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MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: Pretty in Pink originally ended with Andie and Duckie together.
Written by John Hughes and directed by Howard Deutch, the 1986 romantic comedy Pretty in Pink centers on star Molly Ringwald’s working-class Andie and her relationship with Andrew McCarthy’s upper-class Blaine, countered by her friendship with Duckie (played by Jon Cryer). Besides perhaps the soundtrack (and James Spader’s amazing performance as the villainous Steff), the film is best remembered for the best friend who wished he could get the girl. However, while the film ends with Andie and Blaine together, in the original version, Duckie actually did get the girl! Read on to see why that ending failed and how Robert Downey Jr. actually played a small part in it all …
The film’s original ending is similar to what we actually saw on screen: Blaine has chickened out of dating Andie because of Steff’s pressures, so Andie goes to the prom with Duckie. However, in the original script, it ends there with Andie and Duckie together on the dance floor. Steve Spears of the Tampa Bay Times has the original script pages, which end with:
Andie takes a few steps and starts dancing. Dukie follows clumsily. A few steps and they get in step. They dance without shame or concert for what anybody thinks.
and finally …
ANDIE AND DUCKIE: The [sic] look at each other and smile. Duckie laughs. Andie squeezes him tight and lifts him off his feet.
FREEZE. MUSIC AND TITLES.
They dance to David Bowie’s “Heroes,” and the closing music was Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark’s song “Goddess of Love.”
That’s the ending that actually made it into the novelization of the film by H. B. Gilmour and Randi Reisfield, as obviously they worked from the original script.
First (and most importantly), test audiences were not enamored with the ending. While they didn’t universally prefer Blaine to Duckie, a clear majority wanted Andie to end up with Blaine instead. That, in and of itself, was likely enough to get the ending changed.
However, in addition, Ringwald herself wasn’t a fan of the ending. Originally Robert Downey Jr. was in the running to play Duckie, and obviously Downey’s take on the character would’ve been much different, considering that Downey is … how do I put this delicately? … .more physically attractive than Cryer (I guess there isn’t a delicate way of saying that). In her excellent book You Couldn’t Ignore Me if You Tried: The Brat Pack, John Hughes, and Their Impact on a Generation, Susannah Gora interviewed Ringwald on the topic:
“Actually,” Ringwald continues, holding nothing back, “I think he seemed gay. I mean, if they remade the movie now, he would be, like, the gay friend who comes out at the end. He wouldn’t be winking at a blonde [Kristy Swanson], he would be winking at a cute guy … I feel bad saying that I really fought for Robert Downey, Jr.,” Ringwald allows, “because it sort of seems like I don’t appreciate Jon’s performance, which I totally do — it’s just, it really did affect the movie.”
Cryer responded to that during commentary on the 2006 DVD release of Pretty in Pink: Everything’s Duckie Edition (which bizarrely doesn’t include the original ending, just commentary about it).
Molly dropped the bomb that she would’ve been fine with the original ending if Robert Downey, Jr., had played Duckie … But since it was me, she just couldn’t see it. It was like, wow, so I’m that unattractive? Thanks, Mol!
In 2006, Cryer went into further detail about his feelings about the change in an interview with Entertainment Weekly’s Mandi Bierly:
I was disappointed. You sorta go, ”Oh, guess I’m not the leading man.” But I think it was kind of appropriate. Duckie always thought he was the leading man, and that was his fatal flaw. I got it at the time. I understood that John was trying to do something about crossing class lines and felt that with the ending as it was, it was sort of saying, ”You know what? Class lines aren’t worth crossing.”
That take was echoed the film’s director Howard Deutch, whom Gora quotes as saying:
“I thought the new ending was heartbreaking. Heartbreaking. I thought it was unfair and wrong, and that’s not what the movie was intended to be. It felt,” he says, searching for the right word, “immoral.”
Immoral or not, the studio wasn’t going to ignore the test audience response, so it filmed a new ending in which McCarthy’s Blaine gives a little speech to Andie about how much he screwed up and Duckie tells Andie that Blaine is different and she should go to him. Amusingly enough, McCarthy was starring in a play at the time about soldiers in Vietnam and thus he had cut off his long hair, so he wore a wig for the final scene. They did a good job with the wig but you can still see a difference if you look closely. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark had to quickly write a new song for the new ending, and in just a single day the band cranked out the instant classic “If You Leave.”
Interestingly, Hughes and Deutch went right back to work on a gender-swapped version of the story in 1987’s Some Kind of Wonderful, with Eric Stoltz in the Ringwald role, Lea Thompson in the McCarthy role and Mary Stuart Masterson in (essentially) the Cryer role. In this film, however, the working-class lead eschews the rich girl in favor of his best friend.
The legend is …
Thanks to my good friend Lisa for suggesting that I spotlight this one. Thanks to reader Philip Frey for the novelization information. Thanks to Susannah Gora, Mandi Bierly, Molly Ringwald, Jon Cryer and Howard Deutch for their very informative quotes.
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Be sure to check out my Entertainment Urban Legends Revealed for more urban legends about the worlds of TV, Movies and Music!