When I recently chatted via telephone with Molly Ringwald, we discussed several things: her healthy attitude toward her continued association with John Hughes’s teen movies (“They mean a lot to a lot of different people, and I would never try to take that away from them. I just want to stay focused on what I am doing,” she said), her recent deft handling of a Reddit AMA and, of course, her well-received debut work of fiction, “When It Happens to You.” Many of the topics we covered made their way into this Style profile I wrote in advance of Ringwald's appearance Wednesday night at the Sixth and I Synagogue here in Washington.
But because newspapers have these pesky issues called space considerations, not all of them did. We also talked about the first story she ever wrote at the age of six, how she tapped out some of the central chapters in her “novel in stories” on an iPhone while on the set of “Psych” and what inspired her to write about a woman whose spouse cheats on her. Ringwald — who is 44, happily married to fellow writer and editor Panio Gianopoulos, and the mother of three — also answered a question about child stardom that a reader suggested during a recent Celebritology Live discussion.
With all that in mind, here are more excerpts from my Ringwald interview.
Ringwald on the first work of fiction she ever wrote, which sounds like a positive twist on “American Horror Story”:
“The first thing that I think I remember writing, the first time I set out to write a story was when our parents — we wanted to move into this new house that we really couldn’t afford in Sacramento. And the owners had died. They’d lived there the whole time, and then died. So I wrote a story from the point of view of the ghosts of the house, and the whole point of the story was how much they wanted our family to live in this house. And so it was sort of like I was trying out my hand at the power that fiction can have. Unfortunately, another family made a bigger offer so we didn’t get the house. But I think that’s the first real story that I remember.”
Did you really write part of your book on an iPhone?
“I know, that sounds crazy. Okay, here’s the story: I wrote notes, I was on a set, and I was kind of trapped. I had one line but I couldn’t leave, and most or all of the action was going on on the other side of the room, and I had really pretty much nothing to do. I think I had one line at the end of the scene, which was, ‘Okay,’ or something like that. But I couldn’t leave. And I was right in the middle of writing the whole collection when I took this job, so it was like it never left my mind. And then I had this idea for the title story while I was on set and [an iPhone] was the only thing I had to write with. So I just started writing notes to pretty much get to later, and then I wrote another note, and then I wrote another note. Because I was there so long, I kept compiling these sentences ... When I finally got to a computer, and I was finally able to put all the notes in there, everything kind of changed somewhat, but I did write quite a bit of it. A lot of the initial ideas were written on the phone.” [She later confirmed that she was on the “Psych” set in Canada at the time, filming her appearance in this episode.]
On the real-life inspiration for Greta, the central character in “When It Happens to You” and a woman who realizes her husband has been having an affair with their daughter’s music tutor.
“I’ve had somebody that I know in my life whose husband cheated on her, and her marriage ended, I would say, 25 years ago? She’s married and happily married, too. But if you talk about that initial marriage and the whole experience she went through with being betrayed, she’ll still get choked up. She’ll start to cry and kind of like to start to shake. I mean, that’s really powerful.”
And the question submitted by a reader: What did you think about the recent piece Jodie Foster wrote for The Daily Beast about the perils of becoming a young actor in the social media era? Would you also be reticent to embark on a Hollywood career now if you were a young actor?
“I feel exactly the same way, which is why I retweeted her piece. A lot of people thought I retweeted it because I was defending Kristen Stewart, which to me really was not what the piece was about. Yeah, she was defending Kristen Stewart, but I wasn’t really commenting on that. I was really commenting on the fact that it is a dangerous place. It was dangerous when I was coming up, but it’s a whole different thing now ... because you’re exposing your family and your significant others to this scrutiny. I decided, just like Jodie, kind of my career chose me in a way, but I don’t know if I would do that now. My daughter asks me every day if she can be an actress, and it’s something that we’re really struggling with, because I don’t — because when she says she wants to be an actress, I don’t really think that she wants to be an actress, I think she wants to be a celebrity. This is my older daughter, my 8-year-old, my almost 9-year-old.
To be honest, if she decides after she gets an education that she wants to be an actress, and if she’s talented, and it’s really her heart’s desire, I’ll do everything I can to support her. But I really want her to know what she’s going into, and I don’t think you can know that when you’re a child. I know it because I’m an adult, and I’ve been through it but she doesn’t, so I feel like I want to protect her for as long as I can.
And also at her age, she doesn’t really see it as anything bad. This new generation — I sound, like, so old, ‘this new generation’ [laughter] — it’s really Big Brother, but it’s something we seem to want. We want that kind of transparency, and it’s something that I’ve always tried to protect myself [from] or at least find an easy kind of balance. But I don’t think that kids growing up see that as a negative at all. They don’t understand that privacy is something that they can and should control. It’s a really heavy conversation. It’s one that my husband and I have all the time, and it’s one we’ll continue to have because pretty soon, she’s going to be able to use the computer and do all that stuff better than I can.”