Molly Ringwald: ‘I was projected as the sweet American girl next door. It wasn’t me’

Molly Ringwald, once the quintessential symbol of American adolescence in the 1980s, offered a reflective look at her career and the evolving landscape of Hollywood in a recent interview with The Guardian. Known for her iconic roles in John Hughes’ films, Ringwald has since pursued a varied career, including a foray into translating a memoir about the late French actor Maria Schneider, titled “My Cousin Maria Schneider.”

Initially hesitant to take on the translation project due to time constraints, Ringwald was drawn in by her connection to Schneider’s story and the complexities of her life, particularly her experience on the set of “Last Tango in Paris.” “I felt my experience as an actor would only bring more to the project. Because I feel like I understood her,” Ringwald shared, speaking from Vancouver during the filming of “Riverdale.” She delved into the nuances of Schneider’s experience with director Bernardo Bertolucci and actor Marlon Brando, highlighting the lack of consent in the film’s infamous rape scene. “Even though there was no actual penetration, he set up a rape, because she didn’t consent to that,” Ringwald stated, reflecting on the emotional and psychological impact on Schneider.

Ringwald also discussed her own experiences with sexism and harassment in the industry, including disturbing encounters as a young actress. These experiences, shared in the wake of the #MeToo movement, shed light on the darker aspects of Hollywood that Ringwald navigated as a teenager and young adult. She recounted specific instances of inappropriate behavior from older men in the industry and the challenges of speaking out against such misconduct at the time.

Reflecting on her roles in Hughes’ films, Ringwald acknowledged the subplots and moments of misogyny present in these teen classics. Despite feeling heard and protected on set, Ringwald recognized the limitations of her influence in changing certain storylines. She specifically mentioned the problematic aspects of “Sixteen Candles,” noting her inability to alter the narrative.

Ringwald’s decision to move to Paris in the late ’80s was partly influenced by her desire to escape the intense scrutiny of Hollywood and explore new creative avenues. In France, she found a more humane approach to filmmaking and a respite from the pressures of American stardom. This period allowed her to pursue diverse projects, including working with director Jean-Luc Godard, which she described as an “incredible experience.”

In recent years, Ringwald has focused on writing and exploring new opportunities in directing, motivated by the changing landscape of Hollywood that now offers more avenues for women behind the camera. This shift marks a significant departure from the era when Ringwald rose to fame, a time when women were often confined to on-screen roles.

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