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What Happened to ‘It Girl’ Phoebe Cates?

Rosemary Giles
Photo Credits: murraymomo / Universal Studios / MovieStillsDB / Cropped, and Jim Spellman / WireImage / Getty Images / Cropped

Phoebe Cates was one of the most popular actresses of the 1980s, becoming a “fantasy woman” for many fans despite her young age. She appeared in many well-known films in a relatively short period of time, but it wasn’t long before she simply disappeared from Hollywood. So what exactly happened to Cates after she left the film industry? The answer: a lot.

Rise to fame

At a young age, Cates decided that she wanted to be a dancer. She even earned a scholarship to the School of American Ballet. Unfortunately, she had to change career paths after sustaining a knee injury in her early teens and went into modeling instead. Cates was featured as a cover girl for Seventeen four times and was included on the magazine’s inner pages on many more occasions.

Phoebe Cates as Linda Barrett and Jennifer Jason Leigh as Stacy Hamilton in 'Fast Times at Ridgemont High.'

Publicity still of Phoebe Cates as Linda Barrett and Jennifer Jason Leigh as Stacy Hamilton in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. (Photo Credit: movienutt/ Universal Studios/ MovieStillsDB)

Despite doing well for herself in this industry, she didn’t particularly enjoy it and decided to try her hand at acting instead. Her first film, and one of her most famous, was Paradise. Similar in plot to The Blue Lagoonit required her to be unclothed for many scenes. Initially, she wasn’t comfortable with this but, upon pressure from her father, decided to go ahead and accept the role even though she was still a minor.


The film was a success, and Cates was very well received by audiences. That same year, she was cast in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. This was the start of her being typecast in roles that were far from wholesome. She enjoyed making this film much more than Paradise, but had to act without clothing in what’s now known as the “most memorable bikini-drop in cinema history.” Fast Times also did incredibly well and remains popular with modern audiences.

Zach Galligan as Billy Peltzer and Phoebe Cates as Kate Beringer in 'Gremlins.'

Publicity still of Zach Galligan as Billy Peltzer and Phoebe Cates as Kate Beringer in Gremlins. (Photo Credit: zloben/ Warner Bros./ MovieStillsDB)

By now she was known as a sex symbol, taking on more roles that required racy scenes. This only changed when she was cast by Steven Spielberg in Gremlins, despite concerns that she wasn’t the right choice for the “wholesome” character Kate Beringer. In the years that followed Cates would continue to accept less sexualized roles, many of which were in films that tanked. She took on a number of stage roles as well in the mid-’80s, something she greatly enjoyed.

Life after acting

She filmed her last movie, Princess Caraboo, in 1994 before falling out of the industry. According to her husband Kevin Kline, it was never her goal to stop acting entirely. Since they had children, they agreed to alternate acting gigs so that one parent could always stay with them. Kline said, “whenever it’s been her slot to work, Phoebe has chosen to stay with the children.”

Kevin Kline sits with his arm around Phoebe Cates at a sports game.

Phoebe Cates Kline and Kevin Kline attend the Orlando Magic vs. New York Knicks game at Madison Square Garden, December 6, 2013. (Photo Credit: James Devaney/ FilmMagic/ Getty Images)

While Cates and Kline appeared together in the 2001 film The Anniversary Party, the former actress’ return to Hollywood didn’t stick. Instead, she decided to open a women’s clothing boutique called Blue Tree in New York City in 2005. Their two kids, Owen and Greta, were raised in New York, where the couple still lives.

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Apart from running her store, Cates works with various charities, including those dedicated to curing diabetes. Cates hasn’t kept away from Hollywood entirely, as she’s often seen on the red carpet with husband Kline, who’s still active in the industry.

Rosemary Giles

Rosemary Giles is a history content writer with Hive Media. She received both her bachelor of arts degree in history, and her master of arts degree in history from Western University. Her research focused on military, environmental, and Canadian history with a specific focus on the Second World War. As a student, she worked in a variety of research positions, including as an archivist. She also worked as a teaching assistant in the History Department.

Since completing her degrees, she has decided to take a step back from academia to focus her career on writing and sharing history in a more accessible way. With a passion for historical learning and historical education, her writing interests include social history, and war history, especially researching obscure facts about the Second World War. In her spare time, Rosemary enjoys spending time with her partner, her cats, and her horse, or sitting down to read a good book.