Molly Ringwald is alive and well and living in Paris.

A decade ago she was everyone’s favorite all-American teen-ager, thanks to her winning performances in John Hughes’ popular comedies: “Sixteen Candles,” “The Breakfast Club” and “Pretty in Pink.” But two years ago the actress packed her bags and left Los Angeles for the City of Light.

“I went to Paris a couple of years ago to work,” Ringwald explains. “I was just so happy there. It was during the summer and the sun goes down at 10 at night. The whole city just seemed alive. I wanted to see what it felt like living outside of America and get a different perspective.”

Ringwald acknowledges it’s been a bit tough playing the expatriate role, mainly because of the language barrier. But she’s currently going to French class four hours a day. “I am getting to be fairly bilingual. Living in Paris has its own set of problems I have to deal with, but those problems, compared with living in L.A., to me are much better. Living as a celebrity or a famous person in L.A. can really get you down after a while.”


And she desperately craved a a normal life. “The films that I did were released in France, but they didn’t have the impact, obviously, they had here because all of the John Hughes films were so American. So I can walk around and just be normal. I can breathe .”

Ringwald’s in Los Angeles to visit her family and promote her latest project, “The Stand.” ABC’s ambitious eight-hour miniseries of the Stephen King novel chronicles a future world where a deadly flu has wiped out most of the population. The survivors are divided into two camps: those who seek a new beginning on Earth and those who are loyal to a satanic demon in blue jeans named Randall Flagg (Jamey Sheridan). Ringwald, Gary Sinise, Ray Walston, Rob Lowe, Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee are among the benevolent survivors.

This late afternoon, Ringwald is nursing a cup of coffee at the Bistro Gardens in Studio City. She’s definitely grown up. In fact, at age 26, there’s an air of European sophistication about the actress these days. Her hair, which she dyed red in the ‘80s, is back to its natural dark brown. Her trendy, often outrageous, clothes have given way to a tailored, stylish look.

Lighting up a cigarette, she acknowledges she “kind of just turned off” inside during her heyday. “Life was happening around me. I can’t really say how much I felt, because I couldn’t. It was overwhelming. I was just caught in a tornado that was going very fast and uncontrollably. It was nothing I planned. I am glad (the movies) did well.”

But at the same time, she says, their success “kind of stunted me. Everything came to a screeching halt when it was time to grow up. That’s hard. It’s hard enough to grow up, anyway. The normal thing is to work your way, to train, to prepare yourself for what you want to do. You are not supposed to accomplish it at that age. I had to deal with growing out of those movies and growing up. It was tough. If I hadn’t moved to France, I would have gone somewhere.”

Her post-Hughes films, including “Betsy’s Wedding,” “The Pick-Up Artist” and “King Lear” have not performed well at the box office. But Ringwald doesn’t regret making any of those films.

“I have a million different people telling me what I should do,” Ringwald says matter-of-factly. “ I think I need to do what I feel like I should. Those films (I did) were interesting to me. Some of them didn’t turn out the way I wanted them to turn out. I don’t so much regret the choices that I made. There was a reason for it. Maybe now, maybe knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t have made the same choices. But I think everything is a learning experience.”

Ringwald laughs. “Let’s face it, actors are severely overpaid anyway. It’s not like I need to make a film and have it make a ton of money. That’s not what I need to survive. I think what I need to survive is to do things I feel good about, that are interesting to me, and I feel like I am challenging myself, like I am working myself.”

And she doesn’t necessarily mean just acting. “If I can sit down and write and express myself in any way artistically, I feel like it is worthwhile,” Ringwald says. “I’ve always been writing since I was young. My mother told me there were three things I excelled at when I was young and that was singing, writing and acting. It just happens that one of them took off and I became known as that. But writing is something that interests me a lot.”

Ringwald has continued acting since moving to Paris, but in very non-commercial projects, including a French-English production called “Seven Sundays,” which, she says, will be released here later this year.

Ringwald took the decidedly high-profile “The Stand,” she says, because she needed to balance the non-commercial “with things people see. People get very testy with me sometimes when they see me on the street. They say, ‘Why haven’t I seen you in something?’ They are mad because I was such a staple in people’s minds. I thought this would be a chance to do something people would be able to see, and then I can still do all the other stuff.”

“Stephen King’s The Stand” airs Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday at 9 p.m. on ABC.