Fast Times at Ridgemont High – which airs on AMC Friday at 2:15 PM – has over the years come to be seen as the quintessential teen sex comedy, the movie that launched thousands of inferior copycat films.
The 1982 film also ranks as one of the greatest launching pads for young actors in movie history. No fewer than 7 actors and writers who worked on Fast Times – all relative unknowns at the time – would go on to become major stars in their own right. Ridgemont was one high school where nearly the entire class graduated to bigger and better things.
Go the jump to see the 7 Stars who launched their careers with Fast Times At Ridgemont High.
1. Jennifer Jason Leigh: The daughter of actor Vic Morrow, Leigh was a
child actress before she took the role of Stacy Hamilton in Fast Times. But most of Leigh’s early parts were goody-good roles in
TV shows like The Waltons and Disneyland. Fast Times launched Leigh’s
film career – she’d later go on to well-received supporting roles in
films such as Last Exit to Brooklyn and Dolores Claiborne.
2. Sean Penn: The future star was just another Madonna groupie in waiting back
when he appeared in Fast Times as Jeff Spicoli. But the part turned out
to be a breakout role for Penn. Post-Ridgemont, Penn’s movie career
took off, winning Oscar nominations for his roles in Dead Man Walking,
Mystic River, and I am Sam, among others.
3. Judge Reinhold: When Rheingold landed the part of Brad Hamilton in
Fast Times, he had only a handful of minor TV and film roles under his
belt. His performance in the film changed his career overnight. Two
years after checking out of Ridgemont, Rheingold was landing parts in
box office blockbusters like Beverley Hills Cop and Gremlins.
4. Nicolas Cage: Fast Times was Cage’s first feature film appearance;
he plays a minor role as Brad’s bud. At the time, Cage was still acting
under his real name, Nicolas Coppola, and that’s the name that appears
on the credits. Five years after graduating from Ridgemont, Cage had
established himself as a bankable lead, starring in hits like
Moonstruck and Raising Arizona.
5. Eric Stoltz: Fast Times was Eric Stoltz’s first film role, playing
the part of Stoner bud. The film helped launch Stoltz’s career as both
a movie actor and a stage performer. In the 1980s, Stoltz won Golden
Globe nominations for his roles in Mask and Some Kind of Wonderful,
while also garnering a Tony nomination for his Broadway work.
6. Forest Whitaker: The future Oscar winner plays Charles Jefferson in
Fast Times, one of Whitaker’s first film roles. After Fast Times,
Whitaker toiled in television for several years, appearing on episodes
of Hill Street Blues, Cagney and Lacey, and Trapper John, M.D. In 1986,
Whitaker landed a role in Platoon, followed by a part in Good Morning
Vietnam, and his film career zoomed.
7. Cameron Crowe: The Rolling Stone journalist wrote the book and the
screenplay for Fast Times, his first sale as a screenwriter. Fast Times
was also where Crowe met his future wife, Nancy Wilson, who has a minor
role in the film. After Ridgemont, Crowe worked five years on his next
script, and it turned out to be a blockbuster, the film Jerry Maguire.
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