‘American Graffiti’s’ Star-Studded Yearbook & Where Are They Now 50 Years Later!
This 1973 classic is a nostalgic portrait of what it was like to be a teenager in a small California town in the early ’60s. George Lucas’ film not only helped launch the movie careers of such stars as Harrison Ford and Richard Dreyfuss, but its box-office success enabled Lucas to create his dream project — a little film called Star Wars.
“Where were you in ’62?” the movie posters asked. But more importantly, what did you see in ’73? Probably American Graffiti, one of the year’s biggest hits and a film that created plenty of stars. But who were they then and where are they now, 50 years later? Let’s pull out our yearbook…
Howard was a child star on The Andy Griffith Show, but his career had slowed when director George Lucas cast the 18-year-old as Steve. The film’s success convinced ABC to go forward with Happy Days, which then gave Howard the clout to begin a directing career with Grand Theft Auto in 1977. He’s been a busy filmmaker/producer ever since, turning out hits like Splash and Apollo 13.
Some of his most recent work is Solo: A Star Wars Story, a prequel to Lucas’ amazing Star Wars saga, Judy Blume Forever, Tetris, The Beanie Bubble, and Genius. He has been married to his wife Cheryl since 1975 and have four kids together. Some are which are in the biz, most notably his eldest daughter Bryce Dallas Howard.
Williams was a busy but not famous 25-year-old actress when Lucas cast her as Steve’s sweetheart Laurie. It quickly led to bigger things: Francis Ford Coppola, who’d helped produce American Graffiti, cast her in The Conversation, and a guest spot on Happy Days led to eight seasons of Laverne & Shirley. Two follow-up sitcoms in the ’90s sputtered out, though; since she’s mostly done TV guest spots.
Before Williams passed away in 2023 following a brief illness, she occasionally reunited with Laverne & Shirley co-star Penny Marshall on TV appearances and released her memoir Shirley, I Jest! in 2015.
Most Likely to Succeed:
Le Mat was already 27 (and a decorated Vietnam vet) when he was cast as the way-cool John, the reluctant babysitter of Mackenzie Phillips’ preteen character. A breakout star, the sweetly shy Le Mat briefly became indie cinema’s go-to guy, starring in Citizens Band and Melvin and Howard.
Although his stardom seemed set, his career cooled in the ’90s; his most recent credit, a sci-fi B-movie, is from 2009. Fun Fact: Lucas had him in mind to play Hans Solo first.
Big Man on Campus:
Ford had given up acting for carpentry when a casting director got the 31-year-old an audition for the role of drag racer Bob Falfa. Coppola later gave him small parts in The Conversation and Apocalypse Now, but it was Lucas who clinched the actor’s stardom when, after many auditions, he cast Ford in Star Wars. Getting the lead in the Lucas-produced Raiders of the Lost Ark didn’t hurt either.
A fifth Indiana Jones movie just came out this year amid the success of his Apple TV+ show Shrinking and Yellowstone prequel 1923. Ford still very much insists on doing his own stunts at the age of 81 and has been married to Ally McBeal star Calista Flockhart since 2010.
Dreyfuss, 25, had been kicking around for years when he landed the part of Curt, obsessed with a mysterious blonde (played by Suzanne Somers). The next year Dreyfuss got his first lead in The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz. Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Mr. Holland’s Opus, and other hits followed.
Still busy, he is the only American Graffiti cast member to win an Oscar for acting (The Goodbye Girl). Ron Howard won two Oscars for A Beautiful Mind (Best Picture and Best Director). He has been working steadily in recent years and has five projects in the works right now plus has been doing the fan con circuit.
It’s not easy to shine playing a guy called Toad. But the 19-year-old Smith’s role as the geeky tagalong — a stand-in, Lucas admitted, for himself — was a standout and became a major part of the sequel, More American Graffiti, in 1979. Smith later had good parts in The Untouchables and Never Cry Wolf.
He now helms behind the camera these days and his busy directing career has centered on animal pictures like Air Bud, Dolphin Tale, and A Dog’s Way Home.
Clark was the only actor Oscar-nominated for American Graffiti, landing a Best Actress in a Supporting Role nod for her turn as car-loving Debbie Dunham, the sweet, bouffant-haired blond who just loved it when guys peeled out and developed a soft spot for Toad.
Though she never became as famous as some of her costars, Clark has worked steadily in both film and television. She most recently appeared in a few episodes of Criminal Minds.
Just twelve when a casting agent saw her band perform and invited her to audition, the spirited, raspy-voiced daughter of The Mamas & the Papas’ John Phillips played sassy preteen Carol Morrison who winds up riding shotgun with a mortified (and, eventually charmed) John.
Phillips would become a star on the popular sitcom One Day at a Time several years later, but persistent mental health and drug issues kept her career from truly taking off. However, she has appeared more recently in the One Day at a Time reboot and had a stint on the popular Netflix series Orange is the New Black.