CLOSE
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

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.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
ANTONIN THUILLIER, AFP/Getty Images
arrow
entertainment
15 Things You Might Not Know About Chewbacca
ANTONIN THUILLIER, AFP/Getty Images
ANTONIN THUILLIER, AFP/Getty Images

Even if you don't know the name Peter Mayhew, you surely know about Chewbacca—the seven-foot tall Wookiee he has played onscreen for over three decades. In honor of Mayhew’s birthday, here are 15 things you might not know about Han Solo's BFF.

1. HE WAS INSPIRED BY GEORGE LUCAS'S DOG.

The character of Chewbacca was inspired by George Lucas’s big, hairy Alaskan malamute, Indiana. According to Lucas, the dog would always sit in the passenger seat of his car like a copilot, and people would confuse the dog for an actual person. And in case you're wondering: yes, that same dog was also the inspiration behind the name of one of Lucas’s other creations, Indiana Jones.

2. HIS NAME IS OF RUSSIAN ORIGIN.

The name “Chewbacca” was derived from the Russian word Sobaka (собака), meaning “dog.” The term “Wookiee” came from voice actor Terry McGovern; when he was doing voiceover tracks for Lucas's directorial debut, THX 1138, McGovern randomly improvised the line, “I think I just ran over a Wookiee” during one of the sessions.

3. HE'S REALLY, REALLY OLD.

In Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, Chewbacca is 200 years old.

4. PETER MAYHEW'S HEIGHT HELPED HIM LAND THE ROLE.

Peter Mayhew
Getty Images

Mayhew was chosen to play everyone’s favorite Wookiee primarily because of his tremendous height: He's 7 feet 3 inches tall.

5. HIS SUIT IS MADE FROM A MIX OF ANIMAL HAIRS, AND EVENTUALLY INCLUDED A COOLING SYSTEM.

For the original trilogy (and the infamous holiday special), the Chewbacca costume was made with a combination of real yak and rabbit hair knitted into a base of mohair. A slightly altered original Chewie costume was used in 1999's The Phantom Menace for the Wookiee senator character Yarua, and a new costume used during Episode III included a specially made water-cooling system so that Mayhew could wear the suit for long periods of time and not be overheated.

6. ONE OF STANLEY KUBRICK'S CLOSEST CREATORS DESIGNED THE COSTUME.

Chewbacca's costume
Getty Images

To create the original costume for Chewbacca, Lucas hired legendary makeup supervisor Stuart Freeborn, who was recruited because of his work on the apes in the “Dawn of Man” sequence in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. (Freeborn had also previously worked with Kubrick on Dr. Strangelove to effectively disguise Peter Sellers in each of his three roles in that film.) Freeborn would go on to supervise the creation of Yoda in The Empire Strike Back and Jabba the Hutt and the Ewoks in Return of the Jedi.

Lucas originally wanted Freeborn’s costume for Chewie to be a combination of a monkey, a dog, and a cat. According to Freeborn, the biggest problem during production with the costume was with Mayhew’s eyes. The actor’s body heat in the mask caused his face to detach from the costume's eyes and made them look separate from the mask.

7. FINDING CHEWBACCA'S VOICE WAS BEN BURTT'S FIRST ASSIGNMENT.

The first sound effect that director George Lucas hired now-legendary sound designer Ben Burtt for on Star Wars was Chewbacca’s voice (this was all the way back during the script stage). During the year of preliminary sound recording, Burtt principally used the vocalization of a black bear named Tarik from Happy Hollow Zoo in San Jose, California for Chewbacca. He would eventually synchronize those sounds with further walrus, lion, and badger vocalizations for the complete voice. The name of the language Chewbacca speaks came to be known in the Star Wars universe as “Shyriiwook.”

8. ROGER EBERT WAS NOT A FAN.

Roger Ebert was not a fan of the big guy. In his 1997 review of the Special Edition of The Empire Strikes Back, Ebert basically called Chewbacca the worst character in the series. “This character was thrown into the first film as window dressing, was never thought through, and as a result has been saddled with one facial expression and one mournful yelp," the famed critic wrote. "Much more could have been done. How can you be a space pilot and not be able to communicate in any meaningful way? Does Han Solo really understand Chewie's monotonous noises? Do they have long chats sometimes? Never mind.”

9. HE WAS ORIGINALLY MUCH MORE SCANTILY CLAD.

In the summary for Lucas’s second draft (dated January 28, 1975, when the film was called “Adventures of the Starkiller, Episode I: The Star Wars”), Chewbacca is described as “an eight-foot tall, savage-looking creature resembling a huge gray bushbaby-monkey with fierce ‘baboon’-like fangs. His large yellow eyes dominate a fur-covered face … [and] over his matted, furry body he wears two chrome bandoliers, a flak jacket painted in a bizarre camouflage pattern, brown cloth shorts, and little else.”

10. HIS DESIGN WAS BASED ON RALPH MCQUARRIE'S CONCEPT ART.

Chewbacca’s character design was based on concept art drawn by Ralph McQuarrie. Lucas had originally given McQuarrie a photo of a lemur for inspiration, and McQuarrie proceeded to draw the character as a female—but Chewbacca was soon changed to a male. McQuarrie based his furry design on an illustration by artist John Schoenherr, which was commissioned for Game of Thrones scribe George R.R. Martin’s short story “And Seven Times Never Kill a Man.” Sharp-eyed Chewbacca fans will recognize that Schoenherr’s drawing even includes what resembles the Wookiee’s signature weapon, the Bowcaster.

11. HE WON A LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD.

Fans were angry for decades that Chewie didn’t receive a medal of valor like Luke and Han did at the end of A New Hope, so MTV gave him a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 1997 MTV Movie Awards. The medal was given to Mayhew—decked out in full costume—by Princess Leia herself, actress Carrie Fisher. His acceptance speech, made entirely in Wookiee grunts, lasted 16 seconds. When asked why Chewbacca didn’t receive a medal at the end of the first film, Lucas explained, “Medals really don’t mean much to Wookiees. They don’t really put too much credence in them. They have different kinds of ceremonies.”

12. HE HAS A FAMILY BACK HOME.

According to the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special, Chewbacca had a wife named Mallatobuck, a son named Lumpawaroo (a.k.a. “Lumpy”), and a father named Attichitcuk (aka “Itchy”). In the special, Chewie and Han visit the Wookiee home planet of Kashyyyk to celebrate “Life Day,” a celebration of the Wookiee home planet’s diverse ecosystem. The special featured appearances and musical numbers by Jefferson Starship, Diahann Carroll, Art Carney, Harvey Korman, and Bea Arthur, and marked the first appearance of Boba Fett. Lucas hated the special so much that he limited its availability following its original airdate on November 17, 1978.

13. MAYHEW'S BIG FEET ARE WHAT KICKSTARTED HIS CAREER.

Mayhew’s path to playing Chewbacca began with a string of lucky breaks—and his big feet. A local London reporter was doing a story on people with big feet and happened to profile Mayhew. A movie producer saw the article and cast him—in an uncredited role—as Minoton the minotaur in the film Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger. One of the makeup men on Sinbad was also working on the Wookiee costume with Stuart Freeborn for Star Wars and suggested to the producers that they screen test Mayhew. The rest is Wookiee history.

14. MAYHEW KEPT HIS DAY JOB WHILE SHOOTING STAR WARS.

Peter Mayhew
Getty Images

During the shooting of Star Wars, Mayhew kept working his day job as a deputy head porter in a London hospital. Though he was let go because of his sudden varying shooting schedule at Elstree Studios, he was eventually hired back after production wrapped.

15. DARTH VADER COULD HAVE BEEN CHEWBACCA.

Darth Vader
Getty Images

David Prowse, the 6’5” actor who ended up portraying Darth Vader—in costume only—originally turned down the role of Chewbacca.  When given the choice between portraying the two characters, Prowse said, “I turned down the role of Chewbacca at once. I know that people remember villains longer than heroes. At the time I didn’t know I’d be wearing a mask, and throughout production I thought Vader’s voice would be mine.”

Additional Sources: Star Wars DVD special features
The Making of Star Wars: The definitive Story Behind the Original Film, J.W. Rinzler

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
entertainment
Shopping Malls Might be Dying, But Miami Is Planning to Build the Largest One in North America
iStock
iStock

Shopping malls and the "American Dream" are two things that are often said to be dead or dying, but one developer sees it a little differently.

Part shopping outlet and part theme park, American Dream Miami is slated to become the largest mall in North America when it opens in Miami-Dade County, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports. Indeed, "mall" might not be the best word for this mega-complex. In addition to retail outlets, plans are in the works for an aquarium, water park, ski slope, live performing arts center, Ferris wheel, submarine ride, skating rink, and 2000 hotel rooms.

The project is being developed by Triple Five Group, which operates the Mall of America in Minnesota and the West Edmonton Mall in Canada—currently the two current largest shopping and entertainment centers on the continent. It also owns the American Dream Meadowlands in New Jersey.

This announcement comes at a time when shopping malls are being shuttered across the country. More than 6400 stores closed last year, and another 3600 are expected to go out of business this year, according to Business Insider.

American Dream Miami will cost $4 billion and cover 6.2 million square feet. Developers hope it will attract tourists as well as local thrill seekers who want a closer entertainment option than Disney World and Universal Studios in Orlando. Developer Eskandar Ghermezian was reportedly inspired by a comment made by his daughter, who complained there was nothing to do in the area when it rained.

Critics of the project, however, called it "American Nightmare," arguing it would harm the environment and cause traffic congestion. The developer still needs to obtain several permits before construction can begin.

[h/t Sun-Sentinel]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios