The eighties were a fruitful time for comedies of all sizes. Real Genius helped launch the career of Val Kilmer as it was a success for both critics and cinemagoers. Kilmer played Chris Knight, a teenage genius who works with the CIA to save the world. Here’s what the cast and crew are up to now.
Not too much needs to be said about Kilmer. He parlayed comedies Top Secret! and Real Genius into 1986’s Top Gun. The rest is history. He’s returning to the role of Iceman in the oft-delayed sequel Top Gun: Maverick. Kilmer recently released Val, a career-spanning documentary about his battle with throat cancer.
Comedy nerds will recognize Brain Grazer’s name right away for producing Arrested Development. One year after producing Real Genius, Grazer and Ron Howard confounded Imagine Entertainment. The company was a true success, and Grazer would go on to be personally nominated for Best Picture four times, winning once for A Beautiful Mind. He’s still a power player in Hollywood to this day.
Character actor extraordinaire William Atherton is perhaps best known for playing smarmy reporter Richard Thornburg in Die Hard. He finished up work on Real Genius while working on another ’80s titan, Ghostbusters. Atherton has nearly 100 credits to his name on IMDB, but that’s it for now. He appears to be retired after a long and prolific career.
Gabriel Jarrett was the co-lead of Real Genius as Kilmer’s roommate, Mitch. Jarrett must have been a favorite of both Grazer and Ron Howard, as he would go on to appear in many of their subsequent projects. He had small roles in Apollo 13 and Frost/Nixon. He also starred in Poseidon alongside Kurt Russell. Jarrett’s career is still going on to this day, with numerous projects like Tales from the Dead Zone and Gym Rat set to premiere soon.
Michelle Meynrick’s career boomed in the early ’80s. On top of Real Genius, she played the nerd Judy in Revenge of the Nerds and scored credits in The Outsiders and Valley Girl. Meynrick gave up a promising career in 1989 to get more out of life. She moved to the Dominican Republic and started a family. As of 2013, she was running an acting school in Vancouver.
John Gries is a name you may not recognize, but you’d certainly know his face. He played the burnt-out Lazlo in Real Genius, just one cult classic he’s attached to. Gries is best known for laying Uncle Rico in Napolean Dynamite, for which he was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award. He also played Casey in all three Taken films. He popped up in The White Lotus last year and does multiple straight-to-DVD films every year.
Robert Prescott played the villainous Kent in Real Genius. A few years later, he would cameo in Spaceballs as a “Sand Cruise Driver.” He’s got a really impressive IMDB page, with appearances on The Sopranos and Quantum Leap coinciding with small roles in critical darlings like Burn After Reading and Michael Clayton. His most recent film was Denzel Washington’s Roman J. Israel, Esq. from 2018.
Stacy Peralta is a Venice, California native who had a small part in the film’s opening. Acting is really just a side hustle for him though; he teamed up with George Powell in the seventies to create the Powell Peralta, to this day one of the most successful skateboarding companies in history. He left the company in 1992 to pursue production and documentaries, which he also excelled at, directing Dogtown & Z-Boys, among others. In 2003, Peralta lent his talents to the video game Tony Hawk’s Underground. Talk about a renaissance man.
Among the most notable female directors of the 1980s, Coolidge directed Real Genius fresh off the success of Valley Girl. She continues to direct film and television to this day. In 1991, she teamed up with Laura Dern on the drama Rambling Rose, for which she won the Independent Spirit Award for Best Director. She’s also a taught at Chapman University and was the Directors Guild of America’s first female president. She’s also distantly related to former President Calvin Coolidge.
Another man who had a bit role but when on to big things, Dean Devlin had a small role as Milton in Real Genius. His acting career didn’t quite take off, so he became a screenwriter, forming a powerful business partnership with Roland Emmerich. The two worked on Universal Soldier, Independence Day, and Godzilla together. Devlin made his directorial debut with the 2016 film Geostorm, which grossed about a quarter of a billion dollars.
Who would have thought Real Genius had so much talent on set? Trailblazers, skate entrepreneurs, powerful producers, respected character actors, and a future Bruce Wayne all teamed up for a true cult classic.
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