What the Hell Happened to Judd Nelson?

Judd Nelson

Judd Nelson

In 1985, Judd Nelson starred in two of the top-25 highest-grossing movies of the year.  He was 26 years old.  Nelson was one of the founding members of the Brat Pack, a group of young actors who helped define the decade.  But when the 80’s ended, the Brat Pack actors found themselves scrambling.  Just five years later when the Pack was entering their 30s, they were collectively dealing with irrelevance.  In 2014, Nelson had to deny rumors that he had died.

What the hell happened?

Judd Nelson - Rock and Roll Hotel - 1983

Judd Nelson – Rock and Roll Hotel – 1983

Nelson made his movie debut in a low-budget 3-D musical called Rock’n’Roll Hotel.

Usually, this is where I include a brief summary of the plot.  But even the people responsible for Rock’n’Roll Hotel are hard-pressed to describe what the movie is about.  Very few ever saw a complete copy of the script if in fact a completed script existed.  The movie was made to capitalize on two trends, the rise of MTV and the short-lived 3-D revival of the early 80s.

Nelson’s role is a small one.  He is part of a band called The Third Dimension (because 3-D).  Dick Shawn played the leader of a band from the 50’s who owned the Rock’n’Roll Hotel.  The band, which included a raccoon mascot, tried to kill the members of The Third Dimension to keep them from playing in their hotel!

The movie was backed by a lot of investors with competing motives.  Most viewed the movie as a tax shelter.  They didn’t care whether or not the movie made a dime.  They were expecting to write-off their investment.  Richard Sweet was the father of the lead actress, Rachel Sweet.  He invested in the movie as a way to promote his daughter’s career in music.

Nelson - Rock and Roll Hotel 2

Judd Nelson – Rock and Roll Hotel – 1983

Ultimately, the entire movie “disappeared”.  When the crew left Virginia, no one was entirely certain what happened to the negatives.  According to one of the movie’s co-producers, some of the footage was lost when the lab developing the prints went bankrupt.  In March of ’83, a print of Rock’n’Roll Hotel surfaced and was shown at an industry screening in LA.  Original screenwriter, Russ Dvonch, expressed his disappointment in the movie:

“The awful awfulness of the movie was on several levels of awful-ocity.  The writers, myself included, failed to write a good screenplay. Intense pressure can spark the creative spirit. Or it can push you into writing half-baked crap. Rock ‘N’ Roll Hotel ended up firmly located on the ‘half-baked crap’ end of the scale.”

Following that showing, the movie was bought by Richard Sweet who went back and filmed additional scenes showcasing his daughter.  No one knows if Sweet’s version of the movie ever played in theaters.  But it resurfaced on video in 2010 in the form of a VHS tape produced in 1986.

The Sweet version of the movie which was completed in 1986 is arguably less coherent than the original mess of a movie.  Sweet basically took the first movie and just edited in more musical performances featuring his daughter.  Supposedly, this version of the movie aired at some point on HBO.  But the cable channel denies this claim.

Judd Nelson - Making the Grade

Judd Nelson – Making the Grade

In 1984, Nelson starred in his first “real” movie, the teen comedy, Making the Grade.

Dana Olsen played a lazy rich kid who is about to be cut off from the family money if he doesn’t graduate high school.  His solution is to hire a street-wise kid played by Nelson to assume his identity and attend a new school in his place.

The film’s casting director, Julie Seltzer, originally tried to cast Jim Carrey in the lead role.  She approached Carrey and Andrew “Dice” Clay in the parking lot of a comedy club after watching them perform.  Carrey turned down Nelson’s role, but Clay accepted a part despite being much too old to be believable as a high school student.

Many consider Making the Grade to be the movie debut of both Nelson and Clay.  But technically, Nelson made his debut in the lost Rock’n’Roll Hotel and Clay debuted in a movie called Wacko.  Making the Grade is considered to be the debut of Clay’s Dice character.

The movie ends with the promise of a sequel.  Tourista was supposed to feature the characters touring Europe.  But due to the poor performance of Making the Grade, the sequel was never made.

Kevin Costner and Judd Nelson - Fandango - 1985

Kevin Costner and Judd Nelson – Fandango – 1985

1985 was a big year for Nelson.  It started with Kevin Reynold’s coming-of-age comedy, Fandango.

Kevin Costner, Nelson and Sam Robards starred as recent college grads who embark on a road trip circa 1971.  Costner’s character has broken up with his ex played by model-turned actress Suzy Amis in her acting debut.  Robards’ character is engaged but is having second thoughts about getting married.  Nelson played the friend with a car.

The movie started out as a student film by Reynolds while he was attending USC film school.  Steven Spielberg liked his student film well enough to fund a feature-length version of the movie.  But Spielberg was disappointed in Fandango and had his name removed from the final film.

Costner audition for the lead role in the student film but was not cast.  He auditioned again for the feature-length version and won the part.  He and Reynolds became good friends.  They would go on to collaborate several more times including Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Waterworld.

Robards and Amis also had future collaborations.  Robards, the son of Jason Robards and Lauren Bacall, married Amis in 1986.  They had a son together but divorced in 1994.

Spielberg chose not to give Fandango a wide release despite mostly positive reviews.  Director Quentin Tarrantino has high praise for the movie which he was able to track down during its limited time in theaters:

Fandango is one of the best directorial debuts in the history of cinema. I saw Fandango five times at the movie theater and it only played for a fucking week, all right.”

Over time, the movie has developed a small but loyal cult following.

Next: The Breakfast Club and St. Elmo’s Fire


Posted on January 23, 2015, in Movies, What the Hell Happened?, WTHH Actor and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 80 Comments.

  1. Cannot recommend Billionaire Boys Club highly enough. It sums up beautifully the over-entitled mindset of privileged young adults. Seriously, apart from the trappings of wealth being markedly different, it could have been made yesterday. Nelson and Silver are both excellent in it.

    Oh yeah, you owe me a cheeseburger. Next time you’re in Melbourne, Australia, I collect!


    • Next time I get to Melbourne, I’ll throw in the beverage of your choice as well. 😉

      It’s been a while since I saw BBC, but I remember enjoying it. It’s weird to me that Nelson kind of got typecast as a looney. He is by all accounts a really nice guy and a total professional on the set. I read quite a few stories from fellow actors and crew members who all said they enjoyed working with him. And that there is nothing intimidating about him in person at all. He’s just a quiet Jewish guy. I think it’s his big eyes. He can flash “crazy eyes”. He started taking those kind of roles to escape the Brat Pack trap and ended up stuck in a lot of slasher flicks.


  2. welll. wow. First we’ll have to have a discussion about where the best cheeseburgers can be found. People on the West Coast swear by something called In and Out burger. I’m not on the West Coast and think that cheeseburgers can only get so good.
    Second, ha, had the same thought throughout – Nelson’s been working steadily in a lot of schlock. Can’t blame him, it pays the bills and you never know when the next indie hit might change his fortune. But I’ll probably not see him onscreen ever again. RB doesn’t even watch higher budget thrillers.
    Third, yeah, Blum was a jerk for what he did. Being invited along for an evening with his interview subjects should have meant he treated them with some dignity and respect. Instead he trashed them. I find him reprehensible.
    Fourth, is in your email.
    Fifth….For whatever reason some of these 80s references really hit home today.


      1. In and Out Burger seems to be a West Coast thing. Most people I know who aren’t originally from the West Coast think they are just regular cheeseburgers like everywhere else in the world. But over there it is tied up in regional pride. I agree that the best cheeseburger I have ever had is not all that much better than your average fast food burger.

      2. Before I did any research, I though Nelson would make for a quickie article. Then I saw his filmography and it was loooooong. Believe it or not, I left things out! That makes for a tough article. It’s much easier when I’m dealing with movies that are fairly well known. For this one, not only did I have to familiarize myself with the material, I then had to go out and hunt for pictures and clips. Frequently, there were no pictures. So I had to find a clip, get a screenshot that included Nelson and then edit it so Nelson’s features were visible. This article probably took more man hours than any other article in the series.

      3. It was especially unfair to Nelson. At least Estevez knew he was the subject of the article. Nelson was just hanging out with his buddies and suddenly a journalist is ruining his career in a national publication.

      4. Got it.

      5. The warm glow of nostalgia is often very comforting, is it not.


  3. Suddenly Susan actually started in the fall of 1996 not in 1997. Also isn’t weird that it’s practically impossible to find anything from Suddenly Susan? No DVDs. No online episodes. Nothing just a few clips and an opening theme. Strange huh?

    Also WTF happened to Brooke Shields.


  4. So… Fourteen pages?! You owe me a cheeseburger.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I sure do. And a cheeseburger will come your way.

      Nelson presented me with a problem. His career spans three decades. But most people (myself included) don’t realize he made multiple movies a year for all that time. It seems like he just disappeared. So I had to make a decision about how to represent that. I sure as heck didn’t want to do a deep dive on every schlocky movie Nelson appeared in. But I also wanted to represent the fact that he has worked a lot. So ultimately, I ended up hitting the FF button on the last decade or so of his career. Each movie gets a picture and a blurb. And yes, I even dropped some.

      But writing about so many direct-to-video thrillers made me kind of punch-drunk. And I figured it could bore readers. So to entertain myself (and hopefully the readers) I let some of that loopiness come through. By the time I got to page 13, I thought, I really need to do something for anyone who’s still reading this. Thus, the cheeseburger pledge. May cheeseburgers and other good things come into your life.


      • Interesting. Nicolas “can’t say no to any movies” Cage has a 12 pages article. Judd Nelson has a fourteen pages. Somehow we owe an apologie to Mr. Cage, i think.

        I live in Brazil and I would not like to get a cold cheeseburger.

        Just kidding


        • You are not wrong. As the series has progressed, a couple of things have happened. One, my standards have gone up. I used to blast through highlights and lowlights. If I had written about Nelson a few years ago, his article would have been a page long. But I wouldn’t have written about him because I was only doing A-list stars back then. He wouldn’t have made the cut.

          That brings me to the other thing that happened. I started writing about smaller actors. Two reasons for this. 1. I had already covered a lot of bigger names. 2. I noticed that I get a lot more traffic on the smaller stars. I can get on the front page of Google with Bridget Fonda and Phoebe Cates but not Nicole Kidman.

          If you combine longer more detailed articles with focusing on smaller stars, what happens is you get longer articles for smaller stars. What I have been doing a little at a time is going back and fleshing out the older articles. But if I focus solely on that, it will be a year before the next WTHH article gets posted. So I have to balance where I spend my time. As I said, the articles for the bigger stars tend to give me less traffic per hour invested than the articles on guys like Nelson.

          All cheeseburgers will be delivered hot and fresh. That is a promise.


  5. I can’t believe I made it through that, considering I really dislike Judd Nelson and actually don’t care what happened to him. It’s a testament to your engaging writing style for sure, though I’ll never turn down a free cheeseburger.


    • That’s a good policy to live by. And thanks for the kind words. I can’t say I was ever an especially big fan of Nelson’s. He kind of got lost in the Brat Pack shuffle for me. Note surprisingly, I was far more interested in the girls. The male Brat Packer I best related to was Anthony Michael Hall. But I did come away with a lot of respect for Nelson. He’s been considered “washed up” since his mid twenties and yet he keeps on working and by all accounts has a very pleasant disposition. The world probably needs more guys like him.


  6. Nice article, as usual!

    I found Nelson intriguing and went out of my way to see several of his lesser-known movies. “Blue City” is actually a pretty good movie. It is campy and crazy and Nelson entertainingly chews the scenery.

    “From the Hip” is also not bad.

    I did not go out of my way to see “Cabin by the Lake,” but I did catch it on cable randomly. It is pretty disturbing and not at all recommended.

    Nelson is one of many actors who had talent and a unique screen presence but never found the right material. I think the main reason for this, which your blog brings home for me in a very vivid fashion, is that most movies range from mediocre to terrible. It is hard to come up with a good, compelling story and put all of the pieces together so it all works on the screen.

    What amazes me is how much money is thrown at bad projects. You’d think with all the money involved, Hollywood peeps could sit down and really really dig up the good screenplays and make it happen–but apparently not.


    • I forget who it was, but I remember an actress saying “No one sets out to make a bad movie.” Well, that’s not entirely true. A lot of times the people calling the shots just don’t care. But by and large, the people who are actually making the movie are doing their best with what is available to them. One of the reasons Nelson was able to make 3-4 movies a year is that a lot of these movies had really short shooting schedules. Time is money and they didn’t have the time or the money to be perfectionists.

      But yeah, I really wanted to capture that slog through dreck that has been Nelson’s career since the Brat Pack imploded. So what you get is one blurb after another on thrillers that aspire to be watchable at best interspersed with someone throwing him a bone in the form of a cameo in a movie like Airheads or Jay and Silent Bob.


    • Category: This Sucks So Bad … Created on Tuesday, 13 March 2012 05:38 Written by George Rother

      The tagline reads “It’s below Miami and above the law.”, Blue City is also beneath contempt. There’s so much wrong with this movie that it would be simpler to list its positive attributes, the only good it has going for it is a pretty good score by Ry Cooder, the rest of it is garbage. But it’s my duty to provide all the facts with a fair and objective review, and no movie should be immune from this, so here it is in black and white. After a years-long absence, Billy Turner (Nelson, St. Elmo’s Fire) returns home and learns that his father was murdered several months before. Billy left town after his father, the mayor of Blue City, Florida married Malvina (Morris, Ruthless People), a gold-digging woman whose only concern was the social status that came with the marriage.

      Now, less than a year later, she’s with Perry Kerch (Wilson, The Exorcist III), a local mob boss who seems the most likely suspect in the murder. Unfortunately, the local police aren’t much help in the matter, Chief Luther Reynolds (Winfield, The Terminator) says that they simply can’t prove that Kerch is the killer. So, it’s up to Billy to prove that Kerch murdered his father and that his stepmother is fully aware of this. He enlists the aid of his best friend Joey Rayford (Caruso, CSI: Miami), a former criminal who went straight after one of Kerch’s men crippled him for stealing money from the crime lord. They begin a campaign of harassment that includes blowing up his car and robbing his businesses, the dog track and the casino. Billy is also helped by Joey’s sister Annie (Sheedy, St. Elmo’s Fire) who works as a file clerk/receptionist at the police station. It’s only a matter of time before Billy uncovers the truth about his father’s death and the people behind it, something that could cost him and his friends their lives. This sounds like it would be a fairly decent movie, but the execution is so poor that the whole affair becomes a nightmare, a dreary attempt at film noir that only underlines the limited acting abilities of the Brat Pack.

      It would be more accurate to classify Blue City as “teen noir”, it’s two leads (Nelson and Sheedy) appeared together in The Breakfast Club as high school students only one year before this dopey action flick. Now they’re playing young adults, is there something about fame that accelerates the aging process of young actors? It’s a far cry from the universe of the John Hughes movies and it wouldn’t be the first time that some misguided filmmaker tried to turn a member of the Brat Pack into an action star. Later that same year, somebody thought it was a good idea to have Anthony Michael Hall (Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club) play the lead in Out of Sight, an actioner that had the former “Geek” running from vicious drug dealers. In Blue City, we are expected to believe Judd Nelson as an action star, but his performance isn’t even close to being convincing. He’s more like the foul-mouthed suburban punk who hangs out in front of the high school, smoking cigarettes and using the f-word on a non-stop basis. We all went to school with people like that, you know the type, the only thing missing was the leather jacket. His character tools around town on a motorcycle, looking for ways to get into trouble in an attempt to prove that Kerch murdered his father so Malvina could get her hands on his father’s money. The police keep dragging him into the station and urging him to leave town before he creates a really bad situation. In one scene, Reynolds repeatedly smacks Billy in the head during an interrogation, this is something that every member of the audience would love to do to his character. At the very least, somebody ought to wash this guy’s mouth out with soap. Sheedy comes off a little bit better as Billy’s love interest, she acts more grown-up than him and that leads the audience to question her sanity and judgment, what is she doing with this young punk who’s never had to answer for his actions in the past? His father was the most important and well-liked person in town and he always covered for his son, making sure that he never suffered any consequences for the things he did. Billy, completely unaware of his father’s death when he first returns to town, beats the hell out of an old high school enemy upon his arrival. Is this the action of a mature adult or a spoiled, immature punk? The answer is self-evident and it just makes Billy’s character instantly unlikable, so why should we root for him? Why should we care if he proves the killer’s identity? And what are his motives for uncovering the killer’s identity? Are his actions motivated by a sense of justice or are they self serving? This guy is definitely a narcissist, the whole affair is more about him and his need to assuage his own guilt after turning his back on his father than it is about bringing criminals to justice. Heh, some vigilante!

      Blue City’s brief running time indicates some post-production tinkering, the movie seems incomplete and half-aed. For example, what’s the deal with Billy and the basketball that he carries under his arm at the beginning of the movie? And why does he leave it by his father’s gravestone? The screenwriters never bother to explain this to the audience, perhaps the answer lies on the cutting room floor at Paramount Pictures? There’s a subplot about the relationship between Annie and Joey (they’re brother and sister), she hasn’t talked to him in years. What did he do that was so bad (besides his criminal activities)? Plus, in a town as small as Blue City, it would be virtually impossible to avoid somebody, you would think that the siblings would have resolved their problems ages ago, right? Characters are introduced that serve no purpose, like Lt. Ortiz (Contreras, Extreme Prejudice), maybe he’s corrupt or maybe not, the screenwriters don’t explore this possibility with any effort. Caruso’s lack of any real acting ability is obvious this early in his career, about the only good thing that he has ever done is the lead in the popular TV series CSI: Miami (2002-present), he can’t even deliver a line of dialogue with any degree of conviction. Winfield is a pretty good actor and he does his best with the material, but he can’t even raise the level and quality of this terrible flick. By the way, the identity of the killer comes right out of left field, it seems like the director wanted to provide a shocking conclusion to the mystery. It’s an unnecessary and ridiculous plot twist, it hardly makes any sense at all. I’m all for playing mind games with the audience, but Blue City doesn’t have the decency to do that, instead it just gives us that one last plot twist and we’re expected to gasp and be shocked right out of our seats. That doesn’t happen here, the final twist merely confounds the viewer. I already mentioned the score by Ry Cooder and his involvement with this movie is likely predicated on his prior relationship with co-writer Walter Hill. Cooder and Hill have collaborated on several movies (The Long Riders, Streets of Fire, Trespass) and they work well together. I wonder if Blue City would have been a better movie if Hill had directed it himself. This is the only feature film credit for director Michelle Manning, based on her work here, it’s easy to see why she’s never directed another movie. I can’t imagine why the studio would release this movie in it’s present form, it’s an unwatchable flick with terrible performances and a half-aed script. Nelson is no Humphrey Bogart and Sheedy is not Lauren Bacall, this movie gives film noir a very bad name and one can only hope that such an undertaking is never attempted again. PLEASE leave this genre to the adults, let us have one that we can call our own.


  7. For the first time, it strikes me just how much of a large sub-market, if you will, makes up the direct-to-video segment. My casual impression was that it was the secondary fringe of movies today but in the chronicle of Nelson’s films, it’s a fringe all right but it’s one that provides consistent work for many. Between cable subscriptions and DVD bargain bins, it’s a much bigger market than I had really thought about. Lower profit margins but profits all the same. And, interestingly, steady work for some WTHH subjects.
    I’ve just tried without sucess to copy and paste a picture for you of an In and Out burger, but neither of the 2 browsers installed on this computer are cooperating.


    • I’m as familiar with them as one can be without having been out West.

      The DTV market is big and getting bigger. What I find exciting about this market is that as smaller movies are getting squeezed out of the cineplexes, they are finding a home in DTV. STV is no longer purely schlock anymore. The problem is separating the wheat from the chaff. You really have to follow movies to know what is worth hunting down and what is just a cash grab. But movies that used to open just in New York and LA are now available for fly over states to watch on DTV.


  8. Nelson had another brush with Transformers–in 2009, he reprised the role of Rodimus Prime (who is the same as Hot Rod in the 1986 film) for the season three opener of the cartoon series “Transformers: Animated”.


    • He did indeed. I left that out as there was no picture to include since it was voice work. I also left out his voice work on Ben 10 because let’s face it, the article is 14 pages long!

      Rumor has it he may reprise his role for the next live action Transformers. We’ll see.


  9. Here in the Research Triangle of NC, the beefsteak cheeseburger at Char-Grill is widely considered to be head and shoulders above most any other burger you can find. I can’t think of one I’d rather personally consume. Most of the locations we might possibly meet in the future aren’t known for quality burgers.

    I was a little surprised to find that I had actually seen a lot of Nelson’s post-Brat Pack film output, including From the Hip, Relentless, New Jack City, Airheads, and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. I can’t imagine that any other group of young successful actors out for a fun night would have come off much better than Nelson, Lowe, and Esteves did in that article. Still, it was a pretty bad miscalculation to agree to an article in the New Yorker in the first place if you’re not aiming high artistically in your work.

    Nelson took it on the chin worse than most of his friends, it seems to me, because he has such a unique look. You can’t look at him and not think “Hey, there’s Judd Nelson!” It’s a quick leap to thinking “Hey, there’s John Bender!” It’s not his fault. Every member of the Brat Pack struggled to transition to more mature roles, and only those who didn’t appear in the Breakfast Club (Rob Lowe and Demi Moore) had a lot of success, and that was largely based on their leading man/lady looks. Guys like Nelson and Anthony Michael Hall didn’t really stand a chance.


  10. You definitely owe me not a cheeseburger, but a hamburger from IN-and-OUT with a shake added in there.

    I have no idea why I read this whole thing. I’ve only seen him in Breakfast Club, and I loved his character. And that’s really what I see him as. I’m a bit miffed because the article could have been 5 pages long instead of 14. Heck, even 10 and then talk about everything else going direct to video. After a while, all I noticed was that he doesn’t look bad for his age. He had a peculiar look when he was younger, but he’s aging quite well. I thought he was the best actor in the Breakfast Club, but it’s quite unfortunate about that article!

    That just ruined so many careers, and especially Nelson’s. I wasn’t born then, but how big was that article? Today, if there were a similar article published, it would only enhance a person’s image.


    • Sorry you’re miffed. Hopefully the In-and-Out Burger makes up for it.

      The article definitely could have been shorter. (It could have been longer too, but even I’m not that big of a glutton for punishment.) I could have summed up Nelson’s career in a page if I wanted to. But I wanted to give a sense of the progression of time and Nelson’s volume of output. As the article stretches on into Nelson’s direct-to-video works, I don’t cover them in depth. It’s basically picture-blurb-picture-blurb. My hope is that it reads pretty quickly.

      Part of the rational was indeed to show Nelson’s age progression as well. In his late 20’s/early 30’s, he’s doing erotic thrillers. Late 30’s/early 40’s the “erotic” part disappears and he’s just playing serial killers. Then eventually he’s playing a variety of “old man” roles. If you just see a picture of Nelson today and you haven’t seen him since 1985, it’s easy to see the effects of aging. But as you watch him aging over the course of his career, yeah he’s held up pretty well. Better than me, that’s for sure!


      • You’re 100% right. I looked up him now, and I couldn’t believe how different he looked like when he played Bender. When I originally left the article, I found him a bit George Clooney-esque.

        I’ve always thought that Emilio Estevez was just as talented as Charlie Sheen, but Charlie Sheen didn’t have the label of being part of the Brat Pack. So I guess the article just ruined careers regardless of how good of an actor they were. Or maybe just the individuals who were in the article?


        • The backlash was mainly against the cast of The Breakfast Club and St Elmos Fire. Sheen avoided the Hughes coming of age dramas so he waz unscathed despite having partied with the rest of the Pack.

          The term Brat Pack meant different things. Blum was specifically talking about Estevez and his friends. All male. But it quickly came to represent the actors in those 80s movies. A third interpretation is the social group of young actors that partied together. The general public was not aware of this third group so some of them got off easy.


  11. I’m exhausted and my brain hurts after reading this article. I think I need a nap now. Seriously though, I think this is a good reminder about how much power written words have and that they don’t just go away i.e. the term “brat pack”.


    • In fairness to Blum, I think Nelson’s career probably would have stalled out after 1985 anyway. His follow-ups were disappointing even before the Brat Pack backlash started. But taken as a whole, he basically discredited an entire generation of actors. It’s actually a pretty good representation of how the media (run by Boomers) treated Gen X at the time. The Brat Pack and Gen X stigmas lost their sting over time. But for a lot of the Brat Packers, it was too late to revive their flagging careers.

      Something tells me we’ll check in on a few more of them before the year is out.


  12. I think Lebeau nailed the explanation.


  13. You owe a cheeseburger next time you are in the greater Chicago area, also I’m somewhat surprised Nelson hasn’t be able to find a steady gig on TV. But then none of the Brat Packers outside of Rob Lowe have been able to do so.


    • The weird part is other than Suddenly Susan, he hasn’t really tried. Some stars film pilot after pilot. Nelson didn’t. Maybe he didn’t enjoy the TV schedule.


      • He left Suddenly Susan after the third season because one of the main cast members committed suicide. Maybe that experience left him with a negative view of doing a regular series again.


  14. You owe me a cheeseburger, lol, & the whole In N’ Out thing is overrated (from LA) & I’ve always preferred Fatburger to In N’ Out, just me though.

    Reading this article, my first initial thought was depression, but viewing from another angle, it’s impressive to see Nelson have such an extensive catalogue of film & TV. Hate to see the backlash off an article written by a journalist with an axe to grind against “Gen-Xers.”

    Love your writing, keeps me entertained, didn’t think I would make it through the 14 pages of the article.


    • Thanks for the kind words. This article was a beast and I wondered how many people would stick it out. Based on all the cheeseburgers I owe, it seems like quite a few readers made it to the end. I’m impressed.

      I think the automatic response is to look at Nelson as a loser because he brushed up against fame for a fleeting moment. Then you can either react with sympathy or derision. But a more realistic approach is to be impressed that he has continued workind steadily for 3 decades in a tough business.


  15. Great article. First time I’ve read any of your stuff. Well written and researched. I found myself laughing out loud a few times, which I’m guessing Nelson would frown upon. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Nelson never “accidently” kicks me in the head a restaurant patio.

    I just ordered the newest DVD release of The Breakfast Club. I never watched the John Hughes movies in the 80s but I’m head over heels for TBC. Bored and Googling Judd Nelson, which is what led me to your site. Love it!! Another article about Nelson indicated that he has written four books that were released on Kindle. I haven’t looked yet to see if that is true, but if it is maybe Nelson wants to remove those pesky “middle men” like movie theaters and publishers and have his work sent straight to the end user.

    PS – you owe me a cheeseburger!!


    • Thanks, Van. Be on the lookout for that cheeseburger. You never know when it will show up! I’m glad you found the WTHH series. I hope you’ll stick around. I plan to cover some more Breakfast Clubbers as the year goes on in celebration of the movie’s 30th anniversary. And there are already existing articles on Estevez and Ringwald. Although Nelson’s the only one who “accidentally” kicked anyone in the head. Funny that doesn’t happen more often.

      I like to think that celebrities can take the gentle ribbing I give them here. Although I have experience to the contrary. But you never know. I hear Nelson’s a good guy. Maybe he has a sense of humor!


  16. First off, I’ll start with an unrelated topic: I guess Cosby back in the day did what Bob Newhart did: end his previous series, then begin again with another show with his name shortened (in the end Newhart was down to “Bob”, as short as name as you can get).
    On a Judd Nelson note, I viewed the film “Lethal Eviction”. I viewed it back when I was knee deep in “Dexter”, and I wanted to see projects Jennifer Carpenter was in before she became the character of Debra Morgan. It was a nice bonus to have Judd Nelson and the lovely Stacey Dash in the picture as well (note: things don’t go well for Nelson’s character). I can’t recommend it, though.
    I also agree with Matt Rogue: I liked “From the Hip” (it’s how I try to live, but sometimes it causes me to walk funny).


  17. Thanks, as always, for the article – some effort!

    Living outside the US you forget how much crap is produced for the American market that won’t be inflicted on you. Unless you really go on out of your way to watch obscure cable channels at 4am, but I doubt even then you’d see many Judd Nelson attempts.

    No need for the cheeseburger, thanks (they went all hipster about cheeseburgers last year here in London anyway, with ridiculous queues outside some of the places – and there’s no need to try improve on Burger King) – but I am still perplexed about Gary Sinise and waiting for you to make sense of him. Or at least his career.

    Good call, BTW, not mocking Airheads!


    • The same gourmet cheeseburger movement is going on here. I was reading yesterday about how Shake Shack is threatening fast food burger joints. McDonald’s can’t enter into the customized burger movement. And it’s killing them.

      It is the 20th anniversary of Apollo 13. Wasn’t Sinise in that? 😉

      I had never heard of about 95% of Nelson’s output. You really have to make an effort to see these movies. And they so aren’t worth that effort.

      I wouldn’t mock Airheads. I didn’t care for it. But it was an interesting effort. They aimed for something and fell short.


      • When I was in a playwrighting class in college in 1991 I wrote a script which featured a group of overly-serious music fans hijacking a radio station in order to make it play better music. My version played on the fact that DJs were disappearing and all you really had to do was to hijack the signal. My memory of the script is not great and I’m pretty sure I do not still have a copy. It’s probably cringe-worthy. I took myself way too seriously then.

        When Airheads showed up in theaters in ’94 it did cross my mind that the former television actor with Hollywood ties who had been running that writing class could have passed the idea on to somebody. But the tone and plot of the movie are completely different from my script, and how the heck could I prove such a thing anyway? The fact that it was not a big hit and kind of a trifle further convinced me that it was just another writer with a similar idea. There are only so many stories, after all.


        • As long as we can all agree that Disney stole my (rather obvious) casting suggestion for Chris Pratt as Indiana Jones.


        • I would bet that a seed was planted there, Daffy. For what little it’s worth, in my opinion, there is enough originality in your concept that it could have easily and innocently been passed on. He’s walking home from class, thinking, what a cool idea. Then it takes shape in his mind. A lot of plagiarism is not intentional. For what even less this is worth, to this day I’m convinced that a crappy poem I wrote that contained a somewhat unique image, showed up in one of Madonna’s music videos in the 80s. My creative writing instructor just raved and raved about the poem, which he misinterpreted but I got an A+ so wasn’t about to correct him. He was good friends with Madonna’s former dance instructor.


  18. Long time reader, first time commenter…. You owe me a cheeseburger. Because I can has one? Next time you’re in Louisiana.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Great article. You owe me a cheeseburger! Nelson owes Blum a punch! Nelson is now appearing in the hit show Empire so I guess his story continues. Thanks for catching us up on one if my favorites from the 80s.


    • I sure hope Blum has apologized to the actors whose careers he impacted. Thanks for reading! I love it when readers stick with the article all the way through.


  20. Nostalgia Critic: Steel

    Shaq is back, did he learn how to act?


  21. I think the problem wth the article was that, people who read it realized that they were just as all the other cool guys/jocks they saw in their everyday life at school
    I mean on screen in they could relate to their vulnerability..But as time has proved over and over,a lot of people have problem separating the onscreen from the off screen persona.
    So when the article shows that they are just like everyone else famous,and not nearly as down to earth as people thought they were after watching they lost interest.
    Lest not forget that St.Elmos fire,was a truly shitty movie.With absolutely no story line or character to identify with


    • I think your statement is pretty accurate on how a lot of people would take the tone of the article, and i could see people getting upset that their perception of those actors was altered. Heck, that kind of thing happens with people in everyday life as well. Personally, I don’t think the Hollywood mainstream is the most humble of pursuits, but then again, in 1985 I liked to read film listings in the TV guide while I rolled silly putty over them (for the transfer).


  22. I’ve been reading your “What the Hell Happened” series off and on for a couple of weeks now (I stumbled onto them when I was reminded of someone and typed “what ever happened to…” into Google). I’ll eventually work my way through all of them, because they’re wonderfully well researched and I’ve really enjoyed them.

    As for this one, I will admit that I always liked Judd Nelson, but…. mate…. you so seriously owe me a cheeseburger. Or, maybe Judd Nelson owes me a cheeseburger? 😉


    • I’m glad you discovered the site and that you’re enjoying the series. I’ll be the first to admit that this article can be a bit of a slog. As I was writing it, I wondered more than once if anyone was going to be interested in all of these crappy movies. I had to pace myself because my enthusiasm would wane after several direct to video thrillers. That’s where the cheeseburger joke came from. I figured I’d throw it in there towards the end to see if anyone was still reading! I’ve been very gratified by the number of people who hung in there long enough to get the joke and respond. Judd Nelson owes us all cheeseburgers! I’ll have mine with onion rings and a chocolate shake.

      Thanks for reading!


  23. Judd Nelson Is Still Pissed at the Guy Who Coined the Term ‘Brat Pack’


  24. WHy did nelson leave Suddenly Susan. He did not appear in big projects after that. No offense to him could had it been his weight gain that hurt. SInce putting on weight he could not play the same type of roles he did when he was younger. Hollywood is extremly shallow and like leading men for most part to look like supermodels


  25. 15 Forgotten ’80s Heartthrobs: Where Are They Now?

    Judd Nelson

    Judd Nelson’s role as bad boy John Bender in The Breakfast Club made him a star. Although he isn’t the movie star that he was in the ‘80s, he continues to act in film and on television. This year, he will be in the movie Billionaire Boys Club and he has a recurring role in the television series, Empire.


    • Another “Billionaire Boys Club” for Judd Nelson? I always meant to view the 1986 miniseries in its entirety, but I’ve just never been able to.


  26. Cinematic Excrement – Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day (2009)

    The Saints are coming! But should they have stayed home?


    • What I remember most about “Boondock Saints” is the rise and fall of the writer/director of the film, Troy Duffy (I also remember Karen Duffy, 1990’s MTV VJ, although I don’t believe the two aren’t related).


  27. You owe me a cheeseburger 😀 Seriously, great article (as are your other articles on here)


  28. Nancy Valen · October 19, 2015 ·

    Fun meeting my Breakfast Club idol last night!


    • Nancy Valen, the actress from such films as 1985’s “The Heavenly Kid” (like it; makes my heart smile) and 1989’s “Loverboy” (nah, and Patrick Dempsey is better in a similar but much better film, 1987’s “In the Mood”)?


      • Nancy Valen will always be first and foremost to me, Nurse Jennifer on “Saved by the Bell”!

        Nancy Valen could be regarded as a starlet who unfortunately never got any traction in her career. After a couple of bit parts in movies (such as Porky’s Revenge and Loverboy as Patrick Dempsey’s love interest) and TV (such as Miami Vice and Charles in Charge), she got the cover of TV Guide as one of the stars of an ill-fated attempt at a TV musical drama series on NBC called Hull High. Like Steven Bochco’s similar show Cop Rock on ABC, it failed after only a few episodes. After that, she went back to occasional guest-starring roles on TV (like Murder, She Wrote, Full House, Boy Meets World, Friends, Walker, Texas Ranger and perhaps most notably, in the second season of Saved by the Bell as the sexy new school nurse in a role that was originally meant for swimsuit model Kathy Ireland) and appearing in small B-Movie roles. Oddly enough, at least twice she seemed poised to get a long-term role which suddenly evaporated. The first occurred on the late-night USA Network series Silk Stalkings. After appearing as an IRS auditor in Season 3, she returned in Season 4 to play the role of Dr. Jillian Michaels, who became the love interest of Detective Chris Lorenzo (Rob Estes), one of the show’s two main characters. But the storyline was never continued. Two years later, she got her gig on Baywatch as the new lieutenant, Samantha ‘Sam’ Thomas (which is pretty much, her best known acting role), who was brought in to replace the long-running character Lt. Stephanie Holden, played by Alexandra Paul. That particular season ended with Sam in bed with none other than David Hasslehoff himself with the two of them discussing how to break the news of their relationship to Hasslehoff’s on-screen son, Hobie. So everything seemed set for her to return the next year with an expanded role as Mitch Buchanan’s girlfriend and partner in command. Alas, that didn’t happen. Baywatch instead returned with even more former Playboy Playmates, including Carmen Electra and Angelica Bridges as the newer lieutenant, and Nancy Valen’s character Samantha had disappeared with no explanation. After guest appearing during the final season of Spin City, Valen seemed to go into semi-retirement from acting. She only had two more roles (last appearing in the 2007 Christian drama film The Wager) only to resurface as an infomercial host.


        • Oh, okay, Nancy Valen played one of those pair of hookers that identified Esai Morales’ character in the “Miami Vice” episode ‘The Home Invaders’, and was the female who asked Crockett for a light at the party in the episode ‘Rites of Passage’. I wasn’t aware that was her either time, and I think the “got a light?” role was easy to forget anyway.


  29. Judd Nelson discusses his 30-year career and the surprising origins of John Bender

    The actor: Judd Nelson is one of those actors who is so identified with a particular life-altering role—The Breakfast Club’s John Bender, the rebellious icon for ’80s teens and beyond—that you may be surprised to learn that he hasn’t stopped working since that movie. From a long-running sitcom stint to voice-over work to films like New Jack City, Airheads, and Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back, Nelson tells The A.V. Club that his motto is “work begets work.” His latest addition to his long IMDB list is the just-opened Stagecoach: The Texas Jack Story, his first Western, with Trace Adkins. Judd Nelson was a Random Roles natural and gleefully dove into the backstories of some of his most famous roles—including of course, his most famous.


  30. What the Brat Pack looks like today

    Judd Nelson

    Often considered the bad boy of the Brat Pack, Judd Nelson had to work hard to avoid being typecast. He was one of three actors Blum’s article focused most heavily on, and Nelson definitely came off the worst, painted as an overrated and arrogant young man who would “get angry” if people sat down at the Brat Pack table while they were out.

    “These were people I worked with who I really liked as people,” Nelson said in response. “Funny, smart, committed to the work. I mean, no one was professionally irresponsible. And after that article, not only are we strongly encouraged not to work with each other again, and for the most part we haven’t, but it was insinuated we might not want to be hanging out with these people. And it was like, I didn’t know that good friends are so easy to come by in this world that they should be tossed asunder.”

    Nelson also said he would have been better served following his “gut feeling” and knocking Blum unconscious, though luckily for them both he managed to refrain. His career has had numerous ups and downs since the Brat Pack’s heyday, but he recently found a long-awaited taste of critical acclaim playing recurring character Billy Beretti in Fox’s hit show Empire.


  31. Episode 154 – Hail Caesar

    In this week’s episode, the gang tackles the laughless, Anthony Michael Hall passion project, Hail Caesar! How did something like this get the green light? Why did Robert Downey agree to this nothing role? And how dare they drop a secret music video into this film? PLUS: The search for laughs turns up zero results.

    Hail Caesar stars Anthony Michael Hall, Bobbie Phillips, Leslie Danon, Samuel L. Jackson, Judd Nelson, Robert Downey Jr., Robert Downey Sr., and Frank Gorshin; directed by Anthony Michael Hall… for some reason.


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