anthony Michael Hall turned down the Duckie role, shocking everyone. Most fans are aware of that. Less well known is that Ringwald wanted Robert Downey Jr. to play the character because she thought he was “really cute” and felt they’d have chemistry. Did she lobby for him, or was that wishful thinking?

It’s true that she wanted him, yes.

Was he seriously considered?

We talked about it. But when Jon Cryer came in, it just felt right, like, “This is the guy who’s going to capture everything on the page.” In retrospect, Downey is a terrific actor, funny and charming. Jon Cryer was so vulnerable, though. You always got the feeling, “Please don’t hurt this kid.” That was the final feeling, predominantly, that we needed somebody who you’re going to fall apart with. Downey, you feel like he’ll survive it, but not Cryer.

You can snag the John Hughes 5-Movie Blu-ray Collection — including Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Pretty in Pink, Some Kind of Wonderful, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, and She’s Having a Baby — Right Here.