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More than 20 years ago, Empire Records made working in a music store seem cool. And today, the film serves as a snapshot of a bygone era, when people actually walked into a physical store to buy music. So quaint! That aspect alone is almost nostalgia trip enough to warrant a re-watch.
The film boasts a great mid-’90s soundtrack that includes some of the era’s biggest bands – Better Than Ezra, The Cranberries, Toad the Wet Sprocket, among others – as well as a great ensemble cast, several of whom would go on to become household names. In honor of the film’s twentieth anniversary, we’re looking back at the lead players and what they’ve done since the cult classic first hit theaters.
Before playing Corey, good girl with a secret drug addiction, Tyler, now 41, had only acted in two movies. Most people would have known her for appearing alongside Alicia Silverstone in the music video for “Crazy” by Aerosmith, the band that just happened to be fronted by her father, Steven Tyler. Following Empire Records, Tyler went out to roles in hits such as That Thing You Do, Armageddon and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. She’s currently appearing on her first TV series, The Leftovers.
Tyler married Spacehog rocker Royston Langdon in 2003, and the couple had a son, Milo William Langdon, in 2004. They split in 2008, and Tyler is currently engaged to sports manager/agent David Gardner. She gave birth to a second son, Sailor Gene Gardner, in February 2015, and a daughter, Lula Rose, in July 2016.
Check out a scene from Empire Records with Tyler and co-star A.J. Whitworth.
Renée Zellweger (Photo: Steve Granitz/Wireimage)
Playing Corey’s wild friend Gena, Zellweger came to Empire Records having already appeared in other classics of the era, including Dazed and Confused and Reality Bites. Just two years later, Zellweger hit the A-list after a lead role in Jerry Maguire, and she’d subsequently star in the Bridget Jones’ Diary movies, Chicago and Miss Potter, which she also executive produced. She’s currently filming Judy, a Judy Garland biopic.
Offscreen, Zellweger, now 49, dated Jim Carrey and Jack White before marrying country singer Kenny Chesney in May 2005. The marriage was annulled in September that same year, and after dating Bradley Cooper from 2009 to 2011, Zellweger has been dating blues musician Doyle Bramhall II since 2012.
Watch Zellweger’s famous Empire Records freakout scene.
Anthony LaPaglia (Photo: Everett/Splash News Online)
The Australian-born LaPaglia had previously appeared in So I Married an Axe Murderer and the The Client before playing Joe, the manager of the titular music store who tries to save the establishment from closing while dealing with the various dramas his young employees create. He’s acted continually ever since, appearing as Daphne’s brother on Frasier and as the lead role for seven seasons on Without a Trace.
LaPaglia, 56, has one daughter, Bridget, with Australian actress Gia Carides. The couple’s 17-year marriage ended in April 2015, and he married Alexandra Henkel in 2018.
Robin Tunney (Photo: Getty Images)
Tunney really shaved her hair to play edgy store clerk Deb, and as a result she had to don a blond wig to play the lead in her next film, The Craft. She’d go on to act in many films, including End of Days, Vertical Limit and Zodiac, but she’s probably best known today for TV roles including on The Mentalist and Prison Break; she currently stars on ABC’s The Fix. Tunney, 43, was married to Bob Gosse, who directed her in the 1997 indie film Niagara, Niagara, from 1997 to 2006. She became engaged to Nicky Marmet, an interior designer, in 2012, and their son Oscar was born in 2016.
Below, watch the scene in which Tunney shaves off her locks.
Ethan Embry (Photo: Wireimage)
He’d previously starred opposite Reese Witherspoon in 1993’s A Far Off Place, and following Empire Records, Embry appeared in Can’t Hardly Wait, Vegas Vacation and Sweet Home Alabama, again opposite Witherspoon. In 2015, Embry appeared on both Grace and Frankie and The Walking Dead, and remarried actress Sunny Mabrey, to whom he’d previously been married from 2005 to 2013. He still acts – most recently in First Man – and in 2017 revealed his past opiate addiction.
In April, Embry live-Tweeted his viewing of Empire Records, confessing, among other things, crushes on both Tyler and Tunney.
Check out Embry’s character’s observance of one of the film’s central plot points: Rex Manning Day.
Rory Cochrane (Photo: Stephen Lovekin/REX Shutterstock)
Cochrane, 43, played Lucas, the clerk who gambles (and loses) one day’s worth of profits in an effort to save the store. Cochrane had already played a lead role in Dazed and Confused, and his post-Empire Records career includes performances in A Scanner Darkly, Argo, CSI: Miami and Black Mass.
Johnny Whitworth (Photo: Everett/Startraks)
Playing A.J., the store manager who pines after Tyler’s character, Whitworth would go on to play a supporting role in 1997’s The Rainmaker and also had a recurring role on CSI: Miami, which starred Cochrane. He played the central villain Blackout in the the 2012 sequel Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, and has had recurring roles on The 100 and Blindspot.
Brendan Sexton III
Brendan Sexton III (Photo: Getty Images)
Playing a would-be shoplifter who claims his name is Warren Beatty and ends up working at the music store, Sexton had only previously appeared in the indie favorite Welcome to the Dollhouse. He went on to play key roles in Boys Don’t Cry, Black Hawk Down and the TV series The Killing, and was most recently seen in Netflix’s Russian Doll. He also owned an indie record label, Big Bit of Beauty.
Maxwell Caulfield (Photo: Everett/Splash News Online)
For a different generation, he’s probably most famous for playing the he-Sandy in Grease 2, but for ’90s kids, Caulfield will forever be Rex Manning, the washed-up ’80s idol who makes an ill-fated appearance at Empire Records. Caulfield has continued to act in movies since, but audiences have probably seen him more often on TV, where he has made appearances on Castle, Modern Family and the British soap Emmerdale. Since 1980, Caulfield has been married to actress Juliet Mills, sister to Hayley Mills.
And in case you didn’t know, Caulfield’s role in Empire Records included a full-length video for Rex Manning’s song “Say No More, Mon Amour.”
Debi Mazar (Photo: Invision/AP)
A longtime friend of Madonna whose appeared in several of the singer’s videos, Mazar’s pre-Empire Records resume includes everything from a bit part in Goodfellas to evil henchwoman Spice (opposite Drew Barrymore as Sugar) in Batman Forever. She’s gotten acclaim for her roles as Shauna, Vince Chase’s press agent on Entourage, and as Maggie, the sharp sidekick on Younger.
Mazar once dated Paul Reubens, but in 2002 she married Gabriele Corcos, with whom she hosted the Cooking Channel series Extra Virgin. The couple splits their time between New York and Florence, where they own a 14th-century Tuscan farm house. With Corcos, Mazar, 54, has two daughters: Evelina Maria, 15, and Giulia Isabel, 11.