Francis Ford Coppola, director
After my 1982 film One from the Heart failed commercially, my production company American Zoetrope went bankrupt; it was a low period for me. But then I got a letter from Jo Ellen Misakian, an elementary school librarian in Fresno, California. It read: “We are all so impressed with the book, The Outsiders by SE Hinton, that a petition has been circulated calling for it to be made into a movie. We have chosen you to send it to them. “It contained about 15 pages of children’s signatures written in different colored pens. It was very moving.
I read Susan Hinton’s book, written when she was in her teens, and was touched by the level of regard these poor “Greaser” kids had for one another, even though they didn’t have the advantages of their “social” rivals. I have always believed that children have many more feelings than we think, and I wanted to make the story. When he was around 17 years old, he had been a theater counselor at summer camp, and the idea of hanging out with a half dozen kids in the country and making a movie seemed like a camp counselor again. I would forget my problems and laugh a little.
If my company was famous for anything, it was hiring new and unknown actors. I believed in the concept of open casting calls, but I tried to do it in a way that was appropriate for the movie we were making. For The Outsiders, he had all the candidates, which included Nicolas Cage, Mickey Rourke, Robert Downey Jr, Patrick Swayze, Dennis Quaid, Matt Dillon, Rob Lowe, and Emilio Estevez. sitting on benches in a circle Looking at each other trying the different parts. Nobody knows more about acting than other actors. Tom Cruise, who ended up in a small role, was an intense kid who would do anything to improve his role.
I am often mistaken for being too cooperative. I reissued The Outsiders because Warner Brothers felt it was long and that was a mistake. My father she had also written a lofty, romantic score for him. I wondered if it was the right choice, but I couldn’t tell him that. By the time I re-recorded the movie in 2005, he had passed away, and I balanced silly music with more than the Greasers would have heard: early Elvis Presleys and things like that.
There are parallels between the rivalry of the Socs and the Greasers, and the inequality in America today. Most of the evils of contemporary civilization are not caused by nature. Civilization makes up fictions that people will kill for, which is absurd. Why is there so much inequality when we are all one family?
C Thomas Howell, who played Ponyboy curtis
I had established myself in my teens as a junior rodeo competitor. The pressure for me was riding a bull, not meeting someone named Francis Ford Coppola or auditioning against the other guys. I only auditioned for one character, Ponyboy Curtis, and read with hundreds of actors in four or five cities. The only time I felt any pressure was when Norman Mailer’s son came to read it weeks after I felt like I had taken over the role. But I think it was actually more about relieving myself for half a day.
There was an envy that was intentionally marked on the actors of Soc and Greaser. We played soccer and basketball against each other, they had matching monkeys, while we showed up with what we brought from home. The Socs stayed on the 18th or 19th floor of the hotel, while the Greasers stayed on the 4th or 5th. It was like a frat house there; Some pretty crazy things happened. Once I got home at three in the morning after an 18-hour shift; I couldn’t wait to get into my room and go to sleep. And I walked in there, two of the Socs had turned everything upside down in my room.
We first rehearsed and shot the entire movie on video, which allowed us to get to know each other and build trust. He was very green at 15. He had been in ET, but had never played an advantage. Francis was a great communicator and he taught me how to make movies. He was patient enough not to just bother and tell you what to do. And I’d cook you pasta for lunch.
One lesson I learned was never, as an actor, cut a scene. During the scene at the drive-inAt one point Matt Dillon fell off his chair, and I turned to the camera and started laughing, thinking they would cut. But he told me that I shouldn’t stop, but should adapt to what was happening: create something very natural, more real and connected than anything that can be written. Later in the church scene the foot of a dolly fell to the ground, it was a really abandoned building, so I said, “I think there is a monster outside.” And Francis ended up cutting a shot of a raccoon outside. The movie is peppered with real moments like that.
I still get letters about The Outsiders because it is required reading in many schools. People tell me it’s their comfort film, or that they have a Stay Gold tattoo, or that they used the Robert Frost Poem for their wedding vows. They ask me all the time what the poem means. When I was 15, I had no idea what the circle of life represents. Even the two boys I do not understand what it means – they are only sharing a moment – until one of them dies. The fans are crying and upset because [Ralph Macchio’s character] Johnny is dead, and then they contact me and find out that Ponyboy is now 54 years old, and they cry even more.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism