12 Facts About The Outsiders That Will Stay Gold

Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

Most every school library from the 1960s on stocked at least one well-read copy of The Outsiders, S.E. Hinton’s 1967 coming-of-age novel about teenagers in Tulsa who struggle with class distinction and the violence it provokes. If they didn’t, that’s because districts frequently banned it for its depictions of gang assaults and underage drinking.

For the 1983 film adaptation, director Francis Ford Coppola cast a group of actors—including Patrick Swayze, Tom Cruise, Emilio Estevez, Ralph Macchio, Matt Dillon, and Rob Lowe—who would go on to become some of the most recognizable performers of the decade. On the 35th anniversary of the film's release, check out some facts on the bizarre audition process, Hinton's cameo, and how Bart Simpson had something to do with a sequel.

1. THE BOOK WAS WRITTEN BY A TEENAGER.

S.E. Hinton was Susan Eloise Hinton, a 15-year-old high school student in Tulsa who had grown bored with the trite plots of books targeted to her demographic. “Mary Jane wants to go to the prom with the football hero … didn’t ring true to my life,” Hinton told The New Yorker in 2014. So she decided to write a more authentic look at teenage struggles. When she finished, she handed the manuscript to a friend’s mother, who had contacts at a book agent in New York. Editors suggested she go by “S.E.” so readers could infer a male author was responsible for the testosterone-heavy characters. It has sold more than 14 million copies.  

2. A HIGH SCHOOL CLASS CONVINCED FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA TO ADAPT IT.

By the 1970s, The Outsiders had become standard-issue reading material in high school English classes, where it packed an undeniable emotional punch by zeroing in on an adolescent’s search for an identity. A librarian in Fresno, California’s Lone Star School named Jo Ellen Misakian noticed that even ardent non-readers were picking up the book: She decided to have her 7th and 8th grade students sign a petition for director Francis Ford Coppola to turn it into a feature. Because Misakian mistakenly sent it to a New York address that Coppola rarely used, the letter—with the paperback of the novel included—grabbed his attention. He contacted Hinton and agreed to adapt the work.

3. COPPOLA’S AUDITION PROCESS WAS BONKERS.

In his 2011 autobiography, Stories I Only Tell My Friends, Rob Lowe recalled that auditioning for the film was an unusual experience. Instead of private meetings with actors for specific roles, Coppola would herd up to 30 of them into a room at one time and ask them to sift through the different parts. Dennis Quaid tried out for Darrel, the paternal older brother role that went to Patrick Swayze; Scott Baio read for Sodapop, which went to Lowe. Despite the teenage-heavy ensemble, Kate Capshaw also auditioned—she was nearly 30 at the time.

4. COPPOLA KEPT THE “GREASERS” AWAY FROM THE “SOCS.”


Warner Bros.

In The Outsiders, the Curtis boys are part of a clique of “Greasers,” lower-income Tulsa residents in perpetual conflict with the socials, or “Socs,” the sweater-sporting affluent kids. To perpetuate that rift, Coppola divided the actors in Tulsa according to their fictional social status: the Socs got better rooms, more spending money, free room service, and leather-bound scripts. 

5. COPPOLA SHOT THE ENTIRE MOVIE ON VIDEO FIRST.

To help the cast establish their rapport and to block shots, Coppola spent two full weeks during production shooting the entire movie on videotape before he began using film. It’s believed to be one of the first times that technique was incorporated into a film schedule. While that footage rarely turns up, Ralph Macchio had a similar experience in 1984, when director John Avildsen shot rehearsals for The Karate Kid on a home video camera

6. THE POSTER WAS A CANDID SHOT.


Amazon

Even if you haven’t seen the movie, you’ve likely come across a pretty iconic shot of all the principal actors gathered together on the theatrical release poster. There’s a reason everyone is laughing: According to Lowe, the cast was sitting for a photographer when actor Leif Garrett (who played Soc Bob Sheldon) walked into the room just as the crew was throwing out a local for grabbing food from the catering table. When Macchio heard the crewman tell the intruder the treats were for the actors, he yelled, “Yeah, Leif, you hear that—those are for the actors!” Everyone’s reaction was captured on film.

7. THE RUMBLE GOT PRETTY INTENSE.

The all-out war between the Greasers and the Socs reaches a fever pitch at the end of the film, when the two groups meet for a rain-soaked rumble in the mud. According to Emilio Estevez, so many bodies were being flung around in the week Coppola took to shoot it that he cut his lip, Howell got a black eye, and Tom Cruise broke his thumb.  

8. HINTON HAS A CAMEO.

Although Coppola’s production company, Zoetrope, was so low on funds at the time of optioning The Outsiders that they could pay Hinton only $500 of her $5000 rights fee, the author was friendly with the director and agreed to shoot a cameo. Hinton appears in the scene where Dallas (Matt Dillon) is being looked after by a nurse. Hinton also had cameos in other adaptations of her work, including 1983’s Rumble Fish (which Coppola also directed) and 1982's Tex.

9. COPPOLA BROUGHT THE CAST BACK TO THE SCHOOL.

When the film premiered in March 1983, Coppola and Warner Bros. dispatched Dillon, Swayze, Macchio, Howell, and Garrett to Lone Star School to visit with students. Later, a private screening was held for Misakian and the 104 students who had written to Coppola in 1980. (The New York Times reported that they “shrieked and giggled” every time any of the above misplaced his shirt onscreen.) 

10. COPPOLA ADDED OVER 20 MINUTES TO THE DVD RELEASE.


Warner Bros.

Although the movie was generally well-received by both fans of the book and film critics, some took it to task for omitting key scenes from the novel and rearranging others. In 2005, Coppola re-released the film on DVD as The Outsiders: The Complete Novel, which inserted roughly 22 minutes of unseen footage and added a contemporaneous soundtrack that replaced the original’s musical score. That may not have sat well with his composer: his father, Carmine Coppola, had recorded the theme to the 1983 release.

11. IT WAS (BRIEFLY) A TV SHOW INTRODUCED BY BART SIMPSON.

Could The Outsiders work without Swayze, Lowe, Cruise, Estevez, Macchio, Howell, and Dillon? No, it could not. But Fox tried anyway. In 1990, the network was looking to extend the number of nights it was broadcasting and attempted to continue Hinton’s story with a television series that secured the cooperation of Coppola. While the young cast was full of mostly unrecognizable faces, it did cast Billy Bob Thornton as a bar owner; David Arquette took over Estevez's role of Two-Bit and Jay R. Ferguson, Mad Men's Stan Rizzo, played Ponyboy. Although the premiere (featuring a short introduction by Bart Simpson) drew an impressive rating, interest dropped off quickly and the network canceled it after just 13 episodes.

12. A MUSICIAN WANTS TO SAVE THE CURTIS’S ORIGINAL HOUSE.


Warner Bros.

Avowed Outsiders fan and hip-hop artist Danny Boy O’Connor (House of Pain) stopped by the Tulsa, Oklahoma house that acted as the fictional residence of the Curtis family in 2009. When he saw the property was being neglected, he and some friends gathered enough money to buy it. O’Connor is now asking for donations to pay for the $75,000 in renovations it needs. If successful, he plans to turn it into an Outsiders museum. If you want to chip in, you can visit O’Connor’s GoFundMe. Do it for Johnny.

10 Things You Might Not Know About Robert De Niro

RALPH GATTI, AFP/Getty Images
RALPH GATTI, AFP/Getty Images

Robert De Niro is part of the pantheon of independent-minded filmmakers who cut through Hollywood noise in the 1970s with edgier fare to create what became known as “The New Hollywood.” Following stints with Brian De Palma and Roger Corman, De Niro teamed up with Martin Scorsese for the first time with 1973's Mean Streets, which launched a fruitful artistic collaboration that has produced some of the best movies of the past half-century.

Even after his shift into commercial comedies like Meet the Parents, “dedication” has remained De Niro’s watchword. The two-time Oscar winner has earned Hollywood legend status with panache and bone-deep portrayals. Here are 10 facts about the filmmaker on his 75th birthday. (Yes, we’re talkin’ to you.)

1. HIS FIRST ROLE WAS IN A STAGING OF THE WIZARD OF OZ—AT AGE 10.

Robert De Niro got bit by the acting bug early. He threatened to thrash a hippopotamus from top to bottom-us as the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz at the tender age of 10. (This is the remake and casting the world needs right now.)

2. HE DROPPED OUT OF HIGH SCHOOL TO PURSUE ACTING.

Robert De Niro arrives at the UK premiere of epic war drama film 'The Deer Hunter', UK, 28th February 1979
John Minihan, Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

De Niro’s mother, Virginia Admiral, was a painter whose work was part of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, and his father, Robert De Niro, Sr., was a celebrated abstract expressionist painter. So the apple falling into drama school instead of the art studio still isn’t that far from the tree. Having already gotten a youthful dose of stage life, De Niro quit his private high school to try to become an actor. He first went to the nonprofit HB Studio before studying under Stella Adler and, later, The Actors Studio.

3. HE’S A DUAL CITIZEN OF THE UNITED STATES AND ITALY.

De Niro is American, Italian-American, and, as of 2004, Italian. The country bestowed honorary citizenship upon De Niro as an honor in recognition of his career, but it wasn’t all smooth sailing to the passport office. A group called the Order of the Sons of Italy in America strongly protested the Italian government’s plan due to De Niro’s frequent portrayal of negative Italian-American stereotypes.

4. HE GAINED 60 POUNDS FOR RAGING BULL.

Preparing to play the misfortune-laden boxing champ Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull required two major things from De Niro: training and gaining. For the latter, De Niro ate his way through Europe during a four-month binge of ice cream and pasta. His 60-pound-gain was dramatic enough that it concerned Martin Scorsese. It was one way to show dedication to a role, but the training element was even more impressive. De Niro got so good at boxing that when LaMotta set up several professional-level sparring bouts for the actor, De Niro won two of them.

5. HE AND MARLON BRANDO ARE THE ONLY ACTORS TO WIN OSCARS FOR PLAYING THE SAME CHARACTER.

De Niro won his first Oscar in 1975 for The Godfather: Part II, for portraying the younger version of Vito Corleone—the wizened capo played by Marlon Brando, who also won an Oscar for the role (Brando’s came in 1973, for The Godfather). No other pair of actors has managed the feat, although Jeff Bridges came close in 2010 when he was nominated for playing Rooster Cogburn in Joel and Ethan Coen's True Grit (a role originated by John Wayne in Henry Hathaway’s 1969 movie of the same name). Oddly enough, Bridges was in contention for the role of Travis Bickle, the role that earned De Niro his first Oscar nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role.

6. HE DROVE A CAB TO PREPARE FOR TAXI DRIVER.

If you’re looking for commitment to a role, ask Hack #265216. De Niro got a taxicab driver’s license to study up to play Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver and spent several weekends cruising around New York City picking up fares. It’s possible that having his teeth filed down for Cape Fear is the most intense transformation he’s undergone for a role, but picking up a part-time job to live the lonely life of Bickle is more humane.

7. ONE OF HIS FILMS POSTPONED ONE OF HIS OSCAR WINS.

The 53rd Academy Awards—where De Niro won for playing Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull—were originally scheduled for March 30, 1981 but were postponed until the following day because of an assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan. The would-be assassin, John Hinckley, Jr., claimed the attack was intended to impress Jodie Foster, who Hinckley grew obsessed with after watching Taxi Driver.

8. HE LAUNCHED THE TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL IN THE WAKE OF 9/11.

Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal speak onstage at the 'Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives' Premiere during the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival at Radio City Music Hall on April 19, 2017 in New York City
Theo Wargo, Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival

Producer Jane Rosenthal, philanthropist Craig M. Hatkoff, and De Niro founded the Tribeca Film Festival in 2001 as a showcase for independent films that would hopefully “spur the economic and cultural revitalization of lower Manhattan” after the devastation of the 9/11 terror attacks. With its empire state of mind, the inaugural festival in 2002 featured a “Best of New York Series” handpicked by Martin Scorsese and drew an astonishing 150,000 attendees.

9. HE WAS ONCE INTERROGATED BY FRENCH POLICE CONCERNING A PROSTITUTION RING.

One of the most bizarre chapters in De Niro’s life came when he was publicly named in the investigation of a prostitution ring in Paris. The 1998 incident included a lengthy interrogation session (De Niro filed an official complaint) and a pile of paparazzi waiting for him when he left the prosecutor’s office. De Niro railed against the entire country, vowing to return his Legion of Honour and telling Le Monde newspaper that, "I will never return to France. I will advise my friends against going to France.” (He had cooled off enough by 2011 to act as the Cannes Film Festival’s jury president.)

10. HE LOVED THE CAT(S) IN MEET THE PARENTS.

Meet the Parents’s Mr. Jinx (Jinxy!) was played by two Himalayans named Bailey and Misha, and De Niro fell in love with them. He played with them between scenes, kept kibble in his pocket for them, and asked director Jay Roach to have Mr. Jinx in as many scenes as possible.

National Portrait Gallery Celebrates Aretha Franklin With Week-Long Exhibition

Courtesy of Angela Pham BFA
Courtesy of Angela Pham BFA

With the passing of Aretha Franklin on August 16, 2018, the world has lost one of its most distinctive voices—and personalities. As celebrities and fans share their memories of the Queen of Soul and what her music meant to them, the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery will pay tribute to the legendary songstress's life with a week-long exhibition of her portrait.

Throughout her career, Franklin earned some of the music industry's highest accolades, including 18 Grammy Awards. In 1987, she became the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Nearly 30 years later, in 2015, the National Portrait Gallery fêted Franklin with the Portrait of a Nation Prize, which recognizes "the accomplishments of notable contemporary Americans whose portraits reside in the National Portrait Gallery collection." (Madeline Albright, Spike Lee, and Rita Moreno are among some of its recent recipients.)

Milton Glaser's lithograph of Aretha Franklin, which is displayed at The National Portrait Gallery
© Milton Glaser

Franklin's portrait was the creation of noted graphic designer Milton Glaser, who employed "his characteristic kaleidoscope palette and innovative geometric forms to convey the creative energy of Franklin's performances," according to the Gallery. The colorful lithographic was created in 1968, the very same year that the National Portrait Gallery opened.

Glaser's image will be installed in the "In Memoriam" section of the museum, which is located on the first floor, on Friday, August 17 and will remain on display to the public through August 22, 2018. The Gallery is open daily from 11:30 a.m. until 7 p.m. and admission is free.

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