21 Crazy Details Behind The Making Of The Outsiders

The Outsiders is considered one of the most romantic, heroic interpretations of 1950s youth to ever be brought to a film screen. The brain behind the book the film was based on, S.E. Hinton, created a world that would transform the way teens saw themselves. She also created Sodapop, Ponyboy, Johnny, Dally, Cherry, and all the other unforgettable characters who would become icons of young adult fiction and visual media in the 1980s to the present. The story centers around a group of disenfranchised teenagers, their struggles with identity, and the pressures that come with it.

The 1983 movie would become one of the best novel adaptations ever. It would also take young actors Patrick Swayze, Tom Cruise, Emilio Estevez, Ralph Macchio, Matt Dillon, and Rob Lowe and make them into some of the most famous actors of the '80s, '90s, and today. That's all thanks to the director, Francis Ford Coppola. The man behind Apocalypse Now, The Godfather, and The Great Gatsby directed this classic YA adaptation.

The times on the set, however, were unconventional in every sense of the word. Hyper-realism and authenticity to the material were important to Coppola, resulting in quite a few crazy things that happened on and off set. From the burning of a church steeple to an actor living on practically five dollars a day, this nearly doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the many off-the-wall things that happened to the cast during the making of this film.

Here are 21 Crazy Details Behind The Making Of The Outsiders.

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21 Coppola couldn't afford to pay for the film rights

During the early talks of the film being made about the novel, money was a little bit of an issue for getting the film to be made. Though the film didn’t take much of a budget to make, Cappola couldn’t pay Susan Hinton the full amount due to rights and fees to make the film.

Hinton wanted $5,000 for the film adaptation, but only got $500 as a down payment.

As a result, the author was given a role in the film, along with two other film adaptations of her other works: Rumble Fish and Tex.

20 The boys' crazy audition process

The auditioning experience quite the odd experience. While a normal audition usually is one person per session with the reading and performance of one particular piece, this audition was anything but the conventional experience for the young stars.

During the auditioning process up to 30 people at time would come in and act out certain excerpts from the script, then take out of the huge groups which ones he liked best.

Frank Roos was in charge of casting at the time of auditions for the film, having each group of actors read three parts as much or as long as they wanted.

19 Sodapop's future was apparently a grim one

In The Outsiders: The Complete Novel documentary Rob Lowe asked S.E .Hinton what happened to Sodapop Curtis.

Hinton told Lowe that Sodapop was drafted to the Vietnam and lost his life there. 

He recalled that this little detail changed the way he bought the character to life on film. This certainly creates a sort of pathos and changes the dynamic of things for the story, but it would also break the hearts of many fans.

Maybe one day Hinton will change her mind on this one little detail about Sodapop Curtis and allows us to believe that he gets a happy ending.

18 The sunset at the end of the film is not real

Coppola wanted a beautiful sunset for Ponyboy and Johnny to act against in the closing scenes of the film. Because Oklahoma sunsets didn’t last very long, the last scene was shot on a rear screen projection to create the perfect sunset for Ponyboy's ending scene. He writes the same words that are given to us in the beginning of the film.

Among all the scenes that Coppola had to cut out due to Warner's demands, this was a scene he insisted on keeping as he felt it really enhanced the film's ending and story. What an inventive way to preserve one of the best filmed sunset scenes of all time!

17 The actors slept in the homes of "real Greasers"

Tom Cruise and Rob Lowe actually spent the night together at a" real Greaser's" home in Tulsa. Lowe was reluctant about staying in a house with people Coppola had just found off the street, but his fears were actually quelled when he found out that the strangers were not as scary as he expected Greaser types to be.

Lowe and Cruise shared a meal and personal, warm conversation with the couple.

The event was a life changing experience for both, and ultimately was one of the many moments that got Lowe seriously thinking about his future in acting.

16 All the guys played pranks on Diane Lane (Cherry Valance)

Diane Lane who played Cherry Valance, Ponyboy’s love interest and co-starred with Matt Dillon in Rumble Fish, was a victim to some of the competitive pranks that took place between the male actors during the months they were together shooting the film.

She commented in Variety's oral history of The Outsiders, stating that “It was frightening to see and realize many 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!”

15 Howell still gets fan letters about Ponyboy

C Thomas Howell in The Outsiders

Both Macchio and Howell are well known for visiting students who have read the book in school. “I just went a couple of weeks ago,” Macchio told Variety. “I went to the school and talked about the book. They had all of these presentations, whether it was poetry, readings, dances, or video, influenced by the film about bullying back in the day versus bullying now and just social classic differences, and how they love these characters.”

Howell , who is still very close with actors such as Lowe and Macchio recalls favorably about going back and reliving those memories with different generations of kids. “It’s one of my favorite things I do,” “I’ll come in to speak to them after the screening of the film. It affects these kids so deeply still.

Most, surprisingly is that Howell still gets letters from sad and distraught young girls who are Pony Boy fans. They cry even more after they realize the man is 51 years old.

14 Real feuds between Greaser and Soc actor

Filming on The Outsiders was an unusual experience for all the actors, sometimes causing a bit more strife then was necessary do to Coppola’s methods for getting them into character for filming.

Once the actors were chosen for their respective roles, director Coppola actually separated the actors according to the gangs they were chosen for as a source of method acting to get real tension between the two groups on film going.

This resulted in a real rift between Matt Dillon (Dallas) and Diane Lane (Cherry).

An early tiff between the two had started during their first meeting and would ultimately make its way on set during the filming process. This also resulted in actual feuds between other actors onset and offset. As a result, several actors had real injuries in the last fight scene at the end of the film.

13 The church fire was real and out of control

During the Greasers rescue scene where the Kindergarten students are saved from a fire in an abandoned country church, the filming took a turn for the worse.

Coppola was always a little over-ambitious when he wanted a scene to look realistic. He asked the technicians to add more fire to the church scene. The staging of the location went too far, sending a barrage of flames to the church steeple.

Luckily the local fire department was there to intervene to put out the flames. Fortunately, it wasn’t needed since a miracle rainstorm had come about and put out the fire naturally.

12 S.E. Hinton was the “Set Mom” during the Filming

In an interview with Willamette WeekHintonsaid that she mommed a lot on the 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.”

Needless to say with a film full of teens, it was bound to happen that the author for one of the most unexpectedly mature novels in young adult fiction would serve as a mother figure to keep those rowdy young actors straight during the filming process.

11 Ralph Macchio lived on five dollars a day

After Macchio had gotten the role in the film, Coppola had him living on five dollars a day so he could further understand the character he was going to portray in the film.

As we could see, Johnny’s lifestyle in the film was nowhere near glamorous: his parents fought all the time and, being on the southern side of town, his family was not rich.

To get the full experience of a poor kid in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Macchio had to sleep in parks, using newspapers as blankets.

Though Macchio noted that the process was not comfortable, it was indeed a great acting exercise.

10 Coppola made the cast do Tai-Chi

Coppola had the whole cast do Tai Chi during rehearsal. Lowe recalled the memory in his memoir, saying he didn’t even know what Tai Chi was at the time until Coppola introduced the exercise to them before their first rehearsal.

He playfully suggested he thought this was some form of  takeout but realized no car was there with any type of food: “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.”

Clearly something as small as this made the very best acting come out of these actors.

9 Patrick Swayze (Darry) was 15 years old than C. Thomas Howell (Ponyboy)

During the audition process, many actors came and went but Patrick Swayze and Ralph Macchio made quite the impression on Coppola and Fred Roos. Surprisingly both actors were not teens when they got accepted for the roles of Darrell Curtis and Johnny Cade.

Patrick Swayze and Ralph Macchio were adults when playing their leading roles in the film, the rest were in their mid-late teens.

Swayze was 31 years old and Maccgio was 21 years old, making them much older than 16-year-old C. Thomas Howell.

Surely these guys must have found the fountain of youth at some point, as the actors didn't even look like they were adults at all.

8 Hinton refused many other offers to adapt her book

Hinton had previously turned down many offers from other movie studios, believing that a movie production of the book couldn’t do her work justice. After talks with Coppola and Hinton took place, the two set on a deal to work on the film together, with her serving as a consultant to keep the movie as true to the film as possible.

Hinton agreed to work with Coppola due to the production company's treatment of The Black Stallion adaptation. 

Coppola’s undivided attention to Hinton’s raw vision of class rivalry and 1950s culture is so rich with in detail that one could see why she went to Coppola to adapt her novel to film.

7 Socs were given better treatment by the crew


Rob Lowe recalled in his memoir many of the competitive exercises that set the Greasers far apart from the Socs. This included fun events such as flag football games to not-so-fun distinctions that showed one was beneath the other for the sake of film realism.

One way the crew managed this wa sby giving the Greasers tethered three-ring binders with the scripts inside them while the Socs recieved leather-bound volumes of the script. Socs also received nicer hotel accommodation.

Coppola was always finding ways to make them better actors in the most unconventional of ways.

6 The Rumble Fish connections

Matt Dillon in Rumble Fish

After the astonishing success of The Godfather, Coppola switched gears and made The Outsiders and Rumble Fishback to back. He shot them within weeks of each other, using many of the same locations from The Outsiders in Oklahoma. Coppola even used the same art director, Dean Tavoularis.

This change of pace for Coppola represented the treasured youth that one holds onto, - whether it be the romanticized image of lost youth we see in Rumble Fish, or the beautiful tribute to old school 1950s youth we see featured in The Outsiders.

Even though both films were made back-to-back, each one is different in its approach to Hinton's novels.

They have over time become timeless classics tales of youth that have been major influences in the film industry of a young adult film done right.

5 The candid story behind the movie poster

outsiders tom cruise patrick swayze 10 best movies adapted from YA novels

The shot of the cast that was used for The Outsiders poster was taken at a moment where the Greasers were supposed to be in character for the anticipated photo shoot.

The incident occurred when Leif Garrett (Bob) went to get food from the catering table and was denied due to the stage hand believing him to be not a part of the the film cast. Ralph Macchio then made the sarcastic comment “ Yeah it’s for the talent.”

This made the actors laugh, prompting the photographer to quickly take the shot, which was then used for the film poster we see today.

4 The movie is dedicated to the middle-school that got it made

After the film is finished and we roll on to the film credits, a dedication is placed on the screen “ The Outsiders is dedicated to the people who first suggested that it be made."

Those people would be librarian Jo Ellen Misakian and the students of the Lone Star School in Fresno, California, who petitioned for the film to be made.

Not expecting a director to take such a petition seriously, they were surprised to find that Coppola listened to their plea for him to make the movie.

It’s rare that a film gets made for such a pure reason, as more often then not a film's production is based on how much bank it can make in the box office. The dedication shows that there are times directors will do things just for the heart-warming purpose of making children happy.

3 The alternate version of the soundtrack

While the film was a smash hit among most fans, some didn’t like that there were some scenes crucial to the novel that were not featured in the feature film. In response to this after receiving a lot of letters and feedback on the situation, another version of the film was re-released in 2005, called The Outsiders: The Complete Novel.

Coppola had initially felt bad at first for having to take out parts of the film. His lack of faith in the film then influenced him to cut some scenes from the final picture. The DVD release features 22 minutes of deleted and unseen footage and even another soundtrack to replace the original score featured in the film. The original score was originally written by his father to give it a Gone With The Wind style.

2 Coppola videotaped the whole film first 

To give the film the authentic look of the 1950s and 1960s, Coppola used saturated colors and a music score from his father. He used a videotape to film the project, before replicating the material in film.

Coppola converted an abandoned school house into a rehearsal hall, where he videotaped the rehearsals.

This wound up helping the actors in developing their characters.

Tom Cruise had noted that it was beneficial to himself and the cast and it also helped them to stage and block the scenes. This didn’t just help the actors build up the tolerance for their characters, but also to learn more about acting.

1 The studio didn't like the rough cut

Warner Bros. surprisingly didn't like the rough cut of the film when it was shown by Hinton and Coppola.

The studio felt that teenagers would not sit still through a two-hour film as it was too long to keep their focus.

Coppola was told to cut some of the material in the film and make it into a movie on manageable length "Suitable" for young audiences. The film would not make its Fall 1982 release date, and it would ultimately lead to a further-out spring release.

After the edits to the film, it was given a test screening and was green-lit  for a March 23rd release of that same year, showing in over 829 movie theaters across the country.


Do you have any The Outsiders trivia to share? Let us know in the comments!

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