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‘Blue City’: Ordinary People

Inside the movie starring Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy, Andrew McCarthy, Demi Moore and Rob Lowe

Rob LoweRob Lowe

Rob Lowe in the ABC AFTERSCHOOL SPECIAL, 'Schoolboy Father, airdate: Oct. 15th, 1980

ABC Photo Archives/ABC/Getty

Summer 1985. Dubbing Stage C in Hollywood. A black-and-white work print is on the screen. The movie is Blue City, the third film to feature Judd Nelson and Ally Sheedy. “Listen, Annie,” Judd’s character is saying, “how we doin’ on that favor I asked?” “Piss off,” Ally’s character replies. The scene is being studied by Michelle Manning, who has short brown hair, wears running shoes and loose-fitting slacks. She was assistant to the producer on The Outsiders and coproducer of The Breakfast Club, films in which the leading parts were played by actors in their late teens or early twenties. Blue City is Manning’s directorial debut. She is twenty-five.

Her age and occupation place her in a curious position, enabling her to befriend young actors as an equal and also give them work.

“These actors function on three levels,” she says. “As professionals, they’re totally devoted, totally relentless, totally driven. In the public social scene, like at the Hard Rock Cafe, they have to deal with people coming up to them, asking for autographs, pulling on their clothes. And in the privacy of their homes, they’re completely relaxed, and they’re just kids.

“But they all want so much to grow as actors. They all so much want their careers to grow. And it scares them all, the idea that tomorrow this could all end. I mean, it could all just be over. They want so much to be doing the same thing when they’re forty, and who’s to say? Will the trend then be to make movies with forty-year-olds?”

The average age of Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy, Andrew McCarthy, Demi Moore and Rob Lowe is twenty-two. They are among those actors who have benefited most from the fact that the majority of moviegoers are fourteen to twenty-five years old and that Hollywood producers are catering to that age group.

But these five actors are not only successful, they are also testimony to the age-old truth that success is not quite what it’s cracked up to be. They have what everybody seems to want: rewarding work, money, praise, fame. Once you have these things, you live with the dread of losing them. Then again, not losing them can be even worse.

Rob Lowe is driving. He drives the way he walks: quick, cool and assured. His pale-blue eyes, which make the young girls weak, are obscured by sunglasses with pink-and-black frames, one of the ten pairs he currently owns. He is dressed in a white T-shirt, black short shorts, the white high-top sneakers he always wears unless he is wearing cowboy boots. He and his dog, Wolfie, are headed for the beach. Born in the U.S.A. is on the tape deck. Rob speaks of Springsteen with the same fervid passion with which the young girls speak of him.

It’s a beautiful summer day, the kind that helps Rob forget the pressures that make him feel there is a weight bearing down on him, but today, the sun cannot soothe him. Last night, in a restaurant, he had a protracted fight with Melissa Gilbert, his girlfriend. They met when he was struggling to be an actor and she was starring in a television series. That was three years ago, and things have changed. Rob stops his Mustang at a pay phone and goes to send Melissa flowers. He sighs and shakes his head. “It’s scary when love gets undignified,” he says.

At twenty-one, Rob Lowe is unusually at ease with his internal contradictions. On the one hand, he is a California boy who uses words like radical, happening and gnarly and attends screenings and Hollywood parties with such panache that his friends call him Shecky Showbiz and the Warren Beatty of the Eighties. On the other hand, he is an articulate young man who delights in making fun of “the business” and loves quoting his own and other people’s bad reviews, laughing as he recalls that The Washington Post once said he had “the charisma of a doorknob.”

At the beach, Wolfie darts along the sand and is beset by three male dogs with amorous intentions. Rob runs to her, coaxes her away from them and talks to her in a teasing tone. “I guess that to other dogs, Wolfie, you probably have a great body and great eyes,” he says. “I guess in the dog world, Wolfie, you’re a really sexy lady.”

He looks around at the nubile girls whose bikini bottoms resemble G-strings. “California girls,” he says, “are a different breed, because so many great-looking people came to California hoping to make it in the movies, and couldn’t make it in the movies, but what they could make was beautiful kids.”

For the rest of the afternoon, Rob sits on the sand, talking to his best friend from high school, Jeff Abrams. They haven’t seen each other for six months, because Rob has been making movies or publicizing them. At this beach, many people have known Rob for years, but their sidelong glances, and outright stares, say they no longer feel he is one of them.

Ally Sheedy is driving. her dark brown eyes, set deep in her pale, fine-featured face, are fixed intently on the road ahead. She wears a white T-shirt, white moccasins and a soft, full pink skirt. For all her cuteness, there is nothing coy about her. She is utterly direct and self-contained, qualities reminiscent of Katharine Hepburn, the actor she most admires. It is a manner that makes her seem tranquil and older than twenty-three.

Nonetheless, she drives her big black jeep with a zeal just verging on the maniacal, and wherever she goes, her Sony tape player is beside her, and Eurythmics or Tina Turner or Van Halen is blaring.

On this particular day, she is going to a photo session for Italian Vogue. She does not like posing for fashion layouts. It’s 103 degrees, and she is looking forward to an air-conditioned photographer’s studio. The studio is not air-conditioned. Ally is disappointed but says nothing, getting on with the business at hand with the determined briskness that helps explain why co-workers call her One-Take Sheedy.

Her hair is greased into punkish spikes, and thick makeup is applied to her face and eyes, while she sits absolutely erect, a posture she developed when she was six and dancing with the American Ballet Theatre, in New York City. She changes into a pair of jeans and a large white satin shirt, then follows the photographer outside, where he poses her against a tree. The tree trunk sticks into her back. It hurts. She smiles as the photographer snaps away.

She wants to say, I hate these poses, I hate the heat, I need to have music playing, I hate the clothes. Instead, she thinks about Katharine Hepburn. Katharine Hepburn wouldn’t complain about the heat, Katharine Hepburn would remember these people are here to do their work, not for the pleasure of taking my picture, Katharine Hepburn would never complain. She poses for two hours, outwardly at ease, inwardly repeating the words about Hepburn, again and again, like a mantra.

Andrew McCarthy is walking. He ambles down a Greenwich Village street with easy, long-legged grace. He is dressed in baggy khaki pants, a faded T-shirt, a baggy seersucker jacket. His mobile, expressive face is dominated by his eyes, which can be clouded with caution one moment, alive in a crinkle-faced smile the next. There’s a slice of pizza in his right hand, a large bag of laundry over his left shoulder. He goes into a deli to buy a pack of Camel Lights. He began smoking for his role as a writer in St. Elmo’s Fire and hasn’t been able to stop. “How you doin’, sport,” he says to the man at the counter. “Sport” is his customary greeting to men. He greets women with “Hi, doll.”

Andrew watches a little girl perched high on a park bench, swinging her legs. “I love the way she’s sitting,” he says. Then he ambles on, searching for new sights to take in, managing to seem, as always, simultaneously laconic and intense.

He enters the small two-room apartment he shares with a cat. Before he moved here, he lived for two years at a New York University dorm; before that, he lived in New Jersey with his three brothers, his mother and his father, who is a stock analyst. In the living room, there is a faded Oriental rug, piles of shirts on the floor, a lamp with two hats on the shade, a desk littered with papers and parking tickets, and a mantelpiece covered by a lace cloth. On the mantelpiece is the Bible that Andrew read for his part as a Catholic student in Heaven Help Us; beside it are The Great Gatsby and Tender Is the Night, which he read for St. Elmo’s Fire, having decided that Fitzgerald would be his character’s favorite writer. His own favorites are represented by a huge Springsteen poster and a framed cover of a 1948 Life magazine, featuring a photograph of Montgomery Clift.

Andrew goes into the small bedroom and turns on his black-and-white TV, which is connected to a VCR. He puts in a tape of Indiscretion of an American Wife, one of his favorite Clift films. He watches the scene in which Clift walks dejectedly through a railroad station. He has seen it dozens of times, but still he rocks back and forth with excitement. As he talks, he keeps raking one long, slender hand through his thick brown hair.

“See how he drops the trench coat?” he says. “What a great moment, what making something out of nothing! The first time I saw this, I bought a trench coat. I carried it around for days. I must have dropped it a hundred times. I could never get it right.”

He watches the scene again, then looks at the clock. It is time to leave for the off-Broadway theater where he is appearing in two one-act plays, an engagement that will end the next evening when he leaves for Los Angeles to begin his fourth movie. He goes to the kitchen to feed his cats. On the refrigerator door is an advertising flyer. It reads, VERNA SAYS: MEN AND WOMEN, 17-62, TRAIN TO BECOME A CASHIER. Andrew looks at it and grins. “Whenever I start getting cocky,” he says, “I think of Verna.”

Judd Nelson is driving. An Adidas T-shirt is draped over the back of the driver’s seat. The top of the jeep is down, and the doors are off. On the floor, there’s a golf ball, empty gum wrappers, an empty pack of Anacin and one of those joke headbands that make it look like a knife is going through your head. It was given to him by Ally, and Rob suggested he wear it while reading his reviews. On the back seat, a basketball rolls back and forth. Judd plays basketball for hours at a time; at his publicist’s office, secretaries know he’s arriving when they hear dribbling down the hall.

Judd, who is twenty-five, seems tense, pulled perpetually in opposite directions. He dresses either in flannel shirts he bought years ago at L.L. Bean, when he was growing up in Maine, or in the newest Japanese clothes, selected by him and his girlfriend at New York and Los Angeles boutiques. He can read for hours, sitting virtually motionless, or talk incessantly, stalking back and forth with a restlessness that once caused him to try climbing a fifty-foot Marlboro sign.

He disdains the trappings of Hollywood, yet the woman he lives with, Lore Rodkin, is also his manager, and gives lavish parties that Cher and Streisand attend, and is, at thirty-two, the embodiment of Hollywood glamour. Judd is devoted to her, and through her he leads a stylis life without ever having made the choice to do so.

Judd’s parents, both lawyers, still live in Maine, where his mother is in the state legislature. His father is the one person he wholly admires. “My father is honest,” Judd says, “he works hard, he always strives to find a balance between work and personal life. And he’s positive-reinforcement-oriented: if you fall down when you’re ice-skating, he’ll say, ‘It’s okay, you were up for a few seconds.’ He lives such a good life that if he died tomorrow, it would be okay.”

Judd drives to B. Dalton at the Beverly Center, where he shops for books at least once every two weeks, buying four to seven at a time. For years, he thought he wanted to be a writer, and in high school he worked summers to make money to live in Paris, where he planned to write a novel. “I found out I didn’t want to write a novel,” he says. “I found out I wanted to be Hemingway in the Twenties.”

After shopping, he goes upstairs to a restaurant and gets a turkey-and-sprouts sandwich on whole-wheat bread. While he’s eating, a man in a business suit, about thirty years old, approaches him.

“Aren’t you Judd Nelson?” he asks.

Judd hesitates, then nods.

“I want to give you a card,” says the man. “I do medical disability. I put together a proposal for Debra Winger. A man in your position needs insurance. You could be playing basketball and break your leg.”

Judd grins. “Hey, take that back,” he says.

“I just want you to know,” the man tells him, “that we don’t work with the average person.”

Judd watches the man walk away. He shakes his head. “People treat you like you’re not normal,” he says. “Like, I’m no better looking than anyone else. I don’t deserve more attention from women than anyone else. If someone is a good mason and they build a wall, you say, ‘Good wall.’ You don’t say, ‘Good wall, can I come over to your house?”

Demi Moore is driving. Sometimes she rides a black Kawasaki motorcycle, but today she is in her gray Honda Accord, in which a bear-shaped car deodorant dangles from the radio dial and a picture of Emilio Estevez, her boyfriend, is clipped to the sun visor. She wears small diamond earrings and an antique diamond ring, all given to her by Emilio. Usually, she describes the ring as “a gift from a secret admirer,” words spoken in a voice as warm and luscious as melting brown sugar. She is wearing a purple and yellow dress, yellow socks, a purple headband and no makeup. The bright, scrubbed face and little-girl clothes, combined with the husky voice, suggest a spirit that is as gently vulnerable as it is womanly and exuberant.

Demi’s black daily planner is in her lap. In it, she draws pictures to indicate her appointments. A picture of an airplane symbolizes the plane she took from New York last night. In the back of this book, pressed in plastic, is another picture of Emilio, an E-Z-Floss, her MCI number, an emergency quarter and a slip of paper from a fortune cookie that reads, FOLLOW YOUR TRUE BELIEFS AND STAY STRONG.

This morning she drew lots of little pictures in her book. She is keeping busy today, just two days before the release of St. Elmo’s Fire, a time when she is, as she puts it, “waiting for the verdict to come in.”

She was also busy in New York, publicizing the film. “When we go on these trips,” she says, “the studio takes care of everything. They take care of our room, our room service, our telephone calls, the transportation, and once you get treated like that, with the best limos and the best hotels, you know, you don’t want to lose perspective, but you do. On this trip I just had, the limos weren’t as nice as on the trip before, and it wasn’t as great a hotel. It was still wonderful, but . . . it’s very easy to get spoiled on these little excursions.

“It all goes along with the fear that your career could be fleeting. Because you can get so used to how good they can treat you and how good things can be, you know when there’s something wrong.” Demi lifts her long, heavy hair and twists it into a bun. “And you can see,” she says softly, “how easily it could all disappear.”

Andrew is having his hair fixed in the makeup trailer on the set of Pretty in Pink, a movie in which he costars with Molly Ringwald. “Can I have some shampoo?” he asks the hairdresser. “I washed my hair with Ivory soap for the second day in a row.”

“This guy,” the hairdresser announces loudly, “makes upwards of $10,000 a week, and he can’t buy a bottle of shampoo which retails for $1.29.”

Andrew gives him a look. Then he looks in the mirror at his hair, which has been smoothed and coiffed and sprayed. “Do I not look like David Cassidy with this hair-do?” he says in a voice even louder than the hairdresser’s. “It’s a fucking David Cassidy hairdo.”

The hairdresser laughs. “Dismissed,” he says.

On the set, there are problems interpreting a scene, and everyone is on edge. Andrew and Molly wait to make their entrance. Andrew laughs out loud as he recalls a story about a director who gave an actor the worst direction he’d ever heard. Now, to break the tension, he repeats that direction to Molly. He turns to her and smiles. “Tense up,” he says.

Later, in his trailer, Andrew puts Empire Burlesque on the tape deck and lies down. The power in the trailer goes off. The music is silenced, the lights flicker and die, the air conditioner goes dead. Andrew smiles. “I bet the power doesn’t go off in Molly’s trailer,” he says. The electricity comes back on, then goes off again. Andrew angrily stubs out a cigarette. “This is like my life,” he says, “this power situation.”

He opens the door of the trailer and looks out, thoroughly disgruntled. A male voice instantly calls, “What’s wrong?”

“No power,” says Andrew.

“You got plenty of power.”

“Would I lie to you?” says Andrew.

The man comes into the trailer. He appears to be about forty-five years old, and Andrew, who is twenty-two, becomes aware, as he often does, that many people in a subservient position to him are twice his age. He stares at the man. “I’m sorry,” he says softly.

“I should be saying that to you,” the man says, not understanding what Andrew meant.

Rob, his twelve-year-old brother, Micha, and Rob’s friend Jeff are at a Dodgers game. Rob drinks three beers and eats a hot dog and a box of Cracker Jacks. “Nothing,” he says. “to dispel my all-American image.”

The girls in the stands notice Rob, nudge each other and stay away from him. But in the sixth inning, with time running out, they draw near, clutching pencils and scraps of paper. They have names like Buffy, Stacey and Joy, and they stare at him with the awed, hopeful look that Rob himself may have worn when he was eleven and asked Loretta Swit for her autograph at Battle of the Network Stars. In those days, he was a stage-struck kid just come to Los Angeles from Dayton, Ohio. Now he has trouble comprehending that he is famous (“Elizabeth Taylor is famous,” he says). Still, at a recent party in Manhattan, one of the reigning sirens of rock & roll said, “I want to lick his balls,” an indisputable index of fame, circa 1985.

Now Rob tries to watch the game, but the line of girls is unrelenting. Again and again, he signs small scraps of paper, “Love, Rob.” “I always wonder,” he will say later, “how much do I owe people because of what I do, and how do you draw the line between that and what you have to keep to yourself? I’ve never been able to fully get a handle on that one.

“What’s even stranger is when I get the feeling that people don’t want any personal contact with me. That they just want an autograph, something physical that they can take away with them. That’s spooky in itself.”

Rob and Jeff go to get another beer. Eager girls trail after them. Rob comes back a few minutes later, laughing. “This guy asked for an autograph for his daughter,” Rob tells his little brother, “so I gave it to him. Then the guy looks at me and says, ‘Okay. Now who are you?’ “

Andrew hears a knock on his hotel-room door. It is Rob, who was visiting someone else and decided to stop by. The two do not socialize much but have known each other since 1983, when they worked together in Class, a film that starred Jacqueline Bisset and did not do well at the box office.

Andrew told Rob recently, “I see you as part of the great Hollywood tradition of Bobs: Bob De Niro, Bob Redford, Bob Culp, Bob Denver and Bob Lowe.” Now, when Rob enters the hotel room, Andrew says, “Hi, there, Bob,” his voice thickened with the sarcasm he employs sometimes for his own amusement, sometimes as a defense.

“Marty Ransohoff called me,” Rob says. “He says he wants to make a sequel to Class.”

Andrew laughs. “Called Second Class,” he says.

“Yeah, it’d be like me doing a sequel to Oxford Blues.”

“No need to do that, Bob,” says Andrew. “Just re-release it. Nobody saw it the first time.”

Demi is at home in the small house she owns, a salmon-colored dwelling that reminds her of New Mexico, where she lived until she and her family moved to Los Angeles, when she was sixteen. Her father, who sold advertising for the Scripps-Howard newspaper chain, died three years ago. Last year, when Demi was twenty-one, she bought this place, with money she made during the two years she appeared on General Hospital. In those days, she was constantly recognized by people who thought of her as the character she played. Now she has made three moves, and she is being recognized as herself, an unsettling experience that can make her feel strangely, suddenly shy.

Demi sits cross-legged on the floor of her bedroom, where there is flowered wallpaper and a white iron bed, covered with a delicate antique quilt. She is listening to messages on her answering machine. Some of the messages pertain to work. Demi has not worked since St. Elmo’s wrapped. She carefully takes down the names and phone numbers that have been called in, then hears a familiar voice: Emilio’s. “It’s me,” his voice says. “It’s 12:45. I love you. I love you. I want to put a smile on your face, so smile, beautiful lady.” She does smile, and then she listens to another message from him. “It’s me,” his voice says. “It’s quarter to three. You’re still not home. You don’t love me. There’s no smile on my face. But I love you.”

In a few days, Emilio will leave for North Carolina, where he is going to star in a film. But tonight, they are meeting at his place in Malibu, as they do most nights. Demi feeds her two cats and three kittens, then opens the big black leather bag she carries when she stays at the beach. She packs some herb tea, her jogging clothes, the note pad in which she writes her nightly journal, paperback copies of A Tale of Two Cities and The Color Purple, a tape she bought as a joke, The Best of Doris Day, a white lace blouse, an antique flowered skirt, a red vest with gold buttons, a package of rice cakes and her Q-tips. (“I love Q-tips. I put them in my ears and my eyes start rolling. I call it eargasms. I must have the cleanest ears of anyone I know.”)

Demi opens the back door, on which there is a handwritten sign that reads, MACHINE ON? GO BACK AND TURN IT ON, DILDO. She slings her bag over her shoulder and picks up her dog, Henry, a two-and-a-half-pound miniature terrier. She grabs a huge container of garbage and drags it down to the street. She grins. “This is the glamorous life,” she says.

Andrew is in his hotel room, eating dinner: two Fatburgers, an order of fries and his favorite drink, Stoli on the rocks. He’s been staying here for two months while filming Pretty in Pink and has re-created the astonishing clutter of his New York apartment in this orange-and-peach-toned suite.

MTV is on, as it almost always is in his room and the “Raspberry Beret” video has just begun. Andrew watches Prince take the stage, amidst a bevy of adoring fans. Andrew smiles when Prince coughs just before he starts singing. “What a great touch,” he says. “It’s like he’s saying, ‘I’m here, I’m doing it, but it’s taking its toll.’ “

Since St. Elmo’s Fire opened, Andrew’s own celebrity has been established, and he has received many requests to be interviewed. Interviews make him uncomfortable for several reasons, among them something he realized while watching Donahue. “Judd and Ally and Rob were on it,” he says, “and they were very good and they were very charming and intelligent and funny and stuff. They were great. But it kept gnawing at the back of my head: What the fuck do we have to say? We’re twenty-two-year-old kids. There’re people in fucking Beirut that are getting killed, and we’re talking about how we’re suffering or we’re out there or we’re happy or we’re sad. I mean, our lives are very dramatic and real to us, and we feel all the pains and whatever that anybody does at any age. But they’re only important to us. “It’s interesting that people want to hear it. I guess it’s the whole American fascination with bigger than life. With something you don’t have. But I just think it’s amazing. We don’t have a fucking thing to say.” Andrew laughs. His laugh is a short, sharp burst. “Am I wrong?” he says.

Judd is pacing the room. He is talking to Lili Ungar, his press agent. She is upset because another of her clients was denied the cover of a magazine.

“Lili, do you realize that life is not based on merit?” he says. “Nothing is based on merit.”

Lili lights a cigarette. “Fourteen years a vegetarian,” she says, “and I can’t stop smoking.”

Judd gives her a deadpan look. “There’s no meat in cigarettes, Lili.”

“That’s not the point, Judd. They’re bad for your health.”

“I know that, Lili. A little levity here. Next time I’ll raise my hand when I’m making a joke.”

Lili and Judd are friends, despite the fact that her job is to sell him as a star, a process that genuinely discomfits him. “Seeing my name up in lights,” he says, “did not make me feel like the mayor of the world. It made me feel ashamed and embarrassed. Because I’m doing the same thing the gardener does. He has a job, and he does it. And anyway, as fast as success comes, it can go like that.” Judd snaps his fingers. He paces the room again, moving faster and faster.

“There are no guarantees. No guarantees of nothing. It makes me feel like I’m in the fun house. Things are so uncertain, it’s weird. My God, suddenly I have like a hundred new best friends. But I don’t. They’re not my best friends.” Judd stops pacing and stares out the window, his large brown eyes doleful as he takes in the city below. He says, “Moths, as I understand it, are attracted to the light, and moths don’t want to be.” He turns away from the window. “What a drag,” he says, “to be a moth.”

Rob is at home. his house is a high-tech bachelor’s paradise, situated on the same property where his mother, stepfather and brothers live. Originally, it was a shed; Rob had it redesigned and decorated with gray carpeting, black and blue linoleum, pale-orchid and blue walls and a tiled sunken bathtub that contains a large rubber mermaid, given to him by Jodie Foster.

Rob has expensive tastes: closets of clothes from Fred Segal and Charivari, the best stereo and video equipment, a black leather couch, a 1950s black leather diner booth in his kitchen. Then again, on his last two movies, he was paid $400,000 a picture. “I take the money,” he says, “because people are willing to give it to me, but it’s ridiculous that I make this kind of money when people who work a lot harder than I do and whose labor is more strenuous make less. Notice I said more strenuous, not more important. I’m not one of those actors who will tell you that something is more important than acting.”

In the last few months, he has made two movies. During the final week of Youngblood, in which he plays a hockey star, he stood on the set in his hockey uniform, practicing the saxophone and learning to smoke cigarettes for his role as a musician in St. Elmo’s Fire. Now he has a deal at Columbia to star in a movie he will produce; his manager reads at least two scripts a night, looking for his next part; and he just turned down a role for more money than he has ever been offered. Still, he is aware that it could all evaporate. “I think about it all the time,” he says.

“I’m going for the highest level of success in this business, unilaterally, and you don’t get a lot of mistakes at that. That’s why when people ask me, ‘Do you feel like a success?’ the answer is no. I absolutely do not ever feel that way. Where I am now is not even halfway to where I’m going. I can’t stop for a moment to pat myself on the back. And it’s only going to get harder and harder. The stakes get bigger. The highs get higher and the lows get lower. And the closer you get to the goal, the farther the fall.”

Ally is alone in her apartment. It is virtually unfurnished, and there are just two rooms. “I don’t need to live in a big place,” she says. “What would I do with it? I’m twenty-three years old.”

It’s nighttime. She spends most nights alone. Her boyfriend is on the road, playing guitar with Men at Work. She goes to the refrigerator, where the door is a collage of schedules for yoga classes, vegetarian recipes, movie ads, vitamin circulars, the business card of a masseuse and two cards that came with flowers, one from Rebecca DeMornay, a close friend, which reads, “Ally, I love you,” and another that reads, “I love you. Steve.”

Steve Ross and Ally met at a party given by Michelle Manning. Ally tends to be a loner, and she was impressed that Steve had spent two years alone on a beach in Hawaii. “This is a man after my own heart,” she thought.

She puts on a Eurythmics tape, makes herself a salad of seaweed and mushrooms, then goes to her bookshelf, where she takes down a mauve leather-covered book that she uses as a scrapbook. She pages through this book when she is feeling low. The book is filled with photographs of the casts of her films: Bad Boys, WarGames, The Breakfast Club. There are notes from Michelle Manning (“Thank you for becoming such an incredible friend,” one reads) and a letter from Martin Brest, the original director of WarGames (“I though you were brilliant in Breakfast Club, absolutely brilliant!!”). There is a note from her father, an advertising executive, that came with a picture of her (“Is this really you? You need some meat on those bones but you look great.”), and a card from her mother, a literary agent, that begins with a quotation from William Blake (“No bird soars too high, if he soars with his own wings”) and then reads, “I’m watching you go, go with love.”

It has been a long day, and it began with a dilemma: John Badham called to invite her to the opening of Silverado and said he would send a limousine for her. She is not comfortable with star treatment, and when The Breakfast Club opened, she drove to the theater in her jeep, parked a few blocks away, then walked to the theater to join her costars, who arrived in limos. When St. Elmo’s Fire opened, Steve persuaded her to go in a limousine, but the experience terrified her. Now, having agreed to let John Badham send the car, she is terrified again.

“That whole scene and all that attention really scares me. I’m trying to be so protective of not being affected by the glamour and glitz of Hollywood that I make sure I drive my old jeep everywhere and wear makeup as seldom as possible and stay discreetly out of the way as much as possible. At the same time, if I’m going to be true to myself inside, whether I get into a limousine to go to an opening really doesn’t matter. But something else in my mind says this is good and the other is bad.

“I love my work. There’s nothing else I’d rather do, but I see the pitfalls. The main pitfall of success is fear that you’re going to fail — the feeling that they’ve made a mistake, that you’re not really all that good and they’re going to find out and it’s all going to disappear. People get control crazy — thinking, ‘I have to do something to keep it, now that I have it.’ People get really, really scared. And they become more and more reclusive or go out every night because they can’t stay home with themselves. There are actually a lot of people who haven’t gone nuts. But you have to look for them.”

Ally sighs. She knits her fingers together. “I guess for young people like me,” she says, “who are still trying to form their values and go through the experiences of becoming an adult, to have all this stuff come over you — you don’t really know where to turn — I don’t know anywhere to turn, except inside, to find strength there and from people I love.” She sighs again. “I don’t like living in fear of being corrupted,” she says. “I don’t want to live in fear, and I don’t want to live in corruption, either.”

Ally, Rob, Andrew, Demi and Judd have appeared in a total of fourteen movies. These movies cost $100 million to make and have been seen in theaters by 100 million people.

For each of these young actors, it is the ordinary things in their lives that center them and enliven their work. They want to act in movies. They need to be ordinary people.

It isn’t going to be easy.


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