Pretty Molly is the valedictorian of her California college, but she’s shy. Her two bubble-headed dorm mates think nothing of showing up at a guy’s room and hopping into bed. But this night, graduation eve, Molly is determined to have a “significant romance” before college is over. She confesses her desire to the blond surfer boy of her dreams. Fade to a bedroom, where the two disrobe and jump in the sack.
That may not be what most would consider a “significant romance,” but it is a fairly standard R-rated teen flick love scene, right? Not this time. In The Allnighter, Molly is played by Susanna Hoffs, 26, lead singer of the all-female, Beatles-inspired pop group the Bangles, who is making her starring film debut in her birthday suit. What would her mother say?
How about “Action!” Susanna’s mother, Tamar Simon Hoffs, 50, produced, co-wrote and directed The All-nighter, and the notion of starring her daughter in a sex scene doesn’t trouble her. “Susanna knows her mother will protect her,” says Tamar. “Besides, they weren’t really undressed.”
“But we were undressed,” Susanna interrupts.
“You always had sheets,” says Tamar. “There was no embarrassment.”
At least not until the movie opened several weeks ago. That’s when the critics clobbered the low-budget (about $1 million) effort. The Hollywood Reporter claimed The Allnighter “borders on child abuse.” Feeling “misunderstood,” Tamar insists, “We didn’t do anything bad. We love each other.” So much so that they plan to team on another film when Susanna’s tour schedule allows. Says Tamar: “The critics can’t ruin our relationship.”
Indeed, the ties are strong. Susanna still resides at her parents’ home in Santa Monica, or more precisely in the family garage that Susanna has converted into a private residence. “I feel secure with her,” says Susanna of working with her mother. “No one knows me better.” Another help has been Susanna’s father, psychoanalyst Joshua Hoffs, 52. “He’s great when we’re stressed out,” says Susanna. “In my family [she has two brothers] you could talk about anything.”
And be anything, too, if you wanted it enough. Tamar started out as a serious painter (she has a master’s in fine arts). Her career switch to movies was indirectly Susanna’s doing. Susanna attended the Sunshine preschool in L.A., where her best friends were Liz Gazzara (Ben’s daughter) and Adam Nimoy (Leonard’s son). Socializing with actor parents piqued Tamar’s interest in film scripts. In 1975 she got her first co-screenwriting credit on Lepke and has been movie mad ever since.
Early on Susanna decided she wanted to be an actress, and she appeared in school plays. But at Berkeley she quit the theater and switched to art, earning a degree in 1980, because she felt overshadowed by tall, blond actresses. “I wouldn’t get parts because of the way I looked,” she claims. Instead she augmented her art studies with music and hooked up with the three Bangles (then the Bangs) through a want ad. With the band, her height—5’2″—was an advantage: She was so short, they positioned her out front.
Suddenly Susannna was a rock star, singing hits like Manic Monday. Her parents, who weaned their kids on the Beatles, were delighted. “We’re a close family,” says Tamar, “and we’re all involved in each other’s craziness.”
After Tamar directed Going Down to Liverpool, the 1986 Bangles video, teaming for a feature with her daughter seemed inevitable. They both share a fascination for coming-of-age movies. “I’ve always felt oversensitive to life,” says Susanna. “When does the rite of passage end?”
For Susanna the answer may come late this summer, after she finishes her just-begun tour with the Bangles, completes the group’s next studio album and returns home. By then her parents will have departed for new digs in Malibu, and the Santa Monica house will be home only to Susanna. Just before shooting began on The Allnighter, she broke up with her boyfriend of four years, an L.A. musician. “I decided that I really didn’t want to get married at that time,” she says. Though she’s had a few dates with actor Emilio Estevez, there is no special man now. “Much to my chagrin,” says Susanna, “I’m experiencing life on my own.” Now there’s the movie mother and daughter should make.