'Fast Times at Ridgemont High' turns 40: See what cast is up to (and looks like) now

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Cameron Crowe, then a young journalist, wrote the screenplay for “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” after spending a year undercover at a California high school. His totally relatable characters — fictional students facing issues like low-paying jobs, evolving friendships, romantic relationships and unwanted pregnancy — made the movie equal parts raucous comedy and poignant coming-of-age drama. And the film, directed by Amy Heckerling, launched the careers of some of Hollywood’s biggest and most celebrated stars. Join Wonderwall.com as we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the “Fast Times” premiere on Aug. 13, 2022, by checking in with the cast of the classic flick.

Keep reading to see Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Forest Whitaker and more stars who got their big breaks in “Fast Times”…

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Sean Penn played stoner-surfer dude Jeff Spicoli, who spends most of his time chasing waves and battling his nemesis, the super-strict history teacher Mr. Hand (played by Ray Walston). Sean’s performance — and lines like “All I need are some tasty waves, a cool buzz, and I’m fine” — made Spicoli a timeless embodiment of ’80s Southern California surf culture.

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Sean Penn went on to become one of the most versatile and critically acclaimed actors in Hollywood. He won praise for films like “At Close Range,” “Dead Man Walking” and “I Am Sam” and snagged Academy Awards for “Mystic River” and “Milk.” Sean also began directing in the early ’90s and his 2007 film “Into the Wild” received four Oscar nods. Sean’s personal life has consistently been headline fodder, with multiple assault arrests and tumultuous couplings over the years. He famously married Madonna in 1985, just months after meeting her on the set of her “Material Girl” music video; they split in 1989 after a turbulent four years. That same year, he wed Robin Wright. They had two kids, son Hopper Penn and daughter Dylan Penn, before splitting for good in 2010. He married Australian actress Leila George in 2020, but she filed for divorce the following year. Sean has become increasingly active with political and social causes, including humanitarian work that has taken him to New Orleans, Haiti and Ukraine.

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Phoebe Cates became an icon to a whole generation of teen boys with her turn as Linda Barrett, the outgoing and sexually experienced teen who routinely offers relationship advice to her shy best friend Stacy Hamilton (played by Jennifer Jason Leigh). Her pool fantasy sequence featured what Rolling Stone has described as “the most memorable bikini-drop in cinema history.”

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Phoebe Cates went on to star in films like “Gremlins” and its sequel, “Gremlins 2: The New Batch,” “Drop Dead Fred” and “Princess Caraboo” (with husband Kevin Kline, whom she’d wed in 1989) before unofficially retiring from acting in 1994 and focusing on raising her children, Owen Kline and Greta Kline. She briefly returned to the big screen in 2001 when she appeared in “The Anniversary Party” as a favor to her best friend and former “Fast Times” castmate Jennifer Jason Leigh, who wrote and directed the film. Phoebe has owned and operated Blue Tree, a high-end gift and clothing shop on New York City’s Upper East Side, since 2005.

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Judge Reinhold played popular Brad Hamilton, a high school senior in the throes of a bad luck streak that begins with his firing from his job at All-American Burger and includes getting dumped by his girlfriend and being caught fantasizing about the girl he likes when she walks in on him in the bathroom.

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After his big break in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” Judge Reinhold became a prolific actor with notable roles in films including “Ruthless People,” the “Beverly Hills Cop” franchise and “The Santa Clause.” He earned near-cult status as the “close talker” in the 1994 Seinfeld episode “The Raincoats,” even earning an Emmy nomination for the guest-starring role. Judge, who more recently starred in the 2017 crime comedy “Bad Grandmas” with Florence Henderson, made headlines when he was arrested at Dallas Love Field airport in December 2016 and charged with disorderly conduct after objecting to a pat-down from security shortly after his release from the hospital following an adverse reaction to a medication. The actor — seen here in a mug shot following the incident — was married briefly in the ’80s and went on to wed Amy Reinhold in 2000. They have one child, daughter Haley, who was born in 2013.

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Jennifer Jason Leigh was Stacy Hamilton, the naive 15-year-old little sister of Brad Hamilton (played by Judge Reinhold) whose attempt to navigate the new world of romance and dating has dramatic consequences.

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After “Fast Times” launched her career, Jennifer Jason Leigh appeared in dozens of popular films including “Backdraft,” “Single White Female,” “The Hudsucker Proxy,” “Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle” and “The Hateful Eight” (for which she received an Oscar nod). In 2001, she co-wrote and co-directed “The Anniversary Party,” an indie film that co-starred famous pals including her best friend and “Fast Times” co-star Phoebe Cates. More recently, Jennifer starred in the 2017 horror film “Amityville: The Awakening.” She’s also had roles on Showtime’s “Twin Peaks” revival and the series “Weeds.” She married writer-director Noah Baumbach in 2005 and — after acting in his films “Margot at the Wedding” and “Greenberg” — they divorced in 2010, the same year she gave birth to their son, Rohmer.

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Robert Romanus played Mike Damone, the smooth talker who fancies himself a high school Casanova and earns money scalping concert tickets and taking sports bets.

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Robert Romanus followed up his “Fast Times” success with a recurring role on the series “The Facts of Life.” He’s continued to act over the years, mostly in TV projects like “Days of Our Lives,” “21 Jump Street” and “Will & Grace.” The divorced father of three owned a North Hollywood coffee shop, Bob’s Espresso Bar, for several years until it closed in 2014.

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Forest Whitaker made his film debut as Charles Jefferson, the star player on Ridgemont High School’s underwhelming football team.

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Forest Whitaker went on to become one of the finest actors of his generation. He won an Oscar for his performance in “The Last King of Scotland” and has appeared in dozens of critically acclaimed films and TV shows from “Platoon” and “Good Morning, Vietnam” to “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” and “Black Panther.” Forest also has dedicated his time to humanitarian work and activism; he’s a UNESCO Special Envoy for Peace and Reconciliation and serves as the CEO of Whitaker Peace and Development Initiative, a nonprofit outreach program. He married actress Keisha Nash in 1996; they had two children together, daughters Sonnet and True, and also raised his son Ocean Alexander and her daughter Autumn (from previous relationships) before divorcing in 2021.

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Brian Backer was Mark “Rat” Ratner, the shy and geeky high schooler who has a massive crush on Jennifer Jason Leigh’s Stacy Hamilton (pictured). Fun fact: Writer Cameron Crowe based “Rat” on a real-life student, Andy Rathbone, who went on to find global success as the author of the “…For Dummies” series of computer self-help books. 

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After “Fast Times,” Brian Backer appeared in “Moving Violations” in 1985 and “Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol” in 1987. Next came a role on the soap opera “Santa Barbara” and guest-star stints on classic ’80s and ’90s TV shows including “Charles in Charge,” “Gimme a Break!” and “Growing Pains.” Brian — pictured at Spike TV’s Guys Choice Awards in June 2011 — had his last credited role in 2012 when he played “Middle-Aged Guy/Dentist” in “Fast Times” director Amy Heckerling’s comedy-horror movie “Vamps.”

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Amanda Wyss played Lisa, the beauty who contributes to the terrible string of bad luck suffered by Judge Reinhold’s Brad Hamilton when she dumps him after he loses his job at All-American Burger.

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Two years after “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” Amanda Wyss scored a part in the horror classic “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” Roles in films like “Silverado” and “Better Off Dead” followed, and Amanda has worked steadily ever since on TV shows including “Highlander: The Series,” “JAG,” “Dexter,” “Charmed” and “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.”

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Eric Stoltz had a small role as Stoner Bud, one of two pot-smoking pals of Sean Penn’s Jeff Spicoli. Keep reading to see the famous actor who nabbed the other Stoner Bud bit part…

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Eric Stoltz went on to find acclaim in such films as “Mask,” “Some Kind of Wonderful” and “Pulp Fiction.” The young actor had become friends with Cameron Crowe on the set of “Fast Times” and ended up being cast in the writer-director’s next four movies including “Say Anything…” and “Jerry Maguire.” Over the years, Eric has appeared on dozens of TV shows, from “Will & Grace” and “Grey’s Anatomy” to “Madam Secretary” and “Caprica.” Eric also has had a successful career behind the camera, directing shows including “Glee,” “Californication” and “Bull” (on which he’s pictured here also playing a small role in 2021). Eric has maintained a low public profile after dating fellow ’80s star Bridget Fonda for eight years in the ’90s. In 2005, he married Irish folk singer and former animator Bernadette Moley.

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Anthony Edwards played the film’s other Stoner Bud character. He’s pictured here with Sean Penn’s Jeff Spicoli and Eric Stoltz’s fellow stoner.

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Anthony Edwards followed up his tiny role in “Fast Times” with bigger ones in ’80s films like “Revenge of the Nerds” and “Top Gun,” in which he famously played Tom Cruise’s best friend and co-pilot, Goose. But it was his portrayal of Dr. Mark Greene on “ER” from the series’ 1994 debut to the end of the eighth season in 2002 that made the actor a household name. Recent projects have included “Inventing Anna” and the upcoming “Tales of the Walking Dead,” AMC’s “Walking Dead” spinoff. Anthony was married to Stila cosmetics founder Jeanine Lobell, with whom he had a son and three daughters, from 1994 to 2015. In 2017, he published a powerful essay on Medium about surviving childhood sexual abuse that began when he was 12. At the end of 2021, the actor eloped with longtime friend and fellow actor Mare Winningham.

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Nicolas Cage was credited as Nicolas Coppola in his big-screen debut, which saw him playing an unnamed co-worker of Judge Reinhold’s character, Brad Hamilton, at All-American Burger. During filming, his co-stars’ penchant for endlessly quoting from movies made by his famous filmmaker uncle — Francis Ford Coppola — inspired the actor to change his name.

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After “Fast Times,” Nicolas Cage shot to stardom with a string of juicy roles in movies like “Valley Girl,” “Rumble Fish,” “The Cotton Club,” “Peggy Sue Got Married,” “Raising Arizona” and “Moonstruck,” which earned him a Golden Globe nod. The ultra-prolific actor has become known for a wide variety of projects, from crowd-pleasing blockbusters (“National Treasure,” “Face/Off,” “Ghost Rider”) to smaller, artier films like 2021’s “Pig,” in which he plays a truffle hunter searching for his beloved missing porcine pal. Nic’s personal life has been equally colorful: He’s been married five times — to Patricia Arquette, Lisa Marie Presley (they filed for divorce 107 days later), Alice Kim (mother of his son Kal-El, named after Superman’s birth name), Erika Koike (he filed for annulment four days later) and most recently to Riko Shibata, whom he met while filming in Japan. Nic — who has an adult son, Weston Cage, with ex-girlfriend Christina Fulton — is expecting a daughter with Riko in 2022.

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Ray Walston played the irascible Mr. Hand, the teacher who spends much of his time tussling with Jeff Spicoli (played by Sean Penn, pictured) and other students whom he berates for being “on dope.”

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Ray Walston already was a Hollywood veteran before “Fast Times,” having starred on the popular 1960s series “My Favorite Martian” and in the 1973 film “The Sting.” He later reprised his role as Mr. Hand on the short-lived “Fast Times” television spinoff and continued to act in film and TV projects including the 1994 miniseries version of Stephen King’s “The Stand.” Later that year, a lupus diagnosis forced the prolific actor to slow down considerably. Ray (pictured accepting an Emmy for his work on “Picket Fences” in 1996) died on Jan. 1, 2001, at 86. He was survived by his wife of 57 years, Ruth Walston, and their daughter, Katharine Ann.

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Vincent Schiavelli played Mr. Vargas, the enthusiastic Ridgemont High science teacher who brings his class to a morgue in one memorable scene.

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Vincent Schiavelli, one of Hollywood’s most prolific actors during his four-decade career, suffered from the connective tissue disorder Marfan syndrome — but didn’t let it slow him down. Some of his best-known film projects were “Ghost,” “Batman Returns,” “The People vs. Larry Flynt,” “Tomorrow Never Dies” and “Man on the Moon,” and he appeared on popular TV shows like “Taxi” (as the priest who marries Latka and Simka), “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” “Miami Vice,” “MacGyver” and “The X-Files.” The actor also had a major passion for food and wrote several cookbooks, appeared on a PBS cooking show and won a James Beard journalism award for his food articles in the Los Angeles Times. The twice-married renaissance man (pictured at the “The Singing Detective” premiere in Hollywood in October 2003) died of lung cancer on Dec. 26, 2005, at 57.




























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