As I'm sure you all may know, Donnie Darko was re-released on March 31, 2017. I still remember when I first learned of the movie’s existence that I wanted no part of it. Armageddon and an imaginary, demented, giant bunny? I figured if I watched the movie I wouldn’t sleep for a year. However, while I was training for a job in Maryland a few years back, Donnie Darko came on and curiosity got the better of me. Lo and behold, I actually enjoyed it. It was weird as all hell, and I still can’t say I quite understand the film as a whole, but I liked it — a lot of the scenes even managed to make me laugh.
After watching #DonnieDarko, I finally saw what all the fuss was about, and why it gained its cult status — demonic-looking bunny or no demonic-looking bunny. Not only was the premise original, but the ‘80s soundtrack was kick ass (I especially loved the remake of “Mad World.”)
Another thing about Donnie Darko that was really cool was, despite the fact that it was an independent film made by a then unknown director, it was full of stars, ranging from up-and-comers who later became household names like Jake Gyllenhaal, to veterans like Katharine Ross. So, 15 years after the movie was released, where are the actors now?
Samantha Darko — Daveigh Chase
Daveigh Chase played Samantha, Donnie’s cute-as-a-button little sister/future “Star Search” champion. After Donnie Darko, Daveigh went on to star in the The Ring as Samara Morgan, also known as "the creepy girl in the well," and as a teenager, she reprised her role as Samantha in the Donnie Darko sequel, S. Darko.
[Donnie is about to smoke a cigarette]
Donnie: "What happens if you tell Mom and Dad about this, Sam?"
Samantha: "You’ll put Ariel in the garbage disposal."
Ricky Danforth — Seth Rogan
Yes, you read that correctly. Seth Rogan was in Donnie Darko. You remember the no-good bully duo that kept givin’ Donnie and Gretchen hell? Seth was one half of that duo. Donnie Darko was just the start of good things for Seth. He soon blasted into superstardom after starring and producing hit films like The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, This Is the End, Neighbors and Sausage Party.
[While harassing Gretchen]
Ricky: "I like your boobs."
Eddie Darko — Holmes Osborne
Holmes Osborne took on the role of Eddie Darko, Donnie’s lighthearted father. It’s safe to assume that director Richard Kelly enjoyed Holmes’s performance, because he returned to work on two more Kelly vehicles: Southland Tales and The Box. Holmes has also guest starred TV shows such as House and Grey’s Anatomy. He's also appeared in the films Larry Crowne and Unthinkable.
Eddie: "You're not a bitch. You're bitchin'...but you're not a bitch."
Lilian Thurman — Katharine Ross
Katharine Ross, who’s best known for her roles in The Graduate and The Stepford Wives, played Donnie’s psychiatrist, Dr. Lilian Thurman. Since starring in Donnie Darko, Katharine’s been in a few films, including The Hero with hubby Sam Elliott, and she’s also done some voice work for American Dad and Family Guy.
Dr. Thurman: "Has [Donnie] ever told you about his friend Frank?"
Dr. Thurman: "Yes. The giant bunny rabbit."
Kitty Farmer — Beth Grant
One of the most memorable characters in Donnie Darko was Kitty Farmer, the weird ass Phys-Ed teacher/Sparkle Motion choreographer/lifelong Jim Cunningham fan. After portraying Kitty, Beth Grant starred in Southland Tales, another Richard Kelly vehicle. Beth also took on roles in Little Miss Sunshine, No Country for Old Men, Six Feet Under, Malcolm in the Middle, Bones, Crazy Heart, Criminal Minds, Modern Family, Dexter, As I Lay Dying, The Mindy Project and Jackie (just to name a few). What a busy lady!
Principal Cole [to Donnie]: "What exactly did you say to Ms. Farmer?"
Kitty: "I'll tell you what he said! He asked me to forcibly insert the lifeline exercise card into my anus!"
Beth Darko — Mary McDonnell
Beth Darko is Donnie’s loving, yet no-nonsense mother, brilliantly played by Mary McDonnell, and despite what anyone else says, no one could doubt her commitment to Sparkle Motion. Since playing Donnie’s mom, Mary has been featured in Scream 4, and has guest starred on Grey’s Anatomy and Battlestar Galactica. She’s best known as Capt. Sharon Raydor in the hit TV series The Closer and Major Crimes.
Donnie: "How’s it feel to have a wacko as a son?"
Beth: "It feels wonderful."
Frank — James Duval
It’s safe to say that aside from the eponymous main character, Frank played the most integral part in Donnie Darko. James Duval, who was beforehand best known for the films Independence Day and The Doom Generation, was the actor underneath that demonic bunny suit. You may not remember his actual face, considering that he only revealed it twice in the entire film (and then it was towards the end of the movie). Following his role as Frank, James has worked on a vast array of projects, including It Follows, and a guest spot on Hawaii Five-O.
Donnie: "Why are you wearing that stupid bunny suit?"
Frank: "Why are you wearing that stupid man suit?"
Jim Cunningham — Patrick Swayze
Patrick Swayze starred as Jim Cunningham, the resident pseudo-intellectual child counselor/pedophile that Donnie personally couldn’t stand. After Donnie Darko, Patrick continued to act in Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights, The Fox and the Hound 2, and he even managed to play the lead on A&E’s The Beast while fighting pancreatic cancer. Sadly, he succumbed to his illness on Sept. 14, 2009. We all still miss him.
[After the faculty and students greet Jim with a weak “good morning”]
Jim: "Is that all the gusto you can muster? I said good mornin’!"
Karen Pomeroy — Drew Barrymore
Drew was already a legend in her own right by 2001, but she still she agreed to take on Richard Kelly’s indie project, playing the role of Karen Pomeroy, the relatable English teacher at Donnie’s school. After killin’ her performance, she kept right on doing her thing, appearing in films such as: 50 First Dates, Fever Pitch, Beverly Hills Chihuahua, Music and Lyrics, Everybody’s Fine and Blended.
She’s currently playing a flesh-eating zombie mother on the hit Netflix series, Santa Clarita Diet (hilarious show, by the way — I highly recommend it!). A bit of trivia: Drew also helped produce the film, and Richard Kelly has gone on record to say that if it weren’t for Drew's contribution to the movie, it would have either premiered on Starz or gone straight to video.
Gretchen: "Where should I sit?"
Karen: "Sit beside the boy you think is the cutest."
[The class whistles and hoots]
Karen: "Quiet! Let her choose."
Elizabeth Darko — Maggie Gyllenhaal
Richard Kelly believed it would be a great idea for Jake Gyllenhaal’s actual sister Maggie to play Donnie’s older sister, Elizabeth, and he was dead on the money. Unfortunately, Maggie and Jake haven’t starred in any other films together since, but she’s more than proven she can hold her own in Hollywood. Maggie offered her talents to movies such as The Dark Knight, Secretary, Riding in Cars With Boys, Mona Lisa Smile, White House Down and Crazy Heart, for which she was nominated an Academy Award for Best Actress.
Elizabeth [on the phone]: "Do you remember that weird gym teacher, Mrs. Farmer? Well, my brother told her to shove a book up her ass today, and my parents went out and bought him all this new shit. I wish a jet engine would fall in my room!"
Gretchen Ross — Jena Malone
Gretchen Ross is the new girl in town who manages to steal Donnie’s heart, played by Jena Malone. Jena’s been in a ton of films since her role in Donnie Darko, including: The Ruins, Hatfields and McCoys, The United States of Leland, Cold Mountain, Saved!, Pride & Prejudice, The Soloist, Batman v. Superman and The Hunger Games series.
Gretchen: "You’re weird."
Gretchen: "I meant that as a compliment."
Donnie Darko — Jake Gyllenhaal
Last but not least, we have Donnie Darko, the titular doomed hero, played by Jake Gyllenhall. As we all know, Jake’s star just took off after his lead role in Donnie Darko, playing a leading man in films like: The Good Girl, Zodiac, Nightcrawler, Source Code, Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, Southpaw, Brothers, Jarhead, Prisoners, The Day After Tomorrow and Brokeback Mountain.
Best Quotes (sorry, I couldn't choose between these two):
Gretchen: "Donnie Darko? What the hell kind of name is that? It’s like some kind of superhero or something."
Donnie: "What makes you think I’m not?"
Jim: "Son, it breaks my heart to say this, but I believe you are a very troubled and confused young man. I believe you are searching for answers in all the wrong places."
Donnie: "You're right, actually. I am. I'm pretty troubled and I'm pretty confused. But I---and I'm afraid...really afraid, but I think you're the f**king antichrist."