‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’: 40 Years Ago, Star-Making Film Defines an Era

When we talk about “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” funny, R-rated moments come to mind:

  • Judge Reinhold’s Brad imagines Phoebe Cates stepping out of Linda’s backyard swimming pool in slow motion and her bikini top “moving in stereo” with car sounds, just to make the moment humiliating. to intervene when the real-life Linda walks in on him in the bathroom and grabs him. Thinking about it.
  • Sean Penn’s Speculi is late for his American history class and says his new schedule is a complete mess, with Mr. Hand (Ray Walston) tearing up the schedule and saying, “I think That you know where the front office is,” and Spicoli walks out. You d—!”
  • Linda uses carrots in the school cafeteria to teach the less experienced Stacey (Jennifer Jason Leigh) an oral sex lesson.

etc. “Fast Times,” which was released 40 years ago in August 1982, is full of nudity and frank sex talk and raunchy, overt humor (and some gay “jokes” that wouldn’t work in today’s world.) —but on further examination, it’s also a surprisingly serious film at times, with some straightforwardly dramatic scenes sympathetically tackling the issues of teenage sexuality, pregnancy and abortion.

Unlike the often-forgotten teen comedies of the 1980s, such as “Porkey’s,” “Spring Break,” “Private School,” “Private Resort,” “Hard Bodies,” “Homework,” “Losin’ It,” And we can. Go on but we won’t, “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” resonates as quite the time capsule of the period, capturing the music, fashion, attitudes and social attitudes of the time. . Thanks to Cameron Crowe’s dialogue-rich screenplay (adapting his book) and Amy Heckerling’s pitch-perfect direction—not to mention a stellar cast that included three future Oscar winners and a host of other young talents. . Ridgemont High” is perhaps the best rebellious teen comedy of all time.

Using a cutout of Deborah Harry as his love interest, Damon (Robert Romans, right) demonstrates smooth dating techniques to Rat (Brian Baker).

For those who have never attended Ridgemont High or haven’t been to class in a long time, a little primer. In 1981, a young writer named Cameron Crowe published a book called “Fast Times at Ridgemont High: A True Story,” about going undercover and posing as a student at Claremont High School in San Diego. Told about his experiences. (Crowe changed the school’s name and the name and identifying features of some students; many students later claimed to know exactly who Crowe was and what he was doing.) A year later , Universal Pictures released an adaptation of the legendary film. Amy Heckerling made her feature debut and Crowe wrote the screenplay. This story centers around one year at Ridgemont High, featuring:

  • Phoebe Cates as Linda Barrett, who has no time for high school boys, as she is engaged to “Dawg” who works for an airline in Chicago.
  • Jennifer Jason Leigh as newcomer Stacey Hamilton, whom Linda takes under her wing to offer sex and relationship advice.
  • Judge Reinhold as Stacey’s older brother Brad, a senior and older man on campus.
  • Robert Romance as Damon, who, unlike the other characters, does not work at the mall and instead makes his cash scaling concert tickets.
  • Brian Baker as Mark “Rat” Ratner, a cute and sexually inexperienced kid who works at the mall’s movie theater and has a crush on Stacey.

The amazing supporting cast includes Sean Penn in his famous, very early career, scene-stealing performance as the stoner Speculi. Eric Stoltz and Anthony Edwards as Spicoli’s pothead friends; Ray Walston as the stern Mr. Hand, who teaches American history and greets the students as “Aloha”. Amanda Wyss as Brad’s girlfriend and then non-girlfriend, Lisa; Forest Whitaker as football star Charles Jefferson; Nicolas Cage (credited to Nicolas Coppola) as “Brad’s Bud” and Vincent Schiavelli as the cheerful science teacher Mr. Vargas, who takes his students on a field trip to the morgue. (Vargas, looking at Speculi as he enters the morgue: “Hey, [are] You in my class?” Spicoli: “I’m in today!”


In his star-making role as stoner Jeff Spicoli, Sean Penn (center) is joined by Anthony Edwards (left) and Eric Stoltz as sidekicks.

From the opening credits to the sounds of “We Got the Beat” by Go-Go, as we see many of the main characters in the mall, which is a movie theater, a game arcade, a pizza parlor, Florsheim shows, B. Dalton, Pacific Stereo, even a Licorice Pizza record store, “Fast Times” is a brightly colored snapshot of the early 1980s. Ron Johnson (DW Brown), a 26-year-old lothario who works at Pacific Stereo, picks up Stacey (who tells him she’s 19) in 280-Z. Linda notes to Stacey that “three girls here at Ridgemont … have cultivated a petite figure this school year”. When Mr. Hand hands out coursework to his students, they all sniff the freshly mimeographed paper.

A few other notes for the class:

  • “Fast Times” ends with one of them telling us what happened to the characters. (“Mike Damone. Now working at 7-Eleven. Caught for scalping Ozzy Osbourne tickets.” “Linda Barrett: Attending college in Reverside. Now living with her eccentric psych professor.” ) was a trend popularized by “American Graffiti”. and appeared in such films as “Stand by Me,” “National Lampoon’s Animal House” and “Stripes.”
  • In Crowe’s book, the character of Mark “Rat” Ratner was based on Andy Rathbone, who would gain fame as the author of many “For Dummies” manuals. (Rathbone claimed that he was actually the one who ordered the pizza in class, Spicoli-style.)
  • Among the actors who auditioned or were considered for roles in the film: Michelle Pfeiffer, Tom Hanks, Diane Lane, Matthew Broderick, Jodie Foster, Alan Barkin, Carrie Fisher, Rosanna Arquette and Ellie Sheedy. Fred Gwynne of “Munsters” and “My Cousin Vinny” fame was offered the role of Mr. Vargas, but reportedly turned it down because of the film’s explicit sexual content.

Much of “Fast Times” is about Stacey’s determination to be sexually active. After losing her virginity to Ron in the dugout of a baseball field, she goes on a date with a rat, but then finds herself attracted to the slimy Damon, who impregnates her. That’s when the awkward hijinks take a back seat in “Fast Times,” as Stacey tells Damon she’s pregnant and offers to pay half of the $150 abortion fee and give him a ride to the clinic. but attacked him before agreeing.

When Damon walks out, Stacey asks Brad for a ride to the bowling alley and then across the street to the clinic. After the procedure, Brad waits (in front of a “School Crossing” sign, reminding us that this girl is only 15 and starting her life) and says, “Well, this Only yours will be a secret. Are you okay?” For all his idiotic posturing, Brad turned out to be a great bro. (And Linda is actually a very good friend who is fiercely protective of Stacey and puts Damon in his place in fast fashion.)


Brad (Judge Reinhold) is humiliated by the pirate outfit he has to wear to his fast food job.

By the end of the school year and the start of another summer working at the mall, Stacey says, “Linda, I finally figured it out. I don’t want sex. Anyone can have sex. … I’m in a relationship.” I want. I want romance.”

“You want romance at Regiment?” Linda says. “We can’t even get cable TV in here, Stacey and you want romance.” And there’s a nice guy, Rat, across the mall, and Stacey waves him over. Again, “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” is early 1980s (“We can’t even get cable TV here”) but also smart and even cute.

In 2020, an all-star cast gathered for a Zoom virtual table reading of the “Fast Times” script for charity, including Julia Roberts as Stacey, Matthew McConaughey as Damon, Jennifer Aniston as Linda, Ray Liotta as Mr. Hand, Brad Pitt . Dan Cook as Brad, Mark Ratner as Dan Cook and Shia LaBeouf as Spicoli. (Sean Penn was “Mr. Pizza Guy”).

Several area theaters will offer a 40th-anniversary screening of the film Thursday, featuring a new Q&A between Amy Heckerling and Paul Thomas Anderson, whose “licorice pizza” was inspired by “Fast Times.”

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