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Whatever Happened to the Cast of Dead Poets Society?

By Dustin Rowles | Seriously Random Lists | April 30, 2013 | Comments ()


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Dead Poets Society will be 25 years old next year, and I still remember it fondly as the first “serious” movie I ever loved as a kid. Given my youth, it felt immensely weighty and ultimately traumatic, and the scene in which Ethan Hawke runs through the snow still haunts me on occasion. But in 1989, “Carpe Diem” sounded like the coolest phrase ever, and YAWP was a common personal refrain. For many of us, I feel like Dead Poets Society was an entry point into our love of literature, and the idea that we could relate to others through books and poetry. When Transformers and baseball cards are your way of connecting with classmates, that is a lot more revelatory than it sounds.

(See more Celebrity Facts.)

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Did you know that Jamie Kennedy was in Dead Poets Society? It’s true. He’s uncredited, though, so he’s probably one of those dumb kids who refused to stand up. One of those backs-of-the-head students. Damn conformists. Also, did you know that Lara Flynn Boyle was also in Dead Poets Society, only all of her scenes were cut. She played Ginny Danbury, Chet’s sister.

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I’d rather not show you a current picture, because that opens up another can of worms, and I don’t like to talk about it because it brings out the worst in you.

I cannot tell you how amazing Robin Williams was in this movie, which came during a streak in the late ’80s and ’90s (The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Awakenings) where Williams could hardly do wrong. I hope that Williams is remembered, at the end of his career, for movies like this. Of course, we all know where Robin Williams is now: Playing priests in bad wedding movies.

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Ethan Hawke, who played Todd Anderson, has done pretty well for himself, obviously. He’s had a long career of great and not-too-great roles, but he seems to have found a strong second (or third) career in B-horror movies.

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However, he’s still wondering why he can’t get just one kiss.

Josh Charles (Knox Overstreet) is also doing well, and he’s better looking than ever these days over on “The Good Wife.” (He was also, of course, on the brilliant “Sports Night),” although he’ll always be most beloved for his role in Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead.)

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Robert Sean Leonard, who played Neil Perry and SMASHED OUR HEARTS IN TINY SHARDS OF ACHE, is doing OK. Leonard was great in Much Ado About Nothing in 1993, but after Swing Kids and The Age of Innocence , he kind of bounced around obscurity until arriving on “House M.D.” It was that obscure period in the ’90s where, for some reason, I thought he’d been replaced by Tom Everett Scott.

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Did you remember that Kurtwood Smith played Neil’s asshole Dad? Sure enough! Then he went on to play a much more amusing asshole Dad in “That ’70s Show.” It took me a long time to warm up to the guy who KILLED NEIL.

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It’s at this point when things start to get a little dicey with the cast. Most of these people would qualify for the list of 10 Actors Who Landed Juicy Roles Early in their Careers and Then Essentially Vanished.

Remember Gale Hansen, who played Charlie Dalton? He was in a 1993 series called “Class of ‘93,” but he basically retired from acting in 1998. He’s a “film exec,” and you can follow him on Twitter, if you’d like.

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Man, I hated the character played by Dylan Kussman, Richard Cameron, but I bet you didn’t think to yourself while you were watching Jack Reacher: “Hey! That’s that detestable kid from Dead Poets Society!” (He’s in the top right screenshot.) That’s pretty much what Kussman does these days: Bounce around in guest roles. DIRTY DAMN GINGERS. They deserve what they get.

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Allelon Ruggiero, who played Steven Meeks, is still acting, as well, although he’s only in bit parts in things you’ve never heard of.

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James Waterston, who played Gerald Pitts, is also still acting, and he’s in things you may have seen (“The Good Wife,” “Six Feet Under”) but in roles that you wouldn’t recognize.

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Not only is Norman Lloyd, who played Mr. Nolan, still alive, but at 99 years old, he was in an episode of “Modern Family.” 99 YEARS OLD.

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But this is what you came here for, right? Let’s do it.

It’s so great, EXCEPT THAT DAMN SYNTHESIZER. God, the ’80s.




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  • matty_crompton

    Yeah, how much do I love this movie? My fifteen year old son is named Knox. A friend of mine works in Hollywood and one day she met Josh Charles. She told him I'd named my kid after Knox Overstreet and he thought that was cool. He signed a dollar bill for me that I used to have on my refrigerator; alas, a house fire destroyed it.

  • jess

    Love Josh Charles so much. He was so good in this along with that babysitter movie. Ethan was good too. Kinda sad about Gale though. He was good as Nuwanda. Always thought Gale would be a model if he wren' t acting.
    I love Dead Poets Society.

  • katenonymous

    Dylan Kussman's also been doing a noir web series called "The Steps."

  • e jerry powell

    Okay, you can talk about Ethan Hawke a little bit more. BUT NOT AFTER THE END OF MAY.

  • idrathernotsay

    Everytime Robert Sean Leonard shows up in something I feel a nice little sense of relief that Neil isn't actually dead. I did eventually forgive Kurtwood Smith, but I still hold a tiny little grudge against George Costanza for slapping Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman.

  • Trixie

    Now I feel all smooshy. Damn.

  • Bodhi

    I love this movie, but this reminded me that I need to watch Age of Innocence again. That sucker is a-freaking-mazing

  • koko temur

    god bless josh charles, that fine, fine man. between being spanked in this one and having a threesome in "threesome", the man singlehandedly responsible for my sexual maturity

  • Kobie

    Maybe I wasn't really old enough to appreciate it when I watched it the first time, but I was not a huge fan of this movie.

  • Mr_Zito

    I think Robin Williams is actually two actors, one does the great films and the other one do the shitty. I don't think he had a "good phase" and a "bad phase", he's always done both the great and the shitty. His "Louie" episode was one of the best episodes of that show, and probably one of the best episodes of anything in the last few years.

  • katenonymous

    Yes, but pretty much any episode of "Louie" was one of the best episodes of anything in the last few years.

    Robin Williams had a guest appearance on HLOTS and was just amazing as a bereaved husband. They gave him great lines, and he did just the right things with them.

  • Ballymena Bob

    I hate this movie so much. And I was a mopey teenager when I first saw it. Did they really expect me to sympathize with these rich kids? Did he REALLY kill himself because his Daddy wouldn't let him be an actor? Ugh! What a load of preposterous shit-wank. I hate this movie so much!

  • JenVegas

    Sigh. I loved this movie so, so hard when it came out. Not too long after I had seen it a zillionty times in the theater my father and I were on the subway one day (I grew up in NY) and in a mostly empty subway station ....I'm guessing it was the 2nd Ave F line stop mid afternoon on like a Sunday, which is when me and my dad did most of our adventuring...we saw Robert Sean Leonard. My 14 year old brain exploded. I died a little inside. I was so in awe and in lust and in love with him. My father tried to get me to go over and say hello, tell him I was a fan. But all of the hormones frizzle fried my brain and I couldn't think of his name. I totally blanked. I was a stammering idiot, frozen in place. I think I hid behind a pillar until the train came. And then, of course, we were on the train with him, in the same car. I was sitting in one of the seats facing the aisle, right underneath the route map and he came striding over all hot shit super cool actor dude who knows he's sooo pretty, to check out the map and made eye contact with me. I probably turned purple. And he winked. And he smiled. And he put his finger to his lips as if to say "shh, don't tell anyone you recognize me." And then he walked away. And then he was my hero forever. The end.

  • Polly Q

    Wow, totally different opinion here. I was just out of college when I saw this movie, and I HATED it! Hated Robin Williams, hated the stupid, manipulative plot, hated every little thing about it. OK, it was pretty to look at, but that's only sufficient for coffee table books, not movies. I didn't always agree with Roger Ebert, but I was 100% with him on this movie -- http://www.rogerebert.com/revi.... Sports Night was awesome in all possible ways, though, Josh Charles (and Clark Gregg!) included.

  • maureenc

    I saw it when i was twelve or thirteen, and I loved it... until RSL killed himself. YOU DUMBASS. Even then I was like "Just lie to your dad, say you want to be a lawyer, go to Yale, and hang out at the drama school all the time! You're not even eighteen! It's not the end! Just bide your time until your dad can't control your life anymore, okay?"

    Now I have a theory that Neil probably killed himself because he was gay, and if his dad couldn't even handle him being a *heterosexual* actor... That and the fact that Peter Weir apparently didn't want the "stand on desks" ending because he wanted the movie to end with the kids having to face being cowards...

  • katenonymous

    I have heard that your theory is correct.

  • Lauralyn

    It's weird to watch this movie now because I live in the town where it was film. St. Andrews demolished every hall they filmed in as a part of expansion. The theater (the Everett) is run by a bunch of jackholes, and it's roof is caving in.

  • Bea Pants

    Norman Lloyd is also interviewed in the documentary series The Story of Film which is available on Netflix instant. He talks a lot about old Hollywood directors.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Ethan Hawke has had a tremendous stage career over the past decade, performing and directing. Robert Sean Leonard also appeared on the stage a fair amount during his Hollywood absence. Both choose pretty highbrow material, too - Chekov, Stoppard...

    James Waterston - how can you not mention he's Jack McCoy's son? He also shows up on NYC stages (and regional) from time to time. In fact, he, Hawke & Leonard formed a theater company after Dead Poets.

  • Louise

    I had no idea James is Sam's son. Thanks for the trivia.

  • kushiro -

    Hawke and Leonard did a movie together called Tape, which they did with Uma Thurman. The point of mentioning this? Ethan Hawke was married to Uma Thurman! When she was Uma-f'in-Thurman!

  • Sara_Tonin00

    ...and surprise surprise, Tape was a play before a movie. They are really smart actors (that's not at all sarcasm). I just get so annoyed when people say actors disappear, when they've been doing awesome work....just somewhere else.

  • Sally

    The world's first unmanned flying desk set.

  • Spaceagepaige

    I must reiterate. It's NUWANDA.

  • Laura

    So much love for this movie!

  • RilesSD

    And just like Hollywood, I stopped caring about this list after Kurtwood Smith.

  • rio

    I never fail to cry to this scene. Once I tried because my dad challenging me to and I got a major migraine instead.
    I learned my lesson, always your cry flag fly.

  • rio

    damn always LET your cry flag fly, why don't I re-read a comment before posting it?

  • Cazadora

    Ahh, the first way was so poetic. But I understand the nudge from the internal grammar gods.

  • JH

    i may have been the only person who watched Class of '93.

  • Steph

    O Captain My Captain!

  • kirivinokur

    Dare I ask about that hottie Chris, or so I not want to be disappointed?

  • kirivinokur

    "so" = "do"

  • HerGuyWednesday

    Yeah, I was also hoping for a Chris update. And Chet Danbury.

  • Irene of the North

    i hadn't realized how much i was crying at the end of this movie until the lights came up and the front of my shirt was soaked in tears. i love overstreet so very much.

  • JJ

    Damn it, Dustin. The name is Nuwanda.

  • TheEmpress

    Damn. Pitts grew up to be hot, in a Joseph Fiennes kind of way.

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