When an actress becomes one of the most talked-about people in Hollywood, you can normally assume that they’re going to be famous forever. More often than not, their careers go from strength to strength, they simply become more popular as the years go by, and they become iconic even into their golden years. But that doesn’t happen all the time, and Phoebe Cates is the prime example of that.
Phoebe Cates was one of the most iconic women of the 1980s. She made her mark in movies such as Paradise, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and Gremlins. But just as Phoebe was gearing up for world domination, she suddenly vanished from Hollywood. Fans were confused, and nobody could understand why she’d suddenly leave her career in her prime. Now, the lid has been lifted on why she chose to leave the spotlight for good.
Phoebe Was Born Into a Showbiz Family, So It Was Only a Matter of Time Before She Became Famous Herself
Nepotism is a word that’s thrown around a lot in Hollywood. And while Phoebe Cates had connections to the world of show business, she wanted to make her mark on her own terms. Of course, it certainly helped that she could learn from some of the best. Her father was not only a television and Broadway producer, but he was also one of the men who helped create the popular game show The $64,000 Question.
As if that wasn’t enough, she also had her uncle to look up to. He was also a television producer who had worked on some of the biggest shows on the small screen. Because of this, Phoebe grew up learning about television and movie production, and she grew up on the outskirts of Hollywood. But it wasn’t long before she was able to get right into the inner circle.
During Her Younger Years, Phoebe Found Fame as a Model and Dancer Before Becoming an Actor
Phoebe knew from a young age that she wanted to follow in her father’s and uncle’s footsteps, but she didn’t want to produce television shows; she wanted more. During her younger years, she studied at the Professional Children’s School and the Julliard School, and by the time she was 10 years old, she had already proved her worth as a dancer and been signed to a modeling agency.
Although Phoebe’s natural beauty and dark features made her a hit in teen magazines, the young starlet wasn’t happy with where her career was going. She didn’t like the modeling industry and noted, “It was just the same thing, over and over. After a while, I did it solely for the money.” In the end, she opted to put modeling on the back burner and focus on becoming an actress instead.
When Phoebe Learned Her First Acting Role Would Require Nudity, Her Father Pushed Her To Accept It
Phoebe’s parents and family encouraged the young girl to put everything into this acting career, and they supported her every step of the way. Naturally, they were over the moon when Phoebe was asked to attend a screen test in the early ’80s for the 1982 movie Paradise. But the then-17-year-old Phoebe was a little more skeptical, especially after reading the script.
From reading the script, Phoebe knew that the movie would require her to be nude in countless scenes, and this was something she didn’t know if she was comfortable with. But when she was offered the part and told her father the news, he told her not to worry. He encouraged her to take the job, and so she took her father’s advice.
Phoebe Rose to Fame When Paradise Hit the Screens, and Fans Fell in Love With Her Beauty and Openness
Although many people claimed that Paradise was a very obvious knock-off of the popular 1980 movie The Blue Lagoon, it was still a huge hit with fans. They believed in the natural chemistry between Willie Aames and Cates, and they found Phoebe compelling in her role as a shipwrecked nymphet. The coming-of-age film was watched by teens and adults alike, and it put Phoebe on the map.
While some fans found Willie Aames’ blonde curly locks and youthful exuberance to be exciting, it was Phoebe Cates who really made Paradise a success. Not only did she show off her acting ability, but she also showcased her beauty and her willingness to go the extra mile for her acting roles. However, what she didn’t realize at the time was that this nude decision would negatively affect her career in more ways than she could ever imagine.
Next, Phoebe Starred in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Where She Stripped Down Once Again
Just two months after Paradise hit the big screen, Phoebe’s second major blockbuster made its way into theaters. Fast Times at Ridgemont High was a teen comedy that starred up-and-coming names of the 1980s, including Jennifer Jason Leigh, Nicolas Cage, and Sean Penn. While the storyline, the cast, and the production was praised, it was Phoebe’s role that thrust it into the spotlight.
For this role, Cates took on the sensual role of Linda Barrett. Her scene in the red bikini has since become iconic and it’s often been described as “the most memorable bikini-drop in cinema history.” For Phoebe, however, this was a moment that thrust her further into a hole. Although she only had two acting credits to her name, both of them required her to strip down and show off her body. And it was only going to get worse.
By the Mid ’80s, Phoebe Was Cast As the “Sex Symbol” in All of the Movies She Booked
By 1983, Phoebe Cates had built up quite a reputation and an impressive fan base. Many teens had her poster up on their walls, and they all loved what she brought to the screen. So, they were overjoyed when she brought that same energy to the 1983 movie Private School and the 1984 TV show Lili. Both of these shows saw Phoebe explore themes of sexuality and step into sexually charged roles.
Because of this, Phoebe became the ultimate “sex symbol” of the 1980s. She seemed to have no problems removing her clothes or seducing her co-stars, and she seemed to embrace what Hollywood wanted from her. In fact, some say that she was one of the first public feminists who wanted to fight for a woman’s right to be sensual and exploratory.
Phoebe Knew She Had a Good Body, Which Is Why She Didn’t Mind Stripping Down in All of Her Projects
During a 1982 interview about her life in the limelight and the movies she’d worked on, Phoebe noted that “I was only 17 when I did my nude scenes in Paradise. They were serious and more difficult because they were not easily justified. But the topless scene in Fast Times at Ridgemont High was funny, which made it easy.” But that’s not all she had to say.
Speaking about her decision to go nude in these projects, she confessed that “In this business, if a girl wants a career, she has to be willing to strop. If you’ve got a good bod, then why not show it?” But while Phoebe seemed to have no issue with showing off a body she worked hard to maintain and that she was proud of, she did start to see the full effect of her decision as the years went by.
Phoebe Struggled To Diversify Her Career, and She Almost Missed Out on Gremlins Because of Her Nude Scenes
Despite the fact that Phoebe was proud of the acting projects she had been involved in, she wanted to show the world that she had more in her acting locker. She didn’t just want to be known as the young actress who took off her clothes, and she wanted to prove herself as a talented storyteller. However, she knew that she had been typecast, and so she had to push hard to be taken seriously.
In fact, Phoebe almost lost out on the chance to appear in 1984’s Gremlins because director Steven Spielberg thought she was too risque for such a serious role. He wanted a wholesome actor to play the character of Kate, and he just didn’t think that Phoebe could pull off such a role. In the end, it was her undeniable chemistry with her co-star Zach Galligan that won him over.
Most of Phoebe’s Co-Stars Fell in Love With Her While Filming, but She Was Never Interested in Them
While filming Gremlins, Phoebe found herself conflicted. Although she wanted to make a good impression and show herself as a talented actress who could turn her hand to anything, she was still feeling the effects of her typecast persona. Of course, she knew that she was a beautiful young woman with a lot of charm – but most of her co-stars fell in love with her on set because of her past roles.
Steven Spielberg could tell from Phoebe and Zach Galligan’s first screen test together that Zach was “in love with her already,” and his feelings reportedly got stronger as filming went on. In 2014, Galligan himself confessed that Phoebe was “dreamy” and that he tried to shoot his shot. However, he also noted that Phoebe turned him down as she was only interested in older guys – something that became apparent a year later.
As Phoebe Tried To Land Less Sexualized Roles, This Decision Marked the Beginning of the End for Her Career
Gremlins allowed Phoebe Cates to show the world that she could be more than an actress in a red bikini. This movie pushed her acting capabilities and pushed her into a new realm of Hollywood, and while the movie was widely well received and has become a cult classic, Phoebe’s wasn’t considered a stand-out role. Fans had come to expect a certain level from the young actress, and she just didn’t reach it.
So, while Phoebe tried to make her move into less sexualized roles, she struggled to stake her claim. Producers and fans alike weren’t willing to give her the chance to show off this other side to her, and they tried to push her back into sexually-charged roles and movies that she had become known for. She could see that it was the beginning of the end of her career, but she didn’t want to give up.
During the Early ’90s, Phoebe Struggled To Land Any Substantial Roles and Was at a Loss For What To Do
Despite many fans’ disappointment in Phoebe’s appearance in Gremlins, the movie was a hit – and so it wasn’t long before a sequel was commissioned. Gremlins 2: The New Batch was released in 1990 and gave the actress the chance to try and redeem herself, but the fire surrounding her seemed to have gone out. The 1990s saw her struggle to land roles, and struggle to find a new place for herself in Hollywood.
While she did land relatively big roles in movies like Drop Dead Fred, Heart of Dixie, Bodies, Rest & Motion, and Princess Caribou during these early 1990s, she could tell that her popularity on the screen was waning. So, she decided to try something different and try her hand at acting on the stage in the hopes that this would bring her back to life.
She Then Turned Her Attention to the Stage, and Fell in Love With This New Way of Storytelling
As Phoebe realized that her time on the screen was coming to an end, she started to audition for plays both on and Off-Broadway. After landing her first few roles, she began to feel a new buzz rising within her – and she even stated that plays allowed her to feel “a certain freedom and a certain connection with acting that I had never really felt before.”
In fact, Cates confessed during one interview that “there are simply not that many good parts in film” but that the stage has “tons of good women’s roles… I think of theater as what I like to do most… I’ve only felt happy as an actress for about two years. I rarely watch my film work.” However, her newfound sense of happiness wasn’t the only thing distracting Phoebe from the big screen.
Phoebe’s Relationship With Kevin Kline During the ’80s and ’90s Also Took Her Attention Away From Blockbuster Movies
When Phoebe Cates told Zach Galligan that she was only interested in older guys, she wasn’t lying. In 1983, Phoebe met fellow actor Kevin Kline during an audition for the popular film The Big Chill. Although she ultimately didn’t land the role, Phoebe did walk away with a connection unlike any other she had felt before. But there was a problem. She was in a relationship, and so was he.
Although both parties were dating other people at the time, both of their relationships eventually ran their course and Kevin and Phoebe started dating officially in 1985. But their relationship took everyone by surprise, as they were an extremely unlikely couple. For starters, Kevin was 16 years older than Phoebe. She was 22, and he was 38 years old.
While Many People Assumed That Their Relationship Wouldn’t Last, They Seemed Totally in Love
When fans and Hollywood people alike heard of their romance, they were confused. On the surface, they didn’t seem as though they were going to work. Kevin Kline was a Julliard graduate who had proved to the world that he was an incredibly serious and talented actor who worked with some of the best in the business – including Meryl Streep in Sophie’s Choice.
Kline even had two Tony Awards to his name when they started dating, which is why people couldn’t understand that he was dating a much younger woman who was struggling to maintain her place in the limelight. However, they didn’t seem to care about what other people thought about them, and they continued their relationship on their own terms.
The Couple Got Married and Fell Pregnant, Which Forced Phoebe To Lose Out on a Life-Changing Acting Role
Despite those who didn’t understand their relationship, Phoebe and Kevin knew that their love was strong. In 1989 they made things official and became husband and wife, and they were focused on furthering their careers both individually and as a married couple. But when Phoebe was offered a life-changing role as Steve Martin’s daughter in the 1991 movie Father of the Bride, she had to pull out.
Although this movie went on to become one of the most successful comedies of all time, Phoebe had just discovered that she was pregnant – and she knew that those two life moments couldn’t work hand-in-hand. So, she pulled out of the project and welcomed her first child, a son, into the world. Over the course of the next few months, she focused on being a mom.
When Phoebe Got Pregnant Again, She Asked the Studio To Hide Her Bump so She Could Continue Working
While Phoebe understood that her priorities changed when she had her son, she also knew that she didn’t want to leave Hollywood. Acting was her life and acting was her passion, and she wanted to continue for the rest of her life. So, when she discovered that she was pregnant once again in 1993 with her daughter, she knew she couldn’t pull out of another project.
Luckily, the cast and crew on the set of the comedy-drama Princess Caraboo were sympathetic to her situation. This movie was set to star both Phoebe and her husband Kevin, and they knew that they wanted to keep them both on their books. So, they agreed to design costumes specifically to hide her growing baby bump. But what Phoebe didn’t realize at the time was that this was to be her second-to-last acting role ever.
Phoebe Then Decided To Take a Break To Raise Her Kids, but She Fully Intended To Get Back Into It
With their hands full with their young children, Phoebe and Cates decided to move to New York in the mid-’90s. They moved to Fifth Avenue across from Central Park, and they settled down in their family home and enjoyed family life. They opted to keep their kids away from the spotlight until they were able to make their own decisions, and so this ultimately meant that Phoebe disappeared.
While she didn’t want to quit, Phoebe knew that she needed to take a brief hiatus from her acting career. She wanted to give her kids her full attention and really focus on motherhood, and when they were a little older and back at school she wanted to dip her toe back into the acting pool. However, this never happened, and her husband explained why.
Her Husband Confessed That They Took Turns in Parenting, but Phoebe Always Wanted To Stay Home
By the time 1998 came around, fans were convinced that Phoebe Cates wasn’t coming back. She had completely disappeared from public view, and she wasn’t showing any signs of wanting to be a celebrity any longer. This wasn’t the same story for her husband, though. Kevin was still going strong as an actor, and so his wife’s disappearance came up in conversation during a 1998 interview with Playboy.
In this interview, Kevin confessed that “We have agreed to alternate so that we’re never working at the same time… [but] whenever it’s been her slot to work, Phoebe has chosen to stay with the children.” Yes, while Phoebe had the chance to return to her roots, the pull of acting just wasn’t strong enough. Until 2001, that is.
Although Phoebe Made a Small Comeback in 2001, She Once Again Disappeared Straight After
Despite the fact that Phoebe hadn’t starred in anything since 1994, she was still in touch with some of her favorite co-stars and friends who were still in the spotlight. One of those people was Jennifer Jason Leigh, who she had starred alongside in Fast Times of Ridgemont High. When Jennifer was setting up to co-write, co-produce, and co-direct a movie called The Anniversary Party, she knew she wanted Phoebe onboard.
Phoebe wasn’t sure about getting back into the acting game, but she had a huge amount of love and respect for Jennifer and so decided to do her a favor and get involved. She starred in the movie and tested her acting skills once again, but it didn’t make her want to get back into the game. Instead, it made her realize that she wanted to try something new entirely.
In 2005, Phoebe Put All of Her Efforts Into Setting Up Her Own Boutique Store in New York City
Starring in the 2001 movie seemed to push Phoebe even further away from Hollywood, and she began to think about what else she could do to provide for her family. In the end, she decided to set up her own boutique store in New York. She opened Blue Tree on Madison Avenue in 2005, and she hoped to make a success of it.
Blue Tree sells items that have been hand-picked by Phoebe herself, and this includes everything from clothes to olive oil and accessories and more. Amazingly, this was a hugely profitable and smart decision from Phoebe, as the store is still open today after almost two decades in business. And Phoebe herself has spoken out about her decision to skip acting and become a business owner.
Phoebe Doesn’t Want To Go Back Into Acting As She Doesn’t Believe Movies Are Made the Same Way Today
Die-hard fans of Phoebe Cates have always wanted her to come back into the spotlight and brush off her acting skills once again, but it seems as though Cates doesn’t have any intention of getting back into the game. When speaking to NBC‘s The Big Idea, she confessed that “acting wasn’t really an option for me.”
When attending the Gremlins reunion in 2015, Phoebe also opened up about her view on Hollywood and how movies often rely on computer-generated imagery to create their stories today. She looked back on the Gremlins movie and the animatronics that were used and stated that “Movies aren’t really made that way anymore.” As if that wasn’t enough, Phoebe’s daughter has also weighed in on the situation.
Phoebe’s Daughter Has Also Maintained That Her Mom Isn’t Interested in Being a Celebrity
Although Phoebe is no longer in the limelight, her kids are. Her son Owen Kline is a famous filmmaker and cartoonist, and her daughter Greta Kline is an actress and musician who releases music under the name Frankie Cosmos. In recent years, Greta has been asked about her mom’s disappearance, and in 2017 she stated that her mom didn’t like being a celebrity.
Greta stated that her mom “had a normal job, so I never really viewed it as being that special. I didn’t really understand how fame works until I’d gotten my own little taste of it. Now I’m thinking more about what it means to be in the public eye. My parents really weren’t ever, like, into celebrity culture.”
Although She Hasn’t Acted in Years, Phoebe Is Still a Big Name in Popular Culture
Despite the fact that she no longer wants to be a part of the Hollywood world, there are still people who are crossing their fingers and hoping that Phoebe Cates will make a triumphant return to the big screen. After all, she’s still a huge name in popular culture – and most recently she was even name-dropped during a season three episode of Stranger Things.
In this episode, Dustin describes his girlfriend as “Think Phoebe Cates, only hotter.” The fact that she is still being mentioned in popular culture proves that Cates still has a lasting legacy, and while that might have something to do with the many nude and bikini scenes she has under her belt, she still has a timeless popularity about her.