Molly Ringwald, star of the John Hughes films Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, and The Breakfast Club, is now 44 years old and a mother in real life and on “The Secret Life of the American Teenager.” And she is the author of a new book, When It Happens to You: A Novel in Stories. In a piece that appeared in the New York Times this week she discusses the connection between acting and writing.
The appeal of diving into a character has always been the back story: everything that my character has been through up to the point when the audience first encounters her. I have eagerly invented intricate histories that I shared with no one — except during an occasional late night boozy discussion with other like-minded and obsessive actors.
I remember writing one such biography before filming “The Breakfast Club”; it is one of my greatest regrets that I didn’t think of saving it for posterity…What I do recall was imagining my character Claire’s unhappy home life. There were hints to it in the script that John Hughes had written — “It’s like any minute … divorce” — but no explanation was given as to why the parents were divorcing. I envisaged the fights (an overly “social” drinking mother, an emotionally crippled and withdrawn father) that Claire endured along with her older brother (I gave her an older brother whose existence never made it into the film).
It is fascinating to consider that the same imagination that goes into creating the performances we see on screen can be used to create a novel — and that some day that novel could become a screenplay that could inspire some actors to create their own expanded views of the characters’ lives to make their performances richer, deeper, and more complex.