Phoebe Cates

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Phoebe Cates
Phoebe Cates at 81st Academy Awards.jpg
Cates at the 81st Academy Awards in 2009
Phoebe Belle Cates

(1963-07-16) July 16, 1963 (age 59)
New York City, U.S.
Other namesPhoebe Cates Kline
Alma materProfessional Children's School
Juilliard School
  • Actress
  • model
Years active1982–1994, 2001, 2015 (voice only)
Known forFast Times at Ridgemont High
Gremlins 2: The New Batch
Private School
Drop Dead Fred
Princess Caraboo
(m. 1989)
ChildrenOwen Kline
Greta Kline
RelativesGilbert Cates (uncle)

Phoebe Belle Cates Kline (born July 16, 1963)[1] is an American former actress, known primarily for her roles in films such as Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982), Gremlins (1984) and Drop Dead Fred (1991).

Early life[edit]

Cates was born on July 16, 1963, in New York City,[2] to a family of television and Broadway production insiders. She is the daughter of Lily and Joseph Cates (originally Joseph Katz),[3] who was a major Broadway producer and a pioneering figure in television, and who helped create The $64,000 Question.[4][5] Her uncle, Gilbert Cates, produced numerous television specials, often in partnership with Cates's father, as well as several annual Academy Awards shows. Cates is Eurasian;[6] both her father and maternal grandmother were of Russian Jewish descent, whereas her maternal grandfather was Chinese-Filipino.[7][8][9] Cates's mother was born in Shanghai, China.[10]

Cates attended the Professional Children's School, and the Juilliard School.[11][12] At the age of ten, Cates started modeling, appearing in Seventeen and other teen-oriented magazines. A few years later, she wanted to become a dancer. Eventually, she received a scholarship to the School of American Ballet, but quit after a knee injury at age 14.[12] Next, she began a short, successful career as a model.[13] Cates said that she disliked the industry: "It was just the same thing, over and over. After a while, I did it solely for the money."[12]


As a teen model, Cates appeared on the cover of Seventeen magazine four times. The first was the April 1979 issue. She subsequently appeared on the cover of Seventeen three more times, and appeared often inside the magazine on the editorial pages in 1979 and 1980.[14]

Dissatisfied with modeling, Cates decided to pursue acting. She was offered her first part, in the movie Paradise (1982), after a screen test in New York. She was uncertain about doing the nudity the role required but her father encouraged her to take the job.[12]

Paradise became Cates's film debut. The movie was filmed in Israel from March to May 1981.[15] In the film, she performed several full-frontal nude scenes and several rear scenes while still a minor (age 17). The movie had a plot similar to The Blue Lagoon (1980). She also sang the film's main theme song and recorded an album of the same name. In a 1982 interview, she recalled having trouble with the change of career, because as a model, she had to be conscious of the camera, whereas in front of the movie camera, she could not.[12] Cates later regretted being in the film: "What I learned was never to do a movie like that again."[13] Cates claimed that the film's producers used a body double to film nude close-ups of her character without telling her.[12] According to her co-star Willie Aames: "She will have nothing to do with the film. She's really upset about it. She won't do any promotion with me."[16]

Later that year, Cates starred in Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982), which featured what Rolling Stone has described as "the most memorable bikini-drop in cinema history."[17] She was quoted as saying that she had the most fun in filming that movie.[13]

The following year, Cates was in the comedy Private School (1983), which co-starred Matthew Modine and Betsy Russell, and for which she sang on two songs of the film's soundtrack, "Just One Touch" and "How Do I Let You Know."

In 1984, Cates starred in the TV mini-series Lace, based on a novel which Shirley Conran had written. She played the role of Lili "to get away from a sameness in her movie portrayals."[18] During her audition, she so impressed the writer that he wanted to hire her there and then.[18] Cates struggled with the portrayal of a bitter movie star because, despite her character's vicious persona, she intended for the audience to sympathize with her.[19] She did not read Conran's novel, on which the movie was based, because she did not want to have a "fixed image."[19] Her best-known line in the film, "Which one of you bitches is my mother?", was named the greatest line in television history by TV Guide in 1993.[20] She also starred in the sequel mini-series Lace II.

In summer 1984, Cates co-starred in the box office hit Gremlins (1984) for executive producer Steven Spielberg, the highest-grossing film of her career. Six years later, she would reprise her character Kate Beringer in the sequel Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990).

In June 1984, Cates made her stage debut in the Off-Broadway play The Nest of the Wood Grouse, a comedy by Soviet writer Viktor Rozov, at the Joseph Papp Public Theater.[21][22] Cates said that while doing the play she "felt a certain freedom and a certain connection with acting that I had never really felt before."[23] Cates appeared Off-Broadway again two years later in Rich Relations, written by David Henry Hwang, at the Second Stage Theatre.[24] In December 1989, Cates made her Broadway debut in a revival of Paddy Chayefsky's The Tenth Man at the Vivian Beaumont Theater.[25][26]

In 1988, Cates told an interviewer, "there are simply not that many good parts in film" but theater has "tons of good women's roles....I think of theater as what I like to do most....I've only felt happy as an actress for about two years. I rarely watch my film work."[27]

Cates continued to appear steadily in films through the early 1990s, usually in supporting roles or as part of ensemble casts. These include Date with an Angel (1987), Bright Lights, Big City (1988), Heart of Dixie (1989), Shag (1989), Drop Dead Fred (1991) and Bodies, Rest & Motion (1993) (the latter three also featuring Bridget Fonda). These films suffered from mixed to poor reviews and failed to make an impact at the box office.[28]

Cates had been set to play Steve Martin's daughter in the successful comedy Father of the Bride (1991), but her pregnancy with her first child forced her to drop out.[29]

In 1994, Cates starred in the fact-based comedy-drama Princess Caraboo (1994), which also featured her husband Kevin Kline. This was the last film Cates appeared in before seemingly shifting her focus away from acting to raising her children, Owen and Greta.[28]

In 2001, Cates briefly returned to acting for one film, The Anniversary Party (2001), as a favor to her best friend and former Fast Times at Ridgemont High castmate Jennifer Jason Leigh, who directed the film.[30]

In 2015, Cates provided the voice of her Gremlins character Kate Beringer for the video game Lego Dimensions.[31]

Personal life[edit]

In the early 1980s, Cates shared an apartment in Greenwich Village with her then boyfriend Stavros Merjos. She met him in 1979 after she went to her first night at Studio 54 with family friend Andy Warhol.[12]

In 1983, during her audition for a role (awarded to Meg Tilly) in The Big Chill, Cates met actor Kevin Kline. They were both dating other people at the time, but became romantically involved two years later. In 1989, they married, and she changed her name to Phoebe Cates Kline.[32] The Klines moved to the Upper East Side of Manhattan in New York across Fifth Avenue from Central Park where they raised their two children, son Owen Joseph Kline (born 1991) and daughter Greta Kline (born 1994). Owen and Greta appeared, with their parents, in the 2001 movie The Anniversary Party. Owen also appeared in the 2005 film The Squid and the Whale and made his directorial debut with the coming-of-age black comedy Funny Pages, and Greta fronts the band Frankie Cosmos.[33][34]

In 2005, Cates opened a boutique, Blue Tree, on Madison Avenue in New York.[35]


Film and television[edit]

Cates and Kevin Kline at an after party for the 1989 Academy Awards
Year Film Role Notes
1982 Paradise Sarah
1982 Fast Times at Ridgemont High Linda Barrett
1983 Private School Christine Ramsey
1983 Baby Sister Annie Burroughs TV movie
1984 Lace Elizabeth "Lili" Lace Miniseries
1984 Gremlins Kate Beringer
1985 Lace II Elizabeth "Lili" Lace Miniseries
1987 Date with an Angel Patricia "Patty" Winston
1988 Bright Lights, Big City Amanda Conway
1989 Shag Carson McBride
1989 Heart of Dixie Aiken Reed
1990 I Love You to Death Joey's Girl at Disco Uncredited
1990 Gremlins 2: The New Batch Kate Beringer
1990 Largo Desolato Young Philosophy Student TV Movie
1991 Drop Dead Fred Elizabeth "Lizzie" Cronin
1993 Bodies, Rest & Motion Carol
1993 My Life's in Turnaround Self
1994 Princess Caraboo Princess Caraboo/Mary Baker
2001 The Anniversary Party Sophia Gold

Video games[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
2015 Lego Dimensions Kate Beringer Voice


  1. ^ "Famous birthdays for July 16: Alexandra Shipp, Will Ferrell". United Press International. Retrieved November 2, 2019. Actor Phoebe Cates in 1963 (age 56)
  2. ^ "Phoebe Cates". TCM. Retrieved May 4, 2022.
  3. ^ Thomas, Robert McGill Jr. (October 12, 1998). "Joseph Cates, 74, a Producer Of Innovative Specials for TV". The New York Times. Retrieved May 16, 2013.
  4. ^ Wakin, Daniel J. (June 3, 2005). "Heiress Is Identified as Victim in Case Against Arts Patron". The New York Times. Retrieved June 12, 2019.
  5. ^ "American Greed: Fraudster of the Opera | Frozen Assets: The Ice Capers". Retrieved July 16, 2013.
  6. ^ Websters Dictionary, common English dictionary
  7. ^ Villasanta, Boy (June 23, 2010). "Pinoys who made it in Hollywood". ABS-CBN News and Current Affairs. Archived from the original on May 23, 2011. Retrieved May 28, 2011.
  8. ^ Slater, Judith J. (2004). Teen life in Asia. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 183. ISBN 978-0-313-31532-9. Retrieved May 28, 2011.
  9. ^ Cohen, Matthew Isaac (2009). "British performances of Java, 1811–1822". South East Asia Research. IP Publishing Ltd. 17 (1): 87–109. doi:10.5367/000000009787586389. S2CID 147291754.
  10. ^ "ABC7 Eyewitness News - WABC-TV New York".
  11. ^ "Yahoo movies". Retrieved March 7, 2010.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g Hammer, Josh (June 14, 1982). "Paradise Star Phoebe Cates Hangs Her Own Film with a One-Word Review—'rip-Off'". Retrieved December 8, 2012.
  13. ^ a b c Cohen, D. & S. Young and Famous: Hollywood's Newest Superstars, 1987. p.75. ISBN 0-671-63493-3
  14. ^ "70 Years of Seventeen!". February 2013.
  15. ^ "Paradise, An Awakening in the Desert". The New York Times. May 10, 1982. Retrieved May 20, 2013.
  16. ^ Beck, Marilyn (March 17, 1982). "Hollywood: Nude scenes too much for Aames." The Orange County Register. p C3
  17. ^ Rolling Stone staff (November 21, 2006). "Escape Your Family: Sneak Upstairs!". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on September 15, 2009. Retrieved January 23, 2014.
  18. ^ a b "'Lace' miniseries is soap-opera tangle" by Associated Press, Star-News, February 24, 1984. p. 5C
  19. ^ a b "Angela Lansbury leads 'Lace' cast" by Julianne Hastings, Stars and Stripes, March 7, 1984. p. 12.
  20. ^ TV Guide April 17–23, 1993. pg. 96
  21. ^ Rich, Frank (June 15, 1984). "STAGE: ROZOV'S 'NEST OF THE WOOD GROUSE'". The New York Times. Retrieved April 19, 2021.
  22. ^ "The Nest of the Wood Grouse Show Information". BroadwayWorld. Retrieved April 19, 2021.
  23. ^ Phoebe Cates & Tim Roth "Bodies, Rest, & Motion" 4/3/93 - Bobbie Wygant Archive. September 13, 2021. Archived from the original on December 11, 2021. Retrieved April 19, 2021 – via YouTube.
  24. ^ Rich, Frank (April 22, 1986). "New York Times-Stage: 'Rich Relations'". The New York Times. Retrieved March 7, 2010.
  25. ^ Mosel, Tad (December 10, 1980). "THEATER; In Search of the Untouched Moments of Life". The New York Times. Retrieved April 19, 2021.
  26. ^ "The Tenth Man Broadway Original Cast". BroadwayWorld. Retrieved April 19, 2021.
  27. ^ Kogan, Rick (October 23, 1988). "BARD CHOICES". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved April 19, 2021.
  28. ^ a b Cartwright, Lexie (October 27, 2019). "Why Phoebe Cates vanished from the spotlight at the height of her fame".
  29. ^ Susman, Gary (December 19, 2016). "15 Things You Never Knew About Steve Martin's 'Father of the Bride'". Moviefone. Retrieved April 18, 2021.
  30. ^ Boone, Brian (August 11, 2017). "Why You Never Hear From Phoebe Cates Anymore". Looper.
  31. ^ Schmidt, Sara (March 26, 2017). "Where is the Gremlins cast today?". Screen Rant. p. 4. Retrieved November 1, 2017.
  32. ^ "About Blue Tree". Archived from the original on December 22, 2015. Retrieved November 13, 2012.
  33. ^ Pelly, Jenn. "Frankie Cosmos". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved March 5, 2014.
  34. ^ Pelly, Jenn. "Frankie Cosmos". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved March 5, 2014.
  35. ^ "ABC News (June 1, 2006): Perfect Gifts, According to Phoebe Cates: Former Teen Starlet Owns Upper East Side Gift Store (Archive)". June 1, 2006. Archived from the original on February 18, 2009. Retrieved March 7, 2010.

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