‘Maybe The Dumbest And One Of The Bravest Things’: Judge Reinhold Recalls Filming The Fast Times At Ridgemont High Bikini Scene That Led To Backlash

 Phoebe Cates gets out of the pool in red bikini in Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
Credit: Universal

Some of the best ‘80s movies have moments that definitely need to be talked out, thanks to their legacy of infamy. A moment that absolutely counts for this sort of introspection is Judge Reinhold’s sexual fantasy scene with Phoebe Cates in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. It’s a moment that led to some obvious backlash when it was released.

Years later, as we approach his upcoming Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F's release, the legendary '80s actor has taken a moment to look back at why he feels the scene is not as “creepy” as one would think, along with how his initial reservations on how the masturbation plotline would affect his performance.

Director Amy Heckerling’s film has endeared itself with audiences for so long because of its frank approach to sexuality and turmoil for teens in the '80s. Fully knowing the scene in question’s legacy, Reinhold shared his thoughts on Phoebe Cates getting out of the pool with Vanity Fair, and how Heckerling reframed the scene to overcome a case of nerves on the day, noting it was a "love scene" ---just with himself.

If you take that scene out of context, it’s kind of creepy. But to me, it was very funny when I read the script, because it was just a matter of how much more can he endure? That was one of maybe the dumbest and one of the bravest things I’ve ever done. Obviously it was simulated, but it was an extremely personal thing, and it was just humiliating. At one point, we’d done a few takes where she catches me, and I said, ‘I’ve got to go. I just had to get out.’ Amy [Heckerling] followed me, and I remember she said, “Look, it’s a love scene—only it’s with yourself.

This scene’s infamy over the decades has become one of the most iconic in the lexicon of comedy. I mean, how do you explain a bikini scene first shown in 1982 becoming a cutaway gag on Family Guy? Mirroring a piece of Fast Times at Ridgemont High trivia that covered studio exec’s reaction to a much more graphic cut of the gag, you could imagine even the R-rated version in theaters causing a wave of shocked laughter.

Though this is something that audiences will naturally need to judge for themselves. Just in case you’re not familiar with this scene, you can watch a 4K, edited for YouTube version, included below:

You can see just how some people might take offense to this well-known moment from Fast Times at Ridgemont High, just as easily as you can see why people would have found it funny and memorable. Whatever your take, we do know that Phoebe Cates ended up on many a dorm wall in the years that followed and the moment lived on in infamy.

Turning back to that moment where Judge was convinced to stick with the scene in the movie, his reaction to Amy Heckerling’s description of the moment is one that made it all worth it in the end. Wrapping the story with this recollection, the veteran character actor shared that once Heckerling brought levity in with her "love scene" comment, the whole thing became a whole lot more lighthearted.

It cracked us up. I just remember that so vividly on the sidewalk. We were laughing. She was my bud.

I think there’s always going to be some controversy surrounding Fast Times at Ridgemont High’s masturbation scene, but for all the right reasons. Like many momentous movie moments, it's something that's in the eye of the beholder; and it’s why moments like this that give classics a healthy second life. Although with Nicolas Cage almost cast as Fast Times' Brad, you kind of have to wonder how much differently this would have played out in an alternate universe of movie history?

So long as people are debating Brad's actions, it keeps the conversation. For that, you’ve got to thank Amy Heckerling for inspiring her friend and co-worker to press on, as well as Judge Reinhold for his performance in a scene that would still give any sensible actor a case of the nerves.

If you haven’t caught Fast Times at Ridgemont High, or feel like jumping back in as a loving throwback, you can currently watch that film through access to a Prime Video subscription. Meanwhile, Judge Reinhold’s latest movie, Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F, will be debuting on Netflix, starting July 3rd. And if that film's director Mark Malloy's reaction to Reinhold on set with his fellow franchise OGs is any indication, there will be plenty  more Judge to judge this summer.