Best known as: Lucas from Empire Records, Ron Slater from Dazed and Confused
For a few short years, American-born, British-raised Rory Cochrane was the ideal crush object for weird girls everywhere. This talented character actor looked completely different in his two cult-classic roles, as the cryptic, Zen-like Lucas in Empire Records and Ron Slater, the long-haired stoner who gave an epic speech about George Washington’s drug adventures in Dazed and Confused. A bit of trivia: Did you know that Cochrane lived with his Empire co-star Renée Zellweger for four years?
Now 39, Cochrane has continued to work in film and TV, showing up in movies like Hart’s War (2002) and Public Enemies (2009). These days, TV audiences probably know him best from CSI and CSI: Miami, where he spent 2002 t0 2004 playing Detective Tim Speedle. Although his character was killed off, he did make a guest appearance on the show a few years later, as a colleague’s hallucination. In 2009, Cochrane played the recurring role of Greg Seaton on the seventh season of 24. Most recently, Cochrane co-starred with some huge names — Mickey Rourke, Megan Fox, and Bill Murray — in a thriller called Passion Play, which was supposed to come out last year but (and this is kind of a bad sign) still hasn’t set a release date.
Best known as: Debra from Empire Records, Sarah Bailey from The Craft
Fifteen years ago, Robin Tunney was the go-to “alternative” teenage girl — whether it be as Empire Records‘ bald, suicidal Debra or the member of a gothy teen-witch coven in The Craft. Whether through her deadpan delivery or her uncanny resemblance to Sinead O’Connor (she is of Irish descent, after all), there was something about Tunney that embodied the mid-’90s.
Tunney made a smoother transition into adult roles than some of her contemporaries. The 38-year-old actress, who married film producer and director Bob Gosse in 1997, but they divorced in 2002. (Considering that he went on to direct Tucker Max’s awful I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, this may not have been a bad decision.) In the 21st century, she’s worked mainly in indie film (The Secret Lives of Dentists, Hollywoodland) and TV. In 2005, Tunney co-starred in the first season of the Fox drama Prison Break as the lawyer and childhood friend of wrongfully accused murderer Lincoln Burrows. A few years later, she popped up again in a leading role, as Teresa Lisbon, a California Bureau of Investigation agent on CBS’s The Mentalist. The show is currently in its third season.
Meanwhile, it appears Tunney has maintained a pretty dedicated following. The web abounds with fan sites, including a new one that was supposed to launch in December and has its own Twitter account (with one tweet and 37 followers).
Best known as: Nancy Downs, The Craft
If Robin Tunney was the ultimate ’90s alterna-girl, then her Craft cast mate, Fairuza Balk, was the decade’s goth to end all goths. This daughter of a dancer and a traveling folk musician was a child actress before her breakthrough role as the most hardcore member of a badass teen witch coven. If the girls in your middle school class suddenly started slathering on the black lipstick back in 1996, it probably had something to do with Fairuza. Interestingly, Balk’s affinity for the occult was more than just acting: from 1995-2001, she was part owner of a shop called Panpipes Magickal Marketplace, in Hollywood.
As she grew out of teen movies, the 36-year-old actress continued to land roles in big films, including American History X and Almost Famous. Recently, she’s appeared in smaller movies, including indie fare such as Humboldt County and Werner Herzog’s The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call — New Orleans. Fun fact: she’s also voiced a handful of video game characters, including Mercedes Cortez of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. Balk’s next project, currently in pre-production, is called Thicker and follows a pair of siblings trying to get at their inheritance — which was buried with their mom. If the plot doesn’t sound particularly promising, at least Balk is in the company of some stellar actors: John Goodman, Alison Pill, and Guy Pearce will all appear in the film.
Luckily for her mega-fans (we know you’re out there), Balk maintains a very strong online presence. She personally updates her Facebook fan page and Twitter, frequently. She also has an elaborate website, where you can get to know the actress as a musician and artist, as well as check out the causes she supports. (Wolves!)
Best known as: Joey Donner from 10 Things I Hate About You, Zach Dell from Camp Nowhere
In the years between his first major film role, in 1994’s Camp Nowhere, and his co-starring gig as Larisa Oleynick’s love interest in 1999’s 10 Things I Hate About You, Andrew Keegan was a sex symbol for the under-16 set. Boy-crazy tween magazines like Bop and Tiger Beat plastered his face on just about every one of their covers, and girls plastered his photo all over their bedroom walls.
Now 31, Keegan got into show business early, as a baby model for Gerber. While maintaining a successful teen-movie career, Keegan also played the recurring role of Wilson West, Mary’s sometime boyfriend, on 7th Heaven and Reed Isey, Claudia’s love interest, on Party of Five. Apparently, Keegan was so good at playing arm candy that he guested as a boyfriend on shows ranging from Step by Step to Moesha.
But the actor hasn’t had quite as much luck as in adult roles. In 2005, he appeared in a few episodes of the short-lived WB series Related and, since then, has starred in a handful of movies you probably haven’t heard of. You might have spotted him in an uncredited role on CSI back in September, though. Meanwhile, a few weeks after that episode aired, TMZ published photos of a check made out to Keegan for Bachelor winner Shayne Lamas’s unpaid rent. Lamas’s husband added a memo to the actor that said, “Get A Job Hollywood Has-Been.”
Best known as: Samantha Albertson from Now and Then
Gaby Hoffmann’s Now and Then co-stars Thora Birch and Christina Ricci went on to big acting careers. But what about Hoffmann who seemed to embody smart, independent girlhood? Where did she come from, and where has she gone?
It turns out the 29-year-old actress had a strange and amazing-sounding childhood: until she was 11, Hoffman lived at the Chelsea Hotel with her mom, Janet Susan Mary Hoffmann — who you might know as Viva, the Andy Warhol superstar. So it makes sense that, after a run of child acting in films such as Sleepless in Seattle, Field of Dreams, and Now and Then, Hoffmann turned to artier fare. The year after she starred in the coming-of-age movie, she appeared in Woody Allen’s Everyone Says I Love You and later showed up in indie flicks like 200 Cigarettes and You Can Count On Me. Hoffmann took some time off in the early ’00s to finish her undergraduate degree at Bard and then concentrated on stage acting for a few years, eventually landing a role in the short-lived Broadway production Suburbia.
In the past few years, Hoffmann has dipped her toe back into the movie pool. You might have recognized her as Wanda in 2009’s criminally underrated Todd Solondz film, Life During Wartime. She also appears in 13, a thriller that seems to have been completed last year but doesn’t have a release date.
Best known as: Dionne from Clueless
We know that Alicia Silverstone is still around, being semi-famous and playing assorted roles. But how about Cher’s faithful Clueless sidekick, Dionne? We will always remember Stacey Dash for knowing how to rock a big-ass hat and putting her slobbering boyfriend in his place.
As connoisseurs of second-tier, late-’90s teen TV will remember, Clueless moved to the small screen for a few years, in the wake of its massive box office success. And although Silverstone went on to bigger and better things, replaced by Rachel Blanchard, Dash reprised her role as Dionne for the show’s entire three-year run. Directly after that, she took a lead role in the Vegas-based drama series The Strip, but it was canceled midway through its first season.
Since then, the 45-year-old actress — yes, people, Dionne is middle-aged — appeared in a few projects whose name you might recognize, such as 2007’s I Could Never Be Your Woman, the Paul Rudd/Michelle Pfeiffer rom-com helmed by Clueless director Amy Heckerling. In 2009, Dash had a recurring role on Girlfriends spin-off The Game. But Dash has also taken parts in projects with names like Secrets of a Hollywood Nurse and Nora’s Hair Salon II.
Dash has also been known to get racy: she bared it all in the August 2006 issue of Playboy [NSFW]. That same year, she launched her own lingerie line. Should you require any of her services, Dash has a website that includes her resume. She’s also on Twitter, where she has a robust following, and Facebook.
Best known as: Preston Meyers from Can’t Hardly Wait, Mark from Empire Records
Always the sweet, doofy (but still somehow crush-worthy), nice guy, Ethan Embry was the object of many ’90s geek crushes. He famously ate pot brownies and hallucinated that Gwar was trying to kill him as a metal-loving record-store employee in Empire Records. And in Can’t Hardly Wait, he won the heart of teen dream-girl Jennifer Love Hewitt at a high-school graduation party. Like his heirs, Michael Cera and Jesse Eisenberg, Embry was all about the adorable awkwardness.
Embry has actually done quite a bit since his teen-movie days. Along with parts in several short-lived TV series, he took roles in the 2002 Reese Witherspoon vehicle Sweet Home Alabama and instant stoner classic Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle. From 2006 through 2008, Embry was a supporting player on Showtime’s Brotherhood, where he portrayed a Providence, RI detective.
These days, Embry has two films in post-production: Frank L. Baum’s adaptation The Witches of Oz and a low-budget flick called Blood Brothers. Meanwhile, there is a strange, unverified, and frankly kind of gross Twitter account credited to Embry. We kind of hope it isn’t real. Oh, and the handle? @childactor
Rachael Leigh Cook
Best known as: Laney Boggs from She’s All That, Mary Anne Spier from The Baby-Sitters Club, Becky Thatcher from Tom and Huck
For a while there, we thought Rachael Leigh Cook was pretty much the luckiest girl in the world. She got to star opposite Brad Renfro (R.I.P.) and JTT in a film that must have made poor Mark Twain roll over in his grave. And then she played Mary Anne in The Baby-Sitters Club, a.k.a. our elementary school heroes. Later, of course, she graduated from tween to teen in She’s All That, the movie famous for pretending that overalls and glasses are enough to make a smokin’ hot girl totally undateable.
Cook was a pretty big deal for a few years, post-She’s All That. She took co-starring roles in 2000’s Get Carter and 2001’s candy-colored nostalgia trip, Josie and the Pussycats. After that came several years of movies whose names we don’t recognize (Bookies? Tempo?), some of which were backed by her own Ben’s Sister Productions. In 2005, Cook scored a recurring role on Las Vegas and, around the same time, voiced a ton of video-game characters. Between 2006 and 2009, her voiced could also be heard on Seth Green’s goofily wonderful Cartoon Network show Robot Chicken.
You may have spotted Cook, in the past few years, in the recurring role of Abigail Lytar on Psych. Even more promising, she has a role in Japanese director Iwai Shunji’s Vampire, which we picked as one of ten films to watch from Sundance 2011. Finally, back in the fall, Cook gave us yet another reason to appreciate her: she spoke at the Healthy Media for Youth Summit in Washington, DC, where she talked about her own teenage food issues and denounced the manipulated images girls see in fashion magazines.
Best known as: Stevo from SLC Punk!, Stuart from Scream, Emmanuel Goldstein from Hackers, Brock Hudson from She’s All That,
He may not have been an Andrew Keegan-level dreamboat, but Matthew Lillard did happen to be in just about every major teen movie of the mid-’90s. This character actor was a creepy villain (Scream), a cyberpunk (Hackers), a fame whore (She’s All That), and — in one of our favorite roles — an aimless punk rocker in Salt Lake City. Whenever there was a semi-dark teen part to fill, Lillard seemed to be the one for the job.
In the 21st century, Lillard continued to work at a breakneck pace. And while most of the movies he appeared in aren’t anything to write home about (Spooner, anyone? Or how about Bickford Schmeckler’s Cool Ideas?), he did strike gold at least once. Lillard happens to be a dead ringer for Shaggy, Scooby-Doo’s stoner-iffic cartoon master, and parlayed that resemblance into two live-action films, a video game, a few straight-to-video movies, and a Cartoon Network series. He’s also put in a fair number of TV guest appearances (Law & Order: SVU, American Dad) and, like Rachael Leigh Cook, lent his voice to Robot Chicken.
These days, Lillard remains super-busy. Of the four films he has in production or post-production, one looks especially promising: The Descendants has Lillard starring alongside George Clooney and Judy Greer. But the big news is that the flick, in which “a land baron tries to re-connect with his two daughters after his wife suffers a boating accident,” will be director Alexander Payne’s first feature since 2004’s critic-beloved Sideways.
Best known as: Buffy from Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Joss Whedon fanatics, God bless them, have kept great tabs on the cast of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series over the years. (And besides, most of them have gone on to pretty impressive careers.) But what of Kristy Swanson, the actress who cut her teeth on some of John Hughes’ best-loved films before originating the role of Buffy in the 1992 movie?
Swanson never became a big star, although she did appear throughout the ’90s in B-grade box office fare such as 8 Heads in a Duffel Bag and Higher Learning. Then came a few fairly short-lived drama series — Early Edition and Grapevine — followed by some guest spots and TV movies.
More recently, the 41-year-old actress appeared on Skating with Celebrities, the Dancing with the Stars knock-off that was canceled after only one season. While Swanson and her partner, Lloyd Eisler, ended up winning, it was the controversy that came after that most people remember: Eisler left his pregnant wife for Swanson, who was later arrested for assaulting the forsaken woman. The charge was later dropped. Swanson and Eisler married in 2009, and her newest TV movie (the promisingly titled Swamp Shark) is due to debut this year.