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Jon Cryer: Actor, writer, producer, 'Duckie'

Web posted on: Friday, October 09, 1998 3:47:06 PM

From CNN Interactive Writer Jamie Allen

AUSTIN, Texas (CNN) -- Jon Cryer is creating his own niche in the entertainment business these days. The actor who once captured the hearts of fans with his "Duckie" role in 1986's "Pretty In Pink" can be seen in a supporting role in Eddie Murphy's just-released flick "Holy Man." He also stars on the Fox sitcom "Getting Personal."

But Cryer is active in the independent film industry as well. With business partner Richard Schenkman, an independent film director, Cryer has stepped into a career in screenwriting, to compliment his acting resume.

Some people call him Maurice (wah wah): Cryer in "Pompatus of Love"

The pair -- Cryer produces, writes and acts, while Schenkman co-writes and directs -- has created two films and they're working on a third. "The Pompatus of Love," released in 1996, received a good dose of critical acclaim.

Meanwhile, their latest release, "Went To Coney Island On a Mission From God ... Be Back By Five" won the Blockbuster Audience Award at the Austin Film Festival this week. Starring Cryer and newcomer Rick Stear, the movie's script is based on Cryer's and Schenkman's real-life experiences with troubled souls.

Cryer recently sat down for a Q&A with CNN at the Austin Film Festival, and discussed life in the business, as well as what it means to him when people shout, "Duckie!"

Q: How are you enjoying work on the TV show, "Getting Personal"?

CRYER: It is actually really fun. By the end of the last season we realized that we wanted to do a sex farce more than we wanted to do the workplace comedy thing. So we sort of turned it into this very randy, very adult show. And it's fun. It's really fun to do a show that I actually laugh at.

The problem is we're on Friday nights and not many adults are home on Friday nights, so right now we're kind of the "best-kept secret in television." (laughs) But we're having a ball and the network seems to really like the show. We've got a half-a-season commitment and we find out about the second half of the season fairly soon.

It's a real weird sort of alchemy in terms of what they keep and what they get rid of. A lot of times it's the demographic. If you've got a demographic that they love -- if you've got Eskimoes in their 70s and it's the demographic they want -- they'll keep you on.

Q: Do you try to tailor your show so that the network will keep it?

CRYER: You can't do television shows caring whether or not the network picks you up. You can only do them enjoying the work, because if you're always on pins and needles about whether you'll be picked up, you'll lose your mind. I learned that the hard way. That's one of the reasons I've been active in doing independent films and especially starting to write, because you always feel like you've got something going on and you always feels like you've got a project that supersedes what you're dealing with right at that moment, and that has really helped me retain my sanity.

Q: What made you want to get into screenwriting?

CRYER: It never occurred to me to write until (film partner) Richard Schenkman suggested it. I had always wanted to, but never really thought I could and he was like, "If you can write a sentence, just a lot of those, you can do it." I didn't think I could do it because I thought writing was this rarefied thing that brilliant people sit in a room and do, and I realized that it's really a process and if you trust the process and if you understand the conventions then you too can be a good writer.

Coney Island babies: Cryer and Rick Stear in "Went To Coney Island On a Mission From God... Be Back By Five," which created quite a buzz at the Austin Film Festival

"Coney Island" is a really personal story because it was based on two incidents that happened to me and I had written 14 pages as a short film. Richard read the pages I had written and he said, "There's a feature film here."

He's really the slave driver of the two of us. He's the one who insists that we write a certain amount all of the time. We have a great time writing together, we genuinely enjoy each other's sense of humor. And we have yet to have a bad experience writing. We are hoping to (sign with a studio) as a writing team, doing rewrites on scripts. I think that's the holy grail for screenwriters, to be the high-priced guys they call in to do that polish that they need. (laughs) We'd be happy to do those; we've got no scruples. But it's an incredibly difficult job to get at this point.


Q: Do you get sick of being called "Duckie," from "Pretty In Pink"?

CRYER: It's nice that people remember the character. It's a little silly, but it's nice to know that you've done a character that people enjoy and remember, so it doesn't bother me. They did this thing on "Mr. Show" on HBO where I had been asked to do a cameo as Duckie and I'm like, "Wow, I'm kitsch now." When the show taped, I showed up in the Duckie gear and they go, "Duckie!" and the whole audience went nuts. It was so strange to me -- it was otherworldly to see it treated in this weird, iconic status. It made me very uncomfortable. But it was funny, and that's most important.

Q: What's the next challenge for you?

CRYER: I want to start directing. I'm writing another script. I'm still on the lookout for good scripts. I figure it would scare a writer for me to say, "I wanna direct you." They'd go, "Oh crap. I got Duckie!"

But having produced, I know I can do it and I've learned so much from Richard it's just a matter of finding the right project.

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