What The Cast Of St. Elmo's Fire Is Doing Today

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The 1980s were largely defined on-screen by teen-angst films set in suburban high schools, with director John Hughes ruling the genre. Hits like "Sixteen Candles" and "The Breakfast Club" became iconic for presenting relatable issues through a combination of archetypal characters, humor, and vulnerability. But what about after high school? Other than the occasional frat humor flicks, there weren't many movies that bridged the gap between college and adulthood. Enter "St. Elmo's Fire," a movie that broke out in 1985 and ignited a spark that spread like, well, wildfire. Despite getting panned by critics, there was something about the portrayal of the characters' friendships that felt genuine enough to resonate with audiences who turned it (and its banging '80s soundtrack) into a bona fide box office hit.

Co-written and directed by the late Joel Schumacher, the film featured an all-star cast of young, gorgeous actors collectively known as The Brat Pack. Many of these actors didn't have to stretch too far to embody their on-screen personas. For example, Demi Moore shared a penchant for partying with her coke-snorting character, Jules Van Patten, and it almost cost her the role. The same is true of Rob Lowe, whose life often paralleled that of his sax-playing, booze-guzzling bad-boy character Billy Hicks. 

While we'll never know what became of the movie's main characters, we do know that the actors who played them went on to up to enjoy successful careers in the industry, and their flames are still burning bright today. 

Demi Moore as Jules Van Patten

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, director Joel Schumacher described the movie as "perfectly cast," and he wasn't wrong. Take Demi Moore, who played Jules Van Patten, a cocaine-snorting party girl with daddy issues and a flair for the dramatic. Between her cool girl fashion and that fabulously pink apartment, Jules was the embodiment of the "girls just want to have fun" mentality so pervasive in '80s culture. And art imitated life. 

Schumacher described Moore as a "wild child" and says he fired her before filming began, alluding to her drug problems. That seemed to be the wake-up call Moore needed to get her act together. She spent the next decade turning out hit after hit, from "Ghost" to "A Few Good Men," and at one time was the highest-paid actress in Hollywood. Moore went on to marry Bruce Willis, have three beautiful daughters, and lead what looked like an idyllic life. 

Turns out it wasn't all that it seemed. Moore and Willis divorced after 13 years, and the actress rebounded with a six-year marriage to the much younger Ashton Kutcher. Following that divorce, the actress reportedly returned to her wild ways before a stint in the hospital put her back on track. Today, at the age of 61, Moore looks better than ever as she stars in the role of Ann Woodward, a New York socialite accused of murdering her husband in the highly anticipated FX series "Feud: Capote vs. The Swans."

Rob Lowe as Billy Hicks

Rob Lowe, one of the biggest heartthrobs of the '80s, portrayed Billy Hicks, a womanizing party boy who refused to grow up without a fight. But behind the chiseled features was a troubled soul. Lowe resembled his character off-screen, dating a bevy of beautiful women and partying like a rock star. He told People, "I became so identified with it — the wild, fun, rock and roll, quasi-debauched with the heart of gold [guy]: That's my early 20s in a nutshell."  

Then, in 1998, a leaked sex tape featuring Lowe with two women, one of whom was underage, nearly made him a real outsider in Hollywood. However, rather than become yet another cautionary tale, Lowe, who was not charged with a crime, viewed the incident as a wake-up call and credits it with helping him get sober two years later. "I've been married 29 years, and I have two great sons. I don't think any of that happens without going through that scandal," he told SiriusXM (via People).

Lowe, who will turn 60 this year, remains a force in the industry. He hosts Fox's new game show "The Floor" and has a podcast, a book, and recent TV hits like Netflix's "Unstable" under his belt. His success is hard-won and well earned, and he doesn't take any of it for granted. He even told USA Today that he keeps a daily gratitude journal. At the top of his list? "It's my family, our health, my sobriety."

Ally Sheedy as Leslie Hunter

Yuppie Leslie Hunter could arguably be deemed the den mother of the "St. Elmo's Fire" crew. Ambitious and driven, she seemed to have it all together until her carefully mapped-out life came crashing down. The same could be said of the actress who played her. Adorable Ally Sheedy was an accomplished dancer by the age of 6, a best-selling children's book author by age 12, and had her literary musings published in The New York Times before she was even out of high school. And then there was her acting career, which skyrocketed in the '80s before crashing and burning less than a decade later, forcing the actress to distance herself from Hollywood. "I had to leave," she told New York magazine. "The roles I wanted weren't there." 

During her decadeslong Hollywood hiatus, Sheedy began cultivating a life off-screen that included interests like teaching, writing, and book editing. She was also busy parenting her son Beck (formerly daughter Beckett), whom she shares with ex-husband David Lansbury. Other than the occasional guest spot, Sheedy stayed away from the limelight until she landed the Freeform show "Single Drunk Female" in 2022, which surprised the then-59-year-old actress. As she told Vanity Fair, she was "grateful" and "relieved." "I just did not know if another role that would resonate this much within me would come again," she said. The show was canceled after two seasons, but Sheedy, it seems, was renewed. 

Emilio Estevez as Kirby Keger

In the hands of another actor, affable waiter Kirby Keger would be a creepy, world-class stalker. But in the talented hands of Emilio Estevez, you couldn't help but root for the guy, even if his tactics were sketchy at best and scary at worst. As Estevez admitted to The Guardian, in today's world, his character's cringey choices in the name of love would never make the cut. "If they were to remake that movie now, they would never include that character," he said. While he may have been unlucky in love in the film, behind the scenes, he got lucky with Demi Moore, to whom he was briefly engaged. And where his character struggled with ambition and success, Estevez was a hard worker who believed in earning your place in the world. That's part of the reason he chose to keep the name Estevez rather than adopt the famous family surname of Sheen, taken by his father, Martin, and brother Charlie. He didn't want a handout based on Hollywood heritage. 

That strong work ethic helps explain his longevity in an industry that's always looking for the next big thing. The other contributing factor? Pure, multifaceted talent. While he spends less time in front of the camera these days, Estevez can still be found writing and directing films like his latest project, "The Public," shot in Cincinnati, Ohio, where the actor lives when he's not in Tinsel Town. Why? "Good Midwestern values." 

Mare Winningham as Wendy Beamish

Mare Winningham was an established television movie actress by the time she landed the role of  Wendy Beamish, a virgin with a rich daddy, body image issues, and a crush on the resident troublemaker Billy Hicks. "I felt like I was in a different world," she said in Vanity Fair. While hers wasn't the most glamorous character, she might have been the most relatable. Who hasn't had their heart broken by a bad boy or dealt with body image issues?  In real life, however, Winningham was successful, married, and, ironically, pregnant. Her virginal character was written as being overweight to hide her growing belly. "That's why she wears all those baggy Laura Ashley dresses," director Joel Schumacher once explained to Entertainment Weekly

While she might not be as much of a household name as the rest of the cast, Winningham is the only member to have earned a coveted Oscar nomination, for her role in the 1995 film "Georgia." She also holds eight Emmy nominations, taking the statue home twice. With a body of work that spans more than four decades, Winningham is still going strong, appearing most recently in "Dopesick" on Hulu, which earned her one of those aforementioned Emmy nods. Winningham is one of those rare breeds that lights up every screen and stage she graces. What's her secret? In an interview with Backstage, Winningham says it comes down to three things: "Open up, don't gossip, and don't listen to gossip." Excellent advice!

Judd Nelson as Alec Newbury

In the 1980s, Judd Nelson was often cast in the role of the quintessential degenerate until "St. Elmo's Fire" turned him into a clean-cut, yuppie conservative named Alec Newbury. Nelson wasn't so sure it was a transition he wanted to make, claiming he was essentially tricked into taking the part by director Joel Schumacher, who played on the actor's pride by suggesting that maybe he couldn't do it. "So then I did it for all the wrong reasons, but I don't think I would fall for that again," Nelson said in an interview with The A.V. Club. In hindsight, maybe he should have. 

Like many of his fellow co-stars, Nelson was unable to ride the wave of his '80s hits into a successful big-screen career. Instead, he focused on larger roles on smaller screens, most notably as Brooke Shields' boss on the '90s hit "Suddenly Susan." The show's executive producer Gary Dontzig praised Nelson's talent, telling Entertainment Weekly, "I think audiences will be as surprised as we were by his comedic instincts." 

Since then, Nelson has continued to act, appearing onstage and in shows including Fox's popular "Empire," and at the age of 64, he is still evolving. He says the secret to his longevity lies in his adaptability. "[T]he more you can adapt, the better off you'll be," he told Metro. "The more you stick to your old ways, the more you're going to be left by the side of the road." 

Andrew McCarthy as Kevin Dolenz

He didn't have the sex appeal of Rob Lowe or the cocky charm of Judd Nelson, but there was something about Andrew McCarthy in the '80s that won our hearts. As Kevin Dolenz in "St. Elmo's Fire," McCarthy's was the most intense character, and some might say the same about the actor. Like a few of his co-stars, McCarthy struggled with alcohol and cocaine before finding sobriety through rehab at 29. But addiction wasn't his only issue. Ever the reluctant heartthrob, the actor struggled with the concept of fame. In his memoir "Brat: An '80s Story" (via The Washington Post), he calls it a "weird adjustment," adding, "Fame cellularly changes people. It changed who I became." 

Although he wasn't part of the now famous boys' night out that resulted in New York magazine journalist David Blum coining the phrase "Brat Pack," he was still considered part of the phenomenon and part of the fallout. He recalled that the moniker drove a wedge between the co-stars, who all began studiously avoiding working with each other. And while he doesn't embrace the term, he has developed what he calls an "affection" for it and for that pivotal time in his career. Today, the 61-year-old McCarthy is a successful travel writer, television director, and dad. In a case of life coming full circle, his son Sam has followed in his footsteps, even landing the role of (wait for it) Molly Ringwald's son in "All These Small Moments."

Andie MacDowell as Dale Biberman

"St. Elmo's' Fire" was the launching pad for many careers, but none more so than model-turned-actress Andie MacDowell. With her porcelain complexion and mane of dark curls, MacDowell played Dr. Dale Biberman, the object of Kirby Keger's stalker-ish obsession. Her character and the storyline were based on the real-life crush that co-writer Carl Kurlander harbored for a waitress named Lynn Snyderman, so the casting had to be just right. With her stunning looks and Southern charm, MacDowell fit the bill. "She had a compassion and empathy that made her not just another pretty face," Kurlander told Deadline. But while the writers and producers were convinced, the chairman of Columbia Pictures, Guy McElwaine, was not, and he wanted the entire storyline cut. In the end, it remained, and in case you are wondering, yes, Kurlander really stalked Snyderman, yes, he really got snowed in with her and her boyfriend, and yes, he really had to sleep in her boyfriend's pajamas. 

After the success of "St. Elmo's Fire," MacDowell went on to enjoy a successful movie career that included "Groundhog Day," "Four Weddings and a Funeral," and "Sex, Lies, and Videotape," to name a few. More recently, the 65-year-old mom of three  starred with her real-life daughter, Margaret Qualley in the Netflix miniseries "Maid." MacDowell is still rocking her signature mane of wild curls, although they are gray, and is as beautiful today as she was when she stole Kirby Keger's heart.