Andrew McCarthy opens up on why his colleagues didn't like being coined 'Brat Pack'

McCarthy reunites with the 'Brat Pack' crew after 4 decades.

June 13, 2024, 3:10 PM

Actor Andrew McCarthy has directed a new documentary, "BRATS," about the infamous group of young adult actors -- dubbed the Brat Pack -- who were brought together in 1985 when Hollywood pushed for young voices.

The Brat Pack was a group of young actors who starred in classic coming-of-age films in the 1980s. This group was often described as a play on Frank Sinatra's famous "Rat Pack" from the 1950s and '60s.

The Brat Pack included stars such as Molly Ringwald, Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Rob Lowe, Andrew McCarthy, Demi Moore, Judd Nelson, and Ally Sheedy. Some of the famous movies featuring members of the Brat Pack include "Sixteen Candles," "The Breakfast Club," and "St. Elmo's Fire."

In 1985, a New York magazine cover story coined the term 'Brat Pack' for Emilio Estevez, Rob Lowe, Andrew McCarthy, Demi Moore, and Judd Nelson, a label that not only defined a generation of actors but also left an indelible mark on pop culture, a legacy explored in McCarthy's documentary.

ABC News sat down with McCarthy for an in-depth discussion, where he shared his reflections on that era and the experience of reconnecting with his former Brat Pack colleagues after a decadeslong hiatus, a key theme in his new documentary.

VIDEO: Andrew McCarthy talks new documentary ‘BRATS’ on the legendary Brat Pack

ABC NEWS LIVE: The 1980s was a time of blockbuster movie hits like "The Breakfast Club," "Pretty in Pink," "St. Elmo's Fire" and "16 Candles." The actors in these films were branded as the Brat Pack. However, the actors most associated with the Brat Pack movies often had a tumultuous relationship with that term. Now, actor and director Andrew McCarthy takes a deeper dive into that phase of his life and its impact on Hollywood. Let's take a look at a clip from his new documentary, "BRATS."

ABC NEWS LIVE: Love that clip. Joining us now, Andrew McCarthy himself. Thank you so much for joining us.

MCCARTHY: Nice to be here.

ABC NEWS LIVE: So you really kind of take on this kind of investigative reporter role, connecting the dots, reaching out to the old friends. What made you decide to do this?

MCCARTHY: Well, several years ago, I wrote a book about my experience and of that time in the '80s, because it was such a life-changing experience and was a seminal time for me. I changed who I became, and when I finished the book, I kind of realized my feelings about it had actually moved probably 180 degrees. I hated the term at first. I didn't like it, and that I'd grown to sort of embrace it is probably the biggest professional gift of my life.

And so I thought I would go seek out the other members of the gang because we're only few people in this club, you know, and we're the only ones. Well, I don't know how exclusive, but we were the only ones who had it happen. You know, it happened to. So I just thought I'd get their take on what it was, you know, and I. And it was really surprising and interesting. Liberating, really.

ABC NEWS LIVE: What was the issue with the term in the beginning, and what prompted you to really evolve over time to ultimately embrace it?

MCCARTHY: Well, I think it was a combination of different cultural events that were happening because it was in the early/mid-'80s when youth movies just took over in a way they never had been before. You know, it's a seismic cultural shift. It's hard for us to realize now because all movies are sort of geared toward a young adolescent mentality. But back then it wasn't the case, and this was the beginning of that.

And then, you know, this article came along that branded us as the Brat Pack. And so there was suddenly a handle you could grab onto, and it just became, caught fire. The term, because it's such a witty, clever term. And so, you know, and it was sort of disparaging and negative. One, who wants to be called a brat, who wants to be lumped in a pack and all that? And so at first we, you know, we recoiled from it.

But the public was, I think, a lot smarter than us and realized right away that, like, we represented them, you know, for that generation up there. And we were like the cool kids. And so, they always embraced it. And it took me a lot, just a lot longer than them to realize that, you know, this was an amazing thing.

ABC NEWS LIVE: It was such really an iconic era of, of films. And I think the people have this, at least those who are outside of the Hollywood circles. This idea maybe romanticize that. Oh, those characters are really friends in real life, and they hang out and spend time together during the movies and after, but kind of hip us to the game of of how that really might not be true.

MCCARTHY: Well, I mean, I think we just sort of, well, work together. And then when that was done, we all went home. But we did represent that kind of, you know, because also movies before that were about so largely romantic love. It was about you and me get together and we then we break up and then and then we get back together. And that's the movie.

But those movies put friendship at the center. And that was new at that time. You know, "Friends" hadn't existed yet. St. Elmo's Fire is just a precursor to "Friends." It's just about a group of kids who just graduated college, and they all hang out together. And, you know, would friends have happened without the Brat Pack? Yeah, probably. But we drove a, you know, a truck through that to open it up for people. And we forget that now. You know.

ABC NEWS LIVE: You've done a book, now you've done a movie on a documentary.

MCCARTHY: I know; it's just relentless, isn't it?

ABC NEWS LIVE: Is it healing? Is it, is it cathartic? Is it nostalgic? How would you describe the process?

MCCARTHY: I mean, I would say it's more liberating than anything else. You know, it was a period I ran from and sort of stuffed under a rock and sort of I look under the rock and experience it from my own perspective was one thing, OK, let's figure out what I feel about it. But then to go connect with you or whoever else, those people that shared it with me, then you have a sense of community about it.

And then once we have a sense of community, we're not so isolated. We're not so alone. I mean, that's, it's so powerful about movies. That's why those kids loved us because they saw us, you know, and they saw themselves in us. So suddenly they're not alone and they're not isolated anymore. And they can identify with Molly Ringwald, feelings of isolation or whatever, you know, and so, especially in that time of late adolescence or something, it's a real seismic time in your life. You're blossoming, you're coming of age, and people often feel very separate and different. And we allowed them to sort of feel seen.

ABC NEWS LIVE: Andrew McCarthy, you said it best. Thank you so much for coming by. Really appreciate it. I want to let our viewers know "BRATS" starts streaming on Hulu on June 13.

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