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The Hilarious Story Behind The Outsiders Movie Poster

After an explosive stretch of 1970s classics that included 1972's "The Godfather," 1974's "The Conversation" and "The Godfather: Part II," and 1979's "Apocalypse Now," Francis Ford Coppola kicked off the next decade with the much-maligned musical "One From the Heart," a neon-soaked box office dud. Following this misstep, the acclaimed director took a hard pivot with two S.E. Hinton adaptations in 1983, both stark looks at troubled Oklahoma youth: "Rumble Fish" and "The Outsiders."

The inspiration behind "The Outsiders" adaptation came from a librarian, who penned a letter encouraging Coppola to consider the young adult novel. For all of its auspicious literary origins, "The Outsiders" is perhaps best known for its ensemble cast of up-and-coming stars, including Patrick Swayze, Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, Emilio Estevez, Tom Cruise, and Diane Lane. The auditions also attracted other big names like Dennis Quaid, Scott Baio, and Mickey Rourke (via Vanity Fair).

The lore of "The Outsiders" lives in part due in part to the cast of '80s heartthrobs, whose chemistry is perhaps best exemplified in the film's promotional poster. Here's the story behind the iconic photo.

The Outsiders poster immortalized the Greasers teasing Leif Garrett

In order to cultivate an antagonistic relationship between the actors playing the upper-crust Socs and their gritty Greaser counterparts, Francis Ford Coppola purposefully segregated the groups of actors on set, granting the former group ritzier accommodations, free room service, and gym benefits. Sequestered in their separate quarters, the Greasers became chummy fast.

On the day that the Greasers were set to shoot some promo photos, Leif Garrett, a member of the Soc contingent, was milling about by the snack table. "We all like Leif," recalled Rob Lowe in a section of his memoir excerpted in Vanity Fair, "but he is determined to be superior to us, just like his character, Bob."

Lowe explained that the movie set in Tulsa was an easy target for sticky-fingered local kids, who frequently ransacked the place for candy bars and the like. As the main Greaser cast gathered in costume to pose for the camera, a beleaguered assistant yelled at one of the kids, giving Ralph Macchio just enough ammo to embarrass Garrett. "Yeah, Leif, you hear that? Those are for the actors!" The Greasers all laughed, and that photo reaction became the poster for "The Outsiders."

Lowe confirmed that gentle ribbing was a common feature of the "Outsiders" set. "On 'The Outsiders,'" he wrote, "ballbusting will become a fine art." The Socs, however, weren't the only target. Tulsa's Excelsior Hotel became a site for notorious pranking among the cast, usually instigated by Lowe, Swayze, Dillon, and Cruise. "Mostly I was the victim of the pranks," C. Thomas Howell told Variety, adding that fellow youngster Diane Lane was also targeted. "I remember one early morning ... I stumbled into my hotel room," recalled Howell, "and literally everything in my hotel room, from a penny to my bed, had been turned upside down."