'Pretty in Pink' director Howard Deutch on film's famous lost ending and Molly Ringwald's theory that Duckie was secretly gay

As far as Brat Pack and ’80s teen movies go, few hold up better today than Pretty in Pink, the John Hughes-written, Howard Deutch-directed drama about a girl from “the wrong side of the tracks” (Molly Ringwald) torn between the advances of a rich, handsome schoolmate (Andrew McCarthy) and her geeky but soulful best friend (Jon Cryer).

It still feels smart, funny and even timely in its portrayal of class and wealth disparity in the era of Reaganomics, with nary a horribly inappropriate racial caricature in sight (looking at you, Sixteen Candles).

Of course, it’s impossible to separate Pretty in Pink (1986) from the canon of Hughes, who in the mid-’80s was pumping out one teen classic after another, from Sixteen Candles (1984) to Weird Science (1985) to The Breakfast Club (1985) to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) to Some Kind of Wonderful (1987).

As Deutch told Yahoo Entertainment during a recent video interview commemorating the release of the new “Paramount Presents” Blu-ray (see above), Pretty in Pink was particularly special for Hughes because it was the first time the writer-director was also producing a film.

“This meant a lot to him, because there was a part of his brain that was also entrepreneurial,” says Deutch of Hughes, who died of a heart attack in 2009 at the age of 59. “He was very much like Disney. He wanted to build an empire.”

Jon Cryer and Molly Ringwald in 'Pretty in Pink' (Paramount)
Jon Cryer and Molly Ringwald in Pretty in Pink. (Photos: Paramount)

One of the key players in Hughes’s teen movie empire was Ringwald, who’d become his muse through their collaborations on Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club. Paramount initially balked at her casting, though, with other names like Jodie Foster, Sarah Jessica Parker, Tatum O’Neal and Lori Laughlin reportedly considered.

“I did meet with a lot of actresses,” Deutch says. “I always felt like it was written for Molly, and it should be Molly. So I went to Molly and she was like, ‘Well, they don’t want me and I’m not gonna do it.’ And I said, ‘But I need you do it, because this is my first movie and I don’t know what I’m doing. And it should be you.’

“And I remember being so grateful to her because she said, ‘Let me think about it.’ And she agreed. And she was a force, even at 16, in terms of every creative choice and decision you could possibly think of — and knew, at 16, instinctively, what would be the right thing to do.”

As far as its greater legacy, Pretty in Pink is perhaps known for its “lost ending” (explored in a featurette on the Blu-ray) as much as anything. The film originally came to a close with Andie (Ringwald) choosing Duckie (Cryer), not the more popular, better-looking Blane (McCarthy), and the two sharing a dance together at the prom. But that climax was eviscerated by a test audience at an early screening at the Paramount Theater on the studio’s Hollywood lot.

“When it happened I had a feeling like I was going to have a heart attack,” Deutch remembers. “The movie’s playing like gangbusters. And then it got to the end, the prom, and Jon gets Molly. And they started to boo. They almost walked out, and I was, ‘I can’t believe this is happening.’ The whole movie was built to have Jon Cryer end up with Molly. True love triumphs.

“I remember [The Princess Bride] director Rob Reiner walking out and saying, ‘Well, the princess can’t get the frog.’ Or something like that, which bothered me, [and does] to this day. But I think the real issue was the women, the girls wanted her to have the cute boy. And you can’t deny them, when they want that guy, you gotta give ’em that guy. Forget the politics.”

In 2012, Ringwald told Out magazine that she thought the flamboyant-leaning Duckie was actually secretly gay. “Duckie doesn’t know he’s gay,” Ringwald said at the time. “I think he loves Andie in the way that [my gay best friend] always loved me.”

Cryer later disputed the claim, and Deutch sides with the Duckie actor on the issue.

“I don’t think that, but I mean I can see where some people could perceive it like that,” says Deutch, who went on to collaborate with Hughes again on Some Kind of Wonderful and The Great Outdoors (1988), and in more recent years has directed television episodes of True Blood, American Horror Story, Empire and Young Sheldon. “I don’t think he played it like that. I think he created an amazing character who’s endured for this much time for a reason.”

Much like Pretty in Pink itself.

Buy the Paramount Presents: Pretty in Pink Blu-ray on Amazon.

— Video produced by Gisselle Bances

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