Home Interview Interview: Judge Reinhold

Interview: Judge Reinhold

Interview: Judge Reinhold
Director Amy Heckerling and actor Judge Reinhold appear in a publicity still for Fast Times at Ridgemont High. (Photo courtesy Judge Reinhold)

Judge Reinhold Discusses the Music of Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Beverly Hills Cop (And Appearing in a Pat Benatar Video!)

In June, Judge Reinhold was slated to appear in DC to host a screening of Fast Times at Ridgemont High at the Warner Theatre. That screening was unfortunately canceled. But in the days prior to the screening date, the Fast Times star chatted with Parklife DC’s Mickey McCarter about the event.

In Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Judge Reinhold famously portrays Brad Hamilton, a decent chap who cannot catch a break. Brad’s travails often are cleverly elevated through the music of the film. Fast Times at Ridgemont High has a legendary soundtrack, and it seemed like a great opportunity to chat with Judge about the film and its music.

Read on as Judge Reinhold reveals the story of the Fast Times soundtrack coming together, his thoughts on music in Beverly Hills Cop, and a tale of appearing in a Pat Benatar video!

Oh, we should mention that Judge Reinhold stars in Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F (aka Beverly Hills Cop 4), dropping on Netflix on July 3.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Mickey McCarter: Judge, it’s a pleasure to talk to you. Thanks for the call. We usually talk to musicians here at Parklife, so it’s exciting to chat with an actor such as yourself.

Judge Reinhold: Thank you for the opportunity! I appreciate that.

MM: I see that you’ve taken Fast Times at Ridgemont High on the road for a few screenings! How did this come about?

JR: Live Nation approached me and William H. Macy with the idea that I would tour with Fast Times and he would tour with Fargo. Maybe we would do some big cities? I haven’t really done that many, but the theaters have been really special. And the showings have been very well received. I just want to give people a fun night out and also tell a lot of background stories. I like to introduce the film with a lot of backstage stories to give people some perspective on the movie and the times. Most people have seen the movie before, but there’s always people that haven’t seen it, and that’s always fun. But I like to start by giving some background stories that will give a new dimension to watching the movie.

MM: It’s amazing, right? Forty years later, and people still have high regard for the film. It’s definitely the sort of coming of age film that I liked when I was a kid. It’s up there with all the John Hughes movies and that genre of movies about growing up.

JR: With one exception though, and you’re absolutely right. If anybody had a finger on the pulse of kids, it was John Hughes. But Cameron Crowe got the dialogue. A lot of the dialogue from the film came from his year of masquerading or pretending to be a high school senior in a Long Beach high school. A lot of people don’t realize that a lot of that dialogue was transcribed from actual conversations that he either overheard or had.

Stream a playlist of the complete soundtrack to Fast Times at Ridgemont High on Spotify:

MM: That’s fascinating. I want to get back to Cameron in a minute. But I do want to ask you a little bit about music and film. Because historically, my blog interviews musicians. So it’s a wonderful opportunity to get your perspective as an actor on the music in a film.

So, mood music, particularly for a film like this, it’s incredibly important. Fast Times at Ridgemont High features some of the greatest songs of the ’80s in my opinion: “We Got the Beat” by The Go-Go’s, “American Girl” by Tom Petty. I’m wondering if you have any feelings on the soundtrack and how that helped establish the mood of the movie.

JR: We have to thank the great Art Linson, the legendary movie producer. He went on to do Fight Club, The Untouchables, and, wow, so many big movies. This was an early movie for him. And what a combination to have Art and director Amy Heckerling and Cameron Crowe. Well, after the movie was rated R, Universal started to get cold feet. They said, this is a movie for kids, and it’s rated R. They got cold feet, and they pulled some of the theaters back.

So, they made the release smaller. And Art, and this is just a really brilliant stroke, Art ran over to MCA, Universal Music. Irving Azoff, who was the manager of The Eagles, was running MCA. And Art says to Irving Azoff, “Do you want to be a movie producer?” And Irving said, “I don’t know anything about movies.” Art says, “You don’t have to. I just need these artists.”

Then, Irving helped Art put the soundtrack together and assemble tracks by all of these artists. Art went back to Universal movies and said, “Look, if you guys are nervous about the film, you can make money with the soundtrack.” And Universal stopped cutting theaters.

The movie came out, and it was a hit, and Universal is really upset that they lost those theaters. We didn’t really have the opening that I know that we should have had. But Art saved the day and also helped create an amazing soundtrack for the film.

Personally, I love Joe Walsh. You always hear Joe Walsh whenever Brad’s on camera. The the song “The Waffle Stomp” was Brad’s theme. I’m really fond of that.

As a little sidebar, Glenn Frey went on to write “The Heat Is On” for Beverly Hills Cop a few years later. That was pretty cool. It was iconic!

Stream “The Waffle Stomp” by Joe Walsh on YouTube:

MM: Beverly Hills Cop and “Axel F” by Harold Faltermeyer. Man, you don’t get any more an iconic theme than that in my opinion.

JR: I remember standing in the back of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in 1984 and seeing it come together for the first time. Actors don’t hear the score until the finished film. And so I’m standing in the back with Marty Brest, the director, to a full house. It’s the opening and that music came on starting with “The Heat Is On.” And I said, “I can’t believe I’m in this movie. This is amazing.” The music was so great. That’s a great memory.

MM: You have a particularly well-known scene in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and that scene is set to “Moving in Stereo” by The Cars. It worked really well, and it’s an iconic scene in part because of the song. And it’s interesting, given your observation that you don’t know the music being used.

JR: Yeah. It’s funny. I didn’t have much connection with the song because it was such an unnerving thing to do, honestly. My storyline had to do with the travails of Brad Hamilton and all the indignities and humiliations that he endures. If you take that scene out of context from that, it’s kind of creepy. But I saw it as a whole series of events that made for the worst year of his life. It’s one of Brad’s many humiliations. I don’t have any connection to that song because it’s still unnerving.

MM: Well, I get it. But, you know, Brad is a sweet guy. He’s sensitive, and he’s smart. And he’s the underdog throughout the film until he gets his moment in the sun. I think it plays very well. And it’s funny. I just rewatched it before this conversation.

JR: Oh, thanks. I think so too. It sometimes takes years to be able to sit back and say, “Is this a good movie or not?” And it’s very well-paced. I really like the pace of it. I like the cut of it. The movie was not originally set to end with a prom. And then Verna Fields was the executive in charge of production. She oversaw all the editing. Verna was legendary. She really helped Steven Spielberg make Jaws. Verna was such a talented editor that Universal made her the executive in charge of post-production.

I’m not sure, but it might have been her idea to take that Mi-T-Mart scene and put that at the end so the film has a bigger climax. That was really smart! Amy was in awe of Verna. And Verna was an unsung hero of movies of that time.

Watch the official music video for “Moving in Stereo” by The Cars on YouTube:

MM: I can see an editor’s eye there because the film has some wonderful symmetry with you and Sean Penn’s character sharing a scene in the beginning and then coming together again at the end when Brad has his hero moment at Mi-T-Mart. You have your separate misadventures along the way. But working with Sean Penn, who has become regarded as one of the best actors in the frickin’ world, right? And you both were so young. I’m wondering if you have any memories of sharing the stage with him.

JR: The first time I saw Sean was when he fell out of that van with all the smoke in the parking lot. And we were told that the actor playing Spicoli has requested that he’s just called Spicoli. You refer to him as “Spicoli.” You can talk to him as Spicoli. And we thought, “yeah, okay.” He was this kid from Malibu. I didn’t know where Sean ended and the stoner began. I thought, “oh, maybe this guy is a comic and he’s got this one character, this one schtick, you know.”

I had no idea. No, we didn’t know that he was such a gifted actor who could play such diverse roles. I really knew him as Spicoli throughout the movie. Now, we knew that his father was a TV director and his mother was an actress. We knew that he grew up in Malibu, so we figured he was maybe more surfer than actor. It might have been my last night and Sean’s last night, and he started to drop Spicoli. And I listened to him talk to Amy and Cameron in the most erudite, insightful way. It was just uncanny. “Who is this guy? He’s brilliant.”

MM: I thought the characters had some nice chemistry. It seemed very realistic. And it was a really nice way to open and close the film.

JR: Yes, it was. And you know, I don’t know what was Amy’s idea and what was Verna’s idea. We were just so lucky. We really were, Mickey, with Cameron, Art, Amy, and then Verna Fields. And Irving Azoff with his artists. That’s an amazing group of people to come together. And that’s sometimes how really good movies get made is just those sensibilities between the people just make it happen. The stars really aligned, right?

MM: Brad has another famous Fast Times scene, and I have to ask you about it, of course. There’s the scene where you’re dressed as the fast food pirate, and you pull up next to an attractive blonde lady, and that’s Nancy Wilson of Heart. And so, Brad suffers another indignity.

JR: That’s right. Nancy and Cameron were going out at the time.

MM: Your memories on that one?

JR: Well, I just remember Cameron saying, “Yeah, my girlfriend is one of the greatest unsung guitar heroes around.” Really! We were talking music all the time because he was working for Rolling Stone. And he said, “Yeah, she is really one of the best.” And none of us really knew that. And of course, if she had been a man, we probably would have known it before. It was so obvious to everybody. But I recall Cameron declaring, “Yes, she is an incredible guitar player.”

MM: I’ve got one last question for you, and it’s again about music. It’s funny that in the film, very often, the classmates of Ridgemont High are talking about women with the “Pat Benatar look,” right? And then that same year, you were in a Pat Benatar video, “Shadows of the Night!” That’s really fun. How did that came about?

[Pat Benatar plays at the Warner Theatre in DC on July 9, and there are just a few tickets remaining!]

JR: Mark Robinson was really a top video director at the time. We became friends, and he asked me to do the Benatar video. Mark was making videos for all the top artists. I didn’t really think about the connection until you just brought it up. It was a good year for Pat Benatar! I remember Pat and her husband Neil Giraldo being two of the nicest people. They were a really terrific couple. And it was a fun experience. The song was killer. I loved that song.

Watch the official music video for “Shadows of the Night” by Pat Benatar on YouTube:

MM: Judge, what a pleasure to talk to you. I’m so excited about Beverly Hills Cop Axel F. The most thrilling moment of that trailer is when you appear at the end.

JR: Oh, thanks, Mickey. The movie drops in 250 million homes the same day, thanks to Netflix. It just blows my mind because I’m just used to movies opening in the theater.

Watch the official trailer for Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F on YouTube:


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