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The Extreme Measures Ralph Macchio Went Through For The Outsiders

Francis Ford Coppola's "The Outsiders" from 1983 is a movie that toes the line between superb stylistic filmmaking while maintaining the literary substance it draws from. Based on S.E. Hinton's classic 1967 novel of the same name, this is a film that utilized the trends of the era (the casting of actors from Hollywood's "Brat Pack") while maintaining the narrative techniques of a film master. This included creating a real class system between the actors on set to match the divide between the "greasers" group from the wrong side of the tracks, and the "Socs," who were the privileged kids in 1960s Oklahoma.

Coppola's directing methods eventually became the stuff of Hollywood legend. The filmmaker nearly lost his mind on the set of 1979's Vietnam War epic, "Apocalypse Now," and much of this had to do with the creator's desire to master every scene with touches of realism. For "The Outsiders," his craft was primarily left up to the actors with the direction that they perform their own unique research to bring to life the often disadvantaged lives of their characters.

For the then 20-year-old Ralph Macchio, who played greaser Johnny Cade, some of his research veered to the extreme.

Ralph Macchio performed uncomfortable research to accurately portray his character

In the film, Ralph Macchio's character comes from a family living in poverty, which includes frequent domestic abuse in the household. Johnny is the best friend of fellow greaser Ponyboy Curtis (C. Thomas Howell) and shares Ponyboy's goal of eventually getting out of their small town and living a better life one day. Johnny's family dynamic lacks the cohesion of Ponyboy's home life, despite both characters living in poverty.

Having read the book when he was 12 years old, Macchio took Francis Ford Coppola's directive to capture authenticity to heart. In a 2017 interview with Parade Magazine, he commented how Coppola wanted him to know what it was like to live in such desperate circumstances, which required him to live on only $4 for a whole day. Macchio went on to explain, "I slept outside one night under newspapers just like Johnny did, and it was not fun. I developed a walk where his toes were pointed in a bit."

Johnny Cade is more of a quiet and contemplative character in the book and film, which led Macchio to also distance himself from the other actors during the two-week rehearsal period before filming began (via Variety). It may have been extreme, but the finished product speaks for itself.