Andrew McCarthy always 'hated' being part of the Brat Pack. Now he sees it as a 'blessing.'

While McCarthy was ready to revisit the career-changing drama in 'Brats,' he gets why fellow Brat Packers Judd Nelson and Molly Ringwald turned down the doc.

Andrew McCarthy with Ally Sheedy and Demi Moore at the premiere of his documentary Brats at the Tribeca Film Festival on June 7.
Andrew McCarthy with Ally Sheedy and Demi Moore at the premiere of his documentary Brats at the Tribeca Film Festival on June 7. (Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tribeca Festival)

Words matter, and the two used to label a group of rising, 20-something actors in 1985 — “Brat Pack” — were game-changing. For Andrew McCarthy, not in a good way.

“It had a long shadow over us,” McCarthy tells Yahoo Entertainment.

In his new documentary, Brats, premiering June 13 on Hulu, the Pretty in Pink and St. Elmo’s Fire star reconnects with fellow Brat Packers Demi Moore, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez and Ally Sheedy, whose lives and careers were defined by the term, which was coined in a scathing New York magazine exposé. McCarthy, who wrote and directed the film, hadn’t seen most of them for 30 years.

For the public, the Brat Pack became an endearing label not only for the young stars playing characters people related to but also for their beloved ’80s films, such as The Breakfast Club. Meanwhile, McCarthy and his peers avoided working together after the article painted them as spoiled and untrained in their field. Some lost work. It clouded careers and friendships.

“The interesting thing was the disconnect we felt toward it,” the reluctant Brat Packer says. “It took me personally decades to come around to realize the public was right. It's actually a beautiful thing — not a negative one.”

Brats takes viewers along as McCarthy, now 61, visits the homes of Moore, Lowe and the others (minus a few who declined to participate) for unscripted conversation. What’s so human is how each person has a uniquely different take on being part of a club none of them wanted to join.

For Estevez, the magazine profile’s main subject, it stills seems raw. He said in the film that his career was completely “derailed.” Moore said it felt “unjust” in the moment but didn’t take it personally over time. She spoke candidly about navigating bigger struggles in that era — like staying sober while making St. Elmo’s Fire. Lowe viewed it as “a special thing” to be part of something that people are still talking about “30-plus years” later.

Demi Moore and Andrew McCarthy reconnected for the film.
McCarthy reconnected with members of the Brat Pack, including Demi Moore, in the doc. He hadn't seen most of them for about 30 years. (ABC News Studios)

McCarthy says that he “kept fighting it” for years. The turning point was when it clicked — through fan encounters — that the Brat Pack wasn’t about him or even the others.

“People approach me, start talking about those movies, and their eyes glaze over,” he says. “I realized: They’re actually talking about themselves and their own youth. They’re not talking to me anymore. They’re thinking about that moment in time when they’re coming of age and the world is a blank slate to be written upon. I represent that to people. So do the other members of the Brat Pack.”

McCarthy calls it “a great gift” he can give fans “by receiving their goodwill” — as they mentally travel back to Pretty in Pink’s Blane telling Andie he loved her at the prom or remember a quote from his St. Elmo’s Fire character, Kevin Dolenz — “and that's 180 degrees different than how I first experienced it long ago.”

The cast of St. Elmo's Fire: Rob Lowe, Ally Sheedy, Demi Moore, Emilio Estevez, Mare Winningham, Judd Nelson and Andrew McCarthy.
McCarthy, right, and the cast of 1985's St. Elmo's Fire: Rob Lowe, Ally Sheedy, Demi Moore, Emilio Estevez, Mare Winningham and Judd Nelson. (Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)

For McCarthy, the documentary is part of the ’80s heartthrob’s journey in unpacking his complicated relationship with stardom and follows his 2021 memoir, Brat: An '80s Story. He calls the film an “exploration in the present of how the past can change.”

“We think the past is the past and settled, but the past is rarely ever settled, and our relationship to it can change entirely,” he says. “The same events I looked upon all those years ago [and] hated, now I view them as a professional blessing.”

When it came to interviewing his former co-stars, McCarthy, who has been directing TV shows for close to 20 years, purposefully didn’t walk in with a “bunch of interview questions.” His intention was to “have real conversations” about “whatever the Brat Pack means to us while we’re sitting in the room together.”

Emilio Estevez, shown with McCarthy, said his career was
Emilio Estevez told McCarthy his career was "derailed" by the Brat Pack article. (ABC News Studios)

He had “no idea” what to expect but felt “everyone was very forthcoming” and also “open-hearted.” One moment in the film shows Estevez talking about having McCarthy cut from a film project, thinking it would be “kryptonite” working together amid the Brat Pack fallout.

McCarthy was forthcoming too. In the doc, as he walked in to interview Lowe, he admitted they were “competitive” and “not close” back in the day. Their conversation changed that.

“Rob walks in the door, and I see myself at 19 years old again,” McCarthy says. “I had so much affection for him because I had so much affection for my own self as a young boy instantly then. It was a really lovely feeling — and that surprised me. One of the things that surprised me the most was that we all had such affection for each other in a way that we didn't necessarily then.”

(ABC News Studios)
McCarthy said he and Rob Lowe were "competitive" in the '80s. Seeing him today, he felt pure "affection." (ABC News Studios)

McCarthy tried to land Molly Ringwald and Judd Nelson for the film. (He cold-calls the whole Brat Pack in one fun-to-watch scene.) Despite pleasant conversations about it, neither was ultimately motivated to revisit the topic on camera, which he understands. He did get a yes from Brat Pack-adjacent actors Jon Cryer, Lea Thompson and Timothy Hutton.

“Certain people feel one way about it, and others feel however they feel,” he says. “The movie was made with love for all of us.”

Revisiting the Brat Pack story

One of the most full-circle moments was McCarthy sitting down with the journalist who wrote the Brat Pack article, David Blum. Blum didn’t offer an apology for the long-lasting ramifications of the story, but McCarthy says he wasn’t looking for one.

“I wasn't hoping for anything from anyone. I was just trying to see where people were at,” he says. “The only thing with David I was actively trying to do was not play ‘gotcha’ to him the way he played gotcha to us. I mean — he was writing in an age of gotcha journalism, that ’80s snark that was very prevalent, [and] capturing that moment in time. I think Demi said it best: ‘He wasn't looking to label us for life. He was just looking to get his next job.’”

Molly Ringwald, Jon Cryer and Andrew McCarthy pose in costume on the Pretty in Pink film set.
McCarthy with Molly Ringwald and Jon Cryer in 1986 film Pretty in Pink. (Bonnie Schiffman/Getty Images)

McCarthy also realized what a unique spot in Hollywood history those ’80s films hold.

“It’s something that could never really exist today because our culture is so fractured,” he says, with technology giving us so many choices (films, shows, channels, reels) “that there isn't a unifying thing. It doesn’t happen now. That's not good or bad. It's just a different time.”

What McCarthy also realized was that “the Brat Pack isn't about any real thing,” he says. “It's about a moment in pop culture when pop culture changed, and the transition was underway. Youth cinema took over in a way that it never had before… We were at the vanguard of that. … Then came up this really catchy line to label it, and boom.”