Back Stage West recently went out on the town with Jon Cryer and Ione Skye, who currently co-star in the independent feature Went to Coney Island on a Mission From God… Be Back by Five, a story based on a personal experience by Cryer. The film marks Cryer's second feature as both writer and producer (the first was The Pompatus of Love).
Cryer is most recognizable for his work in the 1986 John Hughes film Pretty in Pink, in which he played the memorable role of Duckie opposite Molly Ringwald. His other screen work includes the films No Small Affair, with Demi Moore, Hiding Out, and Hot Shots!, and the Emmy award-winning series The Famous Teddy Z and the sitcom Partners. He can be seen this fall in the new ABC series The Trouble With Normal.
Cryer attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. He played David in the Los Angeles and Broadway productions of the Tony Award-winning Torch Song Trilogy and also worked on Broadway in Brighton Beach Memoirs, Off-Broadway in Jules Feiffer's Carnal Knowledge, and in London's West End in the premiere production of 900 Oneonta. Cryer reprised his role in 900 Oneonta last year at the Odyssey Theatre in Los Angeles.
Ione Skye skyrocketed to filmgoer's attention when she starred opposite Keanu Reeves in the acclaimed River's Edge, her feature acting debut. She is most recognized for her fine work opposite John Cusack in the heartfelt Cameron Crowe film Say Anything. Her other credits include Alison Anders' Gas Food Lodging and Anders' segment for Four Rooms, A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon, The Rachel Papers, Wayne's World, Guncrazy, Jump, and Mascara, and for television, the miniseries Napoleon and Josephine: A Love Story and the TV movie The Perfect Mother. She can next be seen in the indie features Moonglow and The Good Doctor, opposite James Coburn.
Jon Cryer: I never met you before you came in to read for Went to Coney Island, which is amazing, considering that in the '80s we traveled in very much the same circles. But that's how we met. You just came in and aced it.
Ione Skye: I love hearing that. Did you really hang out with other actors of the '80s?
Jon: Not many, but I lived in New York most of the time. So I would occasionally see Andrew McCarthy on the street and we would sort of nod to each other. That was about the extent of it.
Ione: I don't know what people thought. I only hung out with the "Brat Pack" when this guy Patrick Lippert started this group called Young Artists United, and Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden would have artists come around and talk. Ally Sheedy and Rob Lowe and that whole crew were a part of it. That's the only time I really ever hung out with them. Did you get invited?
Jon: No. I was so under the radar. I didn't even get invited to my high school reunion. I was a young artist un-united.
Success at a Young Age
Ione: I was 15 when I did River's Edge.
Jon: See, they had to go out of their way to hire you. Me, I was 18 the first time they were hiring me. So I was cheap. They didn't have to hire a teacher for me.
Ione: But you know what? I wasn't going to get hired for River's Edge, my first movie, if I didn't get emancipated in court. So I went to court.
Jon: That's terrible. That's very wrenching for a child.
Ione: Yeah. My mother was like, "Whoops." For me, it wasn't so bad. I'd call her and say, "I'm working late," but, really, I was hanging out with Keanu after hours: "Yeah, Mom. We're filming until four. I'll see you in the morning."
Jon: For me, I knew I wanted to be an actor from when I was 12. I knew that this was the only thing that I ever wanted to do.
Ione: I was organizing auditions in elementary school. I loved musicals. I loved dancing. I loved film. But it wasn't like I thought, I'm going to really do this when I'm an adult. I was very shy. I was almost worriedly shy.
My brother was acting, and one day he came back from an audition for River's Edge and said, "You should audition for this," and I was like, "What are you talking about?" And I did.
The Big Break
Ione: I'm sure there were times I was more famous or "bankable," but it's always been one good film, seven bad films. One good film, seven bad films. It's been pretty consistent in that way.
Jon: Unless you're hypersocial, you don't notice that you've become any more or less famous. It feels pretty much the same. I was never a big club hopper and never very involved in the party scene. So when I was in the height of the Pretty in Pink fame, it felt pretty similar to the times when I wasn't nearly so popular. If you've got a good core group of friends it doesn't touch you that much. And that's really good, because if you get caught up in it, it really is a trap. It's like a drug. You've got to be in that next movie that's going to get big, and you never know. Really it's all just a crapshoot anyway. People who have hit after hit after hit are often just lucky, and people who do disaster after disaster after disaster are just unlucky. You never know.
That's usually the reason that actors branch out. Like you're directing [short films] now. Sometimes you just get gripped by something you have to do. This particular story was a personal one I had gone through that I had to deal with somehow. I wrote the script not thinking that I'd ever be able to sell it. I made the movie not thinking I'd ever be able to show it.
Thankfully, if you're driven enough, that doesn't matter. You just take one step at a time, and sooner or later you're able to put enough pieces together that there's a movie there. That's really satisfying.
Jon: Having directed and cast something myself makes it so much easier to audition. You know that it may be your height that might be the reason they turn you down. Or something completely arbitrary, like your hair color or that funny sound you make with your lips. You stop taking it personally when you audition. You want to do the best you can, but you don't have an enormous personal stake in it every time, which I used to have.
I recommend to any actor to spend some time either as a reader or as an assistant for a casting director, because you see the common actor mistakes, and all of a sudden you'll stop taking it so personally, and it will make you so much happier in life.
A lot of actors I know end up more and more emotionally distraught over auditions because they know more is expected of them because they've been around a while or they might be famous.
Ione: I've totally felt that. And you see it in their faces. They're thinking, Whoa, how did she get so far in this business? Isn't she supposed to be good? I've had that happen a lot.
Jon: What I used to do in auditions that was really bad was I would rehearse all the spontaneity out of them completely. I would have moments that I wanted to do that were big dramatic moments that I pre-picked out, and after a while it makes you forget the story, and you forget the real reason you're there, which is just to communicate the story. Instead of thinking about what you can do to show how terrific you are, think about progressing the story forward and who you have to be to progress the story forward. That, I think, makes auditions turn out good.
Ione: I've learned that it can be so simple. I auditioned for some TV project where I was playing a caterer, and I was worrying about something, and my friend said, "Well what are you supposed to be thinking about?" I told her, "I'm a caterer." And she said, "Well, just think about food." It's so simple. Oh yeah: Sandwiches.
Jon: I definitely feel like there's stuff I can do now that's way better than the stuff I've done in the past, but at the same time what I miss from them now is this incredible manic energy I had, because I was so nervous all the time.
Ione: I was almost the opposite. I was really mellow and spaced out. I think you'll always have a touch of that manic behavior and I'll always have a touch of this.
Jon: I always thought you were earthy. I didn't think of you as spaced out. You had a quality of being somebody wise beyond your years.
Ione: I had seen a lot in my life. But I was able to pretend really well, like a kid playing, and I can still do that. I think that never leaves. Of course, you get older. You change as you get older. But I think, as long as I can play and get into it as a kid would—kids don't have any inhibitions—then acting is still really fun. BSW