You’d be hard-pressed to find an actor with a more impressive run of four consecutive movies than Anthony Michael Hall’s from 1983 to 1985: National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983), Sixteen Candles (1984), The Breakfast Club (1985), and Weird Science (1985). These film favorites, of course, all came from the mind of one other man: the late, great, iconoclastic writer-director John Hughes, who saw the teenaged Hall as his own surrogate of sorts and in turn helped make the actor America’s most popular geek of the decade.
The Massachusetts-born, New York-raised Hall, now 48, then had to break out of the braces and headgear that pigeonholed him, which he did by playing against type in films like 1990’s Edward Scissorhands (as the bully Jim) and 1993’s Six Degrees of Separation (as Will Smith’s gay mentor Trent). In recent years, Hall has worked consistently on screens both big (2008’s The Dark Knight) and small (his popular sci-fi series The Dead Zone, which ran on FX from 2002 to 2007).
His latest film is Natural Selection, a high school-set drama he may very well have starred in once upon a time. It features Mason Dye as Tyler, a bullied teen at his new school who falls in with the enigmatic loner, Indrid (Ryan Munzert). Hall plays Mr. Stevenson, a security guard on the frontlines when Indrid plots a shooting spree on the campus.
In our new episode of Role Recall (watch it above), Hall went back to school and beyond with us. Some highlights:
Sixteen Candles (1984)
Hall was Farmer Ted, the hyperactive, annoying thorn-in-the-side of Samantha (Molly Ringwald) in Hughes’s directorial debut. “I always had a crush on her, I always thought she was cute, and she wasn’t paying any attention to me,” Hall said of life imitating art on the film’s suburban Chicago set. He’d eventually do something right: The pair dated briefly after reuniting on The Breakfast Club.
The Breakfast Club (1985)
This drama about five very different teens (Hall’s “brain,” Ringwald’s “princess,” Emilio Estevez’s “athete,” Judd Nelson’s “criminal,” and Ally Sheedy’s “basket case”) who bond during detention is considered one of the greatest high school films of all time, and Hall explains why: “The Breakfast Club works and holds up because it’s sort of a deconstruction of stereotypes… The message of the film is tolerance. The hope is that you want them to all be friends by the time they resume at school on Monday, and the question is will they be?”
The Dark Knight (2008)
Playing the small but memorable role of newsman Mike Engel in Christopher Nolan’s superhero sensation, Hall got to witness the masterful performance of Heath Ledger as the Joker shortly before the actor’s tragic death at age 28. “There was a lot written about Heath at the time, and that he was so steeped in the role that it lead to the overdose,” Hall said. “That was all bulls–t. I saw him at work and he was just simply focused.”
Natural Selection is now in theaters and on video-on-demand.