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.

Wayfair’s Fourth of July Clearance Sale Takes Up to 60 Percent Off Grills and Outdoor Furniture

Wayfair/Weber
Wayfair/Weber

This Fourth of July, Wayfair is making sure you can turn your backyard into an oasis while keeping your bank account intact with a clearance sale that features savings of up to 60 percent on essentials like chairs, hammocks, games, and grills. Take a look at some of the highlights below.

Outdoor Furniture

Brisbane bench from Wayfair
Brisbane/Wayfair

- Jericho 9-Foot Market Umbrella $92 (Save 15 percent)
- Woodstock Patio Chairs (Set of Two) $310 (Save 54 percent)
- Brisbane Wooden Storage Bench $243 (Save 62 percent)
- Kordell Nine-Piece Rattan Sectional Seating Group with Cushions $1800 (Save 27 percent)
- Nelsonville 12-Piece Multiple Chairs Seating Group $1860 (Save 56 percent)
- Collingswood Three-Piece Seating Group with Cushions $410 (Save 33 percent)

Grills and Accessories

Dyna-Glo electric smoker.
Dyna-Glo/Wayfair

- Spirit® II E-310 Gas Grill $479 (Save 17 percent)
- Portable Three-Burner Propane Gas Grill $104 (Save 20 percent)
- Digital Bluetooth Electric Smoker $224 (Save 25 percent)
- Cuisinart Grilling Tool Set $38 (Save 5 percent)

Outdoor games

American flag cornhole game.
GoSports

- American Flag Cornhole Board $57 (Save 19 percent)
- Giant Four in a Row Game $30 (Save 6 percent)
- Giant Jenga Game $119 (Save 30 percent)

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

10 Facts About The Blue Lagoon On Its 40th Anniversary

Christopher Atkins and Brooke Shields star in The Blue Lagoon (1980).
Christopher Atkins and Brooke Shields star in The Blue Lagoon (1980).
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Brooke Shields was just 14 years old when she filmed The Blue Lagoon, the infamously sexy and slightly salacious island-set romance that capitalized on burgeoning hormones in a big way. The film was shocking when it debuted on July 5, 1980—but even 40 years later, it can still make jaws drop. Here’s a look at some of its more compelling tidbits, complete with undiscovered iguanas and a nifty trick to cover up nudity.

1. The Blue Lagoon is based on a trilogy of books by Henry De Vere Stacpoole.

Although the film closely follows the events of the first book in Henry De Vere Stacpoole’s series, also called The Blue Lagoon, the film’s sequel (1991’s Return to the Blue Lagoon) breaks with the storyline presented in the 1920s-era trilogy to essentially re-tell the original story (read: more tanned teens falling in love on a tropical island). Stacpoole’s books were far more concerned with the culture of the South Seas population, particularly as it was being further influenced by the arrival of European cultures.

2. The Blue Lagoon was adapted into a film twice before.

In 1923, director W. Bowden crafted a silent version of the story. More than a quarter-century later, British filmmaker Frank Launder made a very well-received version for the big screen in 1949, starring Jean Simmons and Donald Houston. The film was immensely popular, becoming the seventh-highest grossing domestic film at the U.K. box office that year.

3. The Blue Lagoon's costume team came up with a clever trick to keep Brooke Shields covered up.

Brooke Shields was just 14 years old when she filmed The Blue Lagoon, which led to some challenges for the production team, especially as Shields’s Emmeline is frequently topless. So the costume designers hatched an ingenious (and, really, just kind of obvious) way to keep her covered up at all times: they glued her long-haired wig to her body.

4. Brooke Shields’s age was an issue for a long time.

Even after The Blue Lagoon was long wrapped, completed, and released into theaters, issues related to Shields’s age at the time of filming still lingered. Years later, Shields testified before a U.S. Congressional inquiry that body doubles—of legal age—were used throughout filming.

5. The Blue Lagoon was nominated for an Oscar.

Cinematographer Néstor Almendros was nominated for his work on The Blue Lagoon. And while he lost out to Geoffrey Unsworth and Ghislain Cloquet for Tess, he already had one Oscar at home for his contributions to Terrence Malick's Days of Heaven (1978). The skilled DP, who passed away in 1992, was also nominated for Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) and Sophie’s Choice (1982).

6. A new species of iguana was discovered when it appeared in The Blue Lagoon.

Parts of the film were lensed on a private island that is part of Fiji, one of the habitats of the now-critically endangered Fiji crested iguana. The iguana appeared throughout the film, and when herpetologist John Gibbons caught an early screening of the feature, he realized that the animal that kept popping up on the big screen wasn't a familiar one. So he traveled to Fiji (specifically, to the island of Nanuya Levu), where he discovered the Fiji crested iguana, an entirely new Fijian native.

7. The Blue Lagoon won a Razzie.

Despite its stellar source material and Oscar-nominated camerawork, The Blue Lagoon wasn’t beloved by everyone: The Razzies foisted a Worst Actress award on Shields. The actress won (lost? hard to tell?) over an extremely mixed bag of other nominees that somehow also included Shelley Duvall for The Shining. Come on, Razzies.

8. The Blue Lagoon director Randal Kleiser hatched a plan to get his stars to like each other.

Because the chemistry between the two leads was vital to the success of The Blue Lagoon, director Randal Kleiser (who also directed Grease) came up with the idea to get star Christopher Atkins feeling a little lovestruck with Shields by putting a picture of the young starlet over Atkins’s bed. Staring at Shields every night apparently did rouse some feelings in Atkins; the duo had a brief romance while filming. "Brooke and I had a little bit of a romantic, innocent sort of romance in the very beginning of the film," Atkins told HuffPost. “It was very nice—we were very, very close friends."

9. Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins's affection didn’t last for long.

Despite their early attachment, Shields and Atkins soon began bickering nonstop. “Brooke got tired of me,” Atkins told People in 1980. “She thought I took acting too seriously. I was always trying to get into a mood while she would be skipping off to joke with the crew.” Still, Kleiser even capitalized on that, using the tension to fuel the more frustrated scenes, lensing the tough stuff while his leads were tussling.

10. The Blue Lagoon's film shoot basically took place on a desert island.

Kleiser was desperate to capture authenticity for the film, going so far as to live like his characters while making it. "To shoot this kind of story, I wanted to get as close to nature as possible and have our crew live almost like the characters," Kleiser said. "We found an island in Fiji that had no roads, water, or electricity, but beautiful beaches. We built a village of tents for the crew to live in and had a small ship anchored in the lagoon for our camera equipment and supplies. This filming approach was quite unusual, but it just seemed right for this project."

This story has been updated for 2020.