“Let’s Rumble:” Golden Facts About The Outsiders

An adaptation of S.E. Hinton’s 1967 novel of the same name, The Outsiders is a 1983 coming-of-age film about a rivalry between “The Socs” and “The Greasers,” two gangs separated by social class, and the consequences that follow when one member murders the other. Directed by the renowned Francis Ford Coppola, the film is particularly notable for its up-and-coming ensemble cast, including C. Thomas Howell, Rob Lowe, Tom Cruise, Matt Dillon, Patrick Swayze, Ralph Macchio, Emilio Estevez, and Patrick Swayze. The film was well-received upon its initial release and is today considered a class. Take a look and see why!

High School Students Convinced Francis Ford Coppola To Make It

Behind the scenes
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

During the 1970s, The Outsiders was a common-place book for high school students to read as part of the curriculum. When a librarian named Jo Ellen Misakian in Fresno, California, noticed that even non-readers were even picking up the book to read, she wrote a petition for her 7th and 8th graders to sign for Coppola to turn it into a movie.

When Misakian accidentally sent the petition and a copy of the book to a New York address that Coppola rarely used, it grabbed his attention and he agreed to adapt the book.

There Was A Separation Of The Actors

Thomas Howell and Rob Macchio
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

One of the biggest plot points in The Outsiders is the class separation between the affluent and popular “Socs” and the rougher around the edges “Greasers.” When the teenagers were selected to be in the film, little did any of them know that they would actually be separated into groups.

Coppola wanted to establish a real rift between the actors which led him to divide them into their fictional social statuses, ensuring that those playing the “Socs” had better rooms, more spending money, free room service, and leather-bound scripts.

Coppola Added More Than 20 Minutes To The DVD Release

C. Thomas Hall on railroad tracks
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

Upon its initial release, The Outsiders was relatively well-received by both film critics and book lovers alike. However, it did encounter some criticism from omitting and rearranging scenes from the novel.

So, in 2005, when Coppola released the film on DVD, it was titled as The Outsiders: The Complete Novel. This version of the film had around 22 minutes of unseen footage and included a more contemporary soundtrack than when the film was first released.

People Are Trying To Save The Fictional Curtis House

Boys in front of a gas station
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

Back in 2009, hip-hop artist and Outsiders fan Danny Boy O’Connor from House of Pain stopped by the house in Tulsa Oklahoma that served as the fictional residence of the Curtis family.

He was saddened to see that the house was being neglected and felt that he should do something about it. He then rallied a group of friends to help buy the house with the high hopes of turning it into an Outsiders museum.

The Book Was Written By A Teenager

Hinton giving a speech
Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images
Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images

S.E. Hinton stands for Susan Eloise Hinton, who was a 15-year-old high school student when she wrote The Outsiders, which was published in 1967. She was interested in writing a different kind of story for her demographic, stating that, “Mary Jane wants to go to the prom with the football hero…didn’t ring true to my life.”

So, she wrote a book about real teenage struggles, handing the manuscript to a friend’s mother he had contacts at an agency in New York. Editors then suggested that she go by “S.E.” so male readers didn’t know it was a female author, and her novel sold more than 14 million copies.

There Was A Television Show (Kind Of)

Cast of The Outsiders TV Show
Fox
Fox

Although few could imagine The Outsiders without its iconic ensemble cast, Fox decided to take a risk and make a television show with all new actors anyway. The show was set to air in 1990 and had a young cast of mostly unrecognizable faces. However, some actors, including Billy Bob Thorton, David Arquette, and Jay R. Ferguson, had appearances.

While the premiere of the show had a short introduction by Bart Simpson and was well-received, the program was canceled after just 13 episodes.

The Boys Went Through A Rigorous Audition Process

Male cast of the Greasers
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

Most typical auditions for both films and television usually involve one person per session, reading the part of one of the characters. However, the auditions for The Outsiders was far from ordinary.

Instead of one person, the process involved up to 30 young actors at a time who would be told to act out specific excerpts from the script. Those that casting director Frank Roos liked the best would then be taken out from the larger group. At a minimum, each group of actors would audition for three parts each.

The End Sunset Isn’t Real

Sunset at the end
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

At the end of the film, Coppola knew that he wanted to use a beautiful sunset for Ponyboy and Johnny to act against. Yet, because the sunsets in Oklahoma during filming weren’t very long, Coppola had to get creative.

He decided on using a rear screen projection to create the ideal sunset for Ponyboy’s ending scene as he writes down the words stated at the beginning of the film. Furthermore, Warner Bros. had a lot of the film’s scenes cut, but Coppola fought to keep this particular moment in.

Tom Cruise And Rob Lowe Had A Real Greaser Experience

Rob Lowe and Tom Cruise
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

At one point during filming, actors Rob Lowe and Tom Cruise actually spent the night at a real “Greaser” couple’s house that was living in Tulsa.

At first, Lowe was hesitant about the prospect about staying the night with people that Coppola had just met on the street, but was pleasantly surprised when he learned that the strangers were actually very hospitable. Both actors admitted that it was a life-changing experience and for Lowe, helped solidify the idea that he wanted to be a full-time actor.

Ralph Macchio Had To Live On Five Dollars A Day

Johnny and Ponyboy laying down
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

Once Macchio scored the role of the less fortunate Johnny, Coppola made a point to have Macchio feel what it was like to live in Johnny’s shoes. To do so, Macchio was forced to live on five dollars a day, a similar situation that his character experienced in the film.

So, when Johnny scarfs down the burger and fries in the film, it’s most likely because he was actually starving. Furthermore, for two nights, Macchio was recommended to “sleep outside for a few nights” by Coppola, which he did, sleeping on park benches using only newspaper for blankets

The Church Fire Was Real

Church fire
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

Coppola is known for being as realistic as possible in his films, so it’s no surprise that the fire when Johnny and Ponyboy save the kids from the church fire is real. Coppola repeatedly asked the technician to keep adding more fire to the church, which is when things started to get out of control.

The fire spread to the steeple and soon became too hard to contain. Luckily, the local fire department was on the scene to help, and a rainstorm helped to put out the flames.

Hinton Turned Down Several Other Offers To Adapt Her Novel

Lowe, Swayze and Howell sitting in the grass
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

Before being approached by Coppola, Hinton and previously turned down several offers by other studios for fear that they wouldn’t do her novel justice. However, after Coppola and Hinton began talking, the two made a deal to work on the film together.

The selling point was that Hinton would serve as a consultant to ensure the movie was up to her standards. On top of that, Hinton was also impressed with the studio’s adaptation of The Black Stallion, which made her feel more comfortable.

The Movie Poster Was A Candid Shot

Movie Poster
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

For the movie’s poster, the initial idea was for the Greasers to be in character for the picture, but it didn’t pan out that way. The reaction on the actors’ faces occurred after Lief Garrett, who played Bob, went to the catering table and was denied by the stagehand who didn’t believe that he was part of the film.

After Garrett was denied, Macchio joked, saying, “Yeah, it’s for the talent.” This prompted the boys to burst into laughter, giving us the movie poster we see today.

The Studio Didn’t Like The Rough Cut

Estevez and Howell
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

When Coppola and Hinton first showed the rough cut to Warner Bros., the studio definitely had their doubts. They didn’t think that teenagers could sit through a two-hour film and that it would lose their attention.

So, Coppola was instructed to cut some of the material into a more manageable length to appease a younger audience. However, this would result in the film missing its expected release date in the fall of 1982. After some edits were made, the film was given the go-ahead for a March 23rd release date.

Diane Lane Was The Butt Of A Lot Of Pranks On Set

Diane Lane as Cherry Valance
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

Dianne Lane, who played Ponyboy’s love interest, Cherry Valance, was constantly the victim of pranks by the boys during the months of shooting that they were all together.

In Variety’s oral history of The Outsiders, she mentioned that “It was frightening to see and realize many of the violations of psyche and boundaries such as 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!” it’s a wonder she stayed on with the project!

The Movie Is Dedicated To The School That Helped Get It Made

Actors in from of an ice cream store
Nancy Moran/Sygma via Getty Images
Nancy Moran/Sygma via Getty Images

Af the end of the film, a dedication is on the screen that reads, “The Outsiders is dedicated to the people who first suggested that it be made.” The people that the dedication is referencing is librarian Jo Ellen Misakian and the students of the Lone Star School in Fresno, California, who signed the petition for Coppola to make the film.

Of course, Misakian and the students never assumed for their petition to work, so you can imagine how they felt when they were personally mentioned in the film.

S.E. Hinton Revealed Sodapop’s Tragic Future

Rob Lowe as Sodapop
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

In The Outsiders: The Complete Novel documentary, Rob Lowe, who plays Sodapop, asks the author, S.E. Hinton, what happened to Sodapop Curtis after the events of The Outsiders.

Hinton explains that Sodapop is drafted into the army during the Vietnam War, where he is killed in action. Lowe remembers taking this small detail to heart, which helped him develop the character to the best of his abilities, knowing that his character would, unfortunately, live a short life.

Hinton Has A Cameo In The Film

Hinton in The Outsiders
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

During the filming of The Outsiders, Coppola’s company, Zoetrope was so low on funds that they could only pay Hinton $500 of her $5,000 rights fee. Yet, Hinton and Coppola made a deal that Hinton could have a cameo.

She appears as the Nurse when Dallas, played by Matt Dillon, is being taken care of in the hospital. While on set, Hinton was often referred to as “Mom” by the male actors, as she provided them a lot of insight into their characters and was there for emotional support.

There Were Several Accidents On Set

Rumble scene
Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images
Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

A few different actors were hurt by accident when making the movie, with most of them taking place during the rumble scene in the rain. One of the most notable of these accidents occurred during the first punch thrown in the fight.

C. Thomas Howell commented, “There was this stunt man at the very start who slipped and punched me right in the face. That wasn’t supposed to happen. So the scene I had prepared for ended up being Matt Dillon dragging me off.” Some of the other actors also took small injuries during the fight as there had already been pent up anger between the “Socs” and the “Greasers” behind the scenes.

Tom Cruise Needed A Little Help Before Performing His Backflip

Boys after the rumble
Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images
Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

When the Curtis boys are hyping themselves up for the rumble while leaving the house, Tom Cruise does a backflip off of a car in the front yard. Patrick Swayze was coaching Cruise how to do the stunt right before it was filmed, and Cruise was incredibly uneasy.

Cruise then approached Hinton, saying he didn’t know he could do it because he felt sick from lunch. Hinton then had Cruise drink raw eggs until he threw up, which apparently made him feel better. He then pulled off the flip with no further problems.