Audiences loved the changes and everything about the reshoot had the desired effect, including my ill-fitting and cheaply made hairpiece. It lent me a somewhat sickly appearance and enhanced my forlorn look as I approached Molly in my white tuxedo. (I had been performing on Broadway in the role of a U.S. marine with a shaved head at the time of the reshoot.) Had the producers known we would still be talking about the movie all these years later, they might have invested in a better wig.
As the film was set for release, I was called back to Los Angeles once again for a press junket. It was my first experience with a media onslaught, and I did not yet understand that if you were out beyond the safety of the herd, exposed and alone on the leading edge, you were fair game. I say this without complaint or even an opinion. It is simply the way that it is, and something of which I was not aware. Nothing illustrates this point more than a cover story that appeared in the June 10, 1985, edition of New York magazine called “Hollywood’s Brat Pack.”
The photo splashed across the front of the magazine was a publicity shot from St. Elmo’s Fire of Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson, and Rob Lowe. I recognized the image because I was originally in it, but for the purposes of the article I had been trimmed out. The story, by a writer named David Blum, was intended to be a small feature on Emilio in advance of the release of the movie. What it became was a stinging indictment of a group of young, successful actors. Emilio had made an error in judgment—which was odd when you consider that he grew up in a showbiz family as the son of Martin Sheen and might have known to be more media-savvy. He had invited the writer along with him on an evening at the Hard Rock Cafe with some of his buddies, who happened to be Judd and Rob. It was a planned gathering for the press, and it backfired. The three ran into a few other actors, behaved foolishly—as young men who are drinking are apt to do—acting with entitlement, trash talking other actors, and flirting with young women. While perhaps not a world away from their typical behavior, the fact that it was a staged event lent the evening a falseness that omitted the actors’ charms, complexity, and humanity. And from this single, artificially concocted evening, the Brat Pack was born.
I was back in New York and not present on the night in question. My name appeared just once, late in the article:
…And of Andrew McCarthy, one of the New York-based actors in St. Elmo’s Fire, a costar says, “He plays all his roles with too much of the same intensity. I don’t think he’ll make it.” The Brat Packers save their praise for themselves…
The fallout from the article was immediate and charged. High-powered publicists (the same ones who had arranged the interview and the evening out) struggled unsuccessfully for damage control. The phrase entered the zeitgeist, and the branding instantly burned deeper than anyone could have predicted. Having been excluded from the group of actors cited in the story as the leading crop of up-and-comers, I simply felt hurt that one of the three guys had said such a dismissive thing about me. This Brat Pack stuff was not my problem. In fact, I concluded, they’d brought it upon themselves with their arrogant, callous behavior. Good luck to them.
Now who was being naive?
Excerpted from BRAT: An ’80s Story, by Andrew McCarthy. Copyright © 2021 by Andrew McCarthy. Used by arrangement with Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved.
All products featured on Vanity Fair are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
More Great Stories From Vanity Fair
— Cover Story: Anya Taylor-Joy on Life Before and After The Queen’s Gambit
— Zack Snyder Explains His Long-Awaited Justice League Ending
— Tina Turner Is Still Haunted by Her Abusive Marriage
— Emilio Estevez’s True Hollywood Stories
— Armie Hammer Accused of Rape and Assault
— Why Black Panther Is Key to Understanding The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
— 13 Oscar-Nominated Movies You Can Stream Right Now
— From the Archive: Meet the Real-Life Teen Burglars Who Inspired The Bling Ring
— Not a subscriber? Join Vanity Fair to receive full access to VF.com and the complete online archive now.