"Dead Poets Society" was released 25 years ago, and it's a bit of a miracle it got made in the first place. Honestly, how many Hollywood movies have "poet" in the title and offer a Latin phrase -- Carpe diem! Seize the day! -- as the biggest takeaway? But this film about an unconventional English teacher and his students at a private boys' school during the 1950s became a classic (it also won the Oscar for Best Screenplay). In honor of this venerable anniversary, we're taking a look at the cast and where they are now.
Robin Williams played John Keating, the English teacher at Welton Academy (the setting was based on screenwriter Tom Schulman's own experiences attending a private school). His unorthodox teaching methods were at the heart of the story, but it was Robin's performance -- including his improvisations that ended up in the final film -- that elevated the movie from staid sentimentality. John Wayne reciting Shakespeare? It's his deftness with comedy that makes Robin Williams a "serious" actor.
Frenetic stand-up comic, sitcom actor, movie star … Robin Williams hasn't had a career, he has had many (he also survived addiction and, more recently, major heart surgery). "Dead Poets Society" came in the middle of an incredible streak for the actor, including "Good Morning, Vietnam" and "Awakenings." He won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar in 1997 for "Good Will Hunting," and he's starred in thousands of other films. These days, at 62 years old, he's on the small screen in sitcom "The Crazy Ones," and a "Mrs. Doubtfire" sequel is slated for 2015. He's married to his third wife, Susan Schneider, and he's got three kids. So, you know, he's doin' pretty good.
Director Peter Weir made a bold casting choice: The teenagers in "Dead Poets Society" were played by actual teenagers. Ethan Hawke was the big discovery of the film, even if the shy Todd Anderson character -- of course, brought out of his shell by John Keating -- didn't stamp him as the Gen X symbol he would become. Back then, he was still a skinny kid from Austin, Texas.
Ethan Hawke went from playing a shy teen in "Poets" to playing a disaffected Gen X slacker (remember those?) in "Reality Bites" to playing a would-be astronaut in 1997's sci-fi flick "Gattaca." He also married his "Gattaca" co-star, Uma Thurman, and they have two children together. Guess what? He cheated, and they divorced after nine years. Ethan, at 43, is now remarried and his role in 2013's hugely successful "The Purge" was a big boost to his career in slightly craggy middle age. He also writes novels, so there's that.
Robert Sean Leonard
Robert played Neil Perry, a teenager torn between his own creative drive and his domineering father's demands. He disobeys his father, playing Puck in "A Midsummer Night's Dream," and his dad enrolls him in a military school. Instead of obeying his father, Neil commits suicide, and John Keating is fired. That tragedy is one more reason it's a miracle the movie made it to the screen.
Robert Sean Leonard, now 45, has acted steadily over the years. (1993's "Swing Kids" is kinda weird and great.) And he's still pals with Ethan Hawke. In 1991 he helped form a theater company, and he's been married since 1998. But happiest of all, was the moment we tuned in to "House, M.D." for the first time and said, "Hey, that's that guy from 'Dead Poets Society.'" He played a perfect foil to Hugh Laurie's bombastic, drug-addled Dr. House on the long-running series. Robert has been married since 2008 and has two daughters.
Josh, who had his first acting role in John Waters' "Hairspray" in 1988, played Knox Overstreet, the kid who best learns the John Keating lesson that poetry's best use is "to woo women." He falls in love, writes poetry to a beautiful girl named Chris, and gets punched for his efforts. Ah, young love.
Congrats to Josh Charles, who married ballet dancer Sophie Flack in September 2013. Josh, now 42, played a news anchor on Aaron Sorkin's short-lived cult favorite "Sports Night." More recently, he played Will Gardner on "The Good Wife," and he made a dramatic exit from the show this year. We won't ruin anything here, in case you plan to watch it. OK, he dies. Sorry.
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