I think I figured out my Anthony Michael Hall obsession. It was baffling me. Usually the reasons for my many (and often fleeting) obsessions reveal themselves almost immediately- in fact, they often preceed the obsessions and influence them. Makes sense, doesn’t it? That’s why this whole Anthony Michael Hall thing has been so bizarre. I wasn’t sure where it was coming from.
It started with incredulity. The famous “Dude. It’s Anthony Michael Hall” I utter every time I see him on TV, all grown up. A short and forgotten phase when “Pirates Of Silicon Valley” came out, then again last year when I discovered “The Dead Zone” TV show. This year, I started watching “The Dead Zone”, and have been annoying everyone unluckly enough to be around me: “Dude. Dude! It’s Anthony Michael Hall. Anthony Michael Hall. Dude.”
(Note: I didn’t even start saying “dude” until I lived in Scotland last year; Scots think every American says it all the time, and I had this thing about adopting obnoxious stereotypically American habits to piss them off.)
In any case, (one of these days I will be able to tell a story without a digression,) the fasincation came from the difference I saw in him as an adult and him as a teenager in all those John Hughes movies I kind of grew up with (as an ’81 baby, I was a bit young for them the first time around).
My mom always says that she doesn’t like child actors because they (they being the industry) try to make them look and act like adults. They’re never just kids. And you know it’s people in their 20s that play all those high school kids in movies, and unconvincingly so. That’s been a personal beef of my own, since I’ve always looked so young.
But Anthony Michael Hall was different. First of all, we didn’t see him “grow up” so much as just go through puberty. And he wasn’t an older kid playing kids going through puberty. Oh no. Just see “National Lampoon’s Vacation” and “Sixteen Candles”. He was awkward, his voice was changing, he was a real live adolescent. I identified with him more than most so-called teenage actors, male or female. He looked like a kid (then teenager, as his films progressed), he acted like a kid (then teenager).
The last thing I remember seeing him in was “Johnny Be Good”, and he was 20, playing a high school senior, but he looked like a high school senior so it was ok in my book. (I still think I could convincingly play a high school senior at the ripe old age of 24.) Then he disappeared for a while. Then, suddenly, “Pirates Of Silicon Valley”. (Which was more “suddenly” to me than proper 80s kids as you recall.) And dude. It was Anthony Michael Hall. All grown up! He looked it and he acted it. And then “The Dead Zone”. Even more grown up. The ripe old age of 37, he is now.
(A note on that. I am referring to how he looks and acts solely onscreen. I don’t know how he acted or acts in real life, that is not my concern. I’m going to be shallow and admit it’s all about appearances. But it’s not really shallow because it’s the social presentation of oneself I’m talking about anyway.)
In my experience, you can see in most child actors what they’re going to look like when they grow up- they already have that look. Maybe that’s why they’re child actors. Maybe we (we being the American viewing public) have an obsession with miniature adults. That would explain a lot.
But not Anthony Michael Hall. I could never have imagined what he’d’ve looked like grown up, when all I had of him was “Vacation” and “Candles” and “Weird Science” and “The Breakfast Club” and even the slightly later “Johnny”. It boggles me that the Anthony Michael Hall on my TV every week in “The Dead Zone” is the same Anthony Michael Hall.
So I stare at him and look for the previous version, and sometimes catch glimpses of it in facial expressions and the like. These are treasures I love to find, evidence of synergy of the two Anthony Michael Halls, which, to me, represent the potential synergy of the vitality of youth and the wisdom of experience of us all.
(There are other things that fuel my obsession. Namely, his name. It’s a power name. Anthony Michael Hall. It’s three names. Many syllables, but it ends with a single-syllablic bang. It rolls off the tongue quite satifyingly. And the initials. AMH. You know he’s got his own production company now, called AMH Entertainment? I can’t say that without an announcer’s voice, it’s so amazing and powerful.)
While in Rhode Island last weekend with my friend Lenny, we watched a bit of the “Dead Zone” marathon. Our commentary went like this:
Vee: “Dude. It’s Anthony Michael Hall.”
Lenny: “It’s not him, it’s not him.”