Being Rejected from the ‘Brat Pack’ Films Wasn’t a Bad Thing for Laura Dern

March 20, 2015


In the mid-1980’s, teenage Laura Dern screen tested for both “a popular Brat Pack film” and a for Peter Bogdanovich’s Mask during the same period of time; she ended up landing a supporting role in Mask–a movie that went on to receive highly positive reviews. “Then, same thing: a Brat Pack option became a possibility in my teen years, and ‘Smooth Talk,’ which was a film that was a huge turning point for me in terms of my career. And I started to see how filmmakers who had real vision luckily for me were picking me, ” Dern shared with Off Camera. “So I got to learn about acting through people who were very independently minded. And I think you know that shaped my career far more than me making the choice. It was just how I got chosen.”

One of the Brat Pack films for which Dern auditioned was The Breakfast Club. It would have been hard to miss the John Hughes’ coming-of-age comedy The Breakfast Club which was released in February 1985. The film delved into the interactions of five high schoolers from different cliques while stuck in detention one Saturday. The movie poster attempted to allure audiences by stating, “They were five total strangers with nothing in common, meeting for the first time. A brain, a beauty, a jock, a rebel and a recluse.” The fame of starring actors Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy, Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, and Judd Nelson was catapulted especially when the film came to be known as the “quintessential 1980’s film,” received generally positive reviews, and was a box-office success.

The other Brat Pack film Dern referred to was St Elmo’s Fire released in June 1985. During casting, Laura dressed up as a prostitute–ripped stockings, smudged make up, and all–and walked up to the Warner Brothers’ studio guard asking if he’d allow her into audition for the hooker role in the film. Although she was permitted to audition, Casting Director Marci Liroff ultimately passed on Laura.

As it would turn out, also in June of that year, New York magazine featured a story entitled “Hollywood’s Brat Pack” which portrayed Emilio Estevez and a group of his partying acting pals in unflattering terms. The result of the article was that many highly successful young actors of the time, many of whom were not among those mentioned in the article, came to be implicated by the phrase. Those whose professionalism was called into question largely included the young cast of both The Breakfast Club and St. Elmo’s Fire.

The Breakfast Club has been digitally remastered, and is set to screen in 430 theaters from March 26 through 31 to celebrate its 30th anniversary. Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy recently opened up with Variety about how they felt the Brat Pack term hurt them and their careers. “After ‘The Breakfast Club,’ I got to do a whole bunch of things. Then there was a period of time, ‘the Brat Pack’ thing became a backlash. It felt derogatory–these kids had too much too quickly. There was a dip in my career.” Sheedy said she had hoped to make a smooth transition into adult roles, but, “…this thing called ‘the Brat Pack,’ which basically means young and bratty. It made things a little difficult.”

After the article was published, the community of young actors stopped socializing with one another. Sheedy has said it “destroyed” the camaraderie of the actors, insisting, “I had felt truly a part of something, and that guy just blew it to pieces.” “That guy” was writer David Blum, who has since went on to admit that he shouldn’t have written the article.

Ringwald admits her career was impacted by moving to Paris as well as the inevitability of new talent entering the Hollywood talent pool. But regarding the Brat Pack term she shared, “It didn’t feel like a positive or fair moniker for sure. I found it objectifying.”

As a teenager, Laura Dern was steadfastly set on her acting aspirations, and it had to hurt when she took chances and was rejected from some top, high-profile roles of the time. But her determination kept her going on auditions until she was able to be found by others who recognized her unique qualities as a good fit for their projects. And as it turns out, entering Hollywood through a less-traveled path may have benefited her long-term career. Certainly, it paved a distinctive career journey. The result has been a prolific body of work in celebrated productions like Wild, Enlightened, Recount, and Rambling Rose.

Stacy Keach Shares His Acting Insights

December 1, 2013


  • “Stacy Keach reveals his truth in ‘All in All,’ without an actor’s hubris or the temptation to embellish. The result is a deeply moving and inspiring story that transcends a traditional Hollywood memoir in both candor and grace. Bravo!”— Martin Sheen

After over forty years of acting for the stage, the small screen, and the big screen, Stacy Keach–he of the Mike Hammer TV series and Cheech & Chong stoner comedies–has written a biography, All in All, which reads like a manual of how to make it as a working actor. Keach is a classically trained Shakespearean performer, a network television star, and a character actor extraordinaire. Acting alongside heavyweights like Paul Newman, Martin Sheen, Faye Dunaway, Jeff Bridges, and Edward Norton, Keach immersed himself in every character he played whether the project was big (playing Hamlet in the park under Joseph Papp) or small (The Mountain of the Cannibal God; enough said) and he researched every role as if it were a postgraduate thesis. Indeed, he credits his meticulous research and unmitigated commitment to the craft, as well as his ability to deal with rejection in a productive manner with his success and longevity. “The ability to handle disappointment is obviously a running theme in my life…” he writes in his autobiography. “And I think it’s an underrated trait.” Stacy also credits his cleft palette, and the teasing he endured as a child because of the malformation, with bringing understanding and empathy to his innumerable dramatic and comedic roles.

Along with the many fascinating and archetypal stories he tells throughout the book (losing out to Jack Nicholson for the lead role in One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest, being imprisoned in the UK for drug trafficking, getting schooled by the great John Huston in a game of pool, to name just a few), Stacy saves the final chapter of All in All for his hard-won advice to up-and-coming actors. “I tell my students when we don’t get the part, we mope, we get depressed, and we think we’re no good, we lose confidence. We lose sight of the most important aspect of sustaining the life of the actor, and that is faith in oneself.” And Stacy goes on to synthesize what it really takes to succeed as an actor, writing simply, “You have to have a firm conviction that whatever happens, ‘I’m good enough to make it.’” Stacy offers more sage advice in his book such as Americans should not adopt a British accent; instead go for Mid-Atlantic speech with softer vowels; counting iambic feet while performing Shakespeare can be dangerous; and “Find your own voice.” But his enduring insight is on the crucial element of rejection, and how to keep its sabotaging destruction at bay. “It’s okay to express disappointment about not getting the part,” he writes. “But you must keep a cool perspective about the realities of the business, and not let it detract you from continuing to improve your skills.”

So, continue to improve your skills through the ups and downs of your career, determined Thespian! And who knows? Maybe you’ll be writing your memoirs in fifty years!

Happens to the Best of ‘Em

February 15, 2013

There are a scant few actors who have the high-profile resume and international prestige of the multi-award winning superstar, Scarlett Johansson. Any actor in their right mind longs for a career with so many creative possibilities and so much industry cache. There’s not a producer in Hollywood who wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to work with an A-lister of Scar Jo’s magnitude, right? Wrong. Scarlett ended speculation as to whether she auditioned for the role of Fantine in Les Mis to Broadway.com recently, admitting, “Yes, I did. I sang my little heart out.” Scarlett Johansson sang her little heart out and didn’t get the part?! That’s right, and it’s apparently not the first time. When she was younger, Scarlett auditioned for the role of Cosette in the Tony award winning stage play, Les Mis and missed the boat.

So take heart, young thespian; everyone, at one time or another, deals with rejection. Now, Scarlett has a cornucopia of great roles lined up for the next five years–parts you may not be up for–so we won’t shed a tear; but make no mistake, she wanted that role so bad she could taste it. You know what that’s like; it hurts somethin’ wicked. But you have to suck it up and NEVER let those megrims diminish your efforts or your enthusiasm. One thing is certain, you’ll never make it if you let this business get you down.

Connie Britton, the ginger-haired beauty of Friday Night Lights, is rolling right now. At forty-five she’s one of the most sought after actresses on network TV. With an utterly fierce turn as the haunted Vivien on AMC’s American Horror Story, she’s become the go-to girl for tough, heady, beautiful heroines. But Connie’s future wasn’t always so enviable. In 1996 she auditioned for the role of Dorothy Boyd in Cameron Crowe’s Jerry Maguire. Britton nailed the audition and was purportedly Crowe’s first choice. The producer’s told her they “just wanted to screen test another actress.” Dum-duh-duh-dum! A relative unknown named Renee Zellwegger won the role and went on to forge a stellar career of her own, including an Academy Award for her feisty performance in Cold Mountain. Did Connie let that get her down? Probably! How would you feel? But she kept going, and look at her now. “My life started being awesome five years ago,” she told the New York Sunday Times magazine. So let’s do the math here: She’s forty-five, uh, bring down the five, the four’s cancel out, oh, yeah, her acting career didn’t take off until she was forty years old! Think what you can do if you hang in there and keep reaching for the stars. The outer galaxies are the limit!