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Jon Cryer

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“I’m at the perfect level of fame”

JON CRYER
By Eric Gladstone

Lunching with Jon Cryer in a Los Angeles café feels less like interviewing a veteran television actor than like catching up with an old high school friend. After all, Cryer, 35, is still best remembered for his breakout film role, as Molly Ringwald’s underdog suitor Ducky in the 1986 teenage touchstone Pretty In Pink. Not that, for Cryer, there’s anything wrong with that. “I would have to say that is the performance I’m most proud of,” he says, munching on greasy fries and a sandwich. “That guy was so much a part of me.”

But for Cryer, who has worked consistently in films and television since then, there is a lot of news to catch us up with, especially in the last year. For a start, there is Cryer’s new ABC sitcom, The Trouble With Normal, co-starring Paget Brewster. Then there is the recently-released independent film Went To Coney Island On A Mission From God…Be Back From Five, which Cryer co-wrote and financed himself, in addition to his starring role. And on the home front, there is his January marriage to actress Sarah Trigger (“Easy Streets”), their new home in Los Angeles’ Beachwood Canyon, and the birth of their son Charley Austin in June.

“I was planning to do something big, someplace fabulous,” Cryer says, recalling his proposal to Trigger with a cringing chuckle. But last October, one of life’s little surprises got in the way. “And instead, I’m standing there with this little clear blue easy pregnancy stick, in this wormy voice, saying ‘honey, will you marry me?’” Though they are both atheists, Cryer and Trigger (whom he met on the set of Getting Personal in 1998) chose to be married in Manhattan’s historic Riverside Church, where Cryer attended pre-school. Charley Austin—one name inspired by Cryer’s favorite great aunt, the other, by their supermarket checker—arrived on June 22, and has been giving mom and dad comic inspiration ever since. “He’s such a Charley,” the new father says. “I think Walter Matthau died and jumped into this kid.”

The son of Broadway actors Gretchen and David Cryer, Jon and his two older sisters (one biological, one “semi-adopted”) grew up surrounded by the theatre. “For me,” he says, “hanging out backstage with all these bizarre people, and occasionally having really famous people come by my house and say hello, was normal.” Cryer’s parents divorced when he was four, but he notes the split was so amicable that his mother and sisters still spend Christmas with his father and stepfamily every year. “My mom and dad get along better divorced than they ever did together.” Cryer also first appeared in a commercial at four, but the acting bug didn’t really bite until he was 12, with school plays.

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In the last decade, Cryer has had a string of bad luck with sitcoms, following 1989’s The Famous Teddy Z. with three more here-and-gone shows, Partners, It’s Good To Be King, and Getting Personal. But he has high hopes The Trouble With Normal, in which he plays a paranoiac obsessed with his therapist, will be different. “I’m dedicated to inflicting myself upon the American public,” he jokes. “I love the work on sitcoms. It’s so much fun to be in front of an audience doing that kind of stuff.”  And he’s learned to take the ups and downs of acting in stride, balancing comedy with independent film projects like 1996’s critically regarded The Pompatus Of Love and the new Went To Coney Island….

The latter film, released in September after a string of award-winning festival screenings, was a three-year labor of love for him and director, co-producer and co-writer Richard Schenkman. “Richard and I have done everything, we put together the soundtrack, the website, every single thing was either me or Richard.” The film is based closely on an event in the actor’s life when he and a friend heard his mother’s boyfriend’s son was mentally ill and homeless, and sought to find him. “It was terrifying for us,” he says. “We were completely devastated.” Cryer fought for the film’s somber conclusion, to the point that he and director Richard Schenkman decided to finance it themselves rather than give it the happy ending that prospective financiers wanted. “And the irony,” he says, “is that the guy who it’s based on did go into rehab and is going back to school now. In reality, it did have a happy ending!”

On his time off, Cryer collects autographed first editions (“I’ve got a Martin Luther King and a James Earl Ray on the shelf next to each other.”). He also describes himself as an obsessive “computer nerd”—he maintains his production company’s website, Evenmore.com—inspiring his own thoughts about where “Ducky” would be today, 14 years later. “Someone approached me about a sequel, and I thought ‘Internet billionaire…really cold and remote.’ Something goofy like that.”

While Cryer may not have quite that level of cash, his family, new home, and work leave him nothing to complain about. “I’m at the perfect level of fame,” he says with satisfaction. “People don’t bug me, but they occasionally give me free stuff. Can’t beat that.”

–FF–

Copyright 2001 ECG


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