The Outsiders

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In March of 1980, a school librarian by the name of Jo Ellen Misakian wrote to Francis Ford Coppola and, on behalf of the students at Lone Star School in Fresno, California, asked him to consider adapting their favourite novel, S. E. Hinton's The Outsiders, for the big screen. Also included with her letter were a copy of the book, and a petition signed by 110 of the kids. Amazingly, three months later they received an unexpected and cautiously optimistic reply from producer Fred Roos, who soon advised Coppola to read the book. Coppola did exactly that, and two years later production on the movie began.

The Outsiders, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, was released in March of 1983, with an incredible up-and-coming cast that included Tom Cruise, Rob Lowe, Ralph Macchio, Patrick Swayze, Diane Lane, Emilio Estevez, and Matt Dillon. A première was held for the school, attended by the cast.

Misakian's original letter can be seen below, along with a selection of Fred Roos' subsequent letters to the school.

(Sources: The Outsiders, Behind the Scenes & American Icons; Image above, via.)



Transcript
Lone Star School Library
2617 South Fowler Avenue
Fresno, California 93725
March 21, 1980

Mr. Francis Ford Coppola
1 Gulf and Western Plaza
New York, N. Y. 10023

Dear Mr. Copolla:

I am writing to you on behalf of the students and faculty of Lone Star School. We hope you will take the time to consider our request.

We are all so impressed with the book, THE OUTSIDERS by S. E. Hinton, that a petition has been circulated asking that it be made into a movie. We have chosen you to send it to. In hopes that you might also see the possibilities of the movie we have enclosed a copy of the book.

Lone Star is a small school in Fresno County. We have a student body of 324 students. It is a kindergarten through eighth grade school. I feel our students are representative of the youth of America. Everyone who has read the book, regardless of ethnic or economical background, has enthusiastically endorsed this project. This plea comes from our seventh and eighth grade students.

We feel certain that if you will read the book you will agree with us.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely yours,

(Signed)

Jo Ellen Misakian
(Mrs. John Misakian)
Librarian Aide


Transcript
American Zoetrope

June 10, 1980

Ms. Jo Ellen Misakian
Lone Star School Library
2617 South Fowler Avenue
Fresno, Calif. 93725

Dear Mrs. Misakina:

Thank you for sending us your letter, the petition from your students and the book "THE OUTSIDERS" by S.E. Hinton. Francis Ford Coppola received them and was very impressed with the passionate interest you and your students showed in this book.

We are thus following through on it as you can see by the attached report that was done by one of our readers. The reader seems to agree with you and your students.

The next step is for myself and other members of our company to read the book and see if we really might want to make a film out of it. I'll try to keep you posted on the progress.

Thanks again to you and your seventh and eighth graders for being good literary scouts and for choosing our company.

Sincerely,

(Signed)

Fred Roos

FR/lff
cc: F. Coppola, L. Fisher
S. Rogers, S. Ingleby


Transcript
Jo Ellen Misakian
Lone Star School
2617 South Fowler Avenue
Fresno, Calif. 93725

Dear Miss Misakian:

Thanks for your letter of July 14, 1980. Sorry your class was not in school to share the news.

The latest is that the Zoetrope Studios executives read and discussed at length the pros and cons of making a movie out of "THE OUTSIDERS" with some being for it and some being against it. I flew to Tulsa to have a personal meeting with Suzie Hinton which I enjoyed very much and found valuable.

The final decision has been to go ahead and try to option the book with the aim of filming it if we can get a good screenplay. The negotiations with Ms. Hinton's agents are going on now.

By the time school reconvenes, hopefully we will have acquired "THE OUTSIDERS" and have begun to hire a screenwriter to adapt it. If you want to further use this book as a class study project, perhaps you could have each of your students write an essay on why they like "THE OUTSIDERS"; perhaps talking about their favorite scenes or about scenes they don't like. This could be helpful to we the filmakers.

Also, there is a chance that we may not be able to use the title "THE OUTSIDERS" because of another movie that came out recently with that title. I hope we don't have to change it but if we do, I'd like to hear your students suggestions of an alternative title...such as "Ponyboy".

I'd also like to hear your students opinion of one possible change that we might have in the movie. That is to not have a gang fight at the end. It seems wrong to me in light of what has just happened to Dallas, Johnny and Bob that the two groups would still have another fight. Hopefully they would have learned something during the course of the story. At least I'd like to think they had and to show audiences through our movie that they had. Any opinions on this would be helpful.

I look forward to hearing from you and your students in a few weeks. Again, thanks for your help.

Sincerely,

(Signed)

Fred Roos

FR/lff



Transcript
the OUTSIDERS

April 21, 1982

Mrs. Jo Ellen Misakian
Librarian Aide
Lone Star School Library
2617 South Fowler Ave.
Fresno, California 93725

Dear Mrs. Misakian,

I want to keep you and the school up to date on the progress of Lone Star's very own movie production, THE OUTSIDERS.

We are presently shooting the film in Tulsa and are into our fifth week. We have a wonderful cast and it's going very well.

The enclosed production notes will tell you and the kids about everything they need to know about the movie and who's in it.

I'll keep giving you updates.

Sincerely,

(Signed)

Fred Roos
Producer

cc: Francis Coppola
Beverly Walker