Michael Schoeffling played the heartthrob in one of the quintessential comedies in the 1980’s, as Jake Ryan in John Hughes’s classic film, “Sixteen Candles.” When the movie was released, Schoeffling became an overnight success and the object of affection for millions of girls across the country. And yet, despite riding that success to a few other assorted projects over the next several years, Schoeffling soon disappeared from the spotlight completely, choosing to quit the world of Hollywood and branch out to a most unexpected trade: making furniture. In this video, we’re taking a look at the path that took Michael Schoeffling from an unknown talent, to a huge star, to an anonymous furniture maker with an unidentified business. Stay tuned, as Facts Verse presents: He Quit Hollywood Forever, Now He Makes Furniture!
Writer and director John Hughes has become synonymous with the 1980’s genre of teen comedies, but when the movie Sixteen Candles came out, he was an unknown talent. Sixteen Candles was his debut film, and it became a smash hit, solidifying his entry into the world of filmmaking. Of course, as is often the case with movies featuring young actors, it also introduced the world to some unknown acting talents as well. And this included Michael Schoeffling, who was new to the acting world. He was cast as heartthrob Jake Ryan, who veered away from the traditional male lead by adding in a sensitive side to his rugged good looks and popularity. It was a role Schoeffling played to perfection, and it garnered him a ton of sudden attention from both inside Hollywood and fans all over. It seemed like he was destined to be a megastar, given both his looks and his appeal. And for a brief time after the film, it seemed like that might happen. However, things took a turn later on, as he decided to stop pursing an acting career altogether. But first let’s take a look at how he wound up in this classic teen film.
Michael Schoeffling was born in Wilkes-Barre, PA on December 10th, 1960. In high school, he excelled at wrestling, before heading to college at Temple University in Philly. There he was a liberal arts major. After graduating, he didn’t know exactly what career path to follow. He was obviously aware of his natural good looks, so he started out in the modeling world. He signed on to be a model for GQ, a gig that lasted him about a year. During it, he befriended a photographer named Bruce Weber, who decided to help Schoeffling out when he expressed his desire to pursue a career in acting. Weber agreed to help Schoeffling out by paying for acting classes at the Lee Strasberg Theater Institute in New York City.
By the time Schoeffling got an audition for Sixteen Candles, he was already 22 years old. But he apparently looked young enough that he fit right into the potential actors vying for the part. Molly Ringwold, on the other hand, was actually 15. She ended up playing the other half of the eventual couple, playing the awkward girl who pines after the popular Jake Ryan.
The part of Jake Ryan came down to two actors. One was Schoeffling, and the other was a young Viggo Mortensen, who would go on to have a hugely successful Hollywood career. Molly Ringwold was partial to Viggo getting the part. She admitted later that despite Viggo also being an unknown actor at the time, that he still made her weak in the knees. And yet, since Ringwold didn’t have a lot of sway in the decision, the casting director went the other way with it, ultimately giving Schoeffling the role. The casting direct, Jackie Birch said that she went with Schoeffling because of his innate sweetness. She noted that he was also quite shy when he was in the audition room, and even more so when he talked with the producers and the powers that be. To her, that read as being not only low key, but also a little sad. To her, those qualities, combined with his stunning looks, made for a very intriguing character. She noted that they made him a very real person, and ideal to play the part.
After Sixteen Candles
Schoeffling had a couple small parts immediately following Sixteen Candles, but his next big project came with the movie Vision Quest. He costarred with Matthew Modine, Forest Whitaker, and Linda Fiorentino. In it, he played a high school wrestler. This was a great role for Schoeffling, as he’d been an excellent high school wrestler not many years before the production. As such, doing the physical aspects of the work were no issue. In fact, he reportedly had to tone down his wrestling moves so as not to utterly dominate the other actors in the movie. It was also a chance for Schoeffling to show audiences that he was able to stretch dramatically. His role in Vision Quest was drastically different from the type of character he played in Sixteen Candles. Instead of being a clean cut hunk, he played a bad boy, complete with biker outfits and a mohawk. Even at that point, it seemed as if Schoeffling was destined for major stardom. He had two solid box office performers under his belt, he was adored by teen girls all over, and he had shown his versatility as an actor. And yet, the next few projects he took on didn’t provide him with the big breakthrough performance he needed to become a true A-lister in Hollywood. He was in Balizaire the Cajun and Let’s Get Harry, two movies that tanked. Then in 1989 he starred in two more films, in an attempt to find the one that would catapult him. But neither one, Slaves of New York and the critically acclaimed Longtime Companion, did that.
Finally, it appeared like Schoeffling’s luck had changed, as he was a part of a critically acclaimed box office hit in 1990’s Mermaids. He starred opposite Cher, Wynona Rider, and Bob Hoskins. And yet, Schoeffling’s part was sadly lost in the shuffle. He was likely hurt by the fact that, all these years after Sixteen Candles, he was again playing a heartthrob character to a young girl (this time an 18-year old Wynona Rider.)
His final role was in Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken, released in 1991. It was a flop, and Schoeffling found himself growing increasingly less interested in contnuing his acting career. After never quite finding his way into the top levels of Hollywood, he decided that enough was enough, and called it a day.
His Career After Hollywood
While Schoeffling decided he was done with acting, he still had to pay the bills. So he continued to do a little modeling here and there. And it’s a good thing he did, because it was through the modeling world that he met his wife, Valerie C. Robinson. The two have been together ever since, and have two children together. In fact, their daughter Scarlett now works as a model. She will occasionally post pics of her folks on social media. But beyond those posts, very little has been seen publicly of Michael in the last couple of decades.
But Michael’s use of modeling for income was soon replaced by a true passion of his. Reportedly, as he pursued acting in his early days, he ended up doing side work in carpentry. It was during these formative years, when he was honing his acting craft, that he was actually honing what would become his long time profession. Eventually, when Michael decided that he was done with Hollywood, he already had a skill that he could fall back on, in the form of carpentry. He expanded this craft, learning to be a master at making furniture. And as it turned out, he loved it. And he had quite the talent for it! As such, he has spent the last couple of decades working in the furniture making business. He was, at one point, quoted as saying that since actors generally spend more time not working than working, they don’t actually get to practice their craft all that often. In contrast, he’s able to build furniture as much as he wants. He also noted that he loves the fact that with furniture making, there aren’t powers that be, like directors and producers, telling him what to do. Unless he’s working with a specific client, he can simply build furniture as he pleases. And that is something he values immensely.
A mystery man
And when we say that he disappeared, we don’t just mean from the world of acting and the spotlight. In many ways, Michael Schoeffling disappeared from public life altogether. He has been super successful in basically being off the grid completely. The name of his furniture making business isn’t even a known thing, beyond perhaps some specific clients he works with. The best info anyone can find is that he’s located somewhere in Pennsylvania. His former employer, GQ, even tried to locate him around 2002, to see what he was up to, and what he looked like. But they came up empty. As such, they labeled him “the Salinger of male model/actors” which was a nod to the hermit-like author JD Salinger. Amazingly, there are blogs focused around figuring out where Schoeffling is, and what he looks like. The only recent clue has been a couple photos posted to Twitter in 2020, but these shots weren’t verified, so who knows!
Now it’s time to hear from you. Were you a fan of Michael Schoeffling from Sixteen Candles? Did you know he quit the business to become a furniture maker? Let us know in the comments section below!