When Cameron Crowe was a young writer at Rolling Stone magazine he went undercover for a year at a high school in San Diego, an experience that became a book called 'Fast Times at Ridgemont High.' Crowe then adopted his tale into a screenplay, and thus was born the Amy Heckerling-directed movie 'Fast Times at Ridgemont High.'

The comedy was a modest hit in 1982, but it launched the careers of both Crowe and Heckerling. In the 30 years since, 'Fast Times at Ridgemont High' has come to be recognized as teen classic, and some of the actors who played the students grew up to be pretty big stars.

Sean Penn, Jeff Spicoli

Sean Penn
YouTube / Cooper Neill, Getty Images

Then: In ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’ Penn played Jeff Spicoli, the stoner / slacker to whom all subsequent stoner/slacker characters have been compared. Penn's first movie role was one year prior, when he appeared alongside Tom Cruise and Timothy Hutton in ‘Taps.’

Now: Penn has won Best Actor Oscars for his roles in ‘Mystic River’ and ‘Milk’ and has been nominated for the award three other times. The 52-year-old is also known for his tabloid exploits and outspoken political views. He will star as Mickey Cohen in the upcoming crime drama ‘The Gangster Squad.’

Jennifer Jason Leigh, Stacy Hamilton

Jennifer Jason Leigh
YouTube / Alberto E Rodriguez, Getty Images

Then: Jennifer Jason Leigh was 20 when she starred as freshman Stacy Hamilton in ‘Fast Times At Ridgemont High.’ The daughter of actor Vic Morrow, she previously appeared on TV shows such as ‘Trapper John, M.D.’ and had snagged her first lead movie role the year before in the thriller ’Wrong Is Right.’

Now: Over the years Leigh has had memorable roles in movies like ’Single White Female’ and ’The Hudsucker Proxy.’ She currently plays recurring characters on both ’Weeds’ and ’Revenge.’ In 2010, she co-wrote and had a supporting role in the dramedy ’Greenberg.’

Judge Reinhold, Brad Hamilton

Judge Reinhold
YouTube / Frederick M Brown, Getty Images

Then: In ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’ Reinhold was Brad Hamilton, a high school senior who endures his fair share of humiliation, job-related or otherwise. It was the biggest role to date for the  25-year-old, who had a very nice run during the eighties thanks to ‘Ruthless People’ and the ‘Beverly Hills Cop’ franchise. And 'Vice Versa.' Never forget 'Vice Versa.'

Now: Reihnold has had some high-profile TV guest star appearance over the years -- most notably as a “close talker” on Seinfeld and as “The Honorable Judge Reinhold” on ‘Arrested Development.’ He is slated to star in the upcoming golf comedy ‘Comics Open.’

Robert Romanus as Mike Damone

Robert Romanus
YouTube / Frazer Harrison, Getty Images

Then: You probably remember Robert Romanus as smooth-talking ticket scalper Mike Damone in ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High.’ Romanus had made his movie debut in another teen movie, 1980’s ‘Foxes,’ and later appeared on ‘Fame’ and ‘The Facts of Life.’

Now: In addition to guest starring on shows such as ‘Touch’ and ‘Cold Case,’ Romanus is an acting teacher, and his rock band ‘Poppa’s Kitchen’ plays shows around the Los Angeles area. On the 56-year-old’s website he humorously addresses (and debunks) rumors that he is homeless and/or works the late shift at a 7/11.

Brian Backer, Mark "Rat" Ratner

Brian Backer
YouTube / Frazer Harrison, Getty Images

Then: Backer played Mark Ratner in ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High.’ Shy and kind, ‘Rat’ has trouble putting the moves on Stacy, even though she is interested in him. Backer came up in the theater, and won a Best Actor Tony in 1981 for his role in the Woody Allen play ‘The Floating Lightbulb.’

Now: Backer’s last two film performances were cameos in Amy Heckling movies, 2000’s ‘Loser’ and 2012’s ‘Vamps.’

Phoebe Cates, Linda Barrett

Phoebe Cates
YouTube / Bryan Bedder, Getty Images

Then: In ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High,’ Cates was Linda Barrett, who regales Stacy with tales of her experiences with her much older boyfriend. The sequence in which Linda emerges from the Hamilton family pool and removes her top is among the film's most memorable, for obvious reasons. After ‘Fast Times,’ Cates popped up in movies like ‘Gremlins,' ‘Bright Lights, Big City' and, of course, 'Drop Dead Fred.'

Now: Cates hasn’t been in a movie since 2001’s ‘The Graduation Party,’ which was written and directed by her ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’ co-star and real-life BFF Jennifer Jason Leigh. Married to actor Kevin Kline since 1989, Cates owns and operates a high-end general store in New York City.

Forest Whitaker, Charles Jefferson

Forrest Whitaker
YouTube / Ben Pruchnie, Getty Images

Then: In his movie debut, Whitaker played Charles Jefferson, a star football player at Ridgemont High who is tricked into thinking students from a rival high school destroyed his car. Whitaker actually started college on a football scholarship, but quit the team and took up acting instead.

Now: Whitaker won an Academy Award for Best Actor in 2006’s ‘Last King of Scotland.’ He is also known for his work in ‘Bird’ and as the voice of Ira in ‘Where the Wild Things Are.’ He will appear alongside Nikki Reed and Ray Liotta in the upcoming thriller ‘Pawn.’

Amanda Wyss, Lisa

amanda wyss
Amanda Wyss

Then: In ’Fast Times at Ridgemont High,’ Wyss was Brad’s girlfriend and co-worker Lisa. Two years later Wyss had the honor of playing the first person ever killed in the ’Nightmare on Elm Street’ franchise and also played ex-girlfriend Beth in ’Better Off Dead.'

Now: The 52-year-old continues to act, most recently as recurring character Tina Vincent on ‘CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.’

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