Most people remember Anthony Michael Hall as the geeky star of such classic ’80s movies as Pretty in Pink, Weird Science and The Breakfast Club. But few can remember his more recent work. Fans forget his role in the brilliant Six Degrees of Separation or his tough-guy character in Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands. The first question that comes to mind about Hall these days is “what has he been doing?”
The answer is a lot. In addition to Six Degrees and Edward Scissorhands, Hall has starred in many television movies, even writing and directing a comedy for Showtime called Hail Caesar. In his spare time he produced a solo music album and is working on a second. Starting Friday, he can be found alongside Samuel L. Jackson (Unbreakable) in the new mystery Caveman’s Valentine (Universal Focus).
Hall, now 32, said he enjoys the recent surge in popularity of his early films.
“It all works in cycles, just like the rest of the world,” he said in an interview with The Hatchet. “Right now, it’s the ’80s that are big. So it’s just interesting to watch the transformation.”
Hall admits that he has “veered away” from nostalgia, avoiding opportunities to do cameos. Hall said he hates popular television docudramas, such as “E!’s True Hollywood Story” and VH1’s “Behind the Music,” and has limited his involvement to one show about Sixteen Candles.
“I’ve been asked to talk about Robert Downey Jr., but I didn’t want to be involved,” he said. “I like E!, though, they’re good at not taking themselves too seriously.”
Hall co-stared with Downey Jr. in a number of movies, including Weird Science.
Hall is reluctant to discuss his place in film history.
“I feel blessed, I’m very privileged to have been a part of all that,” Hall said. “To be so young, working with all the people I did, I had a great learning curve.”
Hall said he is unsure what impact his early films have on current teen films.
“In our culture, we’re so besieged with technology every day, we aren’t the product of any one thing.” Hall said, “I mean, we were all raised on MTV and Pepsi commercials.”
Hall noted at least one major difference between the teen movies of today and ones of his time: the actors.
“They’re very shrewd, and careful about their own image, what projects they’re involved with, they’re very aggressive,” he said.
Hall had no trouble drawing parallels between the teen genre then and now.
“Aaron Spelling is kind of like the John Hughes of the decade, you know, as far as the flesh-peddling.”
Hughes produced Weird Science, Sixteen Candles and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
Hall said comedy in his early movies maintains its appeal to modern audiences.
“It’s the humor, the laughter. You walk into a video store and you’re looking for something interesting, for a funny movie,” he said.
Hall has, for the moment, turned his attention to mystery-thrillers. Caveman’s Valentine, directed by Kasi Lemmons (Eve’s Bayou), follows a homeless man named Romulus, played by Samuel L. Jackson, as he attempts to solve the murder of another young homeless man believed to be tortured and killed by a photographer during a photo shoot. Anthony Michael Hall plays Bob, an wealthy stockbroker who helps Romulus return to society.
Hall, who worked with Jackson when he did a cameo in Hall’s film Hail Caesar, said he worked hard to prepare to work with the Academy Award-winning star.
“Less is more. Sam is a very strong actor, and I wanted to go with whatever energy he had,” he said. “Try to match him, to stand toe to toe. (Robert) DeNiro once said that actors are like jazz musicians, like if you’re playing with someone who’s a better musician then they elevate you.”
Hall will appear in two other movies debuting in April, including Tom Green’s Freddy Got Fingered, which features a song written by Hall on its soundtrack. He also will star as legendary pitcher Whitey Ford in 61, an HBO film directed by Billy Crystal about Roger Maris’s record-breaking 61-home run season. Hall said he was “thrilled” to work with Crystal, although the only preparation he had far the part was “playing little league.”
When it comes to future roles, Hall has a few ideas of his own.
“I’d like to play Robert F. Kennedy. He did some great things, he tried to do a lot of good, especially in the six years after his brother died, and I’m from Boston myself,” Hall said. “I’d also like to play a writer, maybe Emerson or Thoreau. I love reading more than any other type of entertainment.”
Hall sees the bright side of his career, both past and present.
“I’m only 32 and I’ve done 34, 35 films,” he said. “There’s a whole generation who grew up watching my movies, who now work in the industry, and are the directors and the writers. I think I’m very privileged. And, I know it’s clich?, but you’re always looking for that great script.”
At his age, Hall plenty of time to find it.
Caveman’s Valentine opens in theaters Friday