Former 'Brat Pack' stars reunite in documentary directed by Andrew McCarthy

Demi Moore, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez and others also star in the Hulu special.

June 13, 2024, 11:00 AM

It's been almost four decades since a 1985 New York magazine cover story dubbed Emilio Estevez, Rob Lowe, Andrew McCarthy, Demi Moore, and Judd Nelson, the "Brat Pack," a term that would go on to define a generation of actors and leave a lasting impression on pop culture.

A play on Frank Sinatra's notorious 'Rat Pack' company of 1950s and '60s frequent film collaborators that also included stars Joey Bishop, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford and Dean Martin, the Brat Pack referred to the group of young actors who starred in now-classic coming-of-age films such as "Sixteen Candles," "The Breakfast Club," and "St. Elmo's Fire."

Ostensibly a profile about Estevez, the largely unflattering magazine profile titled "Hollywood's Brat Pack" – which also snarked about fellow then-20-something stars Tom Cruise, Nicolas Cage, Sean Penn and others – did little to dilute their box office success. But the subjects of the article who were tarred with the Brat Pack moniker were less than enthusiastic.

"I think that's what some of us resented so much at the beginning, is that this isn't the right perception of who we are," McCarthy said. "This isn't the reality of our experience."

As it happens, none of the Brat Pack had ever really talked with one another about that experience. That changes with "BRATS," a new documentary directed by McCarthy in which he and his fellow Brat Pack friends finally share their feelings about that time.

Andrew McCarthy, Ally Sheedy, Demi Moore and Jon Cryer attend a screening of "BRATS" during the 2024 Tribeca Festival at BMCC Tribeca PAC on June 7, 2024 in New York City.
Gary Gershoff/WireImage via Getty Images, FILE

The 1980s marked a significant shift in Hollywood, with a new wave of young actors emerging as the face of a generation. The 'Brat Pack' was at the forefront of this cultural shift, with their influence shaping popular films of the time, arguably starting with the 1983 drama "The Outsiders," the cast of which included Emilio Estevez, Rob Lowe, C. Thomas Howell, Tom Cruise, Matt Dillon and others.

Perhaps the zenith of Brat Pack cinema, however, arrived in 1985 – the same year the New York magazine feature was published – with the release of the coming-of-age dramas "The Breakfast Club" and "St. Elmo's Fire," which together variously starred what came to be considered the Brat Pack core of Estevez, Lowe, McCarthy, Moore, and Nelson, with Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy, and Anthony Michael Hall also in the mix.

"I just remember seeing that cover and thinking, 'Oh, f---.' I just thought that was terrible," McCarthy said. "And it turns out, I was right. It was. The article was scathing, about all these young actors. And the phrase being such a clever, witty phrase, it caught the zeitgeist instantly and burned deep and that was it."

"The Brat Pack is an image that somebody thought up who doesn't know anything about us," Sheedy said.

"From then on, my career and the career of several other people was branded -- without any wiggle room -- as the Brat Pack," McCarthy said.

Yet only a few years after the Brat Pack phenomenon peaked, its members moved on to other projects and the next generation of young film stars grabbed the headlines. Nearly 40 years later, McCarthy thought it would be interesting to reach out to his former fellow Brat Pack members to talk about their experiences at that time and what it means to them now, decades later.

"When it first happened to us, we all hated it," McCarthy told "Good Morning America" while promoting "BRATS." "And over time, it's become the wonderfully iconic, affectionate term."

Though some former Brat Pack members declined to participate, including Molly Ringwald and Judd Nelson, many others were willing. McCarthy said seeing his old friends, many for the first time in more than 30 years, renewed their friendships as they discussed the past.

That included Emilio Estevez, whom the article dubbed the unofficial president of the Brat Pack and who McCarthy said he hadn't seen since the premiere night of "St. Elmo's Fire." Estevez not only shared that he felt his career path was "derailed" by the feature, but also that he took steps to dissociate himself from his fellow Brat Pack members – including passing on a subsequent script that would have reunited him on-screen with McCarthy.

"Working together, it just almost felt like we were kryptonite to each other," Estevez told McCarthy, adding that he generally had no interest in revisiting that time: "I think if you're too busy looking in your rear-view mirror and looking at what's behind you, you're gonna stumble trying to move forward."

After visiting Estevez, McCarthy went to speak with Sheedy, revealing to her for the first time that he had a crush on her back in the day. While she said she has fond memories of her Brat Pack co-stars, like McCarthy, and the films in which she appeared, particularly "The Breakfast Club," she said she felt "shell-shocked" after the New York magazine article was published.

"It felt like it just, like, 'Let's just write off everybody's lives and their experiences and their work," Sheedy said.

Ally Sheedy and Demi Moore attend the "BRATS" premiere during the 2024 Tribeca Festival, June 7, 2024, in New York City.
Theo Wargo/Getty Images

McCarthy's later conversations with Demi Moore, Rob Lowe and Jon Cryer are variations on that theme – how they felt then, versus how they view that time now with the benefit of four decades of hindsight.

Moore, with whom McCarthy co-starred in "St. Elmo's Fire," in particular asks, "Why did we take offense?" then later admits being called the Brat Pack felt "unjust" to her at the time: "I just felt like it didn't represent us, and I felt like it was a real limited perspective."

Likewise, Rob Lowe called the New York magazine feature a "mean-spirited attempt … to minimize all of our talents," but also agrees with McCarthy that there's "nothing but goodwill" associated with the label now.

Though it had been decades since McCarthy had spoken with his fellow Brat Pack members, the one person with whom none of them had ever spoken was the man who coined the phrase when he wrote the New York magazine feature in 1985: David Blum, who said the "Brat Pack" title came to him while he was driving around Los Angeles.

"I thought, 'Well, this is fun,'" Blum told McCarthy. "Honestly, it didn't cross my mind, really, that it was all that big a deal."

Blum, who was 29 when he wrote the story, seemed as surprised by how McCarthy and the others reacted to it as McCarthy and his fellow 20-something actors felt when they first read it.

"You were all adults," Blum said, pushing back against McCarthy's assertion that the story wasn't written "with any affection" toward him and the others.

But ultimately, Blum does admit, "There were a couple of things in the article that were just plain-old not nice, and I'm sure I should've been scolded by somebody. And I was. I was just trying to be funny."

"BRATS" debuts on Hulu June 13.