Entertainment

'American Beauty' 20 Years Later: Where are Thora Birch and The Rest of the Cast Now?

Happy anniversary, American Beauty ! It's hard to believe that it's been 20 years since the creepiest look at suburbia since The Stepford Wives hit theaters, considering the impact the movie had on Hollywood; between a rise in satire, the reign of Kevin Spacey, and all those rose petal satires, Sam Mendes' Oscar-winning drama's impact on pop culture has been huge.

The same can't be said for the careers of all its stars, though. While several members of Beauty's cast have gone on to great success (House of Cards, anyone?), plenty of others haven't had the same good luck. From winning Emmys to making movies about weed, here's what the stars of the 1999 classic are up to today.

Image: DreamWorks

Kevin Spacey

Played: Lester Burnham, a burnt-out husband in the midst of a midlife crisis.

Then: Already an Oscar winner for The Usual Suspects, and a well-known character actor who’d most recently voiced a role in A Bug’s Life.

Now: He’s Frank Underwood, the creepy, manipulative, Emmy-nominated lead of Netflix’s House of Cards, and a prime example of movie stars’ successful transition to TV.

Image: DreamWorks

Annette Bening

Played: Carolyn Burnham, a frustrated wife happily cheating on her husband.

Then: An acclaimed, if underrated actress, whose fan base had recently grown with The American President.

Now: She’s spaced our her roles, but nearly all of them have earned her major praise. 2010’s The Kids Are All Right was a highlight.

Image: DreamWorks

Thora Birch

Played: Jane Burnham, an insecure teen who really hates her parents.

Then: An up-and-coming actress known for Now and Then and Patriot Games. Beauty was Birch’s breakout role.

Now: Despite a few hits (Ghost World earned major acclaim), Birch’s acting career has taken a turn for the worse over the last decade. Since 2009, she’s made just one film.

Image: DreamWorks

Mena Suvari

Played: Angela Hayes, Jane’s best friend and the object of Lester’s lust.

Then: An indie star who’d just made it big with American Pie.

Now: Suvari has acted steadily since Beauty, but she hasn’t found anything that’s given her even close to the same success as she had in 1999.

Image: DreamWorks

Wes Bentley

Played: Ricky Fitts, the drug dealer/plastic-bag lover next door.

Then: A total unknown.

Now: After struggling for years with drug addiction, Bentley finally made a comeback with The Hunger Games in 2012, and ever since, his slate has been impressively full.

Image: DreamWorks

Chris Cooper

Played: Col. Frank Fitts, a bigoted disciplinarian hiding a major secret.

Then: A relative newcomer, best known for Lone Star and A Time to Kill.

Now: He won an Oscar for Adaptation in 2002, and has had pivotal roles in films like Syriana, The Bourne Supremacy, and The Town.

Image: DreamWorks

Allison Janney

Played: Barbara Fitts, the quiet, troubled wife of Frank.

Then: A mostly unknown actress most recently seen in 10 Things I Hate About You.

Now: She’s Allison ‘freakin Janney, the Jackal-dancing, spirit-raising, six-time Emmy winning TV legend.

Image: DreamWorks

Peter Gallagher

Played: Buddy Kane, the real estate agent who begins an affair with Carolyn.

Then: Rom-com lovers knew him as the comatose “fiancé” of Sandra Bullock in 1995’s While You Were Sleeping.

Now: To millennials everywhere, he’ll be forever known as Sandy Cohen, the bagel-loving, Chrismukkah-celebrating dad of The O.C.

Image: DreamWorks

John Cho

Played: A prospective house buyer, in a blink-and-you-miss-it scene.

Then: A total unknown.

Now: That tiny role paid off, because today, Cho’s the Harold of Harold and Kumar, the MILF-creator of American Pie, and the Sulu of the Star Trek reboot we all didn’t know we wanted, but oh, are we glad exists.

Image: DreamWorks

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