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New documentary Brats revisits the 1980s group of young Hollywood actors that came to be known as the Brat Pack

Anyone who remembers pop culture during the 1980s will surely recall the Brat Pack, the nickname cooked up by the media for a group of young, up-and-coming actors who were taking Tinseltown by storm at the time.

One of the members of that rarified club is Andrew McCarthy, who steps behind the camera as director of Brats, a new documentary looking back on that group of rising stars, and how the films they made reshaped Hollywood during an era when Hollywood was aggressively courting teen audiences by making movies for, about and starring young people.

Brat Pack on Disney+. Pictured: Demi Moore reminisces with Andrew McCarthy for his new documentary.

That environment created the confluence of circumstances that led to the term Brat Pack, first introduced in a 1985 feature for New York magazine about St. Elmo’s Fire, still considered the quintessential Brat Pack movie. For good or ill, the nickname stuck, and there was nothing that any of the actors could do about it.

“That was one magazine article, a regional magazine that came out on a Tuesday; and by Friday, the nation was using the term ‘Brat Pack,’ and our lives were different,” McCarthy recalled while promoting the film at the Television Critics Association press tour back in February. “It was a life-changing kind of thing.”

In his film, McCarthy reconnects with several of his fellow Brat Packers, including Demi Moore, Rob Lowe, Molly Ringwald, Emilio Estevez, Ally Sheedy and Judd Nelson, who share their memories of what it was like to be labelled Hollywood’s brats.

Brat Pack on Disney+. Pictured: Brats director Andrew McCarthy reconnected with St. Elmo’s Fire co-star Rob Lowe.

Understandably, the actors were not thrilled with the negative connotations their collective new nickname entailed. “Now, the Brat Pack has become this iconically affectionate, kind of warm and fuzzy phrase for that moment in pop culture for a certain generation,” McCarthy explained. “But at the time, it was not the case . . . I said to one of the people in an interview, ‘When the Brat Pack term happened, I felt like I’d lost control of the narrative of my career.’ And that’s what it felt like instantly. Because we were branded as partying, wanting to have a good time and just, you know, get famous . . . I think anytime any of us are labeled, it can be a limiting thing. And so, we recoiled against that. And it did affect our careers in a certain way.”

Interestingly, McCarthy wasn’t mentioned in the original article, yet was still tarred with that brush. “What’s interesting if one were to go back and look at the article, half the people that are in the Brat Pack that have come to be known, those people I mentioned, Demi and all these people, are not even mentioned as who’s in the Brat Pack in the article,” McCarthy said. “But, you know, pop culture does its own thing.”

Ultimately, McCarthy has not only made peace with his Brat Pack past, over the decades he’s actually come to appreciate it. “In many ways, I feel like the Brat Pack has become this extraordinary blessing in my life in a certain way, you know? Had the Brat Pack term not existed, I’d be some guy who made some interesting ’80s films . . . But because I’m a member of the Brat Pack, I’m part of this larger thing that still, to a certain generation, has this currency and value.”

Brats, streaming on Friday, June 28, on Disney+

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