A 1985 New York Magazine article that first termed the phrase Brat Pack rocked the world of Andrew McCarthy and his co-stars of St. Elmo’s Fire — so much that each of the actors went years, even decades, without talking to each other. As McCarthy says, “actors want to be free of that baggage.”
Not anymore. McCarthy is now behind an ABC News documentary called BRATS that addresses how that one phrase captured the zeitgeist and forever altered the careers of then 20-something actors like Rob Lowe, Demi Moore, Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson, Mare Winningham and Molly Ringwald. Even then, it was not entirely clear who was a member of the Brat Pack (though the article by David Blum would go on to point fingers at Timothy Hutton, Tom Cruise, Nicholas Cage and Sean Penn as well).
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“We took such offense early on,” McCarthy said Saturday at the Television Critics Tour. “It altered the perception of how we were perceived in business, in the world … this had such a profound effect on my career. A magazine article came out on Tuesday and by Friday the entire nation was using the phrase Brat Pack. It was a life-changing kind of thing. We felt suddenly unseen. I felt like I lost control of the narrative of my career.”
For his ABC News Studios doc that will air on Hulu later this year, McCarthy went back and talked to fellow “Brats” like Lowe, Moore, and Estevez. Ringwald didn’t want to talk for the doc, nor did Nelson — who apparently told McCarthy that “the Brat Pack didn’t exist so I’m not talking about it.”
McCarthy said it was meaningful reconnecting with his old co-stars, especially since they all just seemed to scatter when the term Brat Pack first came into existence. (Ironically, McCarthy says, the New York Mag article started out as a profile of Estevez but ended up as an analysis about the changing face of movies in the ’80s).
“No one would be seen in a movie together. I hadn’t seen Rob in 30 years. I hadn’t seen Emilio since the premiere of St. Elmo’s fire. I hadn’t seen Demi. I know they have not been in touch,” recalled McCarthy. “I’m surprised at how much affection we had for each other.”
Now, the term Brat Pack simply evokes a “warm and fuzzy” feeling of a certain generation. “At the time, it was not the case. We all resisted it and tried to position ourselves from it. I tried to ignore it … it’s such a blessing now. In many ways, the Brat Pack was an extraordinary blessing. It still has this currency to a certain generation.”
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