What do you get when you put together pageant queens, murder, and Denise Richards dancing with Jesus to “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You?” The 1999 campy cult classic, Drop Dead Gorgeous, which turns 20 July 23. See where the (surprisingly A-list) cast is today
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Kirsten Dunst (Amber Atkins)
Dunst was perfectly cast as Amber Atkins, the deserving underdog of the pageant world who tap danced into the hearts of many. Post-Drop Dead Gorgeous, Dunst starred in teen classics including Bring It On and Get Over It. She also played the iconic Mary Jane Watson in the Spider-Man trilogy.
Since then, Dunst has taken on more serious acting roles in films like Marie Antoinette, Melancholia and The Beguiled – and has a child with her Fargo costar and fiancé Jesse Plemons.
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Amy Adams (Leslie Miller)
Fun fact: Amy Adams’ role as promiscuous and a little bit pregnant (but don’t tell her boyfriend) Leslie in Drop Dead Gorgeous was the A-lister’s film debut. Adams has certainly kept very busy the past 20 years. She earned an Academy Award nomination for her role in the 2005 film, Junebug, which catapulted her into the spotlight. Since then, Adams has starred in films such as The Wedding Date, Enchanted, Julie & Julia, Doubt, Charlie Wilson’s War, The Fighter, Her, American Hustle and Vice. Most recently, Adams thrilled in the 2018 HBO miniseries Sharp Objects, earning her both Golden Globe and Emmy nominations.
She has been nominated for a whopping six Academy Awards, and is a mom to daughter Aviana with husband Darren Le Gallo.
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Ellen Barkin (Annette Atkins)
Barkin was already a Golden Globe-nominated actress when she starred as former beauty queen Annette Atkins, who ends up with a hook for a hand after an explosion that was meant for her daughter (played by Dunst). Barkin won an Emmy in 1997 for outstanding actress in a miniseries or movie for her role in the made-for-television film Before Women Had Wings. Barkin also took home a Tony Award in 2011 for her Broadway debut as Dr. Brookner in The Normal Heart. In 2015, she starred in the Showtime series Happyish and can currently be seen playing Janine “Smurf” Cody in Animal Kingdom on TNT.
In 2006, she endured a very public split from Revlon chairman Ron Perelman (and a subsequent very public auction of her jewels from their relationship).
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Allison Janney (Loretta)
That’s “Academy Award, Emmy, BAFTA and Golden Globe Award-winning actress Allison Janney” to you! After playing trailer trash/pseudo-mother figure Loretta, Janney continued to impress the world with her character acting. Her breakthrough role as C. J. Cregg on The West Wing earned Janney four Primetime Emmy Awards. Janney also won an Emmy in 2014 for her supporting role in Masters of Sex and has been nominated 5 consecutive times for her role on the sitcom Mom, taking home 2 Emmys for outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series. Janney’s film credits include American Beauty, The Help, Tallulah, and The Girl on the Train. Her role in the 2017 film I, Tonya earned her an Academy Award.
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Denise Richards (Becky Ann Leeman)
20 years later and we’re still thinking about Richards’ character dancing with a life-sized replica of Jesus to “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You.” After playing Rebecca “Becky” Ann Leeman, Richards appeared in other films such as Scary Movie 3, Valentine and Love, Actually. She made television appearances in Friends (as Ross’s cousin who he awkwardly hits on), Spin City, and Two and a Half Men.
Richards married Charlie Sheen in 2002 and famously shot a Playboy centerfold just 5 months after giving birth to their first daughter, Sam. She filed for divorce from Sheen in 2004 while pregnant with their second daughter, Lola Rose. In 2011, Richards adopted her third daughter, Eloise Joni Richards, as a single parent, though she has since remarried.
Most recently, Richards has made herself at home amongst The Real House Wives of Beverly Hills and joined the cast of the classic Soap Opera The Bold and the Beautiful as Shauna Fulton.
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Kirstie Alley (Gladys Leeman)
Kirstie Alley had been a huge star for years thanks to her roles in Look Who’s Talking and Cheers by the time she played Gladys Leeman, who wouldn’t stop short of murder to get her daughter (played by Denise Richards) the pageant crown.
After enduring public speculation about her weight, Alley became a Jenny Craig spokesperson in 2004 and in 2005, played herself on Showtime’s Fat Actress. She then starred in Kirstie Alley’s Big Life, and managed to finish in 2nd place on Dancing With the Stars in 2012.
Heading back to her campy roots, Alley also appeared in the second season of Scream Queens in 2016. She seems to have a knack for competition shows–Alley finished as runner-up on Celebrity Big Brother in 2018.
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Mindy Sterling (Iris Clark)
Mindy Sterling’s character in the film, Iris Clark, wasn’t quite as vicious as Kirsty Alley’s conniving pageant mom, but she did help her rig the Sarah Rose Cosmetics Mount Rose American Teen Princess Pageant. Sterling has enjoyed steady work as a talented voice and character actress. She’s best known for her role in Austin Powers as Frau Farbissina, and has since appeared in shows like Desperate Housewives in 2010, the comedy series Legit from 2013 to 2014 and Netflix’s 2018 show, A Series of Unfortunate Events.
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Sam McMurray (Lester Leeman)
McMurray has had a busy film and television career since playing Lester Leeman, whose daughter (played by Denise Richards) wins the pageant, but – spoiler alert – dies in the parade after the cheaply made float he commissioned explodes. He had a recurring role on King of Queens from 2001-2006 and has acted in everything from Friends to The Suite Life of Zach and Cody. McMurray joined co-star Allison Janney on her sitcom Mom in 2018 and most recently appeared in the Netflix series Grace & Frankie in 2019.
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Brittany Murphy (Lisa Swenson)
Best known for her role in 1995’s Clueless, Murphy’s character in Drop Dead Gorgeous wasn’t exactly pageant material, so she took one for the team when Kirsten Dunst’s character Amber needed her most.
In 2009, Murphy died from complications of pneumonia. Prior to her death, Murphy voiced Luanne Platter on King of the Hill for the entirely of the show’s 1997 to 2009 run. She also starred in the 2002 film 8 Mile, and started to make a name for herself in romantic comedies such as Uptown Girls, Just Married and Little Black Book. Murphy starred in many independent films and returned to voice acting with the 2006 animated film Happy Feet. Her final film, Something Wicked, was released in 2014.
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