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.
6. EMILIO ESTEVEZ WANTED TO PLAY BILLY HICKS.
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.