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Rusty Griswold in National Lampoon's Vacation (1983)
At 15, Anthony Michael Hall landed his first feature film as Rusty Griswold in the first National Lampoon's Vacation. "Harold Ramis, the producer and founder of National Lampoon magazine, discovered me when I auditioned," he tells PEOPLE, noting that it was the film that launched his career with John Hughes. "John Hughes wrote that script, and from then I went from that film to working for him."
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Farmer Ted (aka, the Geek) in Sixteen Candles (1984)
Anthony Michael Hall was actually 16 when he starred as the dork who loved Molly Ringwald in the teen comedy Sixteen Candles, a film that not only launched Ringwald's career but also introduced the world to John and Joan Cusack. (And made girls all over the country swoon over Jake Ryan. Ahhh.) "John Hughes was such a cool, brilliant guy," says Hall. "He was only in his early 30s when he wrote these films but had such a genius talent."
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Brian Johnson in The Breakfast Club (1985)
"The fun of it has never been matched," Hall says of working with fellow Brat Packers Judd Nelson, Emilio Estevez, Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy on the teen dramedy. Hall also says Hughes was open to letting the actors improvise on set or come up with new lines. "He was never precious about the process."
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Gary Wallace in Weird Science (1985)
Playing yet another dork who wants to be popular, Hall was hilarious as Gary in the comedy where he and his best firend Wyatt created their dream girl, Lisa. (Played by Kelly LeBrock.) The film, which also starred Robert Downey Jr. and Bill Paxton, cemented real-life friendships. "I'm still friends with Kelly," he says. "It's been so great reuniting with her recently. When you're young, you think you're always going to have new friends. So when you get older it's nice to realize, 'Wow this person really matters to my life.' "
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Cast Member, Saturday Night Live (1985-1986)
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Johnny Walker in Johnny Be Good (1988)
By this point, Hall had shed his dorky image and portrayed a high school footbal stud who had to choose between going away to a great sports college, or stay home to be close to his girlfriend, played by a young Uma Thurman.
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Jim in Edward Scissorhands (1990)
As the boyfriend of Winona Ryder's character in Tim Burton's cult classic, Hall was almost unrecognizable playing a beefy, filled-out guy who hated the bizarre, shy Edward. "I experienced a lull in my 20s where I suddently wasn't a kid, and I wasn't a grown man. Hollywood is fickle."
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Johnny Smith in The Dead Zone (2002-2007)
After years of taking on smaller roles in TV movies or indie films, Hall became a leading man again, starring in USA's Dead Zone, a TV adaption of the Stephen King book and film. Hall's character wakes up from a coma to discover he has psychic powers. "It was a big deal for me," he says. "Work got serious again. I had to work my ass off to get there. But I was grateful for the journey."
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Greg Pulver in War Machine (2017)
"With all due respect to the John Hughes films, I think this is the best movie I've ever done," says Hall of the Netflix war satire, costarring Brad Pitt. "Brad is so great. And I really just gave it my all. I just wanted Brad to really feel like I was there for him as a brother. I had all the insiration I needed, working with this guy who was at the top of his game."
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