When ‘Valley Girl’ (and Nicolas Cage) Shook Up Hollywood
With no money or clout, what started as a cheap exploitation film managed to, like, totally click with a generation — and produce an unconventional superstar.
By Ashley Spencer
Four shots of nude breasts. That’s what the producers of “Valley Girl” demanded of their potential director, Martha Coolidge. If she wanted the gig — overseeing what was set to be a low-budget, exploitative high-school romp that could lure teen boys like “Porky’s” did — she’d need to make sure the requisite skin appeared onscreen.
Coolidge agreed and quickly found a loophole: “They didn’t say how long the shots had to be. Not smart of them.”
The nudity appears in the 1983 film for mere seconds, presented frankly and lacking any titillation. In fact, Coolidge transformed “Valley Girl” from its superficial beginnings into a teen classic full of heart and a trippin’-dicular new wave soundtrack. The movie is making a comeback of sorts — it was recently made available for digital download for the first time, and on May 8, a musical remake arrives on-demand starring Jessica Rothe, Josh Whitehouse and the controversial YouTube star Logan Paul.
The films’ roots go back to Southern California’s valley girl culture, which became a national phenomenon in the early 1980s thanks to the recurring “Saturday Night Live” character Sherry and the hit song “Valley Girl,” by Frank Zappa and his daughter, Moon Unit. The tune scorned the ditzy middle-class teens who spoke in uptalk and spent their free time at the mall.
Eager to capitalize on the fad, the indie production company Atlantic Entertainment Group greenlit the original movie, batting away Zappa’s trademark-infringement suit. The budget was just $350,000. To compare, fellow 1983 coming-of-age comedy “Risky Business” cost $6.2 million. Coolidge took a mere $5,000 directing fee and many of the crew members were volunteers.
“I borrowed money from my mother to eat,” Coolidge said. “But I was making a real movie and that was what was important.”