Fletch is back in the public consciousness. The Chevy Chase classic is getting rebooted as Confess, Fletch. Whatever happened to the original cast? Much has happened since 1985, so let’s see where everyone is today.
You already know what happened to Chase. The Saturday Night Live legend went on an iconic run in the 1980s which came to a screeching halt as the calendar turned to the ’90s. He made a comeback thanks to Community, but supposed toxic behavior onset and bickering with series creator Dan Harmon led to an early exit. His film appearances are growing fewer and further between, but Chase’s legacy as one of the 20th century great comedians will always be secure. SNL may not have succeeded without him after all.
Director Michael Ritchie made a huge impact out of the gate with satirical films The Candidate and Smile. In 1976, he scored a box office smash with The Bad News Bears. He never struggled for work after that, although his filmography is infamously spotty. He followed Fletch with the Eddie Murphy comedy The Golden Child which was another hit. Ritchie later helped write Cool Runnings. His final film was 1997’s A Simple Wish. He passed away in 2001 at 62.
Joe Don Baker
Joe Don Baker was an established character actor well before Fletch came around. The western star paid his dues on Bonanza and Gunsmoke before landing his big break in Walking Tall. He starred alongside Robert Redford in The Natural, and plate d detective in Martin Scorsese’s version of Cape Fear. Beginning in 1987, Baker became a fixture in James Bond films both as a villain in The Living Daylights and later in the role of Bond regular Felix Leiter in the Pierce Brosnan’s films. His career was an inspiration for Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. He retired after working in the indy darling Mud starring Matthew McConaughey.
Dana Wheeler-Nicholson played Fletch’s love interest Gail Stanwyk. Fletch proved to be one of her best-known roles, but you may have also seen her Tombstone and Fast Food Nation. She played one of Jerry Seinfeld’s many girlfriends on Seinfeld as well. She’s the one who dumped Jerry for refusing to use her toothbrush. Wheeler-Nicholson has appeared in a movie or TV show pretty much every year since Fletch, most recently in an episode of Walker.
Playing a villain in Fletch, Tim Matheson was once the voice of Jonny Quest. Matheson’s career is long and loaded. He appeared on numerous episodes of Leave it to Beaver, worked with Lucille Ball in Yours, Mine and Ours, and he was a major part of the ensemble in Animal House, playing Eric Stratton, the rush chair, he was damn glad to meet you. Matheson later bought National Lampoon itself, but he flipped it a few years later. He also scored two Emmy nominations for The West Wing, playing Vice President John Hoynes.
On top of all that, he’s also got dozens of directing credits. He worked with Meghan Markle on Suits and appeared on This Is Us. if you’re ever doing the six degrees of Kevin Bacon, you can get from Ball to Markle with just one Mattheson.
M. Emmet Walsh
A classic character actor, M. Emmet Walsh has over 200 roles to his name. To give you an idea of how eclectic he was, Fletch was his only movie in 1985, but he was coming off six in 1984. One of them was Blood Simple, the first film by the Coen Brothers. Walsh was in Blade Runner, The Jerk, and years later Knives Out. Even if you’ve never heard of Walsh, there’s an excellent chance you’ve seen him about a dozen times. He’s still working regularly at the age of 87.
Oh hey! Norm was in Fletch! George Wendt was in the middle of his run on Cheers when he played the role of the seedy beach drug dealer that never left his chair. He was nominated for an Emmy every year from 1984 to 1989 for Cheers, losing to John Larroquette four times and his co-star Woody Harrelson once. One year after Fletch, Wendt went on Saturday Night Live for his first of 10 hosting appearances. His nephew, Jason Sudeikis, would make an even greater impact in the show years later.
Cheers certainly ensured Wendt never really needs to work again, but work he does. Be it on TV, in film, or on the stage, Wendt is always working.
In a stroke of luck, Fletch managed to cast Davis in just her second film role after Tootsie. Davis’ career speaks for itself, but we have to give her credit for getting to an incredibly hot start. After Fletch came The Fly and Beetlejuice. Thelma & Louise and A League of Their Own weren’t far off either. Davis is a legend, and her role in Fletch is just one part of it.
1985 saw Kareem Abdul-Jabbar hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy for the fourth of six times. Of all the acting careers for basketball players, Abdul-Jabbar has to top the list. On top of cameos in Fletch, Scrubs and The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air, the all-time NBA leader in points scored was electric in Bruce Lee’s Game of Death. His spot in Airplane is probably the best job an athlete’s ever done on film. Oh, and he wrote for Veronica Mars.