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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
But this is what you came here for, right? Let’s do it.
It’s so great, EXCEPT THAT DAMN SYNTHESIZER. God, the ’80s.