Maxwell Caulfield may be a cult legend for his role in “Empire Records,” but his throngs of fans on social media came after he fought through heartbreak in his early career.
The 61-year-old actor recalled to Page Six what it was like to be set up for stardom at an early age when he was cast in the lead to the sequel to “Grease” — only to temporarily sink into oblivion when the movie tanked.
“It was, psychologically, quite a kick in the pants,” he said.
The bitter taste of watching 1982’s “Grease 2” fail was made even worse by seeing his co-star, a then-little-known actress named Michelle Pfeiffer, head on to stardom, he said.
“And of course, Michelle rose like a Phoenix, right? Did ‘Scarface,’ and that so that made it even, frankly, a little harder to swallow,” he recalled.
“But you know, listen, every actor has his and her own path. She has gone on to multiple Oscar nominations and the rest of it … She delivers and she defines Hollywood beauty…You can’t begrudge them their success. But as I said, simultaneously, it makes it that much tougher to see, that you’ve been benched. And it took a long wait time to come back.”
Caulfield says that “I really couldn’t get arrested for about a year” but slowly began to rebuild his career through tv movies, a role on the “Dynasty” spinoff, “The Colbys,” which ran from 1986 to 1987.
Eventually, he would find a measure of the success he was looking for with his role as aging music idol Rex Manning in 1995’s “Empire Records.”
The movie has become such a cult hit that every April 8 an unofficial Rex Manning Day is observed by throngs of fans on Twitter.
The celebration of the film causes Caulfield equal amounts of bewilderment and bemusement.
“It goes mental,” he said. “I literally have to put out like a statement because I can’t possibly respond to the sort of floodgates that open. My Twitter account normally is just sort of dormant and then suddenly it goes bonkers. And I want to like everything everybody says. So what I tend to do is I put something out that’s meant to appease the masses.”
Most recently, the actor shot an episode of Ryan Murphy’s “American Horror Story” and is hoping that the prolific producer “gets around to telling the Jeffery Epstein story (and) he considers me (for) Prince Andrew.”
He says he met the now infamous royal at a reception in Los Angeles and explains that before the event he had seen the Prince on the local news doing a tour of the Warner Brothers film studio and “doing what royals do, you know, sort of looking and asking questions and sort of smiling and pointing.”
When they met, Caulfield admits that he may have been a “little crass” by commenting to Andrew: “You did a wonderful job of feigning interest at Warner Brothers. He said, ‘We don’t.’ And that was the end of my conversation with that.”