When Jon Huertas was growing up in the ’80s, it was a time for first crushes, bonding with movies and their stars, and big hair.
“’80s hair was ridiculous. And I did have ridiculous ’80s hair, I think I had a mullet in the ’80s,” says Huertas, best known to TV viewers as Javier Esposito on “Castle” and Miguel on “This is Us.” “You needed big hair for your career. Even in the office.”
Nostalgia for the 1980s has been hot in pop culture in recent years, with Netflix’s “Stranger Things” becoming a cult phenomenon and the book “Ready Player One” and its upcoming Warner Bros. film putting sentiment for the past in a futuristic setting.
Huertas chose “Ready Player ’80s” movies for his shortlist, including two decidedly cult-y titles, “Night of the Comet” and “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension,” along with a more mainstream coming-of-age story, “St. Elmo’s Fire,” featuring the “Brat Pack” stars Demi Moore, Rob Lowe, Ally Sheedy, Andrew McCarthy, and Judd Nelson.
Huertas sees a link between the films: Loyalty among the characters, be it the two young women fighting a zombie apocalypse in “Night of the Comet,” rock star/scientist Buckaroo Banzai’s band, the Hong Kong Cavaliers, or the Brat Pack actors, who were cast together many times.
“I was in love with the Brat Pack,” Huertas says. “I wanted to be an actor when I was a kid, and I was like, ‘Oh, I’m gonna do movies with the Brat Pack when I get out there.’” Every teenager and 20-something in the ’80s bonded with that group, he recalls. “They had the most awesome chemistry of any ensemble cast that people would put on screen. There was an undeniable chemistry between these five actors.”
In “St. Elmo’s Fire,” he says, he especially identified with Andrew McCarthy, because he too was crushing on girls who didn’t return the feeling. “Just him having the crush on Demi Moore. I had a crush on Demi Moore. How am I not like Andrew McCarthy?”
A crush on “Night of the Comet” lead Catherine Mary Stewart had him watching “Night of the Comet” over and over. “I wanted to marry this woman,” he says. “And also, it was an early zombie movie. I mean, zombies are all over the place now, but they weren’t then.” He admits the film, with its low-budget effects, is a guilty pleasure, but he says it’s build on a solid foundation: “Surprise. Sisterhood. Warrior-ism. And love.”
Another film he’d watch over and over again during his 1980s summers was “Buckaroo Banzai.”
“That’s just a crazy movie,” he says. “It’s definitely a piece of art.” It’s not relatable in the same way as “St. Elmo’s Fire,” he says, but he loved it anyway. “How can you relate to anything in that movie? There were so many ridiculous things, but it was awesome. It was so awesome.” He recommends keeping an eye out for famous faces: Pre-“Robocop” Peter Weller as neuroscientist-rockstar-superhero Buckaroo; Jeff Goldblum, Ellen Barkin, and Clancy Brown.
“Wait ’til you see the spectacle,” he says. “You are gonna laugh so hard. And then what’s crazy about ‘Buckaroo Banzai’ to me is the script. Like, who conceived that? And it worked. This jumble of words and ideas it all of it went together and made this soup of movie that was so entertaining.”
To watch Jon Huertas’ “Ready Player ’80s Movies” – “St. Elmo’s Fire,” “Night of the Comet,” and “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension”* – as well as other movies like these, start your Tribeca Shortlist free, seven-day trial here.
*Titles subject to availability