In 1983, Ally Sheedy catapulted to stardom as Jennifer, the beautiful girl next door, in WarGames, about a computer hacker (played by Matthew Broderick) whose innocent prying turns into a game gone very wrong, with potentially global consequences. Instant stardom and a successful film career followed. 29 years later, the award-winning actress revisited her role, as part of a Tribeca Film Festival panel on the film and the ethical questions it continues to raise.
Hit the jump for our interview with Sheedy and her thoughts on seeing the film for the first time since its release, its relevance, Seth Gordon’s upcoming remake (including casting options) and more.
Ally Sheedy was a mostly unknown 20-year old when she was cast in WarGames. Coming off steady work in television and a pivotal, but relatively small role opposite Sean Penn in 1983’s Bad Boys, Sheedy was cast opposite Matthew Broderick, in just his second film (following Max Dugan Returns).
The film follows a high school student, David Lightman (Broderick), who tries to hack into a gaming company’s computers to seek out an unreleased video game system. However, with his sudden crush (Sheedy) by his side, Lightman unknowingly stumbles onto a wargame for the Department of Defense. As he begins to play “Global Thermonuclear War,” and launch fake missiles onto the US, the DoD thinks it’s real. Massive paranoia ensues.
Initially, Sheedy and Broderick thought they were going to be fired, due to constant fights between director Martin Brest (Beverly Hills Cop, Midnight Run) and the film’s producers. Once Brest was replaced by John Badham, however, wholesale changes were made. WarGames went on to solid reviews (Roger Ebert called it a “masterstroke”) and big box office ($79.5 million in the US). Sheedy would star in a wide variety of films, including: The Breakfast Club, St. Elmo’s Fire, Short Circuit (also with Badham) and High Art (in an Independent Spirit Award-winning performance).
After her panel, Sheedy took a few minutes to discuss the film with us.
Collider: When was the last time that you saw War Games?
Ally Sheedy: I think when it came out.
How different is it seeing it now, as opposed to 30 years ago?
Sheedy: Well, I mean, it’s — I’m just remembering stuff when I’m watching it, like “Oh, I remember shooting that, shooting that, and there’s just stuff that I, I didn’t catch. It’s just, it’s different looking at it with a perspective of 30 years and where technology is now and all of that, so it was, it’s, you know, obviously a completely different experience.
And you raised, probably, the most interesting point on the panel at the end where you said, “We’re still looking at the same question (about the idea of thermonuclear war as ‘Mutually Assured Destruction’ or as one character says, “There’s no way to win. The game itself is pointless.”)–
Sheedy: (Laughs) Yeah.
You know, is war worth it? And-
-And, there are a lot of parental themes throughout the film. You know, from the discussion of seeds in the classroom, when you get interrupted (by the teacher, Mr. Liggett), to-
-the Galaga game being passed off (Broderick’s character hands off a game, in progress, to a younger gamer, early on in the film). So, what do you think the lessons are that we’ve passed on, in the past 30 years?
Sheedy: Well, I think that lesson hasn’t changed. I mean, it’s still a question of, you know, who can amass the most wea-. I was just- I’ve been reading Rachel Maddow’s book. (“Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power” about the growing powers of the presidency and its impact on moving the US into a constant state of war). She has a whole thing-
About war, yeah.
Sheedy: about we can’t dismantle, now we can’t dismantle all these weapons that nobody can actually use, you know? We can blow up the world a hundred times and, and so what? It only takes once. So, we have these decrepit, archaic systems but now you’re looking at… Now Iran wants to build their own systems, so suddenly, instead of just worrying about the Soviets, now there’s five different nuclear powers now, right? So, it’s the same question, it’s just getting magnified, because now everybody wants this weapon that will kill everybody if you just use one.
And, on a much lighter note, there’s this Seth Gordon (The King of Kong, Horrible Bosses) remake, which is now in the works. What are you-
Sheedy: Oh, I didn’t know that. Oh, cool!
So, is this the first that you’re hearing about it?
Sheedy: I’ve heard rumors about that and other movies, always, that things are going to be remade and I never know what is really true.
What are your thoughts on that?
Sheedy: I think it’s great!
Have you talked to anybody with it?
Sheedy: No. No, but I think it’s great. I think it’s completely timely and it would make, I think it would be a great movie to remake, especially with all the technology now. It would be really interesting.
And who do you think would be great to play (Sheedy’s role) Jennifer?
Sheedy: Oh, I have- I think they should get two totally unknown high school kids. Like here. Nobody knew us (Sheedy and Broderick) . That made it better. (Laughs)
Great. Thank you so much.
Sheedy: Yeah. Thanks.
I appreciate it.
Sheedy: Thank you.