Whether or not you knew him best as Ethan Randall -- the name he acted under at the start of his career -- if you were a girl growing up in the '90s you probably sighed more than a few times over then-teenage actor Ethan Embry. Adept at playing mop-topped snooty juveniles in early '90s flicks like Dutch and A Far Off Place, once Embry hit 1995 he moved beyond the kid flicks into teen idol territory, even if he tended to play the sweet-natured sidekick while others nabbed the spotlight. Then again, it was one of Embry's most endearing, adorable roles that sealed his place in my movie crush catalogue for all time -- his turn as the happy-go-lucky, Gwar-loving, Empire Records employee Mark.
As the hyperactive and slightly off-kilter store employee with a mane of curly golden ringlets and dreams of rock 'n' roll stardom, Embry's Mark was arguably the one Empire Records character designed purely to be loved by the audience. Everyone else had their issues: Lucas (Rory Cochrane) was pretentious, Gina (Renee Zellweger) was a slut, AJ (Johnny Whitworth) couldn't muster the courage to tell Corey (Liv Tyler) he loved her, closet speed addiction and all... but Mark was eternally smiley, even when that batch of pot brownies made the Gwar music video come to life and threaten to kill him.
Gwar meets Mark after the jump...
If you're not quite convinced, answer me this: Who doesn't crack a smile when Mark shrugs off his worries and glides, beaming, down the staircase to usher in the most wonderful day of the year, Rex Manning Day? Or when he waxes poetic about his beloved band -- a band called Marc? With all of the dramarama floating around Empire Records over the course of the day, Mark is the one who keeps us all happy and hopeful. Boys with squeaky voices and short attention spans have never been cuter.
Empire Records may not have been a box office hit -- or even profitable or acclaimed -- but by the time I hit high school, I'd seen it dozens of times. It was the first VHS I ever owned. It made working for minimum wage in a record store seem, as one trailer said, like the best job in the world. (As long as you were working for a store like Empire Records and not, you know, a Music Town.)
In the years that followed, my Embry crush grew stronger with each supporting role he racked up. Just a year after Empire Records, Embry co-starred in the tragic pretty boys-at-sea drama White Squall (a film full of beautiful boys that's popped up numerous times in this column). Under his newly changed name, Embry also appeared as the bassist in the '60s rock drama That Thing You Do, a character who coincidentally is never referred to by name. As Rusty Griswold in 1997's Vegas Vacation, Embry continued to keep up his Hollywood profile, but his biggest starring role came a year later in 1998's post-high school flick Can't Hardly Wait, the first film that ever made me envious of Jennifer Love Hewitt. (Embry also starred in the smaller indie Dancer, Texas Pop. 81 with Can't Hardly Wait co-stars Peter Facinelli and Breckin Meyer, who had an uncredited role.)
But Embry left teen roles behind as he moved into the 2000s, and with the exception of one more adorable supporting role in 2002's Sweet Home Alabama (opposite former A Far Off Place co-star Reese Witherspoon), I've lost track of his movie crushability. You can still catch him in film (2008's Eagle Eye, this summer's The Witches of Oz 3D) and on Showtime's "Brotherhood." But if you prefer, trip down memory lane with these Mark-tastic Empire Records clips.