You can thank the hit 1983 movie Valley Girl for mainstreaming phrases like “for sure” and “gag me.” Valspeak had been around since before the film, which grossed $17.3 million against a $600,000 budget, but the movie helped depict “Valley Girls” in a more positive light. The movie stars Deborah Foreman as a Valley Girl named Julie, who falls in love with a Hollywood punk named Randy (Nicolas Cage), despite the disapproval of their friends.
The film marked Cage’s first major role, and his quirkiness was evident from the get-go (more on that later). Directed by Martha Coolidge (who was paid just $5000 for the gig), Valley Girl endures as both a timeless teen rom-com and a great all-around film—and is about to get a musical reboot. Here are 13 tubular facts about the original movie.
1. Valley Girl is based on Romeo and Juliet.
It’s not a coincidence that Valley Girl‘s star-crossed lovers are named Randy and Julie, nor is it accidental that they share a kiss in front of a movie theater marquee for Romeo and Juliet. “Yes, it was intentional, and it was a love story,” Martha Coolidge told the Kickin’ It Old School blog. “So I worked to bring it even more out front. I created a Valley look and a Hollywood look. This heightened the stakes for Randy and Julie, just as the differences between the families did in Romeo and Juliet. The parallels were always meant to be fun and not super serious but were based on truthful observations about the local conflicts and real teen pressures. It’s not about marriage, but about love and growing up and differentiating enough to love.”
In the first version of the script, written by Andrew Lane and Wayne Crawford, a falling-in-love scene and a break-up scene were left out, so Coolidge worked with the writers to add those in.
2. Valley Girl is named after a Frank Zappa song, but he didn’t want it associated with the movie.
A year before Valley Girl was released in theaters, Frank Zappa and his daughter Moon Unit had an unexpected hit song with “Valley Girl,” in which Moon exaggerates Valspeak over her dad’s music. In an interview, Zappa said, “I don’t want people to act like that. I think Valley Girls are disgusting.”
In a 1982 interview with Billboard, Zappa again expressed his distaste: “People think that ‘Valley Girl’ is a happy kind of song, but it isn’t. I’ve always hated the San Fernando Valley. It’s a most depressing place.” At the time, he said he was open to collaborating on a script about the song as long as the movie wouldn’t be like Beach Blanket Bingo. But when the movie went into production, Zappa asked a judge to halt production of it because it infringed on the song’s copyright, and filed a suit for $100,000 in punitive damages.
3. Martha Coolidge hired Nicolas Cage for the lead without realizing he was a Coppola.
Before Valley Girl came to be, Coolidge had developed a script at Francis Ford Coppola’s American Zoetrope, but the project never came to fruition. When she signed on to direct Valley Girl, she was desperate to find a leading actor who wasn’t a “pretty boy.” “We saw everybody from that generation,” Coolidge said at a 2011 screening of Valley Girl, moderated by Kevin Smith. “All those Brat Packers or whatever, they came and I rejected all of them. I almost cast Judd Nelson, and he was tied up, which was probably lucky for me.” During the casting process, she walked over to a pile of headshots and came across one titled “Nicolas Cage,” and after seeing his audition, she decided she wanted him for Randy.
Cage told her he couldn’t do the part, because he was committed to acting in Coppola’s Rumblefish. Coolidge didn’t realize Francis was Cage’s uncle until she called the production company to resolve the conflict, and was told that Nic’s actual surname was Coppola.
4. Martha Coolidge (unsuccessfully) fought to make the cast more diverse.
“I wanted one of the four girls to be black, but [the studio] refused,” Coolidge said at a screening of Valley Girl, discussing the lack of diversity in the cast. “I just did the best I could under the circumstances.”
5. In order to get into character, Nicolas Cage lived in his car while filming Valley Girl.
To get into character, Cage lived in his car while shooting the movie. “I remember chastising him about the danger of living in his car in Hollywood, and how we couldn’t call him,” Coolidge told Kickin’ It Old School. “He said he’d use pay phones—we didn’t have cell phones then! Later, during Birdy, he lived with bandages around his head, which made it difficult for him to eat, so maybe we were lucky.”
6. Nicolas Cage and Deborah Foreman had palpable chemistry.
“I loved [Cage’s] eyes, and I thought he had great energy,” Foreman told the Tampa Bay Times of her co-star. “I thought he was scary to me. Emotionally, I was feeling stuff inside. He was triggering stuff in me that I had never experienced in my life. I didn’t even have a boyfriend prior to that movie … I had strong feelings for Nic. When the film ended, we had a conversation. I actually went up to San Francisco with him for a weekend. When we came back, an ultimatum was made—let’s just put it that way. And I decided not to go with the ultimatum, and we were never together after that.”
For Foreman, the break-up scene in the movie was difficult. “I think deep down, I didn’t want to be breaking up with him! And I didn’t even want to go there, to predestine myself,” she said. “I was really resisting the whole experience. It was uncomfortable beyond means. That was the longest we spent on any scene. It was a struggle. Even when I watch it now, I go, ‘Wow, that’s so uncomfortable.’”
7. Elizabeth “E.G.” Daily wasn’t a Valley Girl in real life.
Elizabeth Daily’s character, Loryn, didn’t have a Valley Girl accent, and that was on purpose. “I didn’t really know the Valley Girl thing that much, so I pretended my character was actually from Malibu,” she said. “I was such a rocker from the [Sunset] Strip that I didn’t really know the Valley Girl thing, but I think it was kind of accurate, actually. There are people that actually talk like that from the Valley. It’s pretty funny.”
If Daily’s non-Valley Girl voice sounds familiar, it’s because she has since moved on to a successful voice acting career, doing the voice of The Rugrats’ Tommy Pickles, as well as work on The Powerpuff Girls, Happy Feet, and Wreck-It Ralph; in 2013 she auditioned for The Voice.
8. Nicolas Cage was so hairy, he had to shave his chest.
For an 18-year-old, Cage was quite hirsute, so Coolidge asked him to shave his chest to look younger. “There was an artistic bent to it, for his character,” Foreman told the Yo Show. “He looked more mature with all that hair that he had. They found a middle ground for it.” Cage shaved his hair into a V-like shape, which can be seen in the beach scene above.
9. The Valley Girl soundtrack got pulled at the last minute.
One of the things Valley Girl is known for is its excellent New Wave soundtrack, featuring Modern English’s “I Melt With You,” the Plimsouls, and an array of other ’80s songs. Though it was a shoestring budget film, $250,000 of that budget went toward music clearance rights. A Clash song plays in an earlier print but it got switched to a Men at Work song later, and the studio refused to redo the print to bring the credits up to date “They didn’t care if the credits were correct, they just didn’t want to spend that large amount of money,” Coolidge told Kickin’ It Old School. “So CBS pulled the soundtrack album at the last minute. The film was released with the new songs in it and some of the music credits were completely wrong.” A mini-album was released, but it wasn’t until 1994 that Rhino Records released a full soundtrack.
10. The Los Angeles band X was supposed to be in the movie instead of The Plimsouls.
During a scene at Club Central, the live band playing in the background is The Plimsouls, who contributed their hit “A Million Miles Away” to the soundtrack. But during the Kevin Smith screening, Coolidge revealed that she originally tapped the band X to be in the scene. “It was going to be X, and we were in talks. It was very serious and then all of a sudden they kind of freaked out and they said, ‘You know what? We don’t want to alienate our Valley fans,’ and they passed.”
11. Martha Coolidge was given artistic freedom on Valley Girl … as long as she made sure there was some nudity.
Atlantic Releasing distributed the movie, and they wanted it to appeal to men, which meant that they wanted it to include some nudity, so Coolidge agreed to include a few boob shots. “They said they didn’t care how it was done, they ‘just wanted to see them.’ We shook hands on it,” Coolidge told Kickin’ It Old School. “They considered the film an ‘exploitation genre film’ meant for guys. The real success happened when we showed them the finished film. They jumped up and gasped, ‘It’s a real movie!’ They no longer obsessed about how many times they saw naked breasts in the film, which was barely three, and one frame of a fourth … When the studio saw it, they knew it was better to have a good, real film than a mediocre exploitation film. It put them on the map.”
12. Deborah Foreman isn’t on the Valley Girl poster, possibly due to financial reasons.
The artwork for the poster features Nic Cage standing next to a woman who is not only not Deborah Foreman, but a woman who does not appear in the movie at all. “Deborah had worked in the business and she was pretty strict about being paid,” Coolidge told Kickin’ It Old School. “When the company needed the actors to be ‘generous with them’ about hours or rules, Deborah was not as forgiving as some of the others. When the poster came up for whatever reason—and it may have been simply that she wanted to be paid—the company brought in a model rather than Deborah. I was shocked and thought it was petty and a really bad idea. But there was nothing I could do about it.”
In a 2013 interview with the Yo Show, Foreman simply said, “If I was the producer I would never have let that happen. I don’t know the facts on it.”
13. A musical remake of Valley Girl has been in the works for years, and is finally being released in May 2020.
Since 2009, a musical film version of Valley Girl has been talked about. First, Jason Moore was attached to direct, but in 2012 Clay Weiner came aboard to direct the Paramount/MGM movie. According to an article in Deadline at the time, “In the musical, the actors will sing ’80s New Wave tunes from bands like The Go-Go’s and The Cars.” Finally, the film has a release date: May 8, 2020—now with Emmy Award-winning director Rachel Lee Goldenberg at the helm.
This story has been updated for 2020.