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Fast Times at Ridgemont High: Illustrious Cast

Cast members from the film include three Best Actor Academy Award winners, an ER doctor, a famous female Rock “n” Roll singer and Springsteen.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High was a 1982 movie based upon the book of the same name and both the book and movie screenplay were written by Rolling Stone writer Cameron Crowe. Universally panned by the critics when it came out, the film surprised both the critics and movie executives when moviegoers loved it. It ended up making six times what it cost to film and is today a cult classic. To those of us who went to high school in the 1980’s, Fast Times at Ridgemont High by far represented what our experience was like the best compared to other high school themed movies. And it is funny.

Cameron Crowe

Crowe went undercover and back to high school for a year when in his early 20’s to research his book. Many of the characters in the book and movie are loosely based upon kids Crowe met during his undercover year. Crowe went on to write screenplays for such movies as Jerry Maguire, Vanilla Sky, Singles and won the Academy Award for Best Screeplay for Almost Famous.

Image via Wikipedia

My only real complaint about Fast Times the movie is that while some of the characters do get high and go for a joyride the film left out the weekend partying that was such a big part of high school life. Understandable since Crowe was so much older than the kids he was going to high school with the second time around he probably did not hang with them on the weekends or if he did he did not want to publicize the fact. Also many of the actors are too old for their parts but the movie works.

Here are all the cast members who went on to become famous or already were.

Sean Penn

Source (Spicoli and van wearing Vans)

Sean Penn played stoner Jeff Spicoli in Fast Times. He had many great scenes in the movie including having a pizza delivered to him in history class which Mr. Hand, played by Ray Walston, gave to the class to share to Spicoli’s disgust. Penn has gone on to star in many movies and to win two Best Actor Academy Awards for Mystic River and Milk. He also was married to Madonna and allegedly tied her to a chair in their Beverly Hills home and left her there for two days. Unless Penn portrays some other remarkable character in his career he will always be known as Spicoli to most moviegoers.

Forest Whitaker

Image via Wikipedia

Whitaker was angry football player Charles Jefferson in Fast Times. In love with his Trans-Am car in the movie it gets totaled when Spicoli and company get high and take a joyride in it. To get away with the prank they then write the name of the next high school football opponent on the car and Jefferson destroys them in the game as revenge. Forest Whitaker has gone on to star in a number of movies and won the Best Actor Academy Award for his portrayal of Uganda dictator Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland.

Nicholas Cage

Source (Cage was Nicholas Coppola in credits)

Cage’s part in Fast Times was so small he is simply listed as Brad’s Bud. He’s also Nicholas Coppola in the credits, his real name. His uncle is movie director Frances Ford Coppola and after Fast Times, Nick changed his last name to Cage after a comic book hero. Cage has gone on to star in dozens of movies and at least 7 of them have grossed well over $100 million at the box office. He won the Best Actor Academy Award for Leaving Las Vegas.

Jennifer Jason Leigh

Source (Stacy in Mr Vargas science class)

She played Stacy Hamilton in Fast Times and her character loses her virginity to an older guy, becomes pregnant by a sleazeball and gets an abortion in the course of the movie. Jennifer Jason Leigh gets naked in the film and reportedly wanted to do even more but to avoid an X rating for the film she was not allowed. Stacy’s discussions about guys and sex with Linda Barrett are a big part of the movie.  She has gone on to do well over 20 feature films including Single White Female and Dolores Claiborne. Her father was actor Vic Morrow who was decapitated by a helicopter blade while shooting Twilight Zone: The Movie in 1982, the same year Fast Times at Ridgemont High was released. Jennifer was estranged from her father at the time and had not spoken to him for over two years. See Seven Bizzare TV and Film Set Deaths for more.

Judge Reinhold

Source (Brad in pirate outfit in “crusing vessel”)

Judge Reinhold played the part of Brad Hamilton in Fast Times. Brother of Stacy, his senior year at Ridgemont does not go as planned. He gets fired from All American Burger after telling off a customer and then goes to work at Captain Hook Fish and Chips where has to wear a dumb pirate uniform. When a beautiful girl in a Corvette sees him in the costume as he makes a delivery and laughs at him, Brad throws his pirate hat and “catch of the day” meals out the car window of his “cruising vessel” and quits. Brad also masturbates in the movie in the bathroom overlooking his parents pool while watching Linda swimming. Linda needs something to get water out of her ear and walks in on Brad. Reportedly, Reinhold was actually touching himself or a fake dildo for real when Phoebe Cates, the actress playing Linda opened the bathroom door so that Cates would have a real look on her face for the scene. Reinhold has gone on to appear in over 75 films including Beverly Hills Cop I, II and III with Eddie Murphy.

Phoebe Cates


Cates played Linda Barret who was Stacy Hamilton’s best friend and sex confidant in the movie. Cates appears topless in the film in a fantasy sequence when Stacy’s brother Brad thinks about her as he masturbates. Unlike Jennifer Jason Leigh who could not wait to do nude scenes, Cates was very nervous about a topless scene and complained that neighbors of the house where they were filming might be spying on her from their roof tops. Cates is famous for the topless scene and after Fast Times she did some movies like Gremlins and Princess Caraboo.

Eric Stoltz

Source (Stoltz on right)

Stoltz played Stoner Bud, one of Spicoli’s friends in Fast Times in a small role. Stoltz went on to be in dozens of movies including a starring role in Mask opposite Cher. He’s also been in and directed episodes of many different TV shows like Gray’s Anatomy, Law and Order and Boston Legal.

Anthony Edwards

Source (Edwards on left, notice the full hair)

Edwards played Stoner Bud, another one of Spicoli’s friends in Fast Times. He went on to star in Top Gun with Tom Cruise and then really became famous as Dr. Marc Green on the TV Drama ER. Between Fast Times and ER, Edwards certainly lost a lot of hair on top.

Ray Walston

Source (notice the question on blackboard)

Walston played history teacher Mr. Hand in Fast Times. He battled Spicoli in many scenes and rips up Spicoli’s class schedule in one scene as punishment for Spicoli being late to class and Spicoli curses at him for it. Walston has appeared in dozens of movies and TV shows and is most famous for playing the title character on the situation comedy My Favorite Martian.

Nancy Wilson

Wilson played the part of Beautiful girl in Corvette that laughs at Brad as he makes a delivery wearing a stupid pirate outfit. Nancy Wilson is co lead singer in the band Heart with her sister Ann. She was also dating Fast Times writer Cameron Crowe during filming of the movie and she eventually married him in 1986.

Vincent Schiavelli


Vincent Schiavelli played Mr. Vargas the science teacher at Ridgemont High. Schiavelli was never a lead actor in Hollywood but had one of the most recognizable faces and was in many films and TV shows. He appeared in such films as One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Amadeus, The People vs. Larry Flynt, Man on the Moon and Ghost.

Lana Clarkson


Clarkson played Mrs Vargas in Fast Times as the hot wife of science teacher Mr. Vargas. She was already a fashion model when cast in Fast Times and went on to appear in dozens of sci-fi B movies. Sadly she is most famous for her death. On February 3, 2003, Clarkson met music producer Phil Spector and he invited her to his home. She went with him and ended up dead from a single gunshot to her mouth. Spector is currently on trial for the murder for the second time as the first one ended in a mistrial. Spector was subsequently found guilty and sentenced to 19 years in jail for Lana Clarkson’s murder.

Pamela Springsteen

The boss’ little sister had a bit part in the movie as she played Dina Phillips. Sean Penn asked her out on the set and she accepted.

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  1. Posted April 6, 2009 at 9:25 am

    An education …………..thanks

  2. Posted April 6, 2009 at 9:33 am

    I’ve never seen or heard of it but enjoyed this. I love Jennifer Jason Leigh and Forest Whittaker.

  3. Posted April 6, 2009 at 9:36 am

    good review.

  4. Victoria
    Posted April 6, 2009 at 10:48 am

    I own this movie and never really watched but now i think ill watch tonite thank you!

  5. Posted April 6, 2009 at 4:29 pm

    I love this movie. I loved Sean Penn in this, totally hilarious.

  6. Posted April 6, 2009 at 7:37 pm

    I didn’t see it but now I will look for the video. You have me interested.

  7. Posted April 6, 2009 at 7:59 pm

    good review.

  8. Posted May 30, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    Phil Spector was sentenced to 19 years in jail for the murder of Lana Clarkson (Mrs Vargas in Fast times) on Friday.

  9. Aaron Ninefiveonethreethree
    Posted March 10, 2010 at 8:37 pm

    If you like the movie, the book is even better. I don’t know if it is still in print. Maybe you can find a used copy on Amazon. It’s like the only book I read twice–at least twice while in high school. ;-)

  10. Ronbo
    Posted November 12, 2010 at 11:08 am

    One of the best films ever made. I was in High School the years this came out and it portrays my life style back then to a T!

    Beautiful….and great sound track (must buy).

    Thanks for the info!

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