‘Tom Cruise was an intense kid’: How Francis Ford Coppola made The Outsiders

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Francis Ford Coppola, director
After my 1982 movie One from the Heart failed commercially, my accumulation institution American Zoetrope was bankrupt – it was a debased play for me. But past I received a missive written by Jo Ellen Misakian, a inferior schoolhouse librarian from Fresno, California. It read: “We are each truthful impressed with the book, The Outsiders by SE Hinton, that a petition has been circulated asking that it beryllium made into a movie. We person chosen you to nonstop it to.” It contained astir 15 pages of children’s signatures written successful different-coloured pens. It was precise moving.

I work Susan Hinton’s book, written erstwhile she was successful her precocious teens, and was touched by the level of respect these mediocre “Greaser” kids had for each other, adjacent though they didn’t person the advantages of their “Social” rivals. I’ve ever believed that kids person galore much feelings than we springiness them recognition for, and I wanted to marque the story. When I was astir 17, I had been a play counsellor astatine a summertime camp, and the thought of being with fractional a twelve kids successful the state and making a movie seemed similar being a campy counsellor again. I’d hide my troubles and person immoderate laughs.

If my institution was celebrated for anything, it was casting new, chartless actors. I believed successful the conception of unfastened casting calls – but I tried to bash them successful a mode that was due for the movie we were making. For The Outsiders, I had each the candidates – which included Nicolas Cage, Mickey Rourke, Robert Downey Jr, Patrick Swayze, Dennis Quaid, Matt Dillon, Rob Lowe and Emilio Estevez – sitting connected benches successful a circle watching each different trying for the antithetic parts. No 1 knows much astir acting than different actors. Tom Cruise, who ended up successful a tiny role, was an aggravated kid who would bash thing to marque his portion better.

Often I err connected the broadside of being excessively collaborative. I re-edited The Outsiders due to the fact that Warner Brothers felt it was long, and that was a mistake. My father had besides written a soaring, romanticist people for it. I wondered if it was the close choice, but I couldn’t accidental that to him. By the clip I recut the movie successful 2005 helium had passed away, and I balanced the schmaltzy euphony with much of what the Greasers would person listened to: aboriginal Elvis Presley and worldly similar that.

There are parallels betwixt the rivalry of the Socs and the Greasers, and the inequality successful American today. Most of the bads of modern civilisation are not caused by nature. Civilisation invents fictions that radical volition termination for, which is absurd. Why is determination specified inequality erstwhile we’re each 1 family?

Unknowns … Emilio Estevez, Rob Lowe, C Thomas Howell, Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, Patrick Swayze and Tom Cruise successful  The Outsiders.
Unknowns … Emilio Estevez, Rob Lowe, C Thomas Howell, Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, Patrick Swayze and Tom Cruise successful The Outsiders. Photograph: Warner Bros/Kobal/Rex/Shutterstock

C Thomas Howell, who played Ponyboy Curtis
I had established myself successful my teens arsenic a inferior rodeo competitor. Pressure for maine was riding a bull, not gathering idiosyncratic called Francis Ford Coppola, oregon auditioning against the different guys. I lone auditioned for 1 character, Ponyboy Curtis, and work with hundreds of actors successful 4 oregon 5 cities. The lone clip I ever felt immoderate unit was erstwhile Norman Mailer’s lad came successful to work for it weeks aft I felt I had already owned the role. But I deliberation really that was much astir relieving maine for fractional a day.

There was an envy that was intentionally dialled successful to the Soc and Greaser actors. We played shot and hoops against each different – they had matching jumpsuits, portion we’d amusement up successful immoderate we brought from home. The Socs stayed connected level 18 oregon 19 of the hotel, portion the Greasers were connected 4 oregon five. It was similar a fraternity location successful there; immoderate beauteous brainsick worldly took place. Once I got location astatine 3 successful the greeting aft an 18-hour shift; I couldn’t hold to get into my country and spell to sleep. And I went successful there, 2 of the Socs had turned everything successful my country upside down.

We rehearsed and changeable the full movie connected videotape first, which allowed america to get to cognize each different and created a trust. I was precise greenish astatine 15. I had been successful ET, but I had ne'er played a lead. Francis was a maestro communicator, and taught maine astir film-making. He was diligent capable to not conscionable bully his mode astir and archer you what to do. And he’d navigator you pasta for lunch.

One acquisition I learned was to never, arsenic an actor, chopped a scene. During the country astatine the drive-in cinema, astatine 1 constituent Matt Dillon fell disconnected his chair, and I turned to the camera and started laughing, reasoning they’d cut. But helium told maine I shouldn’t stop, but that I should accommodate to what was happening: it creates thing precise natural, much existent and connected than thing that could beryllium written. Later, successful the religion scene, a dolly grip’s ft fell done the level – it was a existent abandoned gathering – truthful I conscionable said: “I deliberation there’s a monster outside.” And Francis ended up cutting to a changeable of a raccoon outside. The movie is peppered with existent moments similar that.

I inactive get letters astir The Outsiders due to the fact that it’s required speechmaking successful a batch of schools. People archer maine it’s their comfortableness film, oregon they person a Stay Gold tattoo, oregon they utilized the Robert Frost poem for their wedding vows. I get asked each the clip what the poem means. I had nary thought erstwhile I was 15 that it represents the ellipse of life. Even the 2 boys don’t recognize what it means – they’re conscionable sharing a infinitesimal – until 1 of them dies. The fans are crying and upset that [Ralph Macchio’s character] Johnny is dead, and past they interaction maine and they realise Ponyboy is present 54 – and they outcry adjacent harder.