What’s today, today? When Rory Cochrane uttered these words in the image of Lucas on Empire Records, a whole generation of music-obsessed viewers cheered.
Directed by Allan Moyle, the Empire Records album did not become a critical or commercial hit after its release in September 1995, but it has since become a cult favorite that even has its own celebration. (This will be Rex Manning Day, celebrated every year on April 8 in honor of the fictional pop star played by Maxwell Caulfield, who visited Empire Records.)
The film tells about a group of employees of an independent music store who are fighting to prevent its owner from selling it to a soulless chain called Music Town. Store manager Joe (Anthony LaPaglia) wants to buy it himself, but this plan is thwarted when Lucas loses $9,000 of the store’s money gambling in Atlantic City.
Lucas and his colleagues—Gina (Renee Zellweger), Corey (Liv Tyler), A.J. (Johnny Whitworth), Mark (Ethan Embry), Deb (Robin Tunney) and others—later hatch a fundraising scheme for the store. This time their plan worked, and Empire Records continues to live.
“For me, it’s really an all—encompassing, wonderful experience,” Embry told Complex in October 2015, reflecting on the best moments of making the film. “If you think about my favorite moments, most of them involve Allan, the director. I think one of the reasons why this is the case now is that he allowed us children to be children.”
The “Can’t Wait” actor was only 15 years old when he was shooting for Empire Records, and Tyler was only 17. Since they were still minors, they had to be supervised by adults on the set, and the companion of the “Armageddon” star was actually her colleague. Coyote Shivers, who played Berko, was married to her mom, Bebe Buell, at the time, which made him Tyler’s stepfather.
“When they chose me, they had no idea I was related to Liv Tyler,” Shivers told Consequence in September 2015. “When they found out, I almost lost my job because it showed the fact that I was well over 20.” (The age of the characters is not specified, but most of them seem to be in high school.)
Although Empire Records is beloved now, the actors are just as surprised as everyone else that the film has become such a hit among fans. “This is a feature of cult classics — they happen absolutely without anyone’s prediction,” Embry told Complex. “They live their own lives. It didn’t make any money on the first weekend. I thought this was the end. And then people started handing out VHS. Like, the life of a dollar basket.”
Keep scrolling to see what the Empire Records actors are doing right now.
In one of her first roles, Zellweger played Gina, who was Corey’s best friend. After Empire Records, she starred in films such as Jerry Maguire, One Truth and Nurse Betty. She received her first Oscar nomination in 2002 for her role in Bridget Jones’ Diary, which she reprised in two sequels. Later she received two Oscars: for “Cold Mountain” in 2003 and “Judy” in 2019. In 2022, she moved to television in the NBC crime drama “The Case of Pam.”
Zellweger briefly dated her co-star Cochran during the filming of Empire Records. Later, the “Miss Potter” actress was engaged to Jim Carrey from 1999 to 2000. She married Kenny Chesney in May 2005, but the marriage was dissolved four months later. The BAFTA winner has also been linked to Bradley Cooper and Doyle Bramhall II. In June 2021, she began dating Ant Anstead.
Tyler played Corey, the successful, college-bound object of AJ’s affections. Her career began shortly after Empire Records, when she got roles in the films “What You Do!”, “Inventing the Abbots” and “Armageddon” (with the theme music of her father Steven Tyler’s Aerosmith band). In 2001, she began playing Arwen in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. She also appeared in the films “The Incredible Hulk”, “Hallots”, “Astra Ad Astra” and “9-1-1: Lone Star”.
Tyler dated her co-star in Inventing the Abbotts, Joaquin Phoenix, from 1995 to 1998. From 2003 to 2008, she was married to Royston Langdon. In December 2004, the duo had a son, Milo. The Gunpowder alum dated sports agent David Gardner from 2014 to 2021. The duo has a son, Sailor, born in 2015, and a daughter, Lula, born in 2016.
Embry played Mark, an unlucky but cute clerk who dreamed of starting a band called “Mark”. He reunited with Tyler in the movie “What You Do!”. and later appeared in the films “I can’t Wait”, “Vacation in Vegas”, “Sweet Home, Alabama”, “Eagle” and “First Man”. His television work includes “C.S.I.: Miami Crime Scene,” “The Walking Dead,” “Sneaky Pete and Grace and Frankie.”
The actor of the “White Squall” has a common son, Cogian Sky, from his ex-wife Amelinda Smith, whom he divorced in 2002. Embry married Sunny Mabry in July 2005. The duo divorced in 2012, but they later reconciled and remarried in June 2015.
The South Carolina native played AJ, whose sole purpose on Rex Manning Day was to invite his longtime love Corey on a date. Whitworth reunited with Embry in “Can’t Wait” and later appeared in “Factory Girl”, “3:10 to Yuma”, “C.S.I.: Miami”, “Hundred” and “Blind Spot”.