The Outsiders is a movie I grew up on– a tight-knit group of greaser misfits from Tulsa, Oklahoma (circa 1966) just trying to survive the only way they knew how.  The film was originally released to mixed reviews– a lot of people seemed upset that Coppola would choose to do a movie about teen angst– but Coppola never truly meant it to be about that at all — his intensions were probably not what you’d think. What inspired Coppola was, believe it or not,  a middle school class (who were fans of The Godfather) that wrote to him about making a new sort of gangster film — based on novel they had read, The Outsiders.  Coppola read the book himself, and was moved to not only do The Outsiders– he also adapted Rumble Fish, starring Micket Rourke and Matt Dillon, into a movie the year after.  It’s a classic that launched a lot of guy’s careers.  It’s also a must-see for vintage, tough as nails, greaser-style, denim looks.


In the scene where the boys are in the street getting excited for the rumble, Tom Cruise does a standing back tuck off of the top of a truck. Patrick Swayze coached him beforehand on how to do it. Right before the scene was to be filmed, Cruise nervously approached writer S.E. Hinton and said he was afraid he was not going to be able to do it, because he felt nauseous from eating too much at lunch. Hinton asked if him if he thought he would feel better if he threw up, and Cruise said that he thought so. Hinton took him to the food truck and made him drink raw eggs until he threw up, resulting in Cruise feeling much better and doing the stunt without a problem.

After the rumble…  Emilio Estevez as Two-Bit, Rob Lowe as Soda Pop, C. Thomas Howell as Ponyboy, Patrick Swayze as Darry, and Tom Cruise as Steve Randle. Cruise thought the chipped tooth looked tough, and was pretty proud of it.  It was actually his idea to give Randle the chipped tooth, worn with pride — kinda like flipping the bird to the perfect world with their high ideals and perfect chompers.  Local guys were used as extras in the film’s rumble scene.  According to Swayze it got “…a little too real.  One guy cold-cocked me square in the face, so I knocked him out.  I really didn’t mean to.


Two-bit was the lovable psycho, and one of my favorite characters. Too bad Emilio couldn’t have strung together a few good roles after The Outsiders.  He could have really been somebody.  No, The Breakfast Club doesn’t count — unless you’re a chick. Emilio Estevez approached his character as a laid-back guy and thought up Two-Bit’s interest in Mickey Mouse, shown by his uniform of Mickey Mouse t-shirts and watching of cartoons.


Francis Ford Coppola had the boys spend a night in the Curtis house used in the movie. He wanted the three “brothers” (Patrick Swayze, Rob Lowe, and C. Thomas Howell) to cook a meal together (none of them cooked) and get them to be as close as brothers. All the boys were in character for hours on end.


“Stay Gold, Ponyboy.” While Ponyboy and Johnny are best friends in the novel and film, C. Thomas Howell recalls often not getting along with co-star Ralph Macchio, saying he was very serious and professional. He remembers a specific argument dealing with him wanting to beat his high score on Pacman and Macchio demanding they rehearsed their lines. Their differences could be attributed to the fact that Howell was only 16 years old and Macchio was 20 years old at the time.


The Outsiders publicity studio still. According to Emilio Estevez, so many bodies were being flung around in the week Francis Ford Coppola took to shoot the rumble that he cut his lip, C. Thomas Howell got a black eye, and Tom Cruise broke his thumb, and needed dental work done after being punched in the jaw.28

The Outsiders publicity studio still

The Outsiders publicity studio still. To help the cast establish the actor’s rapport and to block shots, Francis Ford 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 John G. Avildsen shot rehearsals for The Karate Kid (1984) on a home video camera.


In the film, Dallas harasses Cherry and the two have an altercation. The scene was shot early in filming, and Matt Dillon and Diane Lane recalled years later that it got them off on the wrong foot and created real tension between them off set, which is why their irritability with each other in the scene seems very real. When the cast reunited in 2003 for the 20th anniversary, the men laughed when Lane told them about this, all agreeing that they remembered the ongoing feud between her and Dillon. Lane blames her adolescent insecurities for being so sensitive to Dillon’s teasing. She also admitted that she remembers fondly how protective he and the other boys were of her. Dillon and Lane ended up shooting two other films together, both of which they are each other’s love interest, and became good friends.


In the scene where Dally threatens the nurse in the hospital with Two-Bit’s knife, the nurse is played by S.E. Hinton, author of “The Outsiders” novel. S.E. Hinton was a part of every aspect of filming. She has stated in several interviews how much she loved the boys that were cast to make up her gang of greasers. Since almost all of them were teenagers and away from home with no adult supervision, she claims that she became a mother figure for them on and off set, and fondly remembers them calling her “Mom.”




The original ‘Curtis house’ is still standing– barely.

the-outsiders-tom cruise-rob lowe-matt dillon-emilio estevez-patrick swayze

The audition process for the film was quite unique, as all of the actors were able to read for most of the roles several times all together on a sound stage. Francis Ford Coppola would go through a specific scene several times while switching around which part the various actors read for, until he made a decision.



  1. Classic flick! I was just talking about this film the other day. The Stevie Wonder title song is good as well.

  2. two things that i CAN’T BELIEVE you didn’t mention:

    the Soc’s and their beautiful madras shirts.

    Tom Waits is the barkeep.


  4. One of the greatest movies ever! The scene in the hospital when “the Curtis Brothers” (Rob Lowe, C. Thomas Howell & Patrick Swayze) reunite puts tears on my cheeks every time. Classic Directing and the acting makes it not a movie at all but a slice in time from a spectator point of view. Those were simpler but awesome times of motorcycles, leather jackets, fast cars, good buddies, drinking, fighting – living.

    Scott Watters
    “Greaser for Life”

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