Interview with Liane Curtis from 'Sixteeen Candles' and more

(This interview was originally published August 24, 2013 on the now-retired Kickin' it Old School blog. It is one installment in an incredible series of interviews we are republishing on Rediscover the '80s for posterity and your enjoyment. These are more than just interviews in a way; they are more like '80s timelines or oral histories on their respective subject matters. Please keep in mind the original date because some content could be specific to the time of the interview, though the majority should be timeless and totally rad.)

When the opportunity presents itself to ask a few questions to someone who contributed to the awesomeness of the '80s, I will continue to share those answers with you right here. Again, lucky for me (and hopefully you), I do get to share a little more awesomeness with you.

This time that awesomeness is Liane Curtis. She is an actress and now musician who is probably best recognized from her '80s film and television roles. This includes playing Molly Ringwald's best friend "Randy" in the 1984 John Hughes classic Sixteen Candles. Find out a little about her, making Sixteen Candles and much more as we get on to some selections from my interview with Liane Curtis...

Q: When and how did you get your start in acting? I read that you were in the pilot episode of Sesame Street when you were just 4 years old?!

Liane: Well I was born into an entertainment industry family who were successful from the late-1800s on my Dad's [Jack Curtis] side and my Mom [Paulette Rubinstein] is a jazz composer, in a few Broadway shows and later did translations and dubbed foreign films into English. So my start was even before Sesame Street in the studio. I spoke a sentence in the translation of an Agnes Varda film called Le Bonheur when I was 3 years old. I did a LOT of dubbing as I grew up.

Regarding Sesame Street, I mouthed off at the director at the end of the day. I was difficult to work with apparently, a little diva. I never really thought that I would do anything else. Acting and music were the worlds I knew and understood.

You were cast as "Randy" in 1984's Sixteen Candles which was written and directed by John Hughes. First, how did this role come your way? What do you remember about the audition process? Were you chosen by Hughes himself?

Liane: I was indeed cast as Randy and it was pretty much like every other audition process: You go meet the casting director, they call you back to meet the director and/or put you on tape. If the director/producers like you, you might get another callback to meet them and sometimes it goes to the point where you audition with the lead character so they can see the chemistry, then it gets narrowed down again and you either get it or you don't. I got it that time. The process itself can be long (weeks) from first audition to actually booking. Sixteen Candles was one of the longer ones. I ALMOST didn't go to the last callback because I wanted to stay in Florida where I was vacationing with friends but I was convinced to go. I was 17 and annoyed - girl interrupted in Florida. I am glad I went back. It was exciting all in all, looking back. John ultimately chose me but I think Molly [Ringwald] weighed in on the decision.

Sixteen Candles is a coming-of-age film written by and the first directed by John Hughes. It was released in theaters in May of 1984. Liane Curtis plays "Randy", the best friend to Molly Ringwald's "Samantha", and is the fourth character from the film that I have had the incredible privilege of interviewing (after previous interviews with Haviland Morris who was "Caroline Mulford", John Kapelos who was "Rudy the Bo-Hunk" and Debbie Pollack who was the "new-style American girlfriend" in addition to Casting Director Jackie Burch). Curtis was able to play a character that many young women envied especially back then, Molly Ringwald's friend in a John Hughes movie. Here is the first scene with Ringwald's "Samantha" and Curtis' "Randy" when they are getting onto the school bus...

Q: Did you get to know John Hughes at all during the making of the film? What can you tell us about Hughes and your experience working for him?

Liane: Yeah, he was like a big kid. Sometimes I thought he enjoyed hanging out with us more than with the adults. He was a very nice man who knew what he wanted and was so good at capturing the awkwardness of being a teen. I wish I had been less uppity and rebellious. I turned 18 on that set, so my Mom, who previously needed to be there legally, left as soon as I was not a minor anymore. The first day of shooting was my 18th birthday. Bye Mom, hello out-of-control Liane! Hence Ally Sheedy in The Breakfast Club - not me - and same with She's Having a Baby... OOPS.

The character of "Randy" had some great lines in Sixteen Candles like: "Would you stop feeling for sorry for yourself? It's bad for your complexion."

and: "Last night at the dance, my little brother paid a buck to see your underwear." 

Q: What did you like best and like least about your character "Randy"? Did Hughes seem to be pleased with your performance and your comic timing on some of those great lines your character had?

Liane: I had quit school and was in acting class with Anthony Mannino (RIP) at the time, so John was very impressed with the character work I had already done. I still have my script and could show you if you were actually here. I was well prepared as an actress, just a little wild as a human. I liked the bedroom they made for Randy in the film. I don't know if I would still like it now but at the time I wished my own room looked like Randy's.

You played the best friend of Molly Ringwald's character "Sam". What can you tell us about Ringwald and working with her?

Liane: I think that on the surface it was fine, but I think when she would talk about her Dad and say he was a Jazz musician and I would say that my mom wrote for John Coltrane and other Jazz greats, that she didn't like that. Same when I found out she spoke fluent French. It was my first language. I felt that instead of embracing our similarities she was threatened by them. Then the day before we shot the dance sequences I was told that she decided that my costume was cool and that she wanted it so John had to go shop with Marla (the costume lady) last minute to get me that mini skirt and pink sweater. She was precious and spoiled. I just rolled with it. What else can you do?

Q: You had some scenes with Anthony Michael Hall. What can you tell us about Hall and working with him?

Liane: Well... he was nice enough. Young and relatively innocent. We "hung out" while rehearsing but that blew up fast. More awkwardness... yay! I talk to him now. Molly not so much.

Here is another scene from early in the film at the school dance where Liane as "Randy" is sitting with "Sam" when Hall's Farmer Ted comes over...

Q: Was making Sixteen Candles a fun experience for you? Was the cast close during filming? Did you keep in touch with any of the other cast members after?

Liane: Yes, it was fun - as crazy as I was then. The cast was close but the adults didn't really hang out with the kids off set. I spent time with John Cusack. I still have analog cassette tapes of us hanging out in my hotel room. I still talk to Debbie Pollack and Gedde [Watanabe] and Haviland Morris from time to time as well.

Q: Any interesting stories or facts about making Sixteen Candles that you can share with us and let us in on? What are some of your best memories from making Sixteen Candles?

Liane: I was SO happy to be loose in the world with no parent. Since it was my birthday, they put a giant watermelon with candles in it in my school locker on the first day of shooting. I knew well what it cost to shoot a film, so when they said action and we started the scene I kinda looked at the candles but kept going with my dialogue. As nutty as I was, I did have a professional side.

Best memories? Going to the Peter Gabriel concert was a huge deal for me. HUGE... even though it didn't have anything directly to do with Sixteen Candles per se. I went with one of the extras and two of his friends. Michael [Hall] and I "hanging out" for 5 minutes during rehearsal (which I already spilled earlier). I remember jumping into the Skokie Hilton pool with all my clothes on because I was too hot. I had to be "talked to" by Hilton Green (the producer) who was none too pleased with my antics. In my defense... Chicago summers are VERY WARM and can be VERY MUGGY!

Q: What were your feelings about Sixteen Candles when the film was released in 1984? Did you attend a premiere? What changed for you personally, if anything, after the success of the film?

Liane: I was very excited. No, I did not go to the premiere - if there was one it was in L.A. and I was still New York-based at the time. I definitely worked afterwards - although not for Hughes. I learned what NOT TO DO on a set for sure.

Q: What are your feelings about Sixteen Candles now almost 30 years later?

Liane: Almost exactly 30 years - I turned 48 last month. I feel happy that I am a part of something which will always be relevant. As long as there is a teenager alive in the world and a screen on which to watch, Sixteen Candles will continue to be a well-loved film.

Q: Have your children seen the film (and at what age did you allow them)? If so, what did they think of the film and your performance in Sixteen Candles?

Liane: Wow... I actually don't remember at what age I allowed them to see it. I am pretty loose when it comes to what they get to see. I don't know that they would have watched it thinking about my performance at the time. Not usually what a child thinks about. I think they all enjoyed the film but I would have to ask them. Or you can if you want!

You appeared in episodes of some popular '80s television series. Anything memorable that you can share with us about your experience on season 1 episodes of Married with Children or 21 Jump Street?

Liane: So long ago. Married with Children I booked pretty much as soon as I got to L.A. It may be the first thing I did after relocating here in 1987. I was hired with Noah Blake and Gunther Jensen. Gunther played my boyfriend and I had to make out with him. Noah Blake played Christina Applegate's boyfriend. I ran into Gunther quite by accident 17 years later. My oldest comes home from school (when he was a Junior in high school) and says, "So mom, I was at school and I looked up my acting teacher online on IMDb. And noticed that he was in Married With Children... in your episode... and he played your boyfriend! I went into class and asked if it was ok if I called him Dad." I said, "OMG Gunther Jensen the acting teacher - I THOUGHT he looked really familiar at back to school night!!" Too friggin' weird and funny.

On 21 Jump Street, I remember catching the flu and being amazed at the Canadian health care system. SO easy. (If only we used their model! UGH!) I remember hanging out with Scott Schwartz and Byron Thames who were guest starring in the same episode. I still talk to them. Byron's son is in music as is my 14-year-old and we keep trying to go to the other's gigs. Holly Robinson was THE SWEETEST! Johnny Depp, Peter DeLuise and Dustin Nguyen were also VERY cool. Dustin took me out to a Vietnamese restaurant and tried to get me to eat frog's legs... couldn't do it. On a day I wasn't filming, I visited Scott Schwartz and Byron on the set and they were at an arcade. Johnny and Peter just handed me a shit load of coins and I played a few games. Such nice people, and Vancouver is beautiful.

Q: I also have to ask you about 1989's Girlfriend from Hell. What can you tell us about how that roll came your way, your experiences making that film and how you feel about it now?

Liane: Oh wow... my good friend Anthony Barrile (Hamburger Hill, Kiss Me Guido) was working at August Entertainment for Gregory Cascante and he insisted that I would be perfect for that role. So I auditioned and almost lost the role to Tawny Kitaen but ultimately booked it. I loved the script. It was a BLAST to shoot - 17 days of hellish fun! I love that I made that film PLUS my oldest child is here only because I did that film. Dan Peterson [director of Girlfriend from Hell] and I had Tyler Curtis on May 29, 1989... Love you, Tyler!

Girlfriend from Hell is a satire of typical teen horror and sex comedies. It was not all that well-received when originally released in 1989, but has developed a small cult following in part thanks to repeated showings on Comedy Central in the '90s. Liane Curtis plays "Maggie" who has been possessed by the devil which you can see in this trailer for Girlfriend from Hell...

Q: You mentioned why you might've not worked with John Hughes again. Are there any '80s roles that you auditioned for and did not get that would be surprising or particularly interesting especially looking back now?

Liane: I had auditioned for Footloose (Sarah Jessica Parker's role, but she was 18 and I wasn't so that killed it for me) and Dirty Dancing. I ALMOST booked the sequel to Paul Newman's movie The Hustler called The Color of Money but apparently he was not comfortable with a real 18-year-old playing the role. There was a scene that required my character to be in underwear and he and his "team" thought it would look too pedi for his "image"... good for Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio... but for me, not so much. Oh well, it was not mine to book, plain and simple.

Please tell us a little about where your career has taken you since the '80s. How have your priorities or goals changed over the years? What are some of your proudest professional accomplishments?

Liane: My career went out the window when I had children. As much as I loved to work, I felt that being home was better for them. Hence my disappearance... 24 years of being a mommy and I'm happy that I did. It wasn't easy and we struggled a lot but it was better to raise them than to have a nanny do it for me while I was off stroking my ego. During that time a lot of weird stuff went down. Abusive relationship with my second child's father and the AWFUL stuff that goes along with it. I found myself picking up my guitar to stay creative while not acting and wrote a few songs.

As far as proudest professional accomplishments... well hmmm... I think the John Sayles' film Baby It's You [1983] is one of my favorite pieces. It was my first on-camera film role and what an experience. John is AWESOME. I would work for him gratis any day.

Q: What else has Liane Curtis been up to more recently? Both acting and otherwise? What can we expect in the future?

Liane: Acting not so much... I did a day/scene in an upcoming feature film called Body High directed by Joe Marklin and will be doing a short film directed by Cynthia MacAdam called Salt, Liquor, Lime at the end of August, but I am mostly writing and producing music these days. Primarily with a 14-year-old artist named Jaq, who happens to be my daughter and youngest child. I LOVE music! I don't have to audition to go write a song or to go record it either - I have control over it unlike acting where I have NO voice and am at the mercy of producers and directors and networks. MUCH BETTER HERE. My Mom is a jazz composer and I was classically trained in music as a child, so I have been VERY grateful for all that even though it was not put to use until recently.

Jaq's site is live now and you can hear music that I have co-written and co-produced as well as covers I have cut and produced, like "All Along The Watchtower", "As Tears Go By" and "Luka" so far. I reached out to an old friend with whom I had worked with on Rock n Roll High School Forever [1991] named Ric Markmann. He went on to play with Heart and Chris Cornell while I was off having a rough time. I sent him a couple of Jaq's compositions. He liked what he heard and we have now finished four tracks and will continue co-writing and co-producing in the three-way collaboration we have going. All tracks are owned 50/50 and shared 33.333% equally between the three of us. Friggin' FABULOUS deal and a nice business template to use for future collaborative work. Ric is co-owner of Matter Music ( and that is where we do our work. I also use another studio when working on producing cover songs and songs that Jaq writes alone or with me here at home. We track live drums there and dump those into our brand new Logic 10. The learning curve has been challenging but it is VERY worthwhile. I LOVE writing and producing music, I have to say.

Something that probably only a few people know as a fun fact: I keep birds, LOTS of parakeets, two cockatiels, three Congo African Greys and a Black Headed Caique (which is Jaq's bird). We also have a SUPER fat cat with whom one of the cockatiels is in love and recently rescued/adopted a seven-pound Yorkie from "Angels In Fur". I am a sucker. I have also rehabbed a few crows one of whom comes to see us multiple times a day.

I love my life and everything I do! All I hope is that I have made and continue to make a difference in people's (and animal's) lives and that my life means something. I am very grateful for everything that has come to pass and for everything that's to come.

I am so pleased that Liane was able to take some time to answer some questions so I could share them with you here. I want to take this occasion to again thank Liane Curtis for her contributions to '80s pop culture especially in Sixteen Candles and, even more, for going back to the '80s with us here for a little while as well.

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