The Heathers was Anything but Tiny Purple Flowers


Probably just as well since most likely the Heathers would have trampled them in the first scene anyway. Ever heard of or seen that movie The Heathers? It starred unknowns who became famous because of it: Winona Ryder, Shannen Dougherty and Christian Slater. It also opened the door for films like Mean Girls. The film led Walsh to her role of Brenda Walsh in Beverly Hills 90210. I remember watching Christian Slater and thinking “that guy is a young Jack Nicholson.” Oddly enough, Nicholson was exactly the person Slater was imitating in the role. He even contacted Nicholson for some feedback but the star refused his calls. Pompous, old fart. To watch the entire film, click here.

At first The Heathers was virtually ignored by the public. It cost $3.3 million to make it (pocket change by today’s standards) but only grossed $1 million at the box office. “Heathers” eventually became such a huge cult success that it made lunchroom polls and lines like “What’s your damage?” into pop-culture fixtures. Another gem, “fuck me gently with a chain saw,” opened the door for “fuck me gently,” not quite as bad but halfway funny.  The film is considered to be a cult classic due to its dark theme and weird characters.

One thing I don’t remember is that Heathers was about teen suicide. In fact, it made this sad phenomenon into a joke – something you’d never get Winona Ryder 08away with today (thank God).  It also included teen murder disguised as teen suicide. I don’t remember that one either. Like Poltergeist, it became one of the eerie life-imitates-art nature films of the deaths of two of its performers (one of which was truly creepy). Jennifer Connolly and Justine Bateman were originally considered for the  main female character, but it went instead to Dougherty.  Wynona Ryder begged to be in the movie, but, at 16, was thought too young. Eventually, however, the filmmakers caved and Ryder proved everyone wrong. They should have known by her Beetlejuice success that she was anything but too young for her role.

The then-unknown Brad Pitt auditioned for J.D. but didn’t get the role because he was seen as “too nice” (that was before he divorced Jennifer Aniston and made the film Fight Club, of course).  J.D. was named for J.D. Salinger and James Dean. Directors asked Salinger if they could use Catcher in the Rye but he refused so they went with Moby Dick. One more big literary allusion: “Moby-Dick,” the book in which Heather Chandler highlighted ominous passages before her supposed suicide

A female role was named Betty Finn, a spin on the Archie’s comic. She jeremywas the ex-sidekick for Veronica Sawyer, the darkest female character in Heathers. Yes, the surnames Sawyer and Finn were based on the Mark Twain characters. Kim Walker, who, as Heather Chandler, uttered the immortal line, “Did you have a brain tumor for breakfast?”, died in 2001 of a brain tumor. She was 32. The really nasty one, in my opinion, involved Jeremy Applegate, who played Veronica’s friend Peter Dawson, who prays not to suffer Heather Chandler’s fate because “I don’t think I could handle suicide,” actually committed suicide in real life, with a shotgun, in 2000. He was 35.

And that is the happy story behind and within the story of The Heathers.





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