Imagine getting your hair caught in a door, your friends cutting a chunk of it off, and making out with a guy named Farmer Ted? Well, it was all in a day in the life of Haviland Morris, the actress who played Caroline Mulford in the 80s rom-com Sixteen Candles. After her breakup with the swoon worthy Jake Ryan in the movie, Haviland went on to star in Who’s That Girl, Gremlins 2: The New Batch, Home Alone 3, as well as several television shows. But the roles that Haviland are most proud of are her success as a real estate associate broker — and Mom, too.
Haviland, many fans will recognize you from Sixteen Candles or Home Alone 3, but you’re now working as a real estate broker at Halstead.
Yes, I am a licensed real estate salesperson at Halstead Property, and I sell residential real estate in Manhattan. It’s more in [Greenwich] Village because that’s where my office is, and where I know the most people.
Well, I was an actress for about 25 years and had been fortunate enough to make my living solely from being an actress. And then I got to a certain age, and things started to slow down. It was no longer enough financially or even to construct something to do all day. I connected with the Actors Work Program, which is an arm of the Actors Fund. It’s an organization which provides social services for people in the entertainment industry in New York and California. It helps actors find parallel careers, sideline careers, and the next career.
I went there and I took a class learning Microsoft Suite. Nothing was quite resonating, and I had a career counselor who sent out an email blast about a seminar called Job Search Over 40. And I thought, “Well, I’m not going to do that!” [laughs] I was, in fact, in the correct age category to go, but I thought that doesn’t feel like my problem. I went and there was a woman there who was a recruiter for another firm, and she said, “Listen, people don’t want to buy apartments from 20-year-olds.” I never thought about working in real estate, which is ridiculous because I love to be inside people’s homes and I love property. I had started to do a little home design firm of my own in the interim, too. I thought it sounded like a great idea and had the potential for flexibility. It does work for a parent — at least, for me anyway. Within the week, I was at real estate school, and eventually I got my license.
An actor friend of mine said, “So and so’s father runs this rental office down the street. You should check it out.” I worked for a year in the rental business, learned a lot on my feet and then moved to Halstead which is very high end.
How would you say that acting has helped you with your career?
Well, everything that you need for acting is all about understanding people. In order to play any character, you have to understand human nature and the human psyche. That is exactly what you need for real estate, because there are so many varieties of human psyche you’re dealing with, all day every day. It’s understanding people, plus I grew up overseas, so I had the benefit of being exposed to different cultural norms which I think is also extremely helpful. It’s easy to walk around in a bubble every day and think that everybody thinks like you, right? They don’t, so the more education you can have, the successful you can be in any line of business, but it certainly helps in real estate.
Plus, the clients are asking you for help and you have to guide them. It’s almost like you put on an actor’s hat and play a bunch of different roles. You play the psychotherapist, the mom and the dad, the decorator, and sometimes, you play the tough guy, too. But it’s so rewarding because it’s so enjoyable. You’re providing a service because you know that it’s bigger than just selling a home.
And it’s great that you have work flexibility, too.
What I love about this job is that I pick up my kid at school every day. It’s such a gift. And yet, I have a full-time job, which is very exciting and energetic. I pick up Henry at school, then we go home and do homework, eat dinner, whatever. Sometimes, I’m back in the office afterwards or I do what I need to do from home. I’m lucky enough to live three blocks from my office, which is lovely.
Is that good or bad? You might always feel like you’re always on.
For me, in real estate, you are always on regardless. Clients call you at 10:30 at night, and they want to discuss something. You’re always on so that doesn’t change. I love living close to my office because my desk at home isn’t as conducive to doing my real estate work as my desk at work is. I don’t live in an enormous townhouse, like some of my friends do! [laughs] Sometimes there’s a lot going on in my living room, so if I don’t want to listen to the soccer game, it’s nice to have a space to go work very close to my home.
Haviland, we have to talk about Sixteen Candles.
[laughs] Over the years, it became a funny cult film which is interesting because its release wasn’t so momentous. But over the years, it became that movie that plays on TV, like, every 10 minutes.
What is it like to look back on the movie now?
I was 23 when I filmed the movie. I haven’t seen it that many times, honestly. There are a lot of people on the street who have seen the movie way more than I have. They’ll come up to me and quote my dialogue, which I wouldn’t have been able to quote well at all. [laughs]
That scene where they cut your hair, I thought it was your hair and it freaked me out.
Contrary to what one reads online, they made a wig to match my real hair. So in the beginning of the movie, that’s all my real hair. As you get to the scenes right before it got cut, it’s a wig but we’re hoping you’re not going to notice it isn’t the same as earlier in the movie. When I look at it, I think the hair looks more like a wig than the wig did!
It was the first of the John Hughes movies, right?
It was his first movie and he had never directed before. And nobody in the movie was a star. Molly Ringwald had done Tempest and those in the know, knew that she was an up and comer. So it was all a bunch of kids and it was fun way to shoot because, well, because it was fun! It was an innocent group and at the time, there weren’t a lot of teen movies; it wasn’t a genre yet.
John Hughes was so much fun, and he created an atmosphere of complete summer camp silliness. We would improv and make up lines, and if there were good then they’d stay in, and if they were stupid, then we’d write new ones. He and Anthony Michael Hall were like 2 15-year-olds together. They were like fast and furious and so much fun. It was also a very fast shoot; we shot it in six weeks.
I think you were the envy of everybody because Caroline was Jake Ryan’s girlfriend.
I know! Jake Ryan was in fact as handsome as he looks. Michael was a very nice and lovely guy. He was very much in person like he was in the movie; he was the strong, silent type. He wasn’t a big talker. And now he does beautiful, beautiful restoration woodwork.
Are you in touch with anybody from the movie?
The other person I’m in touch with is Debbie Pollack, who is Marlene in the movie and the girlfriend of Gedde Watanabe, who played Long Duk Dong. There were three generations of people in the movie. There were people playing the parents, then there were the people who were 15 and 16, and then there were a whole bunch of us who were like, 23, 22, and 24. So it was Blanche Baker, Debbie, Gedde and I in one group. I sometimes see Blanche at auditions, too.
Have you found that being in the movie has helped your overall success as an actress?
I never had the career that got any momentum from anything else. I didn’t work for a year and a half after Sixteen Candlescame out. It’s always been this project and then that project. When my daughter Faith was born, I found it quite all-consuming. Some people can become a mother and carry on, but for me I wasn’t able to throw her under my left arm and keep going,
When I was pregnant with her at the wrap party for Gremlins 2, it was an odd time to retreat into motherhood because it was actually the year that everything was what it was supposed to be like. I was doing an Off-Broadway show and I had been on it long enough that I could take the weekend off to go shoot a movie with Michael Caine in Montauk.
Having children exactly when I did in my career — in the way that I do motherhood — impacted my career in a major way, but I have no regrets. I feel so lucky that I didn’t do it a different way because what I discovered later in life is that fame is something that I would hate so much — it doesn’t suit me at all. But I didn’t know that at 20. The business in 1982 was so different than the business now. I wanted to be a star only because that was the measure of great success. So if you did well as an actress, you would become famous which would mean you would get to choose other roles.
Today, you are a successful person.
Yes, I’m a successful person. But I’m not a famous person, which is so fortunate for me.
I feel like I have the ideal situation, which is I get recognized two or three times a week by people who say nice things to me! You can’t beat it.
And you’re still acting, but on your terms.
Absolutely. Part of the reason that real estate appealed to me was that I didn’t have to say, “Okay, I’m going to sit behind this desk now.” I would get tears in my eyes to think of the idea that I would never be able to act again. But every once in a while, it’s fun to take the day and go shoot something and come back.
Let’s talk a little about your kids.
My kids are nine and a half years apart. Faith is 21 and she dances for the Los Angeles Ballet and Henry’s 11, and he plays Little League. It was like starting all over again, but it worked out great, though, because then they each got to have their mom a lot. And Faith go to be the big sister and she’s great help babysitting when she comes home.
The reentry was hard for me — to sit there in the playground thinking, “Oh, I forgot about the excruciatingly boring part of it.” The great part, though, was that I didn’t have to say goodbye. If I’d had my second child a year and a half after my first, I’d be done now. They’d all be off to college and out of the house, and I am not quite ready for that. My husband and I will be in the nursing home by the time Henry’s in college! [laughs] But I have no complaints; I love my career, my family, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.