About Phoebe Belle Cates
After shooting to stardom during the '80s in a string of youth-orientated movies, former model Phoebe Cates hit her stride in the '90s as a featured player in ensemble films. She is most notable for her roles in Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Gremlins.
She was born Phoebe Belle Cates on July 16, 1963 in New York City to a family of TV and Broadway production insiders. Her father, Joseph Cates was a major Broadway producer and a pioneering figure in television, who helped create The $64,000 Question. Her uncle Gilbert Cates produced numerous TV specials, often in partnership with Cates' father, and several annual Academy Awards shows. Her paternal grandparents and maternal grandmother were Russian Jews, and her maternal grandfather was Chinese Filipino. Joan Crawford was her godmother.
While growing up in Manhattan, Cates attended New York's prestigious Professional Children's School. An exceptional dancer, she studied with the School of American Ballet until a knee injury forced her to quit in 1977. At the suggestion of the family for which she babysat, she began modeling in teen magazines and commercials. A few years later, director Stuart Gillard saw Cates dancing with friends at New York's Studio 54 and offered her the lead role in his Blue Lagoon knock-off, Paradise. She then gave a standout performance as Jennifer Jason Leigh's sexually mature best friend in Amy Heckerling's Fast Times at Ridgemont High, before starring in Private School. Besides appearing in the film's infamous "mooning" scene (during which the cast flashes the audience), Cates recorded two songs for Private School's soundtrack, Just One Touch and How Do I Let You Know.
In 1984, with her star on the rise, Cates portrayed a young actress bent on destroying her deadbeat mother in the notoriously tasteless television film Lace. That same year, she signed on to play the love interest in Joe Dante's horror-comedy Gremlins. Written by Chris Columbus and produced by Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment, the bizarre, special effects-laden film about a group of strange and violent creatures was a colossal success -- despite premiering only two weeks after Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and on the same day as Ghostbusters. After returning for Lace 2, Cates appeared as Michael J. Fox's model wife in Bright Lights, Big City and as a young bride-to-be in the coming-of-age film Shag.
Cates began the '90s at a personal low, starring in the sequel to Gremlins, Gremlins 2: The New Batch, and in Ate de Jong's disastrous Drop Dead Fred. She quickly revived her career opposite Bridget Fonda, Eric Stoltz, and Tim Roth in the Generation X comedy Bodies, Rest & Motion, before earning rave reviews for her performance as the mysterious title character in Princess Caraboo. The film also starred Cates' husband, actor Kevin Kline. The actress appeared as herself in Scratch the Surface, a documentary about teen fashion models in the '80s, and then opted to take a short break from show business in order to care for her children. After a four-year hiatus, Cates returned to the screen in The Anniversary Party, an ensemble film co-written and co-directed by her friend and Fast Times at Ridgemont High co-star Jennifer Jason Leigh and actor Alan Cumming. Acting opposite Kline (who portrayed her fictional husband in the film), Cates played none other than an actress who has left show business to raise a family.
In addition to her screen work, Cates has also appeared frequently on the stage. Her numerous theater credits include The Tenth Man at Lincoln Center, Much Ado About Nothing at the New York Shakespeare Festival, The Seagull and The Three Sisters at the La Jolla Playhouse, and Romeo and Juliet at the Goodman Theater.
In 1989, Cates married actor Kevin Kline, whom she had originally met while auditioning for the part that Meg Tilly ultimately won in The Big Chill. Kline and Cates make their home in New York City and have two children, Owen Joseph Kline, born in 1991 (who, in 2005, received rave reviews for his performance in The Squid and the Whale), and Greta Simone Kline, born in 1994. Owen and Greta appeared in Cates' most recent film, The Anniversary Party (2001).
In 2005, Cates opened her own boutique called Blue Tree on New York's Madison Avenue.