Molly Ringwald: Sixteen Candles in the Wind
I tell Ringwald I heard she and Lindquist indulged in a little playful, leather-bound bandage and discipline together. "That's awfully personal," she says, reddening. Then she laughs, and flings discretion aside. "Well, he did write about it in his next book, so I don't feel like I'm divulging anything," she says, "I wanted to tie him up because he was the biggest control freak that I've ever met in my life. So, I told him, 'I want to tie you up," and he said, 'I have no interest in that whatsoever." This went on for a week, with me saying, 'There has to be some equality in our relationship.' until I finally talked him into it. I was so inept at the whole thing that we ended up falling off this very high bed I had. Actually. I didn't have that much interest in it either. I wanted to do it more as an exercise. He was the last person that I was going out with before I went to France. One of the phone calls I had to make was, I'm not coming back.'"
Ah, yes, the departure for the Continent, which came after she'd made gaga project choices, one after another, for a few years. "I take responsibility for all that happened with my career in the past," Ringwald says. "I wanted to grow up too fast. Instead of being on-screen the way I actually was, I found myself becoming personified as the perfect teenager. I was so afraid of being typecast in the mold that I did do things that I just wasn't ready for. I should have played a teenager for a little while longer. I could have grown up more gradually." On top of what Ringwald did do, there was what she didn't do. "Right after Pretty in Pink, the Truman Capote estate asked me if I would consider remaking Breakfast at Tiffany's," she explains. "The first thing you want to do is say. 'Oh, yes!' then you realize that the only reason you want to do it is the fantasy of looking like Audrey Hepburn. And there's just no way, so I said no. I was approached for Ghost but, at the time, the director, the actor who was going to be opposite me--all those elements--didn't sound like a great thing to do, so I didn't do it. But I like the movie and I think it's one of the best things Demi [Moore] has done. Pretty Woman is another, but I'm not the only actress who turned that down. I mean, who knew? But that movie with me or anyone else maybe wouldn't have worked the way it did."
No matter what relationships she involved herself in, no matter what movies she made. Ringwald says, her life wasn't adding up. "A person's early 20s are not an easy time in anyone's life. And I'd grown up in the public eye, with my teenage years documented on film. I hadn't learned how to live. I bought a beautiful house that I was scared to move into for two years. The house didn't seem like me. Nothing seemed like me. The truth is, I just didn't know how to do it"
Something she seemed to do almost effortlessly was to alienate people. There were plenty of rumors about the unpleasantness of tangling with Molly. Had she become a monster? "I don't think that I was a monster." she replies, "But I don't think that I was the easiest person to be involved with. I was questioning who I was a lot, which is natural. I haven't had an easy time of it in the press. At one point, they were saying really great things. At another point, they were saying terrible things. And I was listening to everything and everybody, trying to figure out who I was in the midst of all this. I became really suspicious about people." She shrugs, looking philosophical. "Look, if I had done those hit movies, maybe my career wouldn't have gone down the way it did when it did. But it would have gone down at some point. It has to, because, whatever you do, your career either eventually goes down or goes on and on, which means you never have a life. Or you have a life which is not your own. You become Tom Cruise or Madonna or someone else who seems so driven, meaning everything goes into that life, that maintenance of being a movie star or icon. I didn't orchestrate my leaving or anything. Given the chance. I would have preferred to have been working, but once I wasn't. I finally had the chance to stop and say. 'What am I really doing with my life? I have this time. I have this face and I've worked for so long that I do have enough money to do what I want to do.'"
Ringwald cracks up, with just a hint of bitterness, "I've had everyone telling me I'm the greatest thing, and people saying everything I do or am is wrong. I got tired of producers and casting people telling me. 'You're not sexy enough,' 'Not pretty enough,' 'Not glamorous enough,' 'Too urban." "Too simple,' 'Too sophisticated," 'Not sophisticated,' everything. The best thing was either, 'You're not happy enough," or 'She doesn't glow when she walks in the room.' Like, how do you learn to glow? But, you know, they were probably right because I only realized once I got to France how incredibly miserable I'd been before I left. Very few people know they're miserable when they're miserable, except maybe for existentialists who, like, get off on it."
So, what happened to her in Paris? Ringwald describes the joy and horror of being in public without anyone recognizing her. Her sense of foreignness and alienation became so acute that she began to imagine that people in cars were whispering about her, laughing at her. I tell her that, considering everything, it's amazing she didn't freak out. "The reality is that I did freak out in my own way. I just didn't do it in the public eye." Some things she did do in public, however. "I ran around making love in the streets of Paris with my boyfriend. I'd never be able to do that here and, now, probably I won't be able to do it there, either. But I did it with Valery and it was great. If you haven't made love in the streets of Paris, you must"
Ringwald and Valery Lameignere, a fiction writer, have been together for nearly three years. From all I hear, their flame burns hot. What are some of their secrets? "Separate bedrooms, with separate bathrooms," she replies. "Why? For this reason," She raps three times on the table and croons, seductively, '"Come in." Everyone thinks that the greatest thing in the world is to have someone you can just curl up with, that you can wake up with in the morning looking disgusting. That's all well and good. All the time I'm with Valery, we have this policy of not too much intimacy. I still want to seduce him more than I want to seduce anyone else in the world and the same goes for him. Every time we go out to dinner, I always spend about an hour-and-a-half in my bathroom, which he doesn't enter. Then I son of arrive and appear and that's it."
Her expression goes serious and she says, "When Valery and I met, he had no concept of my career and had never seen me in a movie. He was trying to piece the whole story together, asking Americans and Englishmen about me. He would say, "How do you feel about your career? What do you want to do now?' and I said, 'I don't know. Maybe I won't work again. Maybe I'll just do something else.' We had this very quiet first year-and-a-half together, then suddenly things started to happen and now more and more things are happening. He's starting to watch all this and our serenity, the idea] world dial we had, isn't quite the same."
Ringwald and her partner will have to weather the change, because she wants to reclaim her place in movies. "I guess I'll just have to have the confidence that I am special in my way," she says. "I don't think there's anyone that's like me, I don't really fit into categories. So. maybe there's a place. My choices are pretty important, at this point." Indeed. Has she endured any nightmare auditions for jobs she didn"t land? "Want to hear about the worst?" she says, laughing. She begs me not to name the movie and I won't, but it turned out to be a flop directed by a Frenchman featuring a stage and movie cutie who once starred in a fat John Hughes hit. "I really felt like I needed work, about two years ago. In 1987, they'd given me a script to develop as a vehicle for myself. It was kind of funny, but I didn't think it would make a great movie. Anyhow, the script went away, then, five years later, it's being made, has a director, a male star, the same script, mind you--with very few changes--that I had already passed on. But now, I was in a situation where I had to audition for it. So, I go to the audition and I'm terribly nervous because I hadn't done an audition since I was about 13 and I'm terrible in auditions, anyway. I'm in the waiting room, very nervous, and the star, with whom I'm friends, comes out and says hi and, you know. Isn't this embarrassing?--whatever--and goes back into the room.
"About half-an-hour later, they call me in and it was only supposed to be the star, me and the director, but it's actually the star, the director, the casting people, the head of the company, the video crew all in this room. Everything went wrong. My pages stuck together. I couldn't remember the lines. I'm so embarrassed and humiliated. Terrified, There's supposed to be a scene where she's punching him out and he grabs her wrists together to subdue her. The director tells me in broken English that he has a great idea: that my co-star should take off his belt and wrap it around my neck like it's a leash and lead me around like I'm a dog. I look over to see my fellow actor, my friend, the movie star, undoing his belt and I'm thinking, 'This is for real. It's going to happen. Either I do this or walk out the door making a scene and have another story following me around that Molly Ringwald walked out of an audition.' I did it. I was flushed, every line I spoke was completely mono-tone, I was absolutely paralyzed. I shook everybody's hand, got out to the parking lot and broke down in tears and sobbed all the way home. I called up my agent, told him, and he said, 'Great anecdote for your memoirs.'"
The new movies Molly is doing are independent films that don't look to be her Pulp Fictions. Malicious, I hear, falls somewhere between Fatal Attraction and The Crush. Baja, shot in about four weeks, is an adventure movie about which Ringwald offers little, except that she's not sure whether it will be released before or after Malicious. Which says everything, actually.
But she has The Stand behind her. I can't resist asking her how it went kissing her co-star Gary Sinise. "He was so nervous! It was so funny. My boyfriend had just arrived from France. It's the first movie that he'd ever been on before, and I said to him. 'You can't come to the set, because I'm doing this kiss. I'm really sorry it's on this day. You just can't come.' And it was a big, big argument with him. So finally I go and we do the scene. Gary was so petrified. He was so great during the whole project, because even though he's this great director, he was just acting this. Finally, he and the director came out and he was like. 'OK, so wait. OK, we sit down. OK, I move, I take her like--OK. I move, I take her like, OK ...' I was like, 'Gary, calm down.' He could not relax. We got along so great, and that was almost the only time I wanted to punch him. But then you see it and it's fine, you know. I think it's really nice."
If Ringwald gets to make good choices from here on in, if she keeps her head, I'm guessing there is a place for her in movies. Let's wait and see.
Stephen Rebello interviewed Antonio Banderas for the August Movieline.