Time to celebrate like it's Rex Manning Day! It's been 25 years since everyone's favorite music store employees hit the big screen in "Empire Records." Starring an ensemble of mostly unknowns, the 1995 coming-of-age film didn't make much of an impression with critics or at the box office. Despite all that, the movie quickly became one of the biggest cult hits of the 1990s, launched the careers of stars Liv Tyler and Renee Zellweger and inspired one of the defining soundtracks of the decade. To celebrate the movie's 25th anniversary on Sept. 22, 2020, join Wonderwall.com as we find out what happened to its cast…
Liv Tyler starred as Corey Mason, an overachieving high schooler who works at Delaware independent record shop Empire Records, which finds itself in danger of being sold to a large chain. Corey is balancing the fight to save the store with an amphetamine addiction, a budding romance with coworker A.J. and her upcoming move to attend college at Harvard.
"Empire Records" served as a breakout project for Liv Tyler, who up to that point was best known for modeling, commercials and her appearance in the "Crazy" music video that her father, Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler, released with his band in 1993. The New York City native told Entertainment Weekly that filming "Empire Records" one of the best experiences of her life and that it jump-started her career. She followed it with a series of '90s hits like 1995's "Heavy," 1996's "Stealing Beauty" and "That Thing You Do!," 1997's "Inventing the Abbotts," 1998's "Armageddon" and 1999's "Cookie's Fortune." She kicked off the 2000s with a starring role in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, which went on to gross more than $2.9 billion at the box office and win 17 Academy Awards. Liv then starred in the 2004 comedy "Jersey Girl," the 2007 drama "Reign Over Me" and the 2008 horror flick "The Strangers." That same year, the actress starred in the Marvel superhero hit "The Incredible Hulk" as the superhero's love interest, Betty Ross. She then moved into indies with "Super" and "The Ledge" in 2011 and "Space Station 76" in 2014. Also in 2014, Liv expanded her resume to television with lead parts on the HBO drama series "The Leftovers," where she remained until 2017, the HBO miniseries "Gunpowder" in 2017 and Hulu's "Harlots" from 2018 to 2019. More recently, she starred opposite Brad Pitt in the 2019 space drama "Ad Astra" and on the FOX procedural "9-1-1: Lone Star." Liv was married to musician Royston Langdon, with whom she shares a son, from 2003 to 2008. She's been engaged to British sports and entertainment manager David Gardner since 2015. The couple have two children together.
The uninhibited Gina, who's friends with Corey and also works at Empire Records, was portrayed by Renee Zellweger. The pair feud and Gina reveals some of Corey's deepest secrets and gets intimate with Corey's crush, washed-up pop star Rex Manning. But the friends come together to save the store.
Prior to "Empire Records," Renee Zellweger had only appeared in a few low-budget features like 1994's "Reality Bites" and "Love and a .45," and 1995's "Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation." Just a year later, the Texas-born actress got her real breakthrough in 1996's "Jerry Maguire" opposite Tom Cruise, which earned her a SAG Award nomination. Renee followed it with parts in the 1998 drama "One True Thing" and comedies "The Bachelor" in 1999 and "Me, Myself & Irene" and "Nurse Betty" in 2000, the latter of which earned her a Golden Globe. 2001 brought the star her next big hit with "Bridget Jones's Diary," which raked in more than $280 million and garnered her both Golden Globe and Oscar nominations. Just a year later, Renee received massive acclaim for her part in the musical "Chicago." The hit went on to win the best picture Oscar and earn Renee a second Golden Globe plus another Oscar nod. Keeping her winning streak going, she then had a starring role in the 2003 drama "Cold Mountain," for which she won her first Academy Award. Next came the hit sequel "Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason" in 2004, biopics "Cinderella Man" and "Miss Potter," and the 2008 box office disappointments "Leatherheads" and "Appaloosa." Following the 2009 flops "New in Town" and "Case 39," Renee took a break from acting. The star made her comeback with the hit 2016 sequel "Bridget Jones's Baby" and indie dramas "The Whole Truth," "Same Kind of Different as Me" and "Here and Now." In 2019, she starred on the short-lived Netflix drama series "What/If" and earned raves for her lead turn in the biopic "Judy," for which she earned her second Oscar in 2020. Renee has also made headlines for her love life. While filming "Empire Records," she was dating co-star Rory Cochrane. She went on to enjoy romances with stars including George Clooney, Jim Carrey (to whom she was engaged), White Stripes frontman Jack White, Bradley Cooper and musician Doyle Bramhall II. She was also married to country music star Kenny Chesney for four months in 2005.
Johnny Whitworth played A.J., Empire Records' resident heartthrob. A.J. vies for the affections of Corey and ends up fighting Rex Manning after he causes tension between Corey and Gina. After initially being rejected by his crush, A.J. lucks out when Corey changes her tune after the pair work together to save their place of employment.
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Johnny Whitworth began his career with parts on "Party of Five" and in the 1995 film "Bye Bye Love" shortly before he scored a part in "Empire Records." The South Carolina native followed it with turns in 1997's "The Rainmaker," 2001's "Valentine," 2002's "The Anarchist Cookbook," 2006's "Factory Girl" and 2007's "3:10 to Yuma." He then had a recurring role on "CSI: Miami" from 2006 to 2010. Johnny also starred in 2009's "Gamer" and 2011's "Limitless" and "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance." More recently, the actor has appeared on TV hits like "The 100" and "Blindspot."
The edgy and angst-filled Deb was played by Robin Tunney. Having survived an apparent suicide attempt, Deb is trying to find herself while working at Empire Records. The staff hold a mock funeral for Deb to show their appreciation, but Deb's most memorable moment comes when she shaves her head — something Robin actually did for the role.
Chicago-born Robin Tunney made her screen debut in the 1992 comedy "Encino Man." She followed it with her turn in "Empire Records" and because she saved her head for the role, she was forced to wear a wig for her follow-up hit, 1996's "The Craft." Next came the indie drama "Niagara, Niagara" in 1997 and the action flicks "End of Days" in 1999 and "Supernova" and "Vertical Limit" in 2000. Robin then starred in the 2003 rom-com "The In-Laws," the 2004 thriller "Paparazzi" and the 2006 mystery "Hollywoodland." She had a lead role on the first season of "Prison Break" in 2005 then starred on the hit drama series "The Mentalist" from 2008 to 2015. More recently, she's appeared in indies like 2012's "See Girl Run," 2015's "My All American," 2018's "Looking Glass" and 2020's "Horse Girl." Robin also had a starring part on the short-lived ABC series "The Fix" in 2019. She was married to director Bob Gosse from 1995 to 2006 and has been engaged to interior designer Nicky Marmet since 2012. The pair have two children.
Anthony LaPaglia starred as Empire Records' store manager, Joe Reaves. Joe is determined to do everything in his power to keep the music store from being bought out by a massive chain but needs the help of his employees to come up with the rest of the money to keep the sale from happening.
Before pursuing acting, Anthony LaPaglia was a goalkeeper in the Australian National Soccer League in the 1980s. He then shifted careers, making his first film appearance in 1987's "Cold Steel" and following it with parts in 1990's "Betsy's Wedding," 1991's "29th Street," 1992's "Innocent Blood," 1993's "So I Married an Axe Murderer" and 1994's "The Client." After "Empire Records," the Australian actor took to Broadway in a 1997 production of "A View From the Bridge," for which he earned a Tony Award. Anthony then starred in the 1999 drama "Summer of Sam" and had a guest arc on "Frasier" that won him an Emmy Award. From 2002 to 2009, he played the lead role on the hit drama series "Without A Trace." The star lent his voice to the hit "Happy Feet" films as well as "Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole." Since departing "Without A Trace," he's appeared in indies like 2009's "Balibo," 2012's "Mental," 2014's "A Good Marriage," 2015's "A Month of Sundays" and 2016's "The Assignments." More recently, he was in the 2017 horror flick "Annabelle: Creation." Anthony was wed to actress Cherie Michan before marrying actress Gia Carides, his wife from 1998 to 2015. Anthony and Gia share a daughter. He married third wife Alexandra Henkel in 2018. Outside of acting, Anthony was part owner of Australian soccer team Sydney Football Club until 2008 and is a minority shareholder in the International Goalkeepers Academy as well as president of an amateur soccer league in Los Angeles.
Ethan Embry played Empire Records employee Mark, who takes the store's Rex Manning Day event far more seriously than all of his co-workers. Mark is one of the first to find out their beloved store is in danger of being sold and takes matters into his own hands to announce their "Save the Empire" event on live TV.
Ethan Embry started acting as a teen, making his debut in the 1991 comedy "Defending Your Life." The Southern California native then starred in 1991's "Dutch" and "All I Want for Christmas" and 1993's "A Far Off Place." He followed "Empire Records" with '90s hits like 1996's "That Thing You Do!," 1997's "Vegas Vacation" and 1998's "Can't Hardly Wait" and "Disturbing Behavior." Ethan kicked off the next decade with more successful projects like "Sweet Home Alabama" in 2002, "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle" in 2004, "Vacancy" in 2007 and "Eagle Eye" in 2008. He also had a main role on the Showtime drama series "Brotherhood" from 2006 to 2008 and recurring parts on hit shows "Once Upon a Time" and "The Walking Dead." More recently, he starred in indie films like 2014's "The Guest," 2015's "Echoes of War" and 2018's "Blindspotting." From 2015 to 2019, Ethan had a part on the Amazon series "Sneaky Pete." He's starred on the Netflix hit "Grace and Frankie" since 2015. The actor also appeared in the 2018 space drama "First Man." Ethan was married to actress Amelinda Smith, with whom he shares one child, from 1998 to 2002. He then married actress Sunny Mabrey in 2005. After filing for divorce in 2012, the couple remarried in 2015.
Rory Cochrane's Lucas — the first employee to uncover the store's troubling secret — steals money from the business in hopes of tripling it through gambling. After failing to make that happen, Lucas is racked with guilt over what he's done but still hopes he can make it right by saving Empire Records.
Rory Cochrane's first on-screen appearance came in 1991's "A Kiss Before Dying." Then came breakout roles in 1992's "Fathers & Sons" and 1993's "Dazed and Confused" as well as a part in 1994's "Love and a .45" opposite "Empire Records" co-star Renee Zellweger. Next for the New York-born actor were the dramas "Flawless" in 1999, "Hart's War" in 2002, "A Scanner Darkly" in 2006 and "Public Enemies" in 2009. Rory also had a lead role on "CSI: Miami" for the first three seasons from 2002 to 2004. He made appearances in 2012's "Argo," 2015's "Black Mass," 2017's "Hostiles" and 2018's "White Boy Rock." He was more recently seen in the 2019 Hulu series "Reprisal" and next stars in the films "The Trial of the Chicago 7" and "Antlers."
Maxwell Caulfield portrayed fading pop star Rex Manning, whose in-store event at Empire Records stirs up its fair share of drama. While the staff mocks the fact that the store is dedicating an entire day to the singer, Manning finds himself getting intimate with Gina, getting into a fight with A.J. and eventually getting kicked out by Joe.
Starting as a stage actor, Maxwell Caulfield starred in a number of productions in the late '70s and early '80s before making his screen debut in "Grease 2" opposite Michelle Pfeiffer. The Brit then starred in 1984's "Electric Dreams," 1985's "The Boys Next Door," 1986's "The Supernaturals" and 1989's "Mind Games." He also had roles on TV shows like "Dynasty," "The Colbys," "Murder, She Wrote," "Beverly Hills, 90210," "The Rockford Files," "Casualty," "Emmerdale" and "NCIS." Maxwell's 1990s film credits include "Dance with Death" in 1992, "Gettysburg" and "Calendar Girl" in 1993 and "The Man Who Knew Too Little" and "The Real Blonde" in 1997. Since then, he's focused on TV and stage roles, starring in Broadway productions of "An Inspector Calls" and "Chicago" and U.K. national tours of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," "Singin' in the Rain" and "Guys and Dolls." In 2019, he was in the touring production of the play "The Lady Vanishes" across Britain. Maxwell has been married to actress Juliet Mills since 1980.
Empire Records' resident shoplifter, Warren, was portrayed by Brendan Sexton III. Warren makes repeated failed attempts to rob the store, even arriving with a gun loaded with blanks at one point. However, the staff are able to talk some sense into Warren and Joe ultimately offers him a job at the store.
"Empire Records" was only the second film for Brendan Sexton III, whose previous credit was in the indie hit "Welcome to the Dollhouse." With both of these movies under his belt, the New York native became a bit of an indie king, following them with 1997's "Hurricane Streets," 1998's "Pe****," 1999's "Boys Don't Cry," 2001's "Session 9," 2004's "Winter Solstice," 2007's "The Girl in the Park" and 2008's "The Marconi Bros." Brendan also had parts in "Black Hawk Down" in 2001, "Hide and Seek" in 2005, "Everybody's Fine" in 2009 and "The Runaways" in 2010. He then had a large role in the hit mystery series "The Killing." The actor also appeared in the acclaimed 2017 drama "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri." In 2019, he starred on the Netflix hits "Russian Doll" and "El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie." Brendan also owns and operates the New York City-based indie record label Big Bit of Beauty.
Debi Mazar played Rex Manning's frustrated assistant, Jane. While initially focused on her job, Jane eventually joins in with the free spirits of the Empire Records employees and helps them save their store from being sold.
Debi Mazar started out doing hair and makeup for music videos and plays in the 1980s then appeared in numerous videos for good friend Madonna. The New York City-born actress's breakthrough came in 1990's "Goodfellas," which she followed with roles in 1991's "The Doors," 1992's "Malcolm X," 1994's "Bullets Over Broadway" and 1995's "Batman Forever." Debi also had main parts on the TV shows "L.A. Law" and "Civil Wars" around the same time. After "Empire Records," she worked consistently on the big screen in films like 1996's "Girl 6," 1997's "She's So Lovely," 1998's "Hush," 1999's "The Insider," 2002's "The Tuxedo," 2004's "Collateral," 2005's "Be Cool," 2008's "The Women" and 2013's "Lovelace." Debi also has a long list of TV guest roles to her credit as well as a major stint on HBO's "Entourage" from 2004 to 2011. She also appeared in the 2015 "Entourage" film. From 2011 to 2015, the actress — who in 2009 competed on "Dancing With the Stars" — hosted the Cooking Channel series "Extra Virgin" alongside her husband and children. She's starred on the TV Land hit "Younger" since 2015 and will wrap the series in 2021. Debi married Italian chef Gabriele Corcos, with whom she shared two daughters, in 2002. In the summer of 2020, Debi and Gabriele fulfilled a 20-year dream and "finally and permanently," she shared on Instagram, moved from New York City to his family's estate in Fiesole in Italy's Tuscany region.