“I think we all feel the outsider at some point,” Ralph Macchio (the actor who played Johnny Cade) once said in an interview. He couldn’t be more right.
The beauty of this influential classic is that it reminds us of the similarities between us, regardless of our social class, and that the lines we have drawn between one another are nothing more than an illusion.
At the end of the day, we all witness the same sunrise and the same sunset.
The Outsiders (1983) is as iconic as J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, and no less powerful than Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. And the most incredible part is that a 15-year-old teenager wrote it.
For those of you who grew up reading this novel or for those who have only watched the film, here are some surprising facts you might not know about Ponyboy, Sodapop, and the rest of the Greaser gang.
The Director Couldn’t Afford to Pay the Author
When talk of turning the novel into a film was first brought up, money was tight for director Francis Ford Coppola. He couldn’t pay the author, Susan Hinton, the amount she wanted. Hinton requested $5,000 for the rights, but the director only managed to scrap together $500 as a down payment.
Instead of giving her the whole amount, Coppola gave her a role in the movie (she appears in the scene where Dallas is being looked after by a nurse). And he also agreed to adapt two of her other works into feature films: Rumble Fish and Tex.
The Sunset Wasn’t Real
Coppola wanted the closing scene of the film to be painted in a beautiful purple-orange sunset. But because sunsets in Oklahoma don’t last for very long, the scene was done with the help of a large rear screen projection. It created the perfect environment for Ponyboy and Johnny to gaze into the horizon and contemplate.
Coppola had to cut out a lot of scenes due to the studio’s demands, but this was one he insisted on keeping. And we’re glad he decided to do so! It was the perfect closure to a film that started out in a similar setting and is arguably one of the greatest sunset scenes of all time.
Everyone Was in Love With Diane Lane (Cherry)
Diane Lane, the girl who played Ponyboy’s crush, and Dallas Winston’s crush too, for that matter, was victim to the many silly pranks that took place between the boys on set. They were all gaga over her, and they expressed it by teasing her incessantly.
“[There was] honey all over my toilet seat, something terrorizing written with my lipstick in the mirror, Vaseline on every door handle, and just when you think it’s safe and you can finally sleep that night, your bed is short-sheeted!” the actress told Variety.
Ralph Macchio Lived on Five Bucks a Day
After Ralph Macchio landed the role of Johnny, Coppola made him live on five dollars a day so he could fully understand and embody the character he was going to play in the film – Johnny Cade, a greasy-haired, frightened-looking kid who grew up in a poor family with two parents who were constantly at each other’s throats.
To get the whole experience of what it was like being a poor kid in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Ralph Macchio had to sleep on park benches, using crumpled newspapers as blankets. The young actor noted that the process wasn’t too pleasing, yet it improved his acting skills tremendously.
Sodapop’s Grim Future
In an interview for The Outsiders: The Complete Novel documentary, Rob Lowe asked Susan Hinton what she saw happening to his character, Sodapop Curtis, after the events in The Outsiders. Her response was depressing. She told him that she saw the young boy being drafted to the Vietnam war and dying there.
Lowe said that this little detail completely shifted the way he brought Sodapop to life on film. It also broke the hearts of many fans. So much so, that Hinton had to calm everyone down and clarify that nothing was set in stone and that it was up to the reader or viewer to decide the character’s fate.
Dallas and Cherry’s Real-Life Feud
In the film, Matt Dillon’s character, Dallas, harasses Cherry (Diane Lane) as she tries to watch a movie in peace. The tense scene was one of the first ones filmed, and it got both actors off on the wrong foot. Years later, Lane blamed her childish insecurities for taking Dillon’s teasing to heart like that.
Dillon and Lane weren’t the only ones feuding. Apparently, Coppola separated the guys on set according to their chosen gangs. It was his way of creating real tension between the two groups – Greasers vs. Socs. As a result, some actors suffered actual injuries from the final fight scene at the end of the movie.
The Church Fire Was Real
The scene where the Greasers rescue kindergarten students from a fire started out fine… but took a turn for the worst after Coppola asked technicians to add more flames. He took things a bit too far by asking them to make it seem more realistic, and his over-ambitious attitude resulted in an out-of-control fire.
Thankfully, the local fire department was present and ready to put it out. And in a miraculous turn of events, just when they started working on the barrage of flames, a rainstorm came pouring down on them like some God-sent gift from above!
The Crew Treated Greasers and Socs Differently
Rob Lowe shared in his memoir that Coppola would arrange many competitive exercises on purpose to set the Greasers apart from the Socs. Some split-ups were fun, like teaming up against each other for football games, but other distinctions weren’t as amusing.
Like the way the Greasers were treated compared to the Socs. While the Socs received leather-bound issues of the script, the Greasers got three-ring floppy binders. And according to Lowe, the Socs also got way nicer hotel rooms. Coppola sure went all out with this film!
The Story Behind the Laughs in the Movie Poster
The famous shot of the joyous movie poster captured the boys in an authentic, silly moment. The Greasers were all huddled in a group, eagerly waiting for the anticipated photoshoot, when a small remark by Ralph Macchio got all the boys laughing.
It just so happened that Leif Garrett (Bob) went to grab food from the catering table but was denied access because the stagehand believed he wasn’t part of the cast. Ralph Macchio then sarcastically remarked, “Yeah it’s for the talent.” This made all of them laugh, and, luckily, the photographer was quick enough to capture the moment.
They Turned Howell’s Room Upside Down
“Mostly I was the victim of the pranks,” recalled C. Thomas Howell, who at just 15 was cast to play the main role of Ponyboy Curtis. Being the leading star of the film meant that he had to work harder than the rest of them, with more lines to read and more scenes to shoot.
So, while he was busy reciting his part, his costars, including Rob Lowe and Tom Cruise, were busy playing and scheming away, coming up with more and more pranks to pull on the rest of the cast. “I remember one early morning, probably having worked all night, I stumbled into my hotel room ready to go to sleep, and literally everything in my hotel room, from a penny to my bed, had been turned upside down,” Howell recalled.
Ralph Macchio Could Have Loosened Up a Bit
Ralph Macchio (Johnny Cade) was so nervous about perfecting his role that he found it hard to breathe and enjoy his time on set. “Maybe I could have loosened up a bit with some of the fun times,” he admitted. Looks like he wasn’t part of the pranking and scheming.
“I’m not saying I was closed in a closet and never came out ’til the camera was ready,” he added, “That’s not the case, but I certainly was not the spearhead person of the wild and crazy times.” Macchio’s character, Johnny, was a tragic greaser who slept in parks… We can’t blame him for not finding the time to pull pranks.
The Movie Is Dedicated to a Specific Middle School
After the movie wraps up and rolls on to the credits, a dedication is shown on the screen: “The Outsiders is dedicated to the people who first suggested that it be made.” These people are the staff and students at the Lone Star School, a middle school in California that lobbied for the film to be made.
It began with librarian Jo Ellen Misakian, who saw that almost every kid at the school, even the ones who rarely read, were totally drawn by the novel. She wasn’t expecting Coppola to take their petition seriously and was incredibly surprised when he decided to do so!
Another Version Was Released in 2005
While the movie was a total box-office success, some fans of the book weren’t too happy about crucial scenes that were taken out due to lack of time. The film’s crew received tons of letters explaining in detail why this or that scene should have been included.
As a result, a new version of the film was released in 2005, titled The Outsiders: The Complete Novel. It featured 20 something minutes of never-before-seen, deleted footage and even replaced the original soundtrack with a different tracklist.
The Movie Helped Him Forget His Troubles
“The Outsiders,” which had a budget of $10 million, came at just the right time for Coppola because his film company, Zoetrope, was extremely close to bankruptcy due to a bank debt that was weighing down on them.
“It was chaos incorporated time at Zoetrope, like fighting a war,” Coppola revealed in a 1983 interview with The New York Times. “I used to be a great camp counselor, and the idea of being with half a dozen kids in the country and making a movie seemed like being a camp counselor again. I’d forget my troubles and have some laughs again.”
A Teenager Wrote the Book
Incredibly, Susan Hinton finished writing The Outsiders when she was just 15 years old. But she started it years before when she was in elementary school! “I’ve been writing practically since I learned to read. So, by the time I wrote The Outsiders, I’d been writing for about eight years,” she told Entertainment Weekly.
The Outsiders was actually the third book she had written, but the first one she tried getting published. It was inspired by a social situation going on in her school, where the Socs and Greasers were fighting. Hinton grew up in a Greaser neighborhood and studied with Socs, so she got to know both sides quite well.
No Individual Auditions
While most auditions usually involve one person per session, reading and performing one specific piece, The Outsiders’ auditions were a completely different experience. They were all over the place, with up to 30 people each time, coming in and out of the room, reading different excerpts together.
Fred Roos, the casting director, would then choose which out of the huge groups he liked the most. This unique audition setup made all the actors desperate to stand out. Each one came up with a different quirk for their character and a unique style of walking and talking.
Shut Eye Under a Stranger’s Roof
In an effort to help the boys become real Greasers, Coppola made Tom Cruise and Rob Lowe spend the night together at a couple’s house in Tulsa, “real Greasers” whom they didn’t actually know. The house was located in a not-so-great area in the city, and the boys were a bit wary of entering.
Lowe and Cruise later said that they ended up having a really good time. They had dinner with a couple named Bill and Sandy Webber, with whom they shared a warm conversation over some delicious, home-cooked meals. Looks like Coppola’s tactic paid off because both of them got a much clearer picture of the types of people they were playing.
Howell Still Gets Fan Letters About Ponyboy
Both Ralph Macchio (Johnny) and C. Thomas Howell (Ponyboy) went several times to visit students who had read the novel in school. Macchio told Variety that his visits usually include talking about the book, about bullying, social class differences, and all the fun little quirks his character has.
Howell added that visiting schools is one of his favorite things to do. “I’ll come in to speak to them after the screening of the film. It affects these kids so deeply still,” he commented.
Fun fact: Howell still gets fan mails from teenagers who swoon over Ponyboy.
S.E. Hinton Became Mama Bear
In a talk Hinton did with Willamette Week, she mentioned that she felt like a protective mommy on set: “Tommy was 15. Rob had his 18th during the movie. Matt had just turned 18. I immediately made myself their mom. Rob called me Mom half the time. I had their backs; I was looking out for them.”
On a set full of teenagers, Hinton felt the need to protect these rowdy young actors during the shooting. “I mommed them a lot,” she admitted. The author knew her book was a complicated tale that dealt with uneasy issues, so she wanted to ensure that the actors were doing fine.
The Cast Learned Tai-Chi
Coppola made the whole gang do Tai Chi during rehearsals. Rob Lowe described the event in his memoir, recalling how he had no clue what Tai Chi was at the time until the director introduced the mindful practice to them. Needless to say, he was terribly confused at first.
“As the exercises drag on, I think: Martin’s character was in Saigon; my character is in Tulsa. How does a ’60s greaser know or care about Tai Chi? But if the world’s greatest living director thinks we should stand on our heads to prepare, we should probably do it,” he wrote.
A Serious Age Gap
Coppola and Fred Roos saw many actors come and go during auditions. But Patrick Swayze (Darrel) and Ralph Macchio (Johnny) made a long-lasting impression on them. Surprisingly, neither of them were in their teens like the rest of the cast.
Swayze was 31 years old at the time, and Macchio was 21, making them a lot older than, for example, C. Thomas Howell (Ponyboy), who was only a 16-year-old teenager when shooting began. The different ages surely created an interesting work environment.
Hinton Turned Down Many Offers
The author of the novel, Susan Hinton, had rejected many offers from movie studios, believing that none of them could fully bring her story to life. It was only after meeting Coppola that she agreed to do it. He assured her that she would be the film’s main consultant and an integral part of the process.
As shooting went on, she grew more and more excited about the outcome. It’s safe to say that Coppola did her work justice. He paid attention to the little details of the story and captured the ’50s air in such a fantastic way that it’s no wonder Hinton put her trust in him.
After the staggering success of The Godfather, Coppola proceeded to work on two other projects – The Outsiders and Rumble Fish. He filmed them within weeks of each other, and if some of the scenery seems familiar, it’s because he used a lot of the same locations from The Outsiders set in Oklahoma.
Even though both of them were shot back-to-back, Coppola did a wonderful job in capturing the unique essence of each film. Over time, both have become timeless classics in the coming-of-age genre and have majorly influenced the young adult film industry.
As Authentic as Can Be
To give the movie that authentic ’50s and ’60s vibe, Coppola used saturated colors for filming and accompanied the scenes with a music score his father composed. He also turned a vacant school into a rehearsal hall and videotaped the cast for several weeks.
This ended up helping the actors develop their characters appropriately. Tom Cruise shared that the rehearsals were extremely helpful and taught him a lot about acting. It was also his time to connect with his character and learn more about him.
The Studio Thought It Was Too Long
Warner Bros. was a bit skeptical when Hinton and Coppola showed them the rough cut of the film. They thought it was way too long and that no teenager in their right mind would sit through a two-hour film, no matter how good it might be.
So, Coppola was forced to cut out some of the scenes, turning it into a film suitable for the young crowd, with a manageable length that wouldn’t put too much pressure on their limited focus.
Funny that this concerned them back in the ’80s, yeah? Before Tik Tok and Instagram turned us all into impulsive creatures with a focus span of three seconds… I wonder what they would have said today.
A Life-Changing Experience
Shooting The Outsiders wasn’t all fun and games. It was actually a life-changing experience for the many members involved. And not only for the ones involved in the making of the movie, but for viewers of the movie as well. The Outsiders moved teenagers and adults alike.
It beautifully captured the feisty adolescent emotion and compared it to the sometimes flat and numb world of the adults. Even though the movie doesn’t feature any grownups, it still managed to capture the hearts of viewers from all stages of life.
He Knew It Would Make a Great Movie
When librarian Jo Ellen Misakian forwarded the petition to director Coppola, she doubted he would even notice it in between his piles of millions of letters. But lo and behold! He spotted it, read it, and passed it on to producer Fred Roos.
Roos stuck the letter in his briefcase and ended up reading the novel on a coast-to-coast flight. He quickly realized that the kids at the school were right: The Outsiders had incredible potential and would surely make a great film. “Fred then sent me a letter,” Misakian explained, “I got so excited. So, I called the principal right away and he went ballistic.”
As Iconic as Catcher in the Rye
Howell (Ponyboy) feels that The Outsiders, both the novel and the movie, have achieved a status akin to The Catcher in the Rye. The story has affected and is still affecting young people all over the world. And while not every country has Greasers and Socs, every country has different groups and different social classes, making the film relevant to all of us.
According to Howell, The Outsiders has a film version worthy of an iconic status: “It’s so great that Francis had the tools to make it right, that there was footage laying around in a vault for 23 years, of people who are world-famous now. The literature deserved to have the whole (of it) shown. I love that they’ve called this ‘The Complete Novel.’ That’s what it is.”
Tom Cruise Went Ballistic
In a talk he did with the Armchair Expert podcast, Lowe recalled the time Tom Cruise went “ballistic” after discovering that he would have to share a hotel room with him in New York City after flying in for auditions. “I remember going, ‘Wow, this guy is the real deal,'” Lowe noted.
Cruise likely didn’t want to share a room with him because he saw Lowe as his competitor. Lowe said that it made him laugh. “It was gnarly,” he chuckled, “But in the end of it, you can’t argue with the results. He’s had his eye on the ball since day one.”
The Stunt that Made Tom Cruise Throw Up
Out of all the crazy stunts Tom Cruise has had to do in his career, one in particular made him sick to stomach, literally. In an interview with Graham Norton, the actor recalled an eating stunt he had to do during shooting. “I was working with Coppola, and I was like, ‘You know what, I’m going to eat chocolate cake in the scene.'”
They ended up shooting the scene for three days and took like 100 takes of him eating the cake. “It’s like the first couple of takes, I was like, ‘Oh, this is so good, I have to eat it. It was so moist,'” Cruise recalled. “And then it was like, ‘Oh my gosh, did we get it?’ Three days of Francis saying: ‘Let’s do it again.’ I was in sugar shock, I was vomiting.”
Where Is Rob Lowe Today?
The Outsiders was Rob Lowe’s first big feature film, and his breakthrough role as Sodapop Curtis paved the way for more great projects to come. The entertainment industry was infatuated by this good-looking newcomer, and after the movie wrapped up, Lowe had a string of people waiting in line to work with him.
He reunited with fellow Greaser, Emilio Estevez, in 1985’s St. Elmo’s fire, and gradually became one of the ’80’s hottest young actors. Today, decades later, Lowe is happily married to Sheryl Berkoff, with whom he has two kids, John and Matthew. He’s also been sober for the past 31 years, an achievement he’s incredibly proud of. As for acting, his latest career move has been starring in the TV series 9-1-1: Lone Star.
Where Is Tom Cruise Today?
By the end of the 1980s, Tom Cruise had become one of the hottest young actors around. With movies like Risky Business (1983) and Top Gun (1986) under his belt, he felt like Hollywood was at the palm of his hands. And he was right. Through the years, he’s covered everything, from drama to action to romance.
He’s also crossed over to producing, working on films such as the Mission Impossible franchise and The Last Samurai. Today, Cruise is working on Mission Impossible 7 and 8.
As for his personal life, Cruise has been seen dating actress Hayley Atwell, who stars alongside him in Mission Impossible 7 and 8.
Where Is Emilio Estevez Today?
Following his string of coming-of-age films, Emilio was known in the ’80s as the “president” of the “Brat Pack,” a group of young actors who starred together in several films including The Breakfast Club and St. Elmo’s Fire.
The ’90s were a different era. Estevez still landed jobs, but his star status slowly wound down as the years passed. He went on to direct and work on projects including episodes of CSI: NY and Cold Case.
His latest big thing is 2018’s The Public, a feature film he wrote, directed, and starred in.
Where Is Matt Dillon Today?
Another teen idol of the ’80s, Matt Dillon’s appearance in The Outsiders was just the beginning for him. He went on to star in huge films like Rumble Fish (1983), Beautiful Girls (1996), and The Saint of Fort Washington (1993).
His latest appearances have been in the 2019 French drama, Proxima, and the 2020 crime drama, Capone.
As for his personal life, Dillon never married, nor does he have kids. But he’s dated several impressive women, including Brooke Shields and Cameron Diaz.
Where Is C. Thomas Howell Today?
After his endearing performance as Ponyboy, Howell moved on to other films like Grandview USA (1984) and Tank (1984). He disappeared a bit in the ’90s but got back on the acting wagon in the early ’00s and starred in thrillers like Asylum Days (2001) and The Hillside Stranger (2004).
As for his personal life, Howell married twice, once to actress Rae Dawn Chong in 1989, and again in 1992 to Sylvie Anderson with whom he has three kids with. They split in 2016.
Where Is Ralph Macchio Today?
Macchio’s role as Johnny Cade in The Outsiders threw him into the spotlight and led to another major part – Daniel LaRusso in 1984’s Karate Kid. He later appeared in the movie Crossroads (1986) and in the Broadway play Cuba and His Teddy Bear alongside Robert DeNiro.
Macchio’s recent projects are a throwback to his earlier days. He’s appeared once again as Daniel LaRusso in Cobra Kai, an action-comedy based on the original Karate Kid.
As for his person life, Macchio married Phyllis Fierro in 1987, and they have two kids, Julia and Daniel.
Where Is Diane Lane Today?
After Lane’s breakout performance as Cherry on The Outsiders, she joined the rest of the “Brat Pack” in other movies such as Rumble Fish. At the time, Andy Warhol called her “the undisputed female lead of Hollywood’s new brat pack.”
After taking on two films that ended up being commercial fails (Streets of Fire and The Cotton Club), Lane’s acting career languished a bit. She got back into the spotlight several years later in the early ’00s, starring in The Perfect Storm and Unfaithful. Her recent projects include thrillers such as Serenity (2019) and Let Him Go (2020).
Patrick Swayze’s Legacy
The Outsiders was just one of the many huge movies Patrick Swayze starred in. Dirty Dancing (1987), Ghost (1990), and Point Break (1991) are all massive hits in his repertoire. He was crowned Best Actor (on several occasions), Sexiest Man Alive, and an absolute joy to work with.
That being said, Swayze had tough moments in his life. He struggled a lot with his mental health, stating once that “I’ve always felt there was something different in there (my personality), but I was scared to look.” He suffered from alcoholism for years.
Tragically, in 2007, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and two years later, he passed away from pneumonia that arose as a result of complications from chemotherapy.
What Does Stay Gold Ponyboy Mean?
Right before his death, Johnny looks up at Curtis and tells him, “Stay gold, Ponyboy.” Ponyboy doesn’t really understand the meaning of it until he reads through the note Johnny left him.
As it turns out, “stay gold” is a reference to the Robert Frost poem recited earlier on in the film. “Nothing gold can stay,” the poem reads, referring to the fact that nothing good can stay. In the context of the film, “good” refers to youthful innocence. So when Jonny tells Ponyboy to remain gold, he’s basically telling him to protect his child-like spirit.