Meet 'Fast Times at Ridgemont High' Cast 37 Years after the Movie Premiered

Every generation has an iconic teen comedy film that defined the time. “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” was the hit film of the ‘80s. The show, written by Cameron Crowe and directed by Amy Heckerling, was a star-maker. Here is a look at the young cast members who became acclaimed actors as well as some interesting facts about the cast. 

Image Source: Youtube/Marco Dos Santos

Image Source: Youtube/Marco Dos Santos


 

JUDGE REINHOLD

The 62-year-old actor played Brad Hamilton, a popular high school senior that thinks he has everything figured out until his entire world falls apart. After his career-defining juvenile role, Reinhold went on to act opposite Eddie Murphy in “Beverly Hills Cop” (1984) and its sequels. He also appeared in “Gremlins” (1984).

In 1994, the actor was nominated for an Emmy for his guest role in “Seinfeld.” He also appeared in Steven Spielberg's miniseries “Into the West” and also appeared in two direct-to-video movies in the “Beethoven” film series. More recently, he starred in the 2017 crime comedy series “Bad Grandmas.”

Image source: Getty Images

Image source: Getty Images


 

AMANDA WYSS

The 59-year-old actress played Lisa, Brad’s girlfriend at the beginning of the film. While her role in the film was very little, it helped her land her breakthrough role two years later in “A Nightmare of Elm Street.” In 1985, she made the horror film “Better Off Dead” with John Cusack.

While she has experienced relative success, the actress hasn’t been in any blockbusters. She has managed to keep working regularly. Her last movie was the Western-themed movie called “Badland” in 2019. She also appeared in “Cheers” (1985), “Highlander” (1992) and “CSI” (2001-2011). She was also a special guest of the Crypticon in 2010.

Image source: Getty Images

Image source: Getty Images


 

JENNIFER JASON LEIGH

The 57-year-old actress played Stacy Hamilton, Brad’s 15-year-old sister that lies about her age to snag her older man but later regrets it. Leigh went on to have one of the most successful acting careers out of the cast of the film with over 100 acting credits behind her. 

She appeared in many movies like “Rush” (1991), “Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle” (1994), and “Georgia” (1995). She has been very active recently, earning her first Academy Award nomination for “The Hateful Eight” (2015), starring in “Amityville” (2017). On TV, she recurred in “Twin Peaks” (2017) and is currently starring in “Atypical.”

Jennifer Jason Leigh. I Image: Getty Images.

Jennifer Jason Leigh. I Image: Getty Images.


 

PHOEBE CATES

The 56-year-old actress played Linda Barrett who was Stacy’s outspoken and more experiences best friend and coworker at the mall. Following the film, Cates went on to work on many projects for another decade including films like “Gremlins” (1984) and “Gremlins 2” (1990). 

Although she retired in 1994, she briefly returned in 2001 for “The Anniversary Party.” She has since remained out of the spotlight, however, she regularly attends events with her husband, actor Kevin Kline, since 1989. Cates voiced the character, Kate Beringer, in the video game “Lego Dimensions” in 2015.

Phoebe Cates. I Image: Getty Images.

Phoebe Cates. I Image: Getty Images.


 

ROBERT ROMANUS

The 63-year-old actor played Mike Damone, a wannabe Casanova who made money through dubious means and also tries to teach his friend Mark how to be successful with women. In the end, however, he only to prove his own immaturity. His role in the film is his most popular.

He pursued a career in both acting and music. He has guest-starred in series like “Days of Our Lives” (1984), “McGyver” (1985), and “Fame” (1987). Most recently, he reprised his role as Mike in the animated series “Family Guy,” and guest-starred in “Cougar Town” and “C.SI.” He also acted in “The Remake.”

Robert Romanus. I Image: Getty Images.

Robert Romanus. I Image: Getty Images.


 

BRIAN BACKER

The 62-year-old actor played Mark Ratner, Robert’s shy friend who works at the movie theater in the mall and has a crush on Stacy, who ends up in trouble with Mike after mistakenly believing that Mark wasn’t interested in her. While his career wasn’t as successful as his former castmates, Backer is still acting.

His last role was in the 2012 film “Vamps.” He played the role of “Arnie” in “Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol” (1987), and appeared in the TV movie “Perry Mason: The Case of the Lethal Lesson” (1989). He also recurred in the TV Series “Santa Barbara” (1990-1991).

Brian Backer. I Image: Getty Images.

Brian Backer. I Image: Getty Images.


 

SEAN PENN

The 59-year-old actor played Jeff Spicoli, a surfer with not much in his head apart from waves, silly antics, and challenging his history teacher, who despises him. Penn is arguably the most successful and well-known actor to take part in the film.

He went on to land more important roles and gained critical acknowledgment through films like “Dead Man Walking” (1995) and “Sweet and Lowdown” (1999). In 2001, he appeared in “I Am Sam,” and won his first Academy Award with “Mystic River” (2004). Penn won another Oscar for “Milk” (2008) and directed “Into The Wild” (2007) and several others.

Sean Penn. I Image: Getty Images.

Sean Penn. I Image: Getty Images.


 

RAY WALSTON

The late actor, of “My Favorite Martian” fame, played Mr. Hand, a strict history teacher, and Jeff’s nemesis. Walston was already a veteran actor when he joined the cast of the film. He was the only original cast member to reprise his role for the TV series remake in 1986. 

He later earned three Emmy wins for his work in “Picket Fences” (1992-1996). In 1999 he appeared in the remake of “My Favorite Martian,” starring Christopher Lloyd. He also played Minister Breyer in “Ally McBeal” (1999). His last role was in “Early Bird Special” (2001). Walston died in 2001, aged 86.

 

FOREST WHITAKER

The 58-year-old actor played Charles Jefferson, Ridgemont High’s intimidating football star, who becomes infuriated when Spicoli “borrows” and crashes his car before trying to fool him into believing that the school’s rival team were to blame for the wreck. Whitaker became a critically acclaimed actor after sustaining a steady and brilliant career.

He appeared in films like “Vision Quest” (1985), “The Color of Money” (1986), “Platoon” (1986), “Good Morning, Vietnam” (1987), and “Bloodsport” (1988). He grew more famous after starring in “Bird” (1988). In 2007, he an Academy Award for starring in “The Last King of Scotland.” In 2016, he played Saw Gerrera in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.”

Forest Whitaker. I Image: Getty Images.

Forest Whitaker. I Image: Getty Images.


 

INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT THE CAST

While the film served as a springboard to stardom for many of the cast members, it came at a price. The cast made some sacrifices to make the movie a success. Here are some interesting things the actors needed to successfully complete the filming of the movie.

One specific sacrifice was made by Brian Backer. At the time of the shooting, he was living very far from where filming was taking place and could not afford to travel to the set every day. His fellow castmate, Jennifer Jason Leigh’s family, stepped in and let him move in with them for the duration of the filming.

Actor Brian Backer poses at The Tony Awards Honor Presenters And Nominees at the Waldorf Astoria | Getty Images / Global Images Ukraine

Actor Brian Backer poses at The Tony Awards Honor Presenters And Nominees at the Waldorf Astoria | Getty Images / Global Images Ukraine


 

Jennifer Jason Leigh also went undercover to prepare for her role. She took on a job at the actual Perry’s Pizza in the Sherman Oaks Galleria mall, where parts of the movie were shot. She used the chance to help her understand her character, Stacy Hamilton, better. She wasn't the only star who went above and beyond for their role.

Nicolas Cage, who made his big-screen debut in the film was supposed to play Brad. However, he lied about his age and his audition improvisations were considered strange to the filmmakers. Thus he was cast as “Brad’s Bud.” The film credited Cage as “Nicolas Coppola” but he later changed his last name to avoid being accused of nepotism as he is the nephew of director Francis Ford Coppola.

Nicolas Cage attends the Premiere Of Quiver Distribution's "Running With The Devil"  | Getty Images / Global Images Ukraine

Nicolas Cage attends the Premiere Of Quiver Distribution's "Running With The Devil" | Getty Images / Global Images Ukraine


 

Another star who went further than the filmmakers expected was Sean Penn. The actor did not audition for the Spicoli role and was cast after a brief chat before his scheduled audition. However, the casting proved fruitful. Penn, who is a famed method actor, stayed in character for the duration of the film shooting and everyone on-set had to call him “Spicoli."

Penn was not the only actor to be cast unexpectedly. Director Amy Heckerling and screenwriter Cameron Crowe cast a number of their family and friends in the film as well. Judge Reinhold was Heckerling’s upstairs neighbor in Los Angeles and David Brandt, was her ex-husband.  She also cast David’s real-life band, Reeves Nevo & The Cinch, as the band at the dance.

Sean Penn attends ROCK4EB! at Private Residence | Getty Images Ukraine / Global Images Ukraine

Sean Penn attends ROCK4EB! at Private Residence | Getty Images Ukraine / Global Images Ukraine


 

She also cast her ex-boyfriend, Martin Brest, as the doctor on the field trip.  The woman who pulls up next to Brad’s car and laughs at him when he’s wearing his Captain Hook’s Fish and Chips uniform was Crowe’s then-girlfriend and ex-wife Nancy Wilson. Wilson is currently the guitarist for the band Heart.

Another golden casting nugget was Bruce Springsteen’s sister making a  cameo appearance in the film. She plays the dark-haired cheerleader on the left during the pep rally. The film was also Forest Whitaker’s first film and he played the enraged football player Charles Jefferson. Whitaker went on to bag the Best Actor Oscar later on in his career.

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