‘Pretty in Pink’ star Andrew McCarthy on Brat Pack fame, facing alcohol abuse: ‘It was so all-consuming’
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Andrew McCarthy felt ready to reflect on his movie-star years.
During the ‘80s, the actor was a reluctant member of the "Brat Pack" – known as a group of young idols such as Molly Ringwald, Judd Nelson, Demi Moore and Rob Lowe – who dominated Hollywood. And while the 58-year-old admitted he "fled" from his persona and didn’t look back for decades, he was finally compelled to share his story.
McCarthy spoke to Fox News about writing his memoir now, his favorite memory from "Pretty in Pink," his comical encounter with Liza Minnelli, as well as how he faced his alcohol abuse.
Andrew McCarthy chronicled his movie star years in a new book titled 'Brat: An '80s Story.'
Fox News: What inspired you to write "Brat" now?
Andrew McCarthy: I thought I should probably try and write it down before I was too old that I forgot it all *laughs*. It’s the obvious question, isn’t it? That time affected my whole life. It changed the way my whole life would evolve after that. And it was something I just sort of ran from and never looked at, really. And I just thought it was about time to look under that rock as if were, just see what was there, to see if I had anything to say about it.
Fox News: What’s one memory from "Pretty in Pink" that makes you smile whenever you think about it?
McCarthy: This whole shoot was kind of fun. I remember we did this big party scene one night. It was one of the few moments where you realize how lucky you are living for a moment.
And I just walked into this big party scene, this big shot. There were all these extras, hundreds of people… It was just one of those moments when I kind of realized, "Wow, I'm getting to do exactly what it is I want to be doing, with really good people. And I'm really lucky at the moment."
Jon Cryer, Molly Ringwald and Andrew McCarthy on set of the film 'Pretty In Pink', 1986. (Photo by Paramount/Getty Images)
And in all of our lives, we sort of forget to do that. And when it accidentally happens… it's a pretty refreshing reminder. And it stayed with me all these years. I've always remembered that as one of the happier instances of my life.
Fox News: How would you describe your relationships with Jon Cryer and Molly Ringwald today?
McCarthy: Today, I'd say we probably have a deeper affection [for each other] than we did at the time. And I'd say that was all my fault. But I'm in frequent contact with Molly. I was just in contact with Jon last week. We all shared something and were part of something that very few people were.
We have a certain understanding of something and it affected our lives in a not entirely dissimilar way. We have a certain unspoken connection... And as of course, the older you get, these things become actually more meaningful. And you can view them with more distance, and consequently because they were such positive things, ultimately, you can view them with a lot more affection and a sense of wonder.
Andrew McCarthy was a member of the Brat Pack — a group of young actors including Molly Ringwald and Judd Nelson who dominated movies in the 1980’s and set cultural trends. (Photo courtesy of Andrew McCarthy)
Fox News: What was it like working with Demi Moore in "St. Elmo’s Fire"?
McCarthy: Demi is great. She was a delight. To me, she was a bit of a loose cannon. I never knew what she was going to do or say, which I liked because I just never knew where she was coming from. So I've found it to be sexy and delightful.
Fox News: As an actor, it seems like you were more interested in craft versus celebrity. Therefore, how did you cope with fame at such a young age?
McCarthy: I did get into acting simply because I loved acting. It never occurred to me that I might even be in the movies, let alone be famous. I thought I would be in the theater – that was my aspiration. I didn't think I would get there. And I think I found it the way many people find it. At first, it snuck up on me. I didn't realize it was happening.
The first time I realized that my life was different was when I was out in Los Angeles. And I said, "Oh, I’ll go to a mall." We have no malls in New York, or we didn’t back then. And I was living in New York at the time. And I went to a mall. But suddenly, all of these young people were coming up in a way that I was like, "I got to get out of here." And it made me realize that my life was suddenly going to be a little bit different. And I was shocked really, that this was happening.
(L-R) Actors Rob Lowe and Andrew McCarthy. (Photo by Ann Clifford/DMI/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images)
There are many things about it that are wondrous and wonderful, and then there are other things about it that, as someone has wisely said, "It's a bit glib." But I think it's true that you stop maturing at the age at which you become famous. I think that has some truth in it. You spend your childhood thinking you're special and unique, and center of the universe, and then to go out into the world and you realize that maybe that's not the case, maybe your mom was wrong. And then you become famous and it's like, "No, no, no, you are."
It’s not the most healthy environment to find one's footing. And particularly if you're in your 20s, you don't really know who you are yet anyway. Finding who you are, that's what your 20s are about… [But fame], it just changes things. I think fame changes you on a cellular level... I was successful among a certain generation of people at that moment. And so it certainly altered my perception of the world and how I would interact with the world.
Fox News: According to your book, it sounded like you are one of the very few people who can say you’ve had Liza Minnelli of all people drive you in her Rolls-Royce. How did that happen?
McCarthy: *laughs* That was probably the most quintessential Hollywood night that I've ever had. I was making "St. Elmo's Fire" with Rob Lowe, and he said, "You want to come out to dinner with me, and Melissa?" His girlfriend, Melissa Gilbert, the actress. I said, "Sure, sure, would love to."
Andrew McCarthy achieved Hollywood fame at a young age. (Photo courtesy of Andrew McCarthy)
So we went to Spago, of course, which was at the time the hot spot to eat in showbiz… Suddenly, Liza Minnelli was the other person at that dinner. And I was like, "Oh, hi, Liza" which is odd enough. And then, of course, after dinner, Liza then said, "What do you say we go to Sammy's place?" And I was like, "Yeah, sure, love to go to Sammy's place" having no idea what Sammy's place was, thinking it's a club or something.
So we drove up into the Hills, Beverly Hills, and I'm like, "There's no club up here. This is residential." We knock on the door and the door swings open. There is Sammy Davis Jr. standing there going, "Cats, come on in, I'm having a little party, join us!" So we had this crazy Hollywood night at Sammy Davis Jr.'s house. And then Liza drove me home in her Rolls-Royce, which was very gracious of her because I had a few too many drinks and she hadn't.
Fox News: Unlike some of your peers, you managed to escape the tabloids. How did you achieve that?
McCarthy: I lived in New York, for one, and most of the guys lived in LA. And back then there was still this differentiation between a New York actor and an LA actor. And there was this what's now some silly snobbery about being a New York actor versus an LA actor. And I didn't particularly hang out in showbiz-y crowds.
The bars that I was hanging out in were the Corner Bistro and Barrel Pub, kind of regular neighborhood divey bars, as opposed to showbiz-y places where you're getting your picture taken. That just didn’t particularly interest me. My priority was drinking, not having my picture taken.
Andrew McCarthy today. (Courtesy of JFPR)
Fox News: At the height of your acting career, you were faced with alcoholism, which you didn’t blame on success. Could you describe that moment when you realized, "I want to get help?"
McCarthy: I think it took me several years to realize that I had a problem, then several years to do something about it. And those cries for help come very quietly at times. One day, I was actually in a hotel in Los Angeles. This is back in ’92. I was drunk in the morning. I just went, "I need help. This doesn’t work."
Luckily my drinking was so bad that I couldn't pretend that, "Oh, no, it's fine. I got it under control. I'm managing this. It doesn't get in way of my work or my life." It was so all-consuming that I was lucky in that regard, just like, "This is out of control. I'm out of control. There's only one thing I'm focusing on here, and it's the wrong thing, and I need help." So in that regard, I was quite lucky that I flamed out so intensely.
Fox News: What's a common misconception that you feel people still have about the Brat Pack, and what's the reality?
McCarthy: Well, I think I had it wrong, largely, for so long. I think the Brat Pack charm was originally leveled in the media as a very pejorative term. But I think in the public, it was always viewed with this great affection. And I certainly perceived it early on as this negative thing, because who wants to be called a brat? And who wants to be labeled, put in a box? I think the minute you label something, you stop examining it, and you think you understand it. And a judgment was passed pretty quickly and boxed pretty quickly.
Andrew McCarthy directing an episode of 'Orange Is the New Black.' (Netflix)
So I was resistant to that. But what I didn't quite get was that the public thought it was a wonderfully affectionate term from the get-go. And it's like, "Oh, a Brat Pack movie, I love those guys" because to them, it signified the ultimate in the group. And we apparently were it. And whether that was a reality or just a perception, it doesn't really even matter. It never did matter. I mean, that's what Hollywood is.
… And so, over time, that term has grown obviously to become an iconic term representing not just us, but this moment in pop culture. People look back on that and the minute people say "Brat Pack," which is such a great phrase - you say it once, you can't forget it. When people look back on the Brat Pack, they're not necessarily even thinking of the movie today. Instead, they go, "Ah, the Brat Pack" and they're thinking about themselves when they were 20 odd years old and just stepping out into life and into the world and not having to listen to the grownups and doing their own thing, painting on the canvas of their life that's pretty much blank.
And that's a thrilling, exciting moment. And we represent that to a lot of people. I and a few others have become the avatar of that moment in people's lives. And that's kind of a cool thing.
Andrew McCarthy said he's still friends with Molly Ringwald. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Fox News: One can assume you don’t watch your old movies. But how do you feel about them today?
McCarthy: True, I do not spend much time... I live with myself, I don't need to watch myself. I have come a long way in my relationship, and I love them now in a very real kind of way. They've been kept so alive to me, by people for so long that. I've come to realize what they represent to a generation of people. That just feels wonderful. I loved the part in "St. Elmo's Fire." I have great affection for "Pretty in Pink." I think "Mannequin" is a delight. "Bernie" is great. I have great affection for all those films. I don't think that was always the case for me.
Fox News: Speaking of "Bernie," "Weekend at Bernie’s" has become a big social media meme.
McCarthy: I know, it's amazing. It's just so funny. Anytime any politician or anybody falls down or gets sick, there's me and Jonathan Silverman holding up pictures of whoever it is. And people send them to me all the time. They always make me laugh. And that movie is great. That movie is so dumb and willfully dumb and playfully dumb that I love it.
Andrew McCarthy said some of his peers have read his memoir. (Photo courtesy of Andrew McCarthy.)
Fox News: Have any of your peers read your book?
McCarthy: Rob Lowe kindly read it. He then called me up and asked me to be on his podcast. So I went on his podcast. We were chatting about the past, which was really fun. I hadn't caught up with Rob in a decade.
I sent some of it to Molly Ringwald to look and see if she was OK with the parts that she was in. [But] the reception has been really nice. So many have said, "Oh yeah, I remember…" Like Molly, I think, said, "Yeah, I'm thinking I might write [a book] someday, but everybody has got to be dead first." *laughs* So the response has been really nice because we all went through this thing together in a certain way. And we're all members of this club, the Brat Pack. That affected all our lives in a certain way and not many people have had that experience. It’s a shared thing that we all have, which is lovely.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.