When it Happens to You : A Novel in Storiesby: Molly Ringwald
A FEW YEARS BACK, Keith Bellows, the editor of National Geographic Traveler, agreed to meet with a friend of a friend — a man interested in the possibility of doing some travel writing. But the man Bellows met with in an East Village bar wasn't a recent journalism school grad, or a laid-off newspaper travel section reporter, or even a blogger hoping to make some glossy-magazine scratch. The man sitting across the table from Bellows was none other than Andrew McCarthy.
Yes, that Andrew McCarthy.
Blane in Pretty in Pink.
“Can you write?” Bellows asked McCarthy.
“I can tell a story,” McCarthy replied. “That’s what I’ve been doing for 20 years as an actor.”
A slew of major travel-writing awards later, McCarthy has indeed told quite a story: The Longest Way Home: One Man's Quest For The Courage to Settle Down, in which he recounts the anecdote about meeting Bellows. The book is part travel memoir, part journey of self-awareness, part Eat, Pray, Love with a Y-chromosome. But McCarthy’s not the only Brat Pack-era idol making the leap from John Hughes thespian to literary darling: Molly Ringwald — McCarthy’s Pretty in Pink co-star and the biggest young actor of the Reagan era — recently released a novel, When It Happens To You.
To be sure, writing and acting are twin arts — creating the inner world of a character, as actors do, is akin to writing, and, on a more literal note, actors are often given the creative leeway to improvise dialogue. And so it's no surprise that the list of actors who have doubled as scribes (to varying degrees of success) is long: there’s Steve Martin, Ethan Hawke, Carrie Fischer, Hugh Laurie, James Franco and even Marlon Brando, to name just a few.
And yet, for actors like McCarthy and Ringwald, who will for better or worse forever be associated with 1980s “Brat Pack” youth films (most of which were written and/or directed by John Hughes) — movies like The Breakfast Club, Pretty In Pink, Sixteen Candles and St. Elmo’s Fire, there might be a particularly powerful appeal in turning, at least for a moment, from the screen to the page. Because even now, almost 30 years after their well-loved movies about the trials of teenhood first mesmerized young audiences, Ringwald and McCarthy are still largely frozen in the public eye as they were back then — sensitive young adults in totally awesome duds staring down moodily from the posters on countless teenagers’s bedroom walls. Although there is much to be said for starring in the films that forever changed the outlook of a generation of young people, for portraying characters so beloved that fans dress up as them on Halloween and name their children after them, for Ringwald and McCarthy, a fresh creative start seems in order. While interviewing film critic Leonard Maltin for my book You Couldn’t Ignore Me If You Tried: The Brat Pack, John Hughes, and Their Impact on a Generation, I asked him about the challenges facing the group of actors often assigned the “Brat Pack” label, and he replied: "John Hughes gave these actors the opportunity of a lifetime, and seemingly defined them for all of us, to such a degree that we didn’t want to see them in any other mode, or any other guise.” Or, as the late studio executive Ned Tanen told me, “You want them...read more