Andrew McCarthy was barely mentioned in the original New York magazine article that coined the term “the Brat Pack.” But in the public consciousness, the star of “St. Elmo’s Fire” and “Pretty in Pink” was still lumped in with the group of red-hot young actors that included Emilio Estevez, Rob Lowe and Judd Nelson. After getting sober and realizing how conflicted he felt about Hollywood stardom, McCarthy went on to direct for TV and write for magazines. As audiences continue to be fascinated with the movies, music and fashions of the 1980s, McCarthy has finally embraced the snarky label with his new memoir “Brat: An ’80s Story” from Grand Central Publishing.
Why did you call your book “Brat” after fighting that description?
I had to own it, in all its complications and ironies. But I wasn’t ready for a number of years.
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I was asked over the years if I’d be interested in writing a Brat Pack book, and my answer was always no. I didn’t want to sign a deal if I didn’t have anything to say.
Why did it bother you so much at first?
I found it limiting and judgmental. If you’re going to be labelled, people stop trying to understand you. But over time it’s come to be looked upon in a different way. Some of that original stigma is still there, but it’s become such an iconic thing. It represents such a period of time, with rose-colored glasses. Within the industry, everyone seemed to try and run from it and rebrand themselves. We were suddenly branded and it was not in a flattering way. The last thing you want when you’re in Hollywood is to be boxed in.
The irony of the whole thing is it didn’t really exist. The minute it was invented, it didn’t exist anymore, because everyone did what they could to not be in a Brat Pack venture.
Why do people still love the ’80s so much?
I’ve never been able to put my finger on it. I was amazed at it then and I’m still amazed by it. It certainly goes deep for a generation of people.
Take us back to your first night in Hollywood, when you flew out to meet Jacqueline Bisset for “Class.”
I was put up at the Chateau [Marmont]. Belushi had recently overdosed there. It was a musty, sinister place — room service consisted of a tuna melt made in a toaster oven. She had approval of her co-star, so I was driven up to her house in the hills. It was mind-blowing. She was gracious and lovely, I was just a kid from New Jersey.
What about working with Joel Schumacher on “St. Elmo’s Fire”?
I had auditioned for “D.C. Cab,” which I mercifully did not get, but Joel remembered me from that. I was brought out to L.A. to meet the studio heads, and I sat there like a terrified little idiot and flopped the meeting. We butted heads a few times, but I had great affection for Joel, because without him my career never would have happened.
Did you dislike Hollywood when you were working in it?
I didn’t feel comfortable there in Hollywood when I was young, spoke more to my insecurities, didn’t have enough belief in myself to feel comfortable.
Director Howard Deutch and writer John Hughes originally wanted a jock for “Pretty in Pink.” What changed their mind?
It’s all due to Molly [Ringwald]. John Hughes had no real interest in me. Molly read with me, and when I walked out she said, “That’s the kind of guy I would fall for — dreamy and sensitive.” To John’s credit, he had great respect for young people and their opinions.
Did you think “Pretty in Pink” would be remembered for so long?
At the time I remember thinking this was a silly movie about a girl making a dress. I was thinking, “I need to get another job fast.” I did not see that coming. It didn’t get good reviews, but there’s something about it that touches people.
How did John Hughes tap into what young people wanted to see?
He took young people seriously in a way that movies hadn’t. Everything is so passionately important, everyone’s in love for the first time like it’s never happened before. He gave young people credit for having a full range of deep emotions and it paid off for him, that kind of deep generosity.
You had kind of an epiphany when Alec Baldwin was interviewing you about stardom, and he proposed, “Maybe you didn’t want it.”
Temperamentally, I was split in two. That kind of ambivalence is not a recipe for easy success, I was often undermining myself. To have the kind of fame that propels people, there has to be a clear drive, clear ambition and unapologetic sort of belief.
Is directing a more comfortable fit?
When I started directing, I could just go to work and employ all the things I learned over the years. I knew all the actor issues, because I had so many of them. And I discovered I had a visual sense, which was a welcome thing.
Would you like to do a feature?
I have a thing I just finished writing, it’s a true story I read in a magazine. It’s a father son adventure story about a boating accident. They have a very conflicted relationship — it’s set in a tempest and the storm represents their relationship. So we’ll see.
What was it like going back to acting on “Good Girls”?
It was interesting to go back to after 10 years. A lot of the nonsense wasn’t there — you could do less and achieve more. It was like rediscovering something for the first time.
What have you been watching lately?
Ken Burns’ “Hemingway” on PBS — It’s fucking brilliant. What a shitshow of a a life. It’s so disturbing by the end — such a reckless, selfish life. He wrote some incredible things, but the wreckage of that insecurity– it’s quite a cautionary tale. When you self-mythologize it ends up eating you. He destroyed people around him.
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