Fast Times at Ridgemont High was released 35 years ago today. It was a high school comedy full of unknown actors who went on to stardom, such as Jennifer Jason Leigh, Phoebe Cates, Sean Penn, Nicolas Cage, Forest Whitaker, Eric Stoltz, Judge Reinhold, and Anthony Edwards. Cameron Crowe wrote the screenplay, which was based on the book he wrote about a high school he attended and researched undercover. The movie wasn’t promoted much, but it became a smash hits among teenagers and grew into a classic. Variety talked to Crowe and director Amy Heckerling about the film’s origins.
Save for Ray Walston, as the acerbic history teacher and Spicoli’s nemesis, Mr. Hand, there are very few adults in “Fast Times,” including the characters’ parents.
“I hate parents,” said Heckerling. “Parents open a whole box of stuff I didn’t want to get into. I just wanted to say ‘Here’s the world of kids in their own universe. This is real. This is this particular time and place. These are real characters and what they were going through.’”
Crowe recalled being told that if you make a movie just for kids, it will fail because not enough kids will come to the movie. “That was strange to all of us,” he said. “So we banded together to make this movie where parents barely existed. It was raw in what it was showing. There was pot smoking and abortion and all of this stuff.”
Read more about the making of Fast Times at Ridgemont High at Variety.