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Whatever Happened To The Cast Of The Outsiders?

1983's "The Outsiders" is one of the most faithful literary adaptations ever made, containing nearly every scene of author S. E. Hinton's classic novel. After releasing the film to critical acclaim, director Francis Ford Coppola recut the film 22 years later, restoring several scenes that make it even more faithful to the source material. It was released as "The Outsiders: The Complete Novel." 16 years after that, the film was restored from its original negatives and re-released in theaters. This seminal coming-of-age film has a legacy that goes far beyond saving middle schoolers the time it takes to read the book. For proof, look no further than Oklahoma's "Outsiders" museum. Not every teen flick gets its own tourist destination.

The biggest legacy of "The Outsiders," however, is its cast. There would be no '80s "Brat Pack" without "The Outsiders," which boasts a deep ensemble of future stars. And that's not even getting into the movie's plethora of background cameos, which include uncredited appearances from Nicolas Cage, Melanie Griffith, Flea, and S. E. Hinton herself. Here's what happened to the main cast of "The Outsiders" in the decades since it first hit theaters.

C. Thomas Howell (Ponyboy Curtis)

C. Thomas Howell anchors "The Outsiders" as the sensitive and thoughtful lead character, Ponyboy Curtis. Howell, who was 15 when he landed the part, had grown up around Hollywood, as his father was a stuntman. As a result, he wasn't intimidated by the glamour of movie-making, or the prospect of working with director Francis Ford Coppola. Howell went on to enjoy leading roles in several other prominent '80s movies, including "Red Dawn," "The Hitcher," and the controversial comedy "Soul Man." 

The ensuing decades saw steady but much less prominent work for Howell. In a 2011 conversation with Smashing Interviews Magazine, he expressed some irritation regarding his early success overshadowing the rest of his career. "Today I'm caught between being known as a working actor and being known as a former star," he remarked. "It always frustrates me a little bit ... We'd all like to have the Johnny Depp career, but there's only one Johnny Depp." 

In the last few years, however, Howell has made regular appearances on a variety of popular shows, including "The Walking Dead," "The Blacklist," and "Bosch." He may not be Johnny Depp, but Howell has still appeared in over 200 different movies and TV shows in a career that has stood the test of time.

Matt Dillon (Dally Winston)

By 1983, Matt Dillon had already starred in films like "My Bodyguard," "Little Darlings," and "Tex," another S. E. Hinton adaptation.  Brooding and intense, he was the perfect choice to play the street-smart, hot-tempered, and ultimately doomed Dally Winston. Immediately after filming "The Outsiders," Dillon teamed up once more with director Francis Ford Coppola to play the lead role in "Rumble Fish," a third Hinton adaptation. He went on to stardom in both the mainstream and indie film worlds, balancing roles in major romantic comedies ("Singles," "In and Out," "You, Me and Dupree") with parts in auteur-led dramas ("Midnight Cowboy," "To Die For," "The House That Jack Built").

Dillon has demonstrated immense range over the course of his lengthy film career: His three best-known roles are a boorish private eye in "There's Something About Mary," a scheming high school counselor in the lurid thriller "Wild Things," and a prejudiced cop in "Crash," for which he received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. In 2002, he took up the director's chair, helming and starring in the thriller "City of Ghosts."

Ralph Macchio (Johnny Cade)

Just one year after "The Outsiders," hit theaters, Ralph Macchio starred as sensitive, scrappy Daniel LaRusso in "The Karate Kid," one of the most memorable movies of the 1980s. He reprised the part in two sequels, and landed the prominent role of Bill Gambini in 1992's "My Cousin Vinny." After this slate of hits, however, he settled into a largely quiet period of his career. Other than a recurring role on "Ugly Betty," he mostly made one-off TV appearances, and the occasional humorous cameo. In classic "Whatever happened to ... ?" fashion, he competed on "Dancing With The Stars" in 2011.

In 2018, he returned to the role of Daniel LaRusso in the smash-hit spin-off series "Cobra Kai." As an older, wiser karate kid who still feels the pull of ancient rivalries, Macchio has been highly lauded for bringing new emotional depth to the franchise. As a result, "Cobra Kai" stands above most other reboots, revamps, and sequels — in fact, it's so good that people even signed up for something called "YouTube Red" to watch it, before Netflix snagged the series.

Patrick Swayze (Darry Curtis)

It's impossible to imagine a time before anyone knew who Patrick Swayze was, but indeed, "The Outsiders" brought him to the world's attention. As Darry Curtis, Swayze conjured a unique combination of strength and tenderness. He soon went on to international stardom in 1987's breakout hit "Dirty Dancing" — as it turns out, he could dance, too.

"Dirty Dancing" could easily have been his career-defining movie, but Swayze followed it up with three equally celebrated performances: Taciturn bouncer Dalton in "Road House," unfortunate specter Sam Wheat in "Ghost," and guru-surfer-bandit Bodhi in "Point Break." These characters are just his personal Mount Rushmore — he enjoyed many other memorable roles in sleeper hits like "Youngblood," "Red Dawn," and "Donnie Darko." Patrick Swayze died in 2009 at the age of 57 from pancreatic cancer (via ABC News). Though his career was cut short, he left an indelible legacy behind.

Rob Lowe (Sodapop Curtis)

Rob Lowe's career consists of two distinct halves. In the '80s, he established himself as a major star by appearing in a string of hits. "The Outsiders" kicked this streak off, followed by movies like "Oxford Blues" and "St. Elmo's Fire." But the 1988 release of a sex tape threw a major curveball Lowe's way. The following years saw him take on the occasional cameo, a number of straight-to-video releases, and some supporting turns in moves like "Wayne's World" and "Contact."

Then things changed. In 1999, Lowe joined the ensemble cast of "The West Wing" as Sam Seaborn, a lead role which revitalized his career as a TV star.  He went on to snag parts that became more and more upbeat, including exercise nut Chris Traeger on "Parks and Recreation" and Dean Sanderson on "The Grinder." In 2020, he launched his podcast, "Literally! with Rob Lowe," which sees him interview a wide variety of celebrity guests.

Emilio Estevez (Two-Bit Matthews)

The son of actor Martin Sheen, Emilio Estevez decided to make a name for himself under his own, well, name. The wise-cracking Two-Bit of "The Outsiders" was actually one of his very first performances, and thus one of his earliest steps on the road to stardom. He went on to shine as a leading member of the "Brat Pack" in movies like "The Breakfast Club" and "St. Elmo's Fire." In 1992, he starred as Gordon Bombay in the family-friendly "The Mighty Ducks," a role he reprised in two sequels and a Disney+ series.

Throughout his career, Estevez has also honed his work behind the camera. He co-wrote the adaptation of another S.E. Hinton novel, "That Was Then ... This Is Now" in 1985, and wrote and/or directed films including "Men At Work," "The War At Home," and "The Way" in the following years. In 2003, well after his family ties became common knowledge, he appeared as a younger version of his father's character on "The West Wing." At that point, it was clear to everyone that his own career no longer risked being overshadowed.

Diane Lane (Cherry Valance)

In 2002, Diane Lane starred in "Unfaithful." She was quickly hailed as a revelation, though the movie itself is an otherwise forgettable erotic thriller, even earning an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. Though it's easy to think of the role as a sudden breakthrough, it was, in fact, the culmination of a lot of steady work. Lane had been working in film since she starred opposite Laurence Olivier in 1979's "A Little Romance." After playing Cherry Valance in "The Outsiders," she earned an Emmy nomination for the 1989 miniseries "Lonesome Dove" and appeared in everything from a made-for-TV adaptation of "A Streetcar Named Desire" to the cult classic "Judge Dredd." 

So, Lane's "breakthrough" role in 2002 was actually more of a continuation than a culmination. It did lead to several prominent parts, however: In the following years, Lane balanced leading roles in dramas ("Under the Tuscan Sun," "Nights in Rodanthe") with supporting roles in thrillers like "Untraceable," plus a few appearances in the DCEU films as Superman's mother, Martha Kent. After spending most of her career in film, she appeared on the final season of "House of Cards," and snagged a major role on "Y: The Last Man."  Basically, ever since she played level-headed Cherry Valance in "The Outsiders," Lane has been pretty darn busy.

Michelle Meyrink (Marcia)

Michelle Meyrink's  acting career was brief, but she demonstrated an uncanny ability to pick up spectacular scripts during the time she spent in Hollywood. After playing Cherry Valance's uptight "soc" friend Marcia in "The Outsiders," she took parts in three other comedies that went on to achieve cult film status. First, she played Suzi, a member of the ensemble, in 1983's "Valley Girl." She then played Judy, an adorably geeky love interest to one of the titular nerds in 1984's "Revenge of the Nerds." Finally, she appeared as Jordan Cochran in 1985's "Real Genius." 

Despite this success, Meyrink realized she didn't actually enjoy the hustle of showbiz. In a 2020 interview with Python's Paradise, she said, "It felt like it was always this panic about the next job, and I hated that feeling." Eventually, she moved to Vancouver and opened the Actorium, a multifaceted school of acting. She also became deeply devoted to Zen Buddhism.

Leif Garrett (Bob Sheldon)

Leif Garrett's role as the doomed Bob Sheldon in "The Outsiders" is a fairly small one. This is surprising when you consider the fact that, at the time, he was probably the most well-known member of the cast.  After earning some attention as a child star, Garrett embarked upon a music career in the 1970s. His 1978 single, "I Was Made for Dancin'," brought him a new level of fame. He even hosted his own TV special, simply titled "Leif," in 1979.  Despite  this, his role in "The Outsiders" ended up being one of his most memorable. Beyond it, he's had starring roles in little-seen horror movies like "Cheerleader Camp" and "Party Line," bit parts in slightly bigger movies like "The Banker," and the occasional TV role.

Leif Garrett's struggles with addiction have landed him in legal trouble and multiple stints in rehab (via ABC News). He even appeared on Season 4 of "Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew." More recently, however, Garrett has been on more even ground. In 2019, he released a memoir entitled "Idol Truth."

Darren Dalton (Randy Anderson)

"The Outsiders" was Darren Dalton's big break, despite the fact that his character, Randy Anderson, boasts only a small amount of screen time. Still, it was enough to parlay into a journeyman career in Hollywood. Immediately after appearing in "The Outsiders," Dalton reunited with Patrick Swayze for the 1984 teen action movie "Red Dawn." He followed that up with made-for-TV movies like "Brotherhood of Justice," "Daddy," and "Montana."  After that, he settled into a steady career playing small parts in B-movies like "Scanner Cop" and "The Land That Time Forgot."

Dalton doesn't just work in front of the camera, however — he's also a talented screenwriter with a number of titles under his belt. Perhaps most memorably, he co-wrote the screenplay for "The Day The Earth Stopped," an Asylum straight-to-DVD release directed by none other than his "Outsiders" co-star, C. Thomas Howell. That's got to be one of Hollywood's most unique reunions.

Glenn Withrow (Tim Shepard)

Glenn Withrow had a small part in "The Outsiders" as Tim Shepard, the leader of another group of young toughs that come to the aid of the main crew.  Withrow's acting career didn't end up being the longest one around, but he still managed to work with Francis Ford Coppola four times — in addition to "The Outsiders," he appeared in "Rumble Fish," "The Cotton Club," and "Peggy Sue Got Married." How many actors can claim that as a personal achievement? In addition to this, Withrow played small parts in a wide variety of projects, ranging from "Beverly Hills Cop II" to an "ALF" Christmas special.

Withrow's last acting credit arrived in 1990, but he didn't depart Hollywood altogether. In 1998, he founded his own production company, In House Media. Under that banner, he directed 2012's "The Mooring," which he co-wrote with his daughter, Ivy Withrow, and his wife, Hallie Todd.  The family went on to co-write 2020's "The Last Champion," which Glenn Withrow directed as well. 

Tom Waits (Buck Merrill)

That's right, Tom Waits is in "The Outsiders." He played Dally's friend Buck Merrill, who briefly shows up when Ponyboy and Johnny go to find Dally at a party in a moment of crisis. After gaining a following for his eclectic style throughout the '70s, Waits produced the soundtrack to Coppola's 1982 musical "One from the Heart." Despite the film's critical and commercial failure, Waits went on to appear in "The Outsiders" and Coppola's next film, "Rumble Fish."

Waits has earned a cult following for his musical experimentation, and still finds time for the occasional film cameo or small part. He began a lifelong collaboration with director Jim Jarmusch with a leading role in 1986's "Down By Law," going on to appear in four more Jarmusch films, including 2019's "The Dead Don't Die." Waits has popped up in films as varied as "Mystery Men," "Seven Psychopaths," and "The Book of Eli" as the years have gone by.  Even if you're not a fan of his uniquely gruff singing voice, there's a fair chance you might recognize him from his decades of playing oddballs and weirdos.