15 Burning Facts About St. Elmo's Fire

Released a little over two weeks after the infamous New York Magazine article that dubbed its cast “The Brat Pack," St. Elmo’s Fire was the 1985 coming-of-age movie featuring Emilio Estevez, Ally Sheedy, and Judd Nelson that wasn’t The Breakfast Club.  It was the one about the uncertainty of life right after college, not the teenage angst of high school. It also was the one not made by John Hughes. On the occasion of its 30th anniversary, here are 15 things you might not know about St. Elmo's Fire.

1. IT WAS WRITTEN BY JOEL SCHUMACHER AND HIS ASSISTANT.

Carl Kurlander suffered from unrequited love with a waitress one summer while working as a bellhop at Chautauqua, New York’s St. Elmo hotel. He eventually turned the experience into a short story, which his college professor suggested he title St. Elmo’s Fire. By the time Kurlander had become writer-director Joel Schumacher’s assistant, he had turned it into a screenplay. The two then worked together to rewrite it.

2. THE STUDIO HATED THE TITLE.

Columbia Pictures ended up producing the movie, and sent a 35-page memo listing all of their issues with the proposed title and suggesting such alternatives as The Real World and Sparks.

3. ANTHONY EDWARDS AND LEA THOMPSON AUDITIONED.

The future stars had to find their fame a little later. Most young actors weren’t turned off by the script, even though one major studio head allegedly called the seven main characters "the most loathsome humans he had ever read on the page.”

4. JOHN HUGHES WAS A BIG HELP IN THE CASTING PROCESS, BOTH ON PURPOSE AND BY ACCIDENT.

Emilio Estevez, Ally Sheedy, and Judd Nelson were all strongly recommended for the movie by their Breakfast Club director. Schumacher “discovered” Demi Moore when she rushed past his office one day after Hughes stood her up for a meeting. Schumacher asked Kurlander to follow her to find out if she was an actress, believing she looked just like what the character of Jules should look like. Fortunately for them, she was; she had just spent a season on General Hospital.

5. MOORE AND ROB LOWE HAD MEMORABLE AUDITIONS.

Moore came in on a motorcycle for hers, with the tags still on her clothes. Lowe walked into his audition for Billy Hicks with a six-pack of Corona.

6. EMILIO ESTEVEZ WANTED TO PLAY BILLY HICKS.

He settled for playing Kirby Keger and dating Moore.

7. DEMI MOORE HAD TO GO TO REHAB BEFORE SHOOTING.

When she started showing up high for clothes fittings, Schumacher demanded that she get clean from drugs and alcohol to play Jules, who of course had a coke problem.

8. GETTING CAST AS DALE BIBERMAN JUMPSTARTED ANDIE MACDOWELL’S FILM CAREER.

Though the former model had appeared in 1984's Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes, she was never actually heard, as Glenn Close dubbed all of her dialogue. Schumacher hired her anyway, which she said changed her life.

9. MARE WINNINGHAM PLAYED A VIRGIN WHILE SHE WAS PREGNANT.

The 26-year-old actress was actually pregnant with her third child when she played Wendy Beamish. Winningham’s brother, Patrick, was also in the film; he played a member of Billy's band, The New Breed.

10. WENDY’S PARENTS WERE A DIVORCED COUPLE.

Martin Balsam and Joyce Van Patten, who played Wendy's parents in the movie, were actually married from 1957 to 1962. Their daughter, Talia Balsam, is also a noted actress who appeared on Mad Men with her husband, John Slattery. Balsam also holds the distinction of being the first Mrs. George Clooney (they married in 1989 and were divorced less than four years later).

11. “ST. ELMO’S FIRE (MAN IN MOTION)” WAS WRITTEN ABOUT A PARALYZED ATHLETE.

David Foster and John Parr were attempting to write a theme song for the film, but Parr wasn’t motivated enough by it to write lyrics. Foster brought the story of athlete Rick Hansen—who was traveling the world in his wheelchair in his “Man in Motion Tour” to promote spinal cord injury awareness—to Parr’s attention. Parr wrote the words to promote Hansen, but made it ambiguous enough so that it could also work for the movie.

12. GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY WOULDN’T ALLOW ANY FILMING ON ITS CAMPUS.

While the story was about a bunch of Georgetown grads, the university read the script and declined the production's request to shoot on campus. But the nearby University of Maryland stepped in and said yes. Still, the St. Elmo’s Bar is known to be based on The Tombs, a popular bar for Georgetown students.

13. JULES DID HAVE A FULL NAME.

According to the screenplay, it was meant to be Julianna VanPatten.

14. ANDREW MCCARTHY WASN’T MUCH OF A JOINER.

He spent his downtime listening to Bruce Springsteen on his Walkman. Estevez wrote screenplays during his breaks. Judd Nelson read Billy Budd while he was on set.

15. ALLY SHEEDY WAS "HORRIFIED" BY HER SEX SCENE.

It wasn't until the day of filming her steamy scene with McCarthy that Sheedy realized it wouldn’t be a simple fade out before any of the naked stuff happened (she wore a body suit). But both McCarthy and Schumacher made the process more comfortable. "He knew I felt awkward, and he shot it fast," Sheedy said of her director. "He didn't draw it out into this painful exercise at all." And a mishap actually added some laughter to the scene; when the shower door was pushed out of frame, it was an accident that stayed in the film, much like Sheedy’s reaction: "It was my real laugh there," she says.

10 Rad Gifts for Hikers

Greg Rosenke/Unsplash
Greg Rosenke/Unsplash

The popularity of bird-watching, camping, and hiking has skyrocketed this year. Whether your gift recipients are weekend warriors or seasoned dirtbags, they'll appreciate these tools and gear for getting most out of their hiking experience.

1. Stanley Nesting Two-Cup Cookset; $14

Amazon

Stanley’s compact and lightweight cookset includes a 20-ounce stainless steel pot with a locking handle, a vented lid, and two insulated 10-ounce tumblers. It’s the perfect size for brewing hot coffee, rehydrating soup, or boiling water while out on the trail with a buddy. And as some hardcore backpackers note in their Amazon reviews, your favorite hiker can take the tumblers out and stuff the pot with a camp stove, matches, and other necessities to make good use of space in their pack.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Osprey Sirrus and Stratos 24-Liter Hiking Packs; $140

Amazon

Osprey’s packs are designed with trail-tested details to maximize comfort and ease of use. The Sirrus pack (pictured) is sized for women, while the Stratos fits men’s proportions. Both include an internal sleeve for a hydration reservoir, exterior mesh and hipbelt pockets, an attachment for carrying trekking poles, and a built-in rain cover.

Buy them: Amazon, Amazon

3. Yeti Rambler 18-Ounce Bottle; $48

Amazon

Nothing beats ice-cold water after a summer hike or a sip of hot tea during a winter walk. The Yeti Rambler can serve up both: Beverages can stay hot or cold for hours thanks to its insulated construction, and its steel body (in a variety of colors) is basically indestructible. It will add weight to your hiker's pack, though—for a lighter-weight, non-insulated option, the tried-and-true Camelbak Chute water bottle is incredibly sturdy and leakproof.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Mappinners Greatest 100 Hikes of the National Parks Scratch-Off Poster; $30

Amazon

The perfect gift for park baggers in your life (or yourself), this 16-inch-by-20-inch poster features epic hikes like Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park and Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Once the hike is complete, you can scratch off the gold foil to reveal an illustration of the park.

Buy it: Amazon

5. National Geographic Adventure Edition Road Atlas; $19

Amazon

Hikers can use this brand-new, updated road atlas to plan their next adventure. In addition to comprehensive maps of all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico, they'll get National Geographic’s top 100 outdoor destinations, useful details about the most popular national parks, and points on the maps noting off-the-beaten-path places to explore.  

Buy it: Amazon

6. Adventure Medical Kits Hiker First-Aid Kit; $25

Amazon

This handy 67-piece kit is stuffed with all the things you hope your hiker will never need in the wilderness. Not only does it contain supplies for pain, cuts and scrapes, burns, and blisters (every hiker’s nemesis!), the items are organized clearly in the bag to make it easy to find tweezers or an alcohol wipe in an emergency.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Hiker Hunger Ultralight Trekking Poles; $70

Amazon

Trekking poles will help increase your hiker's balance and stability and reduce strain on their lower body by distributing it to their arms and shoulders. This pair is made of carbon fiber, a super-strong and lightweight material. From the sweat-absorbing cork handles to the selection of pole tips for different terrain, these poles answer every need on the trail. 

Buy it: Amazon

8. Leatherman Signal Camping Multitool; $120

Amazon

What can’t this multitool do? This gadget contains 19 hiking-friendly tools in a 4.5-inch package, including pliers, screwdrivers, bottle opener, saw, knife, hammer, wire cutter, and even an emergency whistle.

Buy it: Amazon

9. RAVPower Power Bank; $24

Amazon

Don’t let your hiker get caught off the grid with a dead phone. They can charge RAVPower’s compact power bank before they head out on the trail, and then use it to quickly juice up a phone or tablet when the batteries get low. Its 3-inch-by-5-inch profile won’t take up much room in a pack or purse.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Pack of Four Indestructible Field Books; $14

Amazon

Neither rain, nor snow, nor hail will be a match for these waterproof, tearproof 3.5-inch-by-5.5-inch notebooks. Your hiker can stick one in their pocket along with a regular pen or pencil to record details of their hike or brainstorm their next viral Tweet.

Buy it: Amazon

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8 Fascinating Facts About Kurt Russell

Kurt Russell speaking at the 2016 San Diego Comic-Con International.
Kurt Russell speaking at the 2016 San Diego Comic-Con International.
Gage Skidmore via Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

From his turn as antihero Snake Plissken in 1981’s Escape From New York to Western lawman Wyatt Earp in 1993’s Tombstone, Kurt Russell has endured as one of the more versatile leading men in Hollywood. For more on Russell, including his early athletic ambitions and playing Elvis Presley, keep reading.

1. Kurt Russell originally had his sights set on being a professional baseball player.

On March 17, 1951, Kurt Russell was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, to parents Bing and Louise Russell, but grew up in Thousand Oaks, California. He took heavy inspiration from his father, himself an actor and later owner of a minor league baseball team, the Portland Mavericks. In addition to acting in family films for The Walt Disney Company like 1969’s The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes and 1975’s The Strongest Man in the World, Russell was also pursuing a career in professional baseball. In 1971, he joined the Bend Rainbows and later played for his father’s Mavericks. When a shoulder injury halted his athletic ambitions in 1973, he began focusing on acting full-time.

The news was not broken to him so gently. Remembering the doctor who told him his shoulder would end his baseball career, Russell remembered him asking, “Aren’t you also an actor?” When Russell said he was, the doctor said, “Well, you’re an actor all the time now.”

2. Kurt Russell passed up a chance to be in Star Wars to do a television Western.

When George Lucas was casting Star Wars in 1975, he saw a number of actors, including Russell, who auditioned for both Han Solo and Luke Skywalker. Russell was interested in the film, but later said that he was also being offered a role on a television Western called The Quest around the same time and asked Lucas if he could make a decision about whether he wanted Russell in the movie—and if so, in which part.

“I don’t know which part I prefer you in,” Russell recalled Lucas as saying. “I don’t know if I like you as Han and this guy as Skywalker, or this guy as Han and you as Skywalker. I don’t know.” When Lucas couldn’t give him an answer, Russell opted to do The Quest.

3. Kurt Russell was nominated for an Emmy for playing Elvis Presley.

Following his string of Disney films, Russell began tackling more mature roles, including the title character in the 1979 television miniseries Elvis directed by Halloween filmmaker John Carpenter. Playing Elvis Presley earned Russell an Emmy Award nomination and also marked the beginning of his working relationship with Carpenter, who cast Russell in 1981’s Escape From New York, 1995’s sequel Escape From L.A., and 1982’s The Thing, among others.

The King has followed Russell around, or vice versa. Russell had a small part in an Elvis film while as a child actor, appearing in 1963’s It Happened at the World’s Fair. In 2001, he appeared as a criminal who was also an Elvis impersonator in 3000 Miles to Graceland. Most notably, he agreed to dub over an actor playing Presley in 1994’s Forrest Gump as a favor to Robert Zemeckis, who directed Russell in 1980’s Used Cars.

4. Bull Durham was written for Kurt Russell.

If you’ve ever wondered why a former baseball player like Russell never made a baseball movie, he came close. Writer and director Ron Shelton wrote 1988’s Bull Durham, about an aging slugger named Crash Davis, specifically for Russell. The studio, however, insisted that Shelton cast Kevin Costner instead.

5. Kurt Russell was paid twice his going rate for Stargate because he was considered impossible to dislike.

Kurt Russell in Stargate (1994).Lionsgate Home Entertainment

It’s often been said of Russell that he possesses an inherent likeability. Perhaps audiences won’t like every film he appears in, but they like the actor himself. According to Russell, that was once backed by research. Recalling that the producers of 1994’s science-fiction movie Stargate offered him twice his going rate to secure his services, he cited audience satisfaction as the reason why. “They said, ‘Oh, well, we ran a questionnaire around the world,’” Russell told GQ in 2016. “They wanted to rate actors on their unlikeability. They wanted to find someone who was likeable because the part, as written, was not. And they said, ‘You know the only star out there who has zero unlikeability?’ ‘Kurt Russell.’ Zero unlikeability!” Russell added that the research was done a long time ago and “that number may have changed significantly.”

6. Kurt Russell may have stealth-directed Tombstone.

In 1993’s Tombstone, Russell plays a world-weary Wyatt Earp attempting to bring order to the lawless town of Tombstone. Directed by George P. Cosmatos, the film has become a classic of the Western genre. According to an interview with Russell in True West magazine in 2006, it was he, not Cosmatos, who did most of the heavy lifting behind the scenes. After screenwriter Kevin Jarre was let go from directing, producers asked Russell if he wanted to direct it. He did, but he didn’t want to put his name on it. Instead, he said, he gave Cosmatos a shot list every night for the following day’s shooting, an arrangement that Cosmatos agreed to and apparently had with Sylvester Stallone on 1985’s Rambo: First Blood Part II.

Russell later criticized the True West interview, saying that he preferred not to discuss what went on with Tombstone in a public forum. “I told [George] that if the studio heads talked to me and the producers talked to me about what took place on Tombstone in terms of George’s involvement, in confidence I would tell them the private and real truth,” he told The San Diego Reader in 2016. “Publicly, I have no interest in tainting anything about Tombstone. The credits are what the credits are, and I will leave it at that.”

7. Kurt Russell once reported a UFO sighting while flying an airplane.

Russell is an aviation buff who has his pilot’s license. While flying his plane with Oliver Hudson (Goldie Hawn's son, who Russell raised and considers his own son) in 1997, he reported a strange event. “I was flying Oliver to go see his girlfriend, and we were on approach,” Russell told the BBC. “I saw six lights over the airport in absolute uniform in a V shape. Oliver said to me—I was just looking at him, I was coming in, we’re maybe a half-mile out—and Oliver said, ‘Pa, what are those lights?’ Then I kind of came out of my reverie and I said, ‘I don’t know what they are. He said, ‘Are we OK here?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, I’m gonna call in,’ and I reported it.” The lights soon became known as the Phoenix Lights, which were witnessed by several people. Russell didn’t make his sighting public until 2017.

8. Kurt Russell is not crazy about an Escape From New York remake.

Kurt Russell in Escape from New York (1981).© Rialto Pictures/Studiocanal

Talks have been ongoing for a remake of Escape From New York, the 1981 film that put Russell on the map as a viable action hero. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly in 2017, Russell was asked how he felt about someone else playing Snake Plissken. “I didn’t play Snake Plissken,” Russell said. “I created him!” Asked if he would do a cameo or play a supporting role, he was more succinct. “F**k that! I am Snake Plissken!”