How could you forget her? As the late John Hughes’ muse for well-known 80s movies like The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink, the multi-talented, red-haired beauty can be found debuting her musical talents with her first jazz album, “Except Sometimes”. Ringwald is 44 now and shows no signs of stopping anytime soon, as a full-time actress, author, and mother of three.
You can catch her at the Berman Center for Performing Arts next month, March 20, where she will perform for one night only with the same band she’s performed with since 2008. Hour Detroit spoke with Ringwald on the phone to discuss what inspired the jazz album, and what the future holds for the master at multi-tasking. Tickets to Americas Sweetheart: An Evening with Molly Ringwald can be found at theberman.org.
Hour Detroit: What was it like producing your own album for the first time, I know your dad was a jazz musician as well, and wondered if he helped your creative process along the way?
Ringwald: My dad is a jazz musician and my roots of appreciating jazz start there, but he was not involved in this at all. It was really me and Peter Smith who’s my pianist and arranger, we really did it together.
When did you originally come up with the idea to produce your own album?
I really think that it came about while we were performing together. I started performing with this band in 2008, and it just went really well, I was enjoying the experience, and it seemed like something I wanted to capture while we were doing it, and I didn’t know how long we were going to keep playing together, and so we did it a little bit commando-mission style.
Are you the type of person who sets five or 10 year goals for yourself? Did you always plan to become an actress, author, and jazz musician?
In some ways I have plans, but you never really know what’s going to happen in life so I would say I have what I’d like to call wish lists, and I try to keep those in mind. The only thing I can tell you I was set on was having kids, and I was very focused on that, and I’m really glad I did that. I always had in the back of my mind that I wanted to put a jazz group together because I grew up with jazz and I just always loved it. And I guess also, writing books was something I was always interested in, so I’ve always tried to work toward things, but I’m not really too set on I have to do this or I’ll be destroyed, I try to be more flexible.
What was the process like putting your own spin on some of the songs you included in the album? I thought it was really interesting you did your own version of ‘Forget About Me,’ most memorable for being the anthem of The Breakfast Club, I’m glad you included it. Was it easy to come up with your own version?
That happened pretty soon after John Hughes passed away and I wanted to do a tribute to him and I was also interested to see if I could even do a jazz version of that song, because its so iconic, and you think of it in that one way, but I’ve always liked covers that completely reimagine songs, otherwise what’s the point? It was really my collaborator, my arranger Peter, who started to put these really beautiful jazz chords behind it, and I thought, “Oh wow, this is really interesting!”
What’s the difference for you, performing on screen and in front of a live audience? Do you have a preference?
They are really so completely different. There’s something really great about a live audience, and it gives an energy to performing that I don’t think you can get anywhere else. But then there’s also a sort of intimacy you have on film, the fact that you can do things over and over again, and really dig in and I think that’s interesting — it depends on the specific project.
It would be hard for me to pick a favorite and say that’s all I want to do, but I do think performing in front of a live audience gives you a really great foundation for being able to do things quickly and authentically on film, because for people who are only film actors, they can get a bit lazy in terms of knowing you can always cut, and when you’re on stage you don’t have that luxury.
As a lifelong Francophile, you moved to Paris in 1992, and even performed in foreign films there. Can you talk about your time there, and how it helped you evolve as a performer?
It was really fun, I didn’t necessarily know it was something I would do, but I was always interested in living there. I knew that if I was ever going to do that, it was the right time, so I’m glad I seized the day and went when I did.
Do you speak French?
Oui! I learned some in school, but became more conversationally fluent in France. I would love to learn another language.
You’re obviously a very multi-talented person, and I read somewhere that John Hughes insisted you direct someday. Do you still have a goal for yourself to direct one day?
Yes, it’s definitely a goal of mine, and something I think about all the time. I’m totally ready, I just think it’s hard for the types of projects I’m interested in, which are character-based projects, it’s sort of what would be considered an independent film, and its hard to get the money. Maybe I’ll KickStart it?
(laughs) Director Zack Braff just did that, he did it for his last movie, and it worked, so anything is possible.
Do you have any favorite independent films?
I love Frederico Felleni’s movies, like Nights of Cabiria. I like foreign, artsy movies, or character-based movies. I love 1970s cinema, Cindy Lumet’s, Dog Day Afternoon, and of course the Coppola movies, and I also like Sofia Coppola’s movies.
Check out Ringwald’s website to see the latest she’s working on: iammollyringwald.com