The star of movies like St. Elmo's Fire and Pretty in Pink writes about his tumultuous 20s in Brat: An '80s Story. Of that era's movies, he says the emotions are timeless, the hair not so much.



We're going to go back now to the '80s. You remember that big hair, big shoulder pads, Walkmans and a new kind of film star.


ANDREW MCCARTHY: (As Kevin Dolenz) Love? Love? You know what love is? Love is an illusion created by lawyer types like yourself to perpetuate another illusion called marriage.


MCCARTHY: (As Blane) You told me you couldn't believe in somebody who didn't believe in you. I believed in you. Always believed in you. I just didn't believe in me.


MCCARTHY: (As Larry Wilson) What kind of a host invites you to his house for the weekend and dies on you?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Andrew McCarthy there in some of his iconic movies, "St. Elmo's Fire," "Pretty In Pink," "Weekend At Bernie's." He's considered one of the so-called Brat Pack - young stars with swagger who were in all the hot movies that catered to the desires and dreams of young people for the first time. McCarthy has spent a lot of his adult life running away from that label. But in his new memoir, "Brat," he takes a look back at his tumultuous 20s when he first became famous. Author, director and actor Andrew McCarthy joins us now. Welcome.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: For those who may not know, the name Brat Pack came from an article in New York magazine in 1985. I just reread it. At one point, the author names all the Brat Packers and labels them. The hottest one was Tom Cruise, the most beautiful face Rob Lowe, which - truth. And it basically details a night out with a group of the Brat Pack when they were not shown in the best light and so were dubbed with that name. And it kind of swept everyone of that age group in it. Tell me about the first time when you saw that name, the Brat Pack, and what you thought about it?

MCCARTHY: Well, it was a shock, I think, to all of us. It was supposed to be, originally, a small feature on Emilio, and then he invited the writer out with some of his buddies to go drinking at the Hard Rock Cafe one night. The writer turned off to his subject, and it evolved into this cover story called "The Brat Pack." And it's interesting because the photo on the cover was a still shot from "St. Elmo's Fire," which I was in, and then I was removed - cut out of it for the cover shot. And when I saw the cover went, oh, my God, they cut me out. And then I read the article, and I went, oh, my God, thank God they cut me out.


MCCARTHY: And then soon enough, I was swept up into it anyway.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. I want to talk about Molly Ringwald because she got you your next gig after "St. Elmo's Fire" - "Pretty In Pink," of course. How did that happen?

MCCARTHY: They were looking for square-jawed, broad-shouldered quarterback type to play her boyfriend. And I had just been in "St. Elmo's Fire," which hadn't come out yet, but there was some buzz about the movie. And so, you know, you're never hotter than when nobody's seen anything you've done.


MCCARTHY: And so I was granted this sort of courtesy audition. And Molly was in there reading with people, and Molly and I read the scene together, and John Hughes just kind of went, OK, thank you. And when I left the room, apparently, Molly turned to John and said, well, that's the guy. And John was like, that wimpy guy? She's like, yeah, he's poetic and sensitive. That's the kind of guy I'd fall for, not some jockey idiot. And John, to his credit, you know, not only gave lip service to sort of respecting young people in his movies. He did. And he said, OK, I don't really see it, but if you say he's the guy, you got him.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And they changed the ending of that film, and they had to reshoot it with you in a wig.

MCCARTHY: We did reshoot. The ending originally was my character sort of bails on Molly and...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And who wants that, frankly? Nobody. Not even now.

MCCARTHY: And who wants that in a fairy tale? A fairy tale has to end a certain way. So anyway, yes, they screened it for a test audience. They loved the movie until that happened. Then they hated it. They wanted us to be together, so we reshot it. And I was doing a play in New York at the time. And I had shaved my head, so they had to give me a wig and fly me back to California to reshoot the ending. And the wig actually does a lot of the work for me because I look very, very forlorn in my bad wig as I approach Molly. I look kind of almost ill, and it's really a lot of wig acting there.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So you do mention this thing about Hughes and how he really wanted to elevate the narrative of young people. And something Molly Ringwald said about "The Breakfast Club" recently stuck with me. She said, "I don't think you could remake it now. They would all just be on their phones, and no one would speak to each other. And I guess that's true of almost all those films. Those films were sort of about connection, up close and personal.

MCCARTHY: Well, and they were also about, you know, respecting young people and honoring that their emotions that they feel are bigger and deeper and fuller and more all-encompassing than yours or mine. You know, as adults, we go out and go, yeah, it's just a kid. And no. Like, my son is 19 years old, and he's in love for the first time, and he is the first person to ever be in love. And it is powerful, and it is beautiful, and it is all-encompassing in his life. And we were all that way at one point. And John honored that in a way that other grown-ups had not.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I would like to touch a little bit on the in-between time - between the sort of fame of the Brat Pack and what came next. You detail throughout this how you started drinking heavily. What happened there?

MCCARTHY: The first thing I always say in discussing this is that I did not drink in any way as a reaction to my success. You know, I didn't feel, oh, he's too young to handle it, so I turned to drink. Not at all. I started drinking sort of parallel - simultaneously, and my drink was very much about drinking. I drank because I had an affinity to alcohol and a tendency toward it and an alcoholic temperament and/or biology, you know? And it happened to coincide with the movies. And it certainly was detrimental to my career at - in the later stages of it, for sure. But it wasn't a reaction to my career. You know, I drank better vodka because I was in the movies. I didn't - it didn't cause me to start drinking.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So - but - you know, you say that the drinking wasn't linked to your fame, but I am curious about what you've thought about how fame affected you because there is a sort of warping aspect to fame I've heard described by other celebrities.

MCCARTHY: Oh, I think fame changes you on a cellular level. Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, as you're growing up, you're the center of the world and the center of the universe. And then as you kind of get out into the world, and you realize your mom was probably wrong, you're not really the center of the world. And then you become famous. And suddenly, no, no, no, no, you are the center of the world. And so you stop growing in a certain way. And developmentally, it's probably not the best thing for one's being a well-rounded adult to be treated in such a way. And, you know, when you're young - when you're 20, 22, 23, like I was when I was starting to get successful in that way, you don't even know who you are in a certain way yet. So the - you know, stepping out on the hollow ground of fame is precarious when you're not even sure who you are yet. So I found that a lot to navigate.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Has it surprised you that the people who are interested in those films of that era that you were in are not just people who were kids then but all the new generations who call them classics and still find them resonant?

MCCARTHY: I think that's lovely. You know, I think those kids who find them that way are really responding to their parents. They're not only looking back at the movies. They're looking back at themselves when they were young, at that moment, when their life is an empty canvas to be painted on and just - get out of my way. I'm coming out, world. Those movies represented that to a lot of people. And so I, in a certain way, kind of represent that to people, and I've grown to find that very satisfying. That said, the emotions in that are true in those movies. I think they're pretty truthful. However day-to-day may be as movies, the emotions underneath are, you know, timeless in that way, and so kids can relate to that. Maybe not the hair, but, you know...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughter) Not the hair. That's Andrew McCarthy, a once and always member of the Brat Pack. His new book is called "Brat," and it's out now. Thank you very much.

MCCARTHY: Thank you.


ANDY MCCLUSKEY: (Singing) If you leave, don't leave now. Please don't take my heart away. Promise me, just one more night. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.