See the Cast of ‘American Graffiti’ Then and Now
Inspired by his teen years in Modesto, Calif., ‘American Graffiti’ is George Lucas’ love letter to the early ‘60s. Released in 1973, the film was directed and co-written by the then-relatively unknown filmmaker, and its young cast included Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, Harrison Ford and Charles Martin Smith.
A look at American youth culture in the pre-Vietnam era, ‘American Graffiti’ garnered both critical and commercial success, and it’s earned more than $200 million in cinema and rental revenues. Not bad for a film that only cost $1.27 million to make. Diffuser.fm is paying tribute to ‘American Graffiti’ by taking a look its talented cast to see what some of the key players have been up to in recent years.
Richard Dreyfuss, Curt Henderson
Then: The Queens, New York-raised actor played Curt Henderson, a teen who falls in love with a mysterious blonde beauty he sees driving a white Ford Thunderbird.
Now: The most successful actor to emerge from the young ‘American Graffiti’ cast, Dreyfuss won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1978 for ‘The Goodbye Girl’ and was nominated in 1995 for ‘Mr. Holland’s Opus.’ He’s also starred in ‘Jaws,’ ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind,’ and ‘Stakeout,’ among other films.
Ron Howard, Steve Bolander
Then: Already a veteran of ‘The Andy Griffith Show,’ 18-year-old Ron Howard took on the role of Steve Bolander, a recent high school graduate and best friend of Curt Henderson, Dreyfuss’ character.
Now: After finding success on TV in the ’70s sitcom ‘Happy Days,’ Howard turned his attention to directing. These days, he’s one of Hollywood’s most celebrated film auteurs, and he’s brought such movies as ‘Cocoon,’ ‘Backdraft,’ ‘Frost/Nixon’ and most recently, ‘Rush’ to cinemas worldwide.
Paul Le Mat, John Milner
Then: Le Mat played John Milner, a typical ’50s greaser who spends most nights cruising in a kickass car.
Now: Having picked up a Golden Globe Award in 1974 for his work in ‘American Graffiti,’ the New Jersey native has kept busy in the decades since. Le Mat can be seen in movies like ‘The Hanoi Hilton,’ ‘American History X and ‘The Burning Bed,’ for which he won another Golden Globe in 1985.
Charles Martin Smith, Terry “The Toad” Fields
Then: At 18, Smith was in his first year as a professional actor during the making of ‘American Graffiti.’ Along with Ron Howard, the young actor was the only other principal player in the film who was actually a teenager.
Now: Even though he auditioned and ultimately didn’t land the part of Luke Skywalker in Lucas’ ‘Stars Wars‘ films, Smith has still enjoyed a fruitful career as a character actor and director. You might recognize him from his work in films such as ‘Never Cry Wolf’ and ‘The Untouchables,’ as well as TV parts in ‘Fringe’ and ‘Psych.’
Mackenzie Phillips, Carol Morrison
Then: The daughter of Mamas & Papas legend Papa John Phillips, Mackenzie was only 12 when she played Carol Morrison in ‘American Graffiti.’ The movie’s producer, Gary Kurtz, had to become Phillips’ legal guardian during the making of the film to adhere to California child-labor laws.
Now: Phillips struck gold as a cast member of ’70s sitcom ‘One Day at a Time,’ but she’s struggled with substance abuse issues throughout her life. After showing up on VH1’s ‘Celebrity Rehab’ in 2010, Phillips seems to have gotten her problems in check and has kept working as an actress, appearing in CBS’s ‘Criminal Minds’ in 2012.
Cindy Williams, Laurie Henderson
Then: Williams played Laurie, the younger sister of Curt, and the girlfriend to Steve.
Now: Most folks will recognize Williams from ‘Laverne & Shirley,’ the smash television comedy where she played Shirley Feeney from 1976 to 1982. She’s worked as an actress on stage and screen since then, and also made a ton of money producing both of the ‘Father of the Bride’ films in the ’90s.
Harrison Ford, Bob Falfa
Then: Ford was 30 when he played Bob Falfa, a cocky street racer who ends up crashing his car into a ditch.
Now: The actor would reunite with Lucas throughout his career, cementing his box office reputation in the ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Indiana Jones’ franchises. Ford will soon be seen in the film ‘Anchorman: The Legend Continues,’ playing Mark Harken, a television newsman.
Candy Clark, Debbie Dunham
Then: Clark received a Best Supporting Actress Oscars nomination for her portrayal of Debbie Dunham.
Now: The actress would take on the same character in ‘More American Graffiti,’ the largely forgettable 1979 sequel to the Lucas classic. Clark played Mark Whitaker’s (played by Matt Damon) mom in the Steven Soderbergh-directed 2009 cult film ‘The Informant!’
Kathleen Quinlan, Peg
Then: Quinlan was 19 when she played the role of Peg in ‘American Graffiti,’ which also happened to be her film debut.
Now: Married to retired actor Bruce Abbott (‘Re-Animator’), Quinlan has appeared in films such as ‘Breakdown,’ ‘A Civil Action,’ and ‘Apollo 13,’ which was directed by her ‘American Graffiti’ co-star Ron Howard.
Suzanne Somers, “The Blonde”
Then: Somers played “The Blonde,” a mysterious woman who the Richard Dreyfuss character spends most of the film searching for.
Now: The actress became a television fixture on the sitcoms ‘Three’s Company,’ ‘She’s the Sheriff’ and ‘Step by Step,’ and also made millions as an infomercial spokeswoman for products like the ‘Thighmaster’ and the ‘Facemaster.’