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Star of a number of classic John Hughes high school comedies in the 1980s, Anthony Michael Hall reinvented himself after a considerably rocky transition to adult roles. Hall's breakout as a gawky but self-possessed freshman geek opposite Molly Ringwald in "Sixteen Candles" (1984) led to similar outcast roles in "The Breakfast Club" (1985) and "Weird Science" (1985), cementing the freckled actor's status as the '80s nerd-of-choice. He was considered a member of Hollywood's Brat Pack, a loosely associated group of young actors who surfaced ad nauseum in dozens of high school and young adult movies of the era, though Hall disassociated himself from that scene and his typecasting when he unsuccessfully ventured into action films and sketch comedy on "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ). Hall subsequently put aside his genuine comedic talent and likeable smartass appeal in favor of earnest TV movies and scowling villains in low budget films. He finally earned positive attention again in the new millennium as the paranormally powered protagonist of the Stephen King-based series, "The Dead Zone" (USA, 2002-07), which brought him back into the spotlight and effectively erased his status as a kid-star...
Star of a number of classic John Hughes high school comedies in the 1980s, Anthony Michael Hall reinvented himself after a considerably rocky transition to adult roles. Hall's breakout as a gawky but self-possessed freshman geek opposite Molly Ringwald in "Sixteen Candles" (1984) led to similar outcast roles in "The Breakfast Club" (1985) and "Weird Science" (1985), cementing the freckled actor's status as the '80s nerd-of-choice. He was considered a member of Hollywood's Brat Pack, a loosely associated group of young actors who surfaced ad nauseum in dozens of high school and young adult movies of the era, though Hall disassociated himself from that scene and his typecasting when he unsuccessfully ventured into action films and sketch comedy on "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ). Hall subsequently put aside his genuine comedic talent and likeable smartass appeal in favor of earnest TV movies and scowling villains in low budget films. He finally earned positive attention again in the new millennium as the paranormally powered protagonist of the Stephen King-based series, "The Dead Zone" (USA, 2002-07), which brought him back into the spotlight and effectively erased his status as a kid-star has-been.
Michael Anthony Hall was born April 14, 1968, and spent his early years moving around several times with his jazz singer mother. The pair settled in New York City where Hall, who would later transpose his first and middle name professionally, began performing, acting in commercials. He made his stage debut at age eight, portraying the young Steve Allen in the musician and TV personality's semi-autobiographical play, "The Wake," and appeared onscreen in the ABC movie, "The Gold Bug" (1980), an adaptation of the short story by Edgar Allan Poe. The freckled, wholesome, pre-teen tackled another American literary classic, playing Huck Finn in the CBS TV movie, "Rascals and Robbers: The Secret Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn" (1983). That same year, he made his film breakthrough in "National Lampoon's Vacation." Hall displayed natural comedic talent in his role as Rusty Griswold, the son of parents Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo, whose cross-country road trip to the fabled theme park Walley World is fraught with one setback after another.
His performance won over "Vacation" screenwriter John Hughes, who was about to make the jump to directing. Hughes immediately cast Hall as the braces-wearing, king of the geeks freshman who woos older redhead teen Molly Ringwald in "Sixteen Candles" (1984). Again, Hall tossed off one-liners with ease and created a charming character that was debatably a more interesting choice for a boyfriend than Ringwald's hunky jock object of desire (Michael Schoeffling). Off-screen, the so-called nerd with no play did get the girl, with Hall and Ringwald enjoying a short-lived romance. Additionally, the actor took home a Young Artist Award for stealing the classic Gen-X high school picture. An impressed Hughes recruited Hall again to create a variation of his brainy outcast character in his follow-up, "The Breakfast Club" (1985), an ensemble high school flick that fulfilled Hughes' characteristic formula of creating animosity between stereotypical "geeks," "jocks," and "weirdoes." Hall had less comedy leeway in the earnest but perennially popular flick, but went on to be first-billed in Hughes' 1985 buddy comedy, "Weird Science" (1985), another popular teen offering in which Hall and Ilan Mitchell-Smith played taunted "nerds" who use their computer savvy to create a perfect woman (Kelly LeBrock).
With four hit films in five years, offers flooded in, but Hall and his manager step-father were overwhelmed and ill-equipped to make savvy decisions about the career of the overnight teen star. In an unexpected turn, the 17-year-old left films behind and became the youngest repertory player ever hired on "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ), where he re-teamed with "Vacation" co-star Randy Quaid and "Sixteen Candles" and "Weird Science" supporting player Robert Downey, Jr. in what would go down in history as one of the series most dismal seasons and oddest casts. Hall further sought to go beyond his typecasting when he passed on parts written specifically for him by Hughes in two of the eighties biggest hits, "Pretty in Pink" (1986) and "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" (1986). Meanwhile, the formerly breezy comedic actor's reputation as "difficult" grew amid reports of heavy drinking and "bratty" behavior on the sets of both the action-adventure clunker "Out of Bounds" (1986) and "Johnny Be Good" (1988), a second-tier teen comedy that made Hughes' offerings look like Shakespeare.
After only five years, Hall's once promising career lay in ruins until he was able to sober up, but following his almost unrecognizable performance as a beefed-up bully who torments Tim Burton's "Edward Scissorhands" (1990), the actor's profile remained extremely low. During the 1990s, Hall kept busy with a steady string of forgotten, low budget films and TV appearances - with the exception of his role as the lover of a con man imposter (Will Smith) who infiltrates New York's high society in "Six Degrees of Separation" (1993), based on the Pulitzer Prize-nominated play by John Guare. Hall's second notable effort of the 1990s was his 1999 portrayal of Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates, in TNT's highly praised feature, "Pirates of Silicon Valley" (1999). Hall's unassuming and restrained performance revitalized his career, and showed a new, mature side to his acting as well as his personal demeanor since his bratty 1980s heyday. Hall's career picked up at that point, and he was cast as lead in "A Touch of Hope" (NBC, 1999) as real-life hands-on healer Dean Kraft, who discovered an ability to cure with his touch after comforting the victim of an automobile accident.
Continuing with a run of real-life portrayals, Hall next played renowned music producer Robert "Mutt" Lange in "Hysteria: The Def Leppard Story" (VH1, 2001), an inside look at the turbulent history of the British hard rock band who made good in the United States in the 1980s. After an appearance in the camp satire "Hitched" (USA, 2001), Hall played famed New York Yankees pitcher Whitey Ford in "61*" (HBO, 2001), a telling of the friendship between Roger Maris (Barry Pepper) and Mickey Mantle (Thomas Jane), and their on-the-field competition to break Babe Ruth's single season home run record in 1961. Hall had a supporting role in "The Photographer" (2001), a wry, independent drama about a struggling photographer (Reg Rogers) on the hunt for 10 missing pictures that could save his floundering career, and was back in front of mainstream audiences with the irritating Tom Green comedy, "Freddy Got Fingered" (2001), in which he played a Hollywood executive who stifles the animation dreams of a former cheese factory worker (Green). In the crime comedy "All About the Benjamins" (2002), Hall also had a cameo as a scruffy fugitive whose Florida shack is busted by a freelance bounty hunter (Ice Cube).
Hall officially began a new era of his career in 2002 when he was cast as lead in the supernatural drama series, "The Dead Zone." The extremely well-rated cable series was adapted from Stephen King's best-selling novel, and starred Hall as Johnny Smith, a former high school teacher who awakens from a car accident-induced coma with new psychic powers that prove to be both a blessing and a curse. "The Dead Zone" premiered to strong reviews and quickly developed a loyal audience, while often being credited with reviving interest in supernatural dramas. Hall earned a nomination for a 2003 Saturn Award for Best TV Actor by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films, and during the series five-year run, also became a producer on the series. Following its cancellation in 2007, Hall took on a villainous role in the Hallmark Channel thriller, "Final Approach" (2008), and had a small role as a reporter in the mega blockbuster Batman sequel, "The Dark Knight" (2008). In 2009, Hall's off-screen behavior made news again, when the actor was arrested following an incident at an ex-girlfriend's apartment, where he was reportedly intoxicated and violent. A restraining order was filed against the actor, while news surfaced that he was being treated for bipolar disorder, and had had earlier violent outbursts on the set of "Dead Zone" when he failed to take his medication. He was back on television in 2010, in two villainous roles as a bully and a death row inmate, respectively, on the comedy "Community" (NBC, 2009- ) and "CSI: Miami" (CBS, 2002- ).
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There is a website devoted to him at www.hallofmirrors.com
"Eventually I got sober. I wasn't on skid row or anything, but I was wasting my energy, so I just took myself out of the whole nightlife thing. Now I'm basically a homebody. I go home at night and prepare for the next day. I think a lot about those years with [Robert] Downey [Jr.]. We started together; it was me who introduced him to Lorne Michaels and SNL in the first place. But it's painful to tell you I wasn't there these last several years. I visited him in rehab, and I kept thinking, 'Why wasn't I there for him?' I wish I'd been able to help him fend off some of the losers who came his way. If I had to do it over again I'd have been there. Because friends matter." --Hall, quoted in DETAILS, March 1999
On his work with John Hughes: "During the time we made those films, the focus was just to enjoy ourselves. He was empowering as a writer and director because he was very much a collaborator. He empowered the actors to make choices and to take chances with him, and to come to him with suggestions, to embellish scenes. He was very inspired to that extant. It was a work in progress. It was never: 'The door is shut.'" --Anthony Michael Hall to THE BOSTON GLOBE, June 20, 1999
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