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10 Actors Who Owe Their Careers To John Hughes
July 26, 2010 @ 9:55 AM by:

John Hughes helmed just eight films, in the process defining for a generation what it meant to be a teen in the ’80s, but he wrote many, many more. Not only Chevy Chase and John Candy have Hughes to thank for iconic roles (Clark W. Griswold and Uncle Buck, respectively)—the filmmaker gave plenty of other up-and-coming actors their start. Here are 10 whose names and faces you likely wouldn’t know if not for Hughes’s films.

Ben Stein. What would this master of deadpan delivery be doing if it weren’t for John Hughes? Maybe teaching high-school economics. Stein was cast as a chalk-dusted, painfully boring econ teacher in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and his roll call—”Bueller … Bueller … Bueller …”—is one of the most memorable lines in comedy history. Stein turned his popularity into more movies (Hughes’s Planes, Trains and Automobiles), a few television series (The Wonder Years, Win Ben Stein’s Money), and even celebrity product endorsement (Clear Eyes eye drops).

Molly Ringwald. Ringwald was the creamy-skinned crown jewel of the boy-dominant Brat Pack after she starred in The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, and Sixteen Candles. She played the popular girl and the angsty outsider with equal aplomb, and purportedly dated co-star Anthony Michael Hall for a spell in the ’80s, proving the Hughes mantra that the popular girl really could stoop to date a nerd.

Matthew Broderick. These days, he’s got graying mutton chops and Carrie Bradshaw as a wife, but back in 1986, Broderick was the teen (and sausage) king of Chicago as happy-go-lucky Ferris Bueller. The carpe-diem film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is still one of the most popular teen flicks ever, and it earned Broderick his only major award nomination: a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Comedy.

Jennifer Grey. Before Baby was fondling Patrick Swayze’s bulging biceps in the Catskills, she was Matthew Broderick’s acrimonious older sister, Jeanie (and, for a time, his real-life love interest), in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. And in the role, she shared a sexy kiss with another up-and-coming young star: that’s Charlie Sheen rocking a bad attitude and a leather jacket in the police station.

John Cusack. The sensitive heartthrob started out as one of the band of geeks in Hughes’s first film, Sixteen Candles. He never shook the geek typecasting; even as an assassin-for-hire in 1997’s Grosse Pointe Blank, he was nervy and clammy-handed around women (namely, Minnie Driver).

Emilio Estevez. He was the jock in The Breakfast Club, a prescient role given his smash-hit series of Mighty Duck hockey movies in the 1990s. But Estevez is still going strong, most notably with Bobby, the 2006 Sen. Robert F. Kennedy biopic that he both wrote and directed.

Steve Carell. The Office star’s first ever big-screen role was in 1991’s Curly Sue, written and directed by Hughes. The comedian wouldn’t fully break out in movies for another 12 years, when he was cast as Evan Baxter in the Jim Carrey starrer Bruce Almighty. But these days, Carell has a Golden Globe and an Emmy-winning show, and he’s one of the most popular faces in comedy.

Anthony Michael Hall. More so even than Molly Ringwald, actor Anthony Michael Hall was a huge ’80s star synonymous with John Hughes. But like others before him, Hall’s post-Hughes career shows he had a tough time growing out of his earlier roles as a nerd. He’s had some recent success: his biggest movie of late was Oscar-winner The Dark Knight, a film notably missing cream-puff high-school boys of the sort Hughes seemingly wrote for Hall.

Jon Cryer. He was the shoulder to cry on in Pretty in Pink, and his lip-sync of Otis Redding’s “Try a Little Tenderness” is an iconic ’80s movie scene. Today, the skinny, nerdy Duckie has graduated to costar in one of television’s best-rated sitcoms: Two and a Half Men.

Macaulay Culkin. Culkin got both his first major role and his most famous role from Hughes—he was the kid in 1989’s Uncle Buck and, of course, the star of 1990’s Home Alone. The pair of films made him the biggest child star of the 1990s (My Girl, Richie Rich), and his success also helped boost the careers of the other Culkin brothers. Most recently, Culkin had a recurring role on the critically acclaimed TV drama Kings.


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