Amanda Peterson
Phyllis Amanda Peterson

(1971-07-08)July 8, 1971
DiedJuly 3, 2015(2015-07-03) (aged 43)
Greeley, Colorado, U.S.
Cause of deathAccidental drug overdose[1]
Other namesMandy Peterson
EducationUniversity High School
Alma materMiddlebury College
University of Northern Colorado
Colorado State University
Years active1979–1994
Known forCan't Buy Me Love
Spouse(s)Joseph Robert Skutvik
David Hartley

Phyllis Amanda Peterson (July 8, 1971 – July 3, 2015) was an American actress, most known for her role as Cindy Mancini in the 1987 comedy film Can't Buy Me Love.

Early life

Peterson was born in Greeley, Colorado,[2] the youngest of three children born to James Peterson, an ear, nose, and throat specialist, and his wife Sylvia.[3] She had two older siblings: a sister, Anne Marie and a brother, James, Jr.[4] Peterson began acting as a child and used the name "Amanda Peterson" in a professional capacity. In the beginning of her career, she used the name "Mandy Peterson", which was what friends and family called her.[5]


Peterson made her stage debut at age seven as Gretl in the University of Northern Colorado's stage production of The Sound of Music.[4] At 11, she won a role in the musical film Annie as a dancing extra. Peterson went on to land guest spots on Father Murphy and Silver Spoons.[6] She also appeared in more than 50 television commercials.[4] During the 1983–84 television season, she co-starred as Squirt Sawyer on the NBC drama series Boone.[7] Boone was canceled after one season.[8]

In 1985, Peterson won her first starring role in the feature film Explorers. The next year, she co-starred as "Sunny Sisk" in the Emmy Award-winning miniseries A Year in the Life. The miniseries was highly acclaimed; it was the third-highest-rated miniseries of the 1986–87 U.S. television season with a 16.9/27 rating/share.[9] Later it was adapted into a television series of the same name and aired on NBC from 1987 to 1988.[10] For her work on the series, Peterson won a Young Artist Award for Best Young Actress Starring in a Television Drama Series.[4] Despite being well received, A Year in the Life was canceled after one season.[11]

In 1986, 15-year-old Peterson was cast in the teen comedy Boy Rents Girl, opposite Patrick Dempsey. The film was shot on location in Tucson, Arizona. The title was later changed to Can't Buy Me Love after producers secured the rights to The Beatles' 1964 song of the same name.[12] Released in the summer of 1987, Can't Buy Me Love received mixed reviews but became the sleeper hit of the summer.[7] After its release, Peterson and Dempsey obtained teen idol status and subsequently appeared on the covers of teen magazines such as Tiger Beat and Teen Beat.

In a September 2015 interview with talk show The Doctors, Peterson's family revealed that she was raped at age 15 and had not disclosed it at the time.[13]

In 1988, Peterson co-starred in a Roger Corman production, the post-apocalyptic film The Lawless Land, followed by a role in the 1989 teen drama Listen to Me.[6][14] Later that year, she returned to Greeley, where she graduated from University High School (while working in Los Angeles, she was privately tutored).[12][15] Shortly after graduating, she starred in the television movie Fatal Charm. That fall, Peterson enrolled at Middlebury College.[14] While on semester break, she appeared in a guest spot on Doogie Howser, M.D.[16] Later that year, Peterson dropped out of Middlebury College.[3] In 1994, she returned to acting in the fantasy film WindRunner in a role alongside Jason Wiles. It was Peterson's final onscreen role.[17]

Later years

In 1994, Peterson retired from the entertainment industry and returned to her hometown of Greeley. According to her father, she left Hollywood to "choose a new path in her life." After briefly attending Middlebury College, she enrolled at Colorado State University for a year.[3] Peterson later studied at the University of Northern Colorado.[4] In 2012, she briefly modeled for a Colorado photographer.[18]

Peterson was twice married and had two children.[19] She was first married to Joseph Robert Skutvik. After their divorce, she married David Hartley.[20] Peterson and Hartley were reportedly divorced at the time of her death.[3]

Between October 2000 and May 2012, Peterson was arrested five times for the offenses of third-degree assault, harassment, DUI, and possession of drug paraphernalia and suspicion of distributing a Schedule 2 controlled substance.[21] From September to December 2005, she spent nearly three months in jail.[22] Peterson's last arrests were for a misdemeanor DUI and possession of narcotics equipment charge in April 2012, and suspicion of child abuse in May 2012, which was later dropped.[21] According to her father, she had previously struggled with drug issues, but was drug-free at the time of her death and had become "quite religious."[3] He also said that, in recent years, Peterson had had sleep apnea and bouts of pneumonia and sinusitis.[23] For the last three years of her life, Peterson was receiving disability benefits and lived alone in an apartment in Greeley.[3]


On July 3, 2015, Peterson was reported missing.[24] She was found dead at her home five days before turning 44.[25] Her body was discovered on July 5 by police when her family became concerned after Peterson missed a scheduled family dinner.[3] While the Greeley police did not comment on specific details due to an ongoing investigation, they said Peterson's apartment door was unlocked but there were no signs of foul play.[2][21][23]

During an interview with Entertainment Tonight shortly after Peterson's death, her mother stated that while her daughter had issues with drugs when she was younger, she believed her to be drug-free when she died and that her death "was not in any way a drug thing."[26]

An autopsy to determine the cause of Peterson's death was scheduled by the Weld County coroner for July 6[2][4] and the results of the autopsy and toxicology tests were released on September 2, 2015. The medical examiner determined that Peterson died of an accidental drug overdose.[1] According to the coroner's report, Peterson had undergone a hysterectomy shortly before her death and was prescribed Gabapentin for post-surgical pain management. She was taking morphine at the time of her death; according to the report, she obtained the drug from a friend a week before she died.[27] The coroner's report concluded Peterson experienced a "morphine effect" that triggered respiratory failure leading to her death.[1]

Peterson was later cremated. Her other family members listed are her survivors.


Year Title Role Notes
1982 Annie Dancer/Singer Credited as Mandy Peterson
1982 Father Murphy Elizabeth Episode: "Matthew and Elizabeth"
1982 Silver Spoons Sally Frumbel Episode: "Takin' a Chance on Love"
1983 Boone Squirt Sawyer 13 episodes
1984 Best Kept Secrets Gretchen Television film
1985 Explorers Lori Swenson
1985 And the Children Shall Lead Jenny Television film
1986 A Year in the Life Sunny Sisk Miniseries
1986 Carly Mills Trisha Mills Television film
A Year in the Life Sunny Sisk 22 episodes
1987 Can't Buy Me Love Cindy Mancini
1988 The Lawless Land Diana
1989 Listen to Me Donna Lumis
1989 Love and Betrayal Stephanie Television film
Alternative title: Throw Away Wives
1990 Doogie Howser, M.D. Bernadette Callen Episode: "Vinnie's Blind Date"
1990 Fatal Charm Valerie Television film
1991 Hell Hath No Fury Michelle Ferguson Television film
1991 Posing: Inspired by Three Real Stories Abigail Baywood Television film
Alternative title: I Posed for Playboy
1994 WindRunner Julie Moore Alternative title: WindRunner: A Spirited Journey

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Title of work Result
1984 Young Artist Award Best Young Actress in a New Television Series Boone Nominated
1985 Best Young Supporting Actress in a Daytime or Nighttime Drama Boone Nominated
1986 Best Starring Performance by a Young Actress – Motion Picture Explorers Nominated
1987 Best Young Actress Starring in a Television Drama Series[4] A Year in the Life Won
1988 Best Young Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy Can't Buy Me Love Nominated

See also


  1. ^ a b c Enrich Dowd, Kathy (September 2, 2015). "Can't Buy Me Love Star Amanda Peterson Died of an Accidental Drug Overdose: Report". Retrieved September 2, 2015.
  2. ^ a b c "Greeley-born actress Amanda Peterson found dead in her apartment". The Tribune (Greeley, Colorado). July 9, 2015. Retrieved July 9, 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Ostrow, Joanne (July 12, 2015). "Amanda Peterson: The life and times of a Colorado teen star". Retrieved July 25, 2015.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g "Phyllis Amanda Peterson". Allnutt Funeral Service. July 9, 2015. Archived from the original on July 14, 2015. Retrieved July 9, 2015.
  5. ^ Cofas, Alleynah (July 7, 2015). "Friends of Amanda Peterson remember her down-to-earth demeanor and kindness". Retrieved July 25, 2015.
  6. ^ a b Blank, Ed (August 19, 1987). "Amanda Peterson celebrity at age 16". The Pittsburgh Press. p. B4. Retrieved December 10, 2012.
  7. ^ a b "Top TV Teens". Toledo Blade. April 6, 1988. p. 20. Retrieved December 10, 2012.
  8. ^ Terrace, Vincent (2008). Encyclopedia of Television Shows, 1925 through 2010 (2 ed.). McFarland. p. 124. ISBN 978-0-786-48641-0.
  9. ^ (Three or more parts.) TV Guide magazine, June 27–July 3, 1987, issue #1787. All figures are based on the Nielsen ratings. The rating represents the percentage of the 87.4 million TV households tuned to a station (sets watching this show). The share represents the percentage of TV sets tuned to a television station at the time of the broadcast (sets in use)
  10. ^ Boone, Mike (December 17, 1986). "A Year in the Life: A television miniseries that has everything". The Montreal Gazette. Montreal, Quebec, Canada. p. E8. Retrieved July 25, 2015.
  11. ^ Collins Swanson, Dorothy (2000). The Story of the Viewers for Quality Television: From Grassroots to Prime Time. Syracuse University Press. pp. 93–94. ISBN 0-815-60649-4.
  12. ^ a b Blank, Ed (August 19, 1987). "Amanda Peterson celebrity at age 16". The Pittsburgh Press. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. p. B4. Retrieved July 25, 2015.
  13. ^ Vokes-Dudgeon, Sophie (September 15, 2015). "Amanda Peterson Suffered Rape at 15, Late Actress' Family Reveals Heartbreaking Secret". Us Weekly. Retrieved September 16, 2015.
  14. ^ a b "Another actress heads for campus". The Bryan Times. Bryan, Ohio. May 16, 1989. p. 31. Retrieved July 25, 2015.
  15. ^ "'1st and Ten' adds ex-Falcon star' Cher's take in Sands act: $150,000". Lakeland Ledger. Lakeland, Florida. April 17, 1989. p. 2A. Retrieved July 25, 2015.
  16. ^ "Money makes it harder to kill". Star-News. Wilmington, North Carolina. February 22, 1990. p. 2D. Retrieved July 25, 2015.
  17. ^ Kimble, Lindsay (July 13, 2015). "Amanda Peterson's Family Bids Farewell to Tragic Can't Buy Me Love Star with Emotional Tribute Video". Retrieved July 25, 2015.
  18. ^ Kimble, Lindsay (July 8, 2015). "Inside Amanda Peterson's Final Photo Shoot: 'She Had the Greatest Smile,' Photographer Tells People". Retrieved July 25, 2015.
  19. ^ Variety Staff (July 6, 2015). "Amanda Peterson, 'Can't Buy Me Love' Star, Dies at 43". Variety. Retrieved July 6, 2015.
  20. ^ Moraski, Lauren (July 8, 2015). "Patrick Dempsey remembers "Can't Buy Me Love" co-star Amanda Peterson". CBS News. Archived from the original on July 10, 2015. Retrieved July 10, 2015.
  21. ^ a b c Moylan, Joe (July 8, 2015). "Greeley actress Amanda Peterson had a criminal record, may have struggled with substance abuse". Retrieved July 30, 2015.
  22. ^ Keating, Caitlin (July 8, 2015). "The Heartbreaking Downfall of a Hollywood Golden Girl: Amanda Peterson's Troubled Past Before Her Death at Age 43".
  23. ^ a b Child, Ben (July 7, 2015). "Amanda Peterson, star of Can't Buy Me Love, dies aged 43". Retrieved July 25, 2015.
  24. ^ "'Can't Buy Me Love' Star Amanda Peterson Remembered by Sarah Michelle Gellar, Scott Foley, Lance Bass". TheWrap. July 7, 2015. Retrieved July 16, 2019.
  25. ^ Cummings, William (July 5, 2015). "'Can't Buy Me Love' star Amanda Peterson dies at 43". Retrieved July 30, 2015.
  26. ^ Ungerman, Alex (July 7, 2015). "Amanda Peterson's Mom Remembers Their Last Day Together: She Was in 'Very Good Spirits'". Retrieved July 25, 2015.
  27. ^ Moylan, Joe (September 2, 2015). "Weld coroner: Amanda Peterson died from accidental morphine overdose". Retrieved September 2, 2015.