There was the wrong kind of “Pretty in Pink” uprising, which forever altered the John Hughes-penned romantic comedy that hit theaters 35 years ago.
To hear director Howard Deutch tell it, the people rose up during the first test screening, boo-ing the film’s original ending – a never-released version that saw Andie (Molly Ringwald) end up happily with her fellow other-side-of-the-tracks comrade, the utterly devoted Duckie (Jon Cryer).
It left entitled, rich hottie Blane (Andrew McCarthy) out in the cold after he ghosted his pledged prom date (have you no shame, sir?) because the working class outsider Andie wouldn’t fit in with his country club life.
“Up to that point, the screening had been like a rock concert. And we got to the ending, and they started to boo,” says Deutch, who insists there were actual boos. “That young audience, they did not want Molly to end up with John Cryer. The girls were like, ‘Forget the politics. We want her to get the cute boy.’ ”
That visceral reaction left screenwriter and producer Hughes (who died in 2009), and the first-time director, squirming in their theater seats. “We both had a heart attack,” says Deutch.
They huddled to remake the ending, with Hughes writing a new five-page conclusion that grows more surprising with each passing year – having Andie choose uber-privileged Blane over working class Duckie. It goes against every underdog-love-prevails rule and the whole movie had built towards Andie and Duckie ending up together.
But Deutch moved heaven and a fake prom for the pivotal revamping. “We had one day to re-shoot the entire ending. There were all kinds of obstacles to overcome making that work,” he says.
One headache in particular sticks out. McCarthy had shaved his hair for a Broadway play, forcing him to don the world’s worst Blane wig on the soundstage recreated to look like the prom (originally shot at Los Angeles’ historic Biltmore Hotel ballroom).
The key story change was making Blane, who was originally featured with a different prom date on his arm, look sympathetic. In the new version, he attends the prom solo, looking heartbroken. He tells off his obnoxious, rich buddie Steff (James Spader) and comes clean to Andie before professing eternal love, kissing her cheek and exiting to OMD’s “If You Leave.” Duckie OK’s Andie’s departure to follow Blane for the movie-ending smooch.
“If you don’t go to him now, I’m never going to take you to another prom again,’ ” Duckie says.
“Something about that dialogue, he sacrificed for her,” says Deutch, explaining why it works.
Duckie didn’t suffer a minute. “John was like, we have to protect Duckie’s character here. We have to get him a Duckette,” says Deutch. Kristy Swanson, later to star in“Buffy, the Vampire Slayer” was hired (listed as “Duckette” in the credits) to give a Duckie-come-hither look from the dance floor in her first, wordless movie part.
During the next test screening, the audience was “went crazy” for the revised ending, says Deutch. “They were satisfied, fulfilled and delighted. And I agreed.”
He had a box office hit ($40 million) which became part of a generation’s upbringing. The change “obviously has not hurt the movie over time,” he says.
In the “Pretty In Pink” extras of the just-released “John Hughes 5-Movie Collection” (out on Blu-ray now) Ringwald, in a behind-the-scenes 2006 interview, agrees with the new course, suggesting her screen chemistry might have been less strictly-BFF if Robert Downey Jr. had played the Duckie part. (Downey Jr. had auditioned for the role.)
Deutch chalks it up to just breaking the norm. “The ending is something not predictable, something so surprising, that it shocks you in a positive way,” he says. “Like comedy is always successful when it’s a surprise.”
Even 35 years later, people still ask him about the changed course of history. Fans have rallied around Duckie with #TeamDuckie call-outs, but Deutch insists he doesn’t lose sleep over the fateful edit.
“I don’t because the movie was successful,” Deutch says. “I lose sleep over other movies that were not successful.”