Ilan Mitchell-Smith, a teenage ballet dancer, stumbled into acting and landed his first part as the younger “Daniel” in the 1983 Sidney Lumet movie. After taking acting classes (alongside Grace Jones), two years later he co-starred in a John Hughes film as Wyatt Donnelly, living large, strapping bras to their heads, creating super sexy Lisa (Kelly LeBrock) from a floppy-disc computer, avoiding his jerk of an older brother Chet (Bill Paxton), and generally having a good time. Anthony Michael Hall, who earned twice as much as him, would later become his mentor.
While he had a great time in his early days in Hollywood — gracing the pages of countless teen magazines, watching early versions of “The Breakfast Club” with like-minded nerd Hughes, having Yasmine Bleeth accompany him to his premiere, flirting with Lea Thompson, taking mushrooms with Robert Downey, Jr., and even attacking Universal Studios Tour trams with Eric Stoltz in full Marty McFly garb (before Michael J. Fox replaced him) —
Ilan (pronounce it as “Ee-lahn”) However, Mitchell-Smith is much more than just that other man from “Weird Science”: The self-described nerd is a professor, researcher, author, gamer, and husband. He may have left the film business, but he hasn’t forgotten his history. He takes the time to meet with people who just want to ask him (for the zillionth time) what it was like to shower and kiss Kelly LeBrock because he recognises nostalgia for the 1980s and knows his place in it (“the bitter truth of it is that was not really an erotic experience for anybody involved.”)
Place aside the “sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll… chips, dips, chains, whips” and focus on Ilan Mitchell-Smith from “Weird Science” to find out what happened to him.
A Family Man and Friend
Even after learning Susannah Demaree was a fan of “The Chocolate War,” Ilan Mitchell-Smith reportedly didn’t disclose his prior career as an actor when courting her. This is according to “On Borrowed Fame: Money, Mysteries, and Corruption in the Entertainment World.”
The two kids of the married couple “have always seemed unperturbed with my performing past,” Mitchell-Smith told ABC. When the parents of their friends are excited to meet me, they usually get a little excited too and say, “Oh, this is actually happening. While he enjoys going out on dates with his wife, he also enjoys staying in and playing video games with his kids. When they were younger, they played Pokémon, and as they got older, they played fantasy games that allowed them to create their own stories, as his daughter Eloise poignantly described for GeekDad in 2016. While Ilan chose a career in academia over the entertainment industry, his son Asher, a budding screenwriter who is presently attending film school, is also interested in telling tales.
He lost touch with many of his old film pals after leaving the spotlight, but he is “fortunate enough to still be in touch” with Judie Aronson, Suzanne Snyder, Vernon Wells, and, of course, Anthony Michael Hall. Hilly, the girl Wyatt ends up with, was played by Aronson, who stated of her, “llan is still one of my favourite peeps onstage and off!”
When Mitchell-Smith made a negative memory of his cameo appearance as a rapist on the early USA Network series “Silk Stalkings,” things reached a boiling point.
In 2002, he told the Austin Chronicle, “[The show] was horrible. “And so when I found myself guest-starring on that as the rapist (and the most likeable guy on the show), it made me think, ‘This is where I’m probably going to be.’ Despite the fact that I have never had any true star status, my career is currently doing okay.
He continued in 2015, stating that he “had already grown used to the thought of never being a millionaire” and understood that there wouldn’t be many parts for “a thin geeky youngster with a high voice.” There is a difference between being a working actor in Hollywood who is an adult man and being a youngster who got lucky, he stated in a 2014 YouTube interview. I considered myself fortunate and content to be an acting kid. I received more employment offers than most folks. I was quite pleased to do that.
He Both Embraces and Hides From His Past
Ilan Mitchell-Smith, who attained some level of renown in the 1980s, doesn’t exactly promote it. He would rather let others—students, teachers, and total strangers—discover on their own why he appears so familiar. “In a lot of respects I have moved on and it doesn’t come up that much,” he said to Rediscover the ’80s. Over the years, the fan mail has diminished, but he still receives some with the message, “I’m in the last stage, which is men in prison in America.”
He hasn’t had any trouble honouring his past, in the appropriate setting, albeit he has been hiding in plain sight. Mitchell-Smith has attended “Weird Science” screenings and attended a number of autograph signings and conventions (including ones centred around Superman), and he is always pleased to meet fans, even those who refer to him as “Ilan MICHAEL-Smith.”
He has reconnected with Anthony Michael Hall and Kelly LeBrock over the previous ten years for some insightful Q&A panels. Ilan made fun of LeBrock’s “underwear right now” at the 2015 Denver Comic Con, and LeBrock claimed she was “still sweating” from their “all tongue” screen kiss, which “had the hair on the back of my neck stand up.” Hall stated that he is frequently questioned about if Mitchell-voice Smith’s actually sounds that way.
For a special episode of Josh Gad’s nostalgia web series, “Reunited Apart,” Mitchell-Smith strapped a bra to his head and paid homage to John Hughes during the pandemic.
He Got Game
Mitchell-love Smith’s of video games as a child is what first sparked his passion for the past. One of his earliest memories was “looking at a little knight that I have and thinking, ‘This is the neatest thing I own in the world,'” he recalled to the Austin Chronicle in 2002. Even though he had plenty to do as a young dancer and actor, he said to Rediscover the 80s that he “truly just wanted to have some buddies with whom I could play D&D [Dungeons & Dragons] and talk about comics” in his spare time. Being a nerd was much more difficult than it is now.
I engage in a wide variety of gaming. For a very long time, it has been a hobby, he told YouTuber Taffeta Darling. I’ve always enjoyed playing the part of a role player, and I enjoy reading rules and trying out new rule books. He spends a lot of his current free time participating in the “board gaming renaissance that has been happening in nerdy circles for the last 20 years or so” as a “big” tabletop gamer. He also hosts games at the Strategicon Convention, assists others in creating their own games, and enjoys going to tapings of Wil Wheaton’s online show “TableTop.” He is a proud member of the Historical Miniatures Gaming Society and paints wargaming miniatures (in good company, he claims, with enthusiasts like Ansel Elgort, Vin Diesel, Peter Cushing, and Peter Jackson).
Mitchell-Smith has such a passion for gaming that he even organised a roundtable discussion at the 53rd International Congress on Medieval Studies titled “Theorizing the Problematic Medievalisms of Dungeons & Dragons and Popular Fantasy Narratives” “in the framework of a Dungeons & Dragons game.”
He Returned to Hollywood, Briefly
Ilan Mitchell-final Smith’s acting credit appears on his resume in 1991. He did, however, briefly leave his seclusion to provide the voice for an episode of the 2015 animated series “Axe Cop,” which he claims he “following and liked online before it was a show.”
Ilan Mitchell-Smith not only agreed when Adam F. Goldberg requested for permission to use a “Weird Science” poster with Mitchell-likeness Smith’s on it, he also asked if he could bring his family to the set to experience what it was like because they had all gotten along well following the end of his career. Because Mitchell-Smith and Goldberg connected via nerdy interests, Goldberg promised to re-enter Hollywood. Then, on the Season 5 debut in 2017, he cast him as “Mr. Connelly,” a science instructor who also has a “buttwad of an elder brother.” Mitchell-Smith told ABC that he enjoyed portraying a career that he was very familiar with and that he had worn the exact same suit from “Science” for the episode (which was one of the few items he saved when filming ended).
Which was great, he continued. “It’s wonderful for me to be in a comfort zone since I haven’t acted in a long time and I think maybe I was never really that talented.”
He continued, “Of course, I love 80s nostalgia, and if it’s quirky and exactly the right match… there’s no reason I’d say no.”
The Self-Professed Nerd Became A Nerdy Professor
While Mitchell-Smith never completed high school, he did reach a point in his life where he “looked at what the future looks like with me as an actor, or what the future looks like if I pursue this very nerdy thing that I’m into, and I’ve always been into — which is mediaeval history and stories,” as he told ABC in 2017. Mitchell-Smith is “proud to be one of the alumni of [the fictional John Hughesian] Shermer High School,” And I was fortunate to have the option, but when I looked, it was obvious what I wanted to do. I believe I am just extremely nerdy – my armour is very shining — and that is what I currently study constantly.
He put the scripts down and focused on his studies, earning his GED, BA, MA in Medieval Studies with a History emphasis, and PhD in English Literature to cap it all off. At California State University Long Beach, he is currently an Associate Professor of Medieval Literature and Culture. The majority of Mitchell-job, Smith’s according to him, is “teaching stories in the English language before the renaissance,” from the 8th to the 16th century, covering works like “Beowulf” and Chaucer. He said he is “proud of being at CSULB” and expressed how happy he is to be there. He enjoys discussing “the positions that men and women fill and how they are presented as either being sanctioned or not sanctioned, or encouraged or not encouraged.”
In addition, he sponsors the Medieval and Renaissance Student Association and serves as co-director of the university’s centre for mediaeval and Renaissance studies. Confronting White Supremacy and Decolonizing the Middle Ages are just two of the topical panels and talks he has helped organise on campus. He has also helped organise lectures on subjects that actually fascinate him, like monsters.
The Show Must Go On
However, Mitchell-Smith felt that “Weird Science” was “a resume builder that I could be proud of,” even though he “was always a little bit anxious” about getting his next assignment. Rediscover the ’80s published an interview with him in which he discussed getting callbacks for “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” losing out on roles to Zach Galligan and Patrick Dempsey, and turning down a small role in “Say Anything” against the advise of his agent.
After “Science,” he worked on “The Equalizer,” “Journey to the Center of the Earth,” and “Identity Crisis” with Melvin and Mario Van Peebles (Melvin first didn’t like him but later changed his mind and said he performed “an fantastic job” and was “loads of fun” as a person).
Working on The “Chocolate War” was, by far, Mitchell-favorite Smith’s experience out of all the work he has done, he admitted in 2017. Based on the 1974 Robert Cormier novel about the peer pressures at a Catholic school by a secret society, the 1988 underappreciated cult classic Keith Gordon movie received praise for Mitchell-Smith, who portrays the nonconforming protagonist Jerry Renault; the L.A. Times singled out his “beautifully detailed performance.”
He received a consistent salary for his role as Clark Kent’s friend Andy McAlister on the TV show “Superboy,” providing him with financial security in case he decided against continuing to pursue an acting career.
The Write Stuff
Ilan Mitchell-Smith finds time to write down his well-educated ideas in addition to teaching, and in this day and age, he also posts them online for everyone to read and take in. Between Mars and Venus: Balance and Excess in the Chivalry of the Late-Medieval English Romance, his PhD dissertation at Texas A&M, served as a preview of what was to come by exploring issues of race and gender, both historically and currently. He also wrote similar-minded essays with lengthy titles like “The United Princesses of America: Ethnic Diversity and Cultural Purity in Disney’s Medieval Past” and “Racial Determinism and the Interlocking Economies of Power and Violence in Dungeons and Dragons.”
Although he no longer works in the film industry, this fantasy/comic book nerd remains a passionate admirer. He penned a passionate piece for Forces of Geek titled “Argument for Less Action in Your Nerdy Action Movie,” stating that modern films are “often a touch tiresome” due to their “overuse of CGI technology,” where proper and delicate character development has been lost over time. He acknowledges the mainstream adoption of “nerd culture,” but he is not a fan of how these movies “are being reduced to increasingly simple equations of explosive noise, humour, and only those character choices that we’ve seen a hundred times before.” In the books, comics, and games from which these movies are derived, we have demanded, and gotten, more. I believe we may expect more from our movies.
Weird Science Round 2?
There have been rumours about a sequel or perhaps a remake of “Weird Science,” a mid-90s television series that ran for five seasons and was spun off from the original film. This does not include Funny or Die’s parody, “Weird Science 2: Strange Chemistry,” starring Alessandra Ambrosio. In response to a question from Uproxx in 2015 about a potential sequel, Mitchell-Smith praised his friend and former coworker Adam F. Goldberg’s “brilliant idea,” which has Gary and Wyatt’s daughters build a Channing Tatum-like man out of their old computer. He claimed that this would address the “overwhelming presence of girls and women who have been neglected or pushed aside or outright criticised for being nerds in the past.”
How about a remake? The majority of remakes, according to Mitchell-Smith, “are terrible,” but she would “wish for its success.” I would hope that this would be for everyone who enjoys “Weird Science.” They would appreciate it, I thought. That it would add to the experience.”
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