Day 37: ‘The Outsiders’ 1983

‘The Outsiders’ 1983

When I saw The Outsiders back then, it didn’t mean anything to me. Culturally it was something that didn’t mean much to me in the same way that culturally Rebel without a Cause didn’t really resonate with me either. I knew there was a slim novel called The Outsiders, but that was about it. The film was okay but disappointing as I experienced it at the age of 21 or 22.

Thirty years later, in 2015 I came across Rob Lowe’s autobiography in one of the secondhand bookshops that I still frequent like some people go to casinos or brothels. I knew Rob Lowe from a favourite film of mine, an early one of his, About Last Night, written by a man who became a favourite writer of mine, and directed by a man who later became known to me as the co-creator of one of my favourite tv shows, thirtysomething. I also knew Lowe from Youngblood which I remember seeing at Village Cinemas on George Street when I was twenty-three. More recently I’d heard of the problems he encountered while making Bad Influence, with a director I really like, Curtis Hanson, and enjoyed his nice guy role on The West Wing. So, I bought his autobiography and read it.

What I didn’t expect to find in it were some really interesting stories about Francis Ford Coppola and The Outsiders. Rob Lowe was dismayed (pp. 163-165) that the scenes that brought more out of him as an actor, were nearly all gone. A character that was integral to the book was suddenly absent from the film.

I’ve read a lot of biographies and autobiographies but I was rarely moved by a situation as I was by this. Lowe was invited to a screening of the film, which had been significantly delayed from its original release date. He’s still on edge, wanting to know how his scenes turned out. He’s not at a screening with the other main actors, but a smaller one, a week later.

This is an extremely select, private advance screening. I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited or more nervous. I see the cinematographer Steve Burum.

“This movies gonna make a hundred million dollars”, he says to no one in particular, staring at his feet… It’s an old, run-down room, but as the lights do down and the first elements of sound come up, I know the equipment is state of the art…The… credits begin. I see my name… I read the list – Tommy, Patrick, Emil, Ralph, Matt, Tom – and I’m so proud of them.

As the credits unfold he realises that this is a teen movie like no other teen movie but when the first scene begins, it’s not the first scene in the script, it’s jumped about ten scenes, to the scene at the drive-in. Everything from the first 15 minutes of the film is gone:

I wait for the movie to stop and return to the beginning – the whole first fifteen minutes with the introduction to all the Greasers as we rescue Pony from the Socs… and the scene where Pony and I talk in bed about Mom and Dad and why we are orphans, and the other great scenes from the book that we had worked so hard on.