“Sixteen Candles” Turns 40: What Happened to Heartthrob Michael Schoeffling?

The actor who played Molly Ringwald’s love interest Jake Ryan is “very reclusive and private” now

Universal/Kobal/Shutterstock Molly Ringwald and Michael Schoeffling in "Sixteen Candles"
Universal/Kobal/Shutterstock Molly Ringwald and Michael Schoeffling in "Sixteen Candles"

Sixteen Candles has 40 candles to blow out!

The coming-of-age comedy classic that made Molly Ringwald a 1980s teen icon and kicked off John Hughes’ prolific directing career opened in theaters four decades ago. Ringwald, now 56, Anthony Michael Hall, Gedde Watanabe and other costars have reminisced about how formative the film's depiction of high school life remains.

But what about Ringwald’s onscreen love interest Jake Ryan? The stylish “senior stud,” as PEOPLE Magazine called Michael Schoeffling in its review of the movie in 1984, became almost as iconic as Ringwald, exemplifying a dreamy high school crush trope that endures to this day.

But Schoeffling, who then went on to star in Vision Quest and Mermaids, has been largely missing from the public eye since leading 1991's Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken, his last credit. What happened?

Related: Molly Ringwald Reminisces About Her John Hughes Movies: It Felt Like 'the World Had a Crush on Me'

<p>Alamy</p> Michael Schoeffling in "Sixteen Candles"


Michael Schoeffling in "Sixteen Candles"

The Pennsylvania-born, New Jersey-raised Schoeffling, 63, launched a modeling career not long before earning the role of Jake in Sixteen Candles, his screen debut. (Fun fact: Viggo Mortensen also auditioned for the role. In 2011, Ringwald admitted to Access Hollywood that she lost touch with Schoeffling — and had originally wanted the Lord of the Rings star to play Jake instead: “He made me weak in the knees.”) 

Then, as the New York Times noted in 2016, the actor appeared in almost a dozen movies “before starting a family and retiring from acting to design and craft furniture.”

Based in Newfoundland, Pennsylvania, Schoeffling has made an intentional retreat from public life post-retirement. “He’s a very different kind of person,” his wife, Valerie Robinson, told PEOPLE in 2014. Contrary to a life in the Hollywood spotlight, she said at the time, Schoeffling is now “very reclusive and private.”

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<p>Cinematic / Alamy Stock Photo</p> Michael Schoeffling and Molly Ringwald in "Sixteen Candles"

Cinematic / Alamy Stock Photo

Michael Schoeffling and Molly Ringwald in "Sixteen Candles"

Related: Molly Ringwald Reflects on 'Sixteen Candles' in Wake of #MeToo: 'There Were Parts That Bothered Me'

According to the U.S. Sun, Schoeffling is the CEO of his “carpentry and furniture” business, which focuses on “hand-crafted items.” Not much else is known about his work. 

The star and Robinson also share a grown son, Zane, and daughter, Scarlett. The father of two was “doing fine” in 2014, Robinson told PEOPLE when asked about family life. “He’s happy.”

The actor has on rare occasions made appearances on the social media of his daughter, a model who has also dipped her toe into acting, guest starring in an episode of Billions. In 2020, Scarlett shared a post consisting of herself as a baby, held in both parents’ arms, with the caption, “dad, mom and one sweet little angel.”

Luckily for nostalgic audience members, Schoeffling’s screen performances live forever — and his status as Sixteen Candles’ heartthrob will remain for many birthdays to come. 

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