In many ways, What Ever Happened To… can be applied to any
member of the famous Brat Pack from the 1980s.
Here was a group that could do no wrong in the eyes of the movie going
public. They had it all- charisma,
looks, money. Some squeaked past that stage
in their lives/careers and made a name for themselves as they entered
adulthood, while others hit the proverbial brick wall and never recovered.
Personally speaking, when I think of the Brat Pack, The
Breakfast Club immediately comes to mind.
It had arguably the strongest cast of young actors and the story was one
that (aside from the 80s fashion prevalent throughout) hasn’t aged one
bit. It’s a universal tale that speaks
volumes to each viewer. Emilio Estevez,
Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy, Anthony Michael Hall and Judd Nelson- the cast, to
this day, is still highly regarded by teens and adults alike. The sad thing is, less than half of the cast
is successful today. Estevez has a
successful acting career and burgeoning directing career, while Hall has had
parts in high profile projects (Edward Scissorhands, The Dead Zone
television series and most recently The Dark Knight). Ringwald had a long-lasting career as a Brat
Packer, but has since faced difficulty with shedding her teenybopper reputation. Sheedy has taken odd jobs here and there and
will forever be known as the love of Johnny 5’s life.
Which brings us to Judd Nelson, the toughest of all Brat
Packers. Even though he wasn’t the
strongest of actors, Nelson had a way of injecting a likeable quality into a
character that, by all accounts, wasn’t likeable at all. His portrayal of John Bender in The
Breakfast Club is the epitome of the misunderstood thug. He makes us feel for a guy that we shouldn’t
really care about because he acts like such a prick, yet there’s something
about this scared and confused giant of a teen that struck a chord within us
all. In the end, he got to kiss the
princess of the group and even got her earring. As cheesy as the film’s ending is, the final freeze frame of him
throwing his fist into the air triumphantly while Simple Minds blares in the
background is the stuff of legends and still creates a lump in my throat every
time I see it. So sue me, sometimes
Now it should be said that Nelson isn’t the greatest of
actors, but what he does, he does well.
However, after The Breakfast Club his career went… well, to be honest,
it went nowhere. It’s the truth. And the reason I’m saying that is because he
had the potential to run with his talent.
I know a number of actors and some of them are sometimes anxious or
nervous as to where their talents will lead them, so they end up playing the
same character over and over again.
Sure that pays the bills (though, not all the time), but eventually they
lose interest, as well as casting agents and moviegoers. This industry thrives on artists that take
risks. Sure, chances are you’ll fall
flat on your face. But what if you
After The Breakfast Club, Nelson’s next high profile
performance was as the voice of Hot Rod in Transformers: The Movie. Hot Rod was a cartoon equivalent of Bender
in that here was a youngster coming to terms with growing up and having to face
adulthood. The only difference being,
in this film, he could shoot guns and transform into a racecar. And from there, a nasty pattern started to
show. He started to fall into
obscurity, losing most of the attention that was sent his way because of The
Breakfast Club. And what’s worse is
that he was playing characters that were essentially John Bender-lite. As he was getting older, he was playing the
same type of character over and over again.
And then, it got even worse. He
gradually became a Breakfast Club joke, as writers and producers saw fit that
he attempt to rekindle his Brat Pack years without realizing that they were
long gone. But at that point, Nelson
was too comfortable to take that jump into the unknown. He was stuck. And still is.
But there is hope.
Take his performance in a Tales from the Crypt episode entitled
“What’s Cookin’?” for example. In it,
he plays a restaurateur who strikes payday when he introduces a familiar type
of meat to his patrons, unbeknownst to them.
It’s a nasty little performance that shows Nelson has the chops for the
horror genre and is fully capable to jumping out of the Brat Pack
It’s also important to point out that director Kevin Smith
is a huge fan of Nelson. So big in fact
that he regularly quotes him in a number of his films and even cast him in a
nearly unrecognizable role in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. It was funny, but all too brief. However, it did remind the sharp-eyed
moviegoer that Nelson was indeed still around (hey, it reminded me) and
If this summer has proven anything, it’s that it is the year
of the comeback. Why should Judd Nelson
be left out of all the fun? He’s an
interesting actor that exudes alpha male characteristics. I want to see him on the big screen again
because, quite frankly, he’s the guy that made me want to ask my principal if
he raided Barry Manilow’s wardrobe. For
that reason alone, I think he should be given a second chance.