The cast of "The Outsiders" (search) was a rare assemblage of young, upcoming talent — in Matt Dillon's words, "everyone wanted to be cast in it."

The casting, led by Francis Ford Coppola (search) and producer Fred Roos, was untraditional — an all-day affair on a sound stage with actors being rotated to read together. Ralph Macchio says the unusual experience is "now infamous," while C. Thomas Howell remembers it as "one of the most grueling processes that I've gone through as an actor."

More than 20 years later, the film's cast — most of whom weren't well known at the time — reads half '80s nostalgia, half contemporary A-list.


C. Thomas Howell: Ponyboy Curtis, the lead in this ensemble cast, was Howell's breakout role. On "The Outsiders" DVD, Howell says, "I feel like I really owe my career to that project." He would go on to star in many of the movies likely to be mocked on a VH1 special, including, "Red Dawn," "Soul Man" and "Side Out." Now living with his wife and three children in California, he has kept busy mostly with TV movies. During a reunion shown on the DVD, Coppola makes a disparaging remark toward "movies of the week," which Howell, now 40, defends: "Someone's got to do them."

Ralph Macchio: A year after "The Outsiders," Macchio would star in his career-making movie, "The Karate Kid." Since that trilogy, Macchio, now 43, has never managed to grow beyond Mr. Miyagi's tutelage, but did have a nice role in 1993's "My Cousin Vinny" as one of the "utes" falsely accused of murder. He also made a cameo as himself earlier this year on HBO's "Entourage."

Diane Lane: Lane had been an actress for much of her childhood, but her turn as the sweet, red-haired, drive-in dream in "The Outsiders" made her known. After some questionable choices through the'80s, Lane rebounded with the "Lonesome Dove" miniseries. Her career might be at its apogee right now: she was nominated for an Oscar in 2003 for "Unfaithful" and can carry a film herself ("Under the Tuscan Sun").

Matt Dillon: Like Lane, Dillon's filmography is checkered. After typecasting himself into troubled rebels — which culminated in Gus Van Sant's "Drugstore Cowboy" — he starred in "Singles," "Beautiful Girls" and "There's Something About Mary." This year, he has been lauded for his performance in "Crash."

Tom Cruise: Though he had a small part in "The Outsiders," no one has risen higher than Cruise. The future "Top Gun" star had made some noise two years earlier alongside Timothy Hutton and Sean Pean in "Taps." Even then, though, everyone on the set could see Cruise's serious and intense approach to acting. Roos says, "I think he saw where he wanted to be even from that age."

Rob Lowe: After Lowe's big screen debut in "The Outsiders," he was "left for years wondering why" most of his part was cut — but in the new edition Lowe has been restored. In between, the young actor, remembered by Roos as "incredibly pretty," starred in "St. Elmo's Fire" and "Youngblood." He has since mixed comedy ("Wayne's World," the "Austin Powers" movies) with Oval Office drama ("The West Wing").

Patrick Swayze: Swayze was as '80s as anybody thanks to movies like "Dirty Dancing" and "Roadhouse." After "Ghost" and "Point Break" in the early '90s, Swayze fell off for most of the decade, but had a small part in the cult hit "Donnie Darko." On "The Outsider" DVD, the 53-year-old tells Coppola, "After you, everybody in my life was a bozo." He recently produced his wife's (Lisa Niemi) directorial debut, "One Last Dance."

Emilio Estevez: While the '80s were good for Estevez ("The Breakfast Club," "Young Guns"), the '90s weren't bad either ("Mighty Ducks," "Judgment Night"). Though he's been MIA for years, the 43-year-old will soon direct "Bobby," a movie he wrote about the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. The recently announced cast includes Anthony Hopkins and Elijah Wood.

Sofia Coppola: The tiny part of Little Domino in "The Outsiders" was her first credited role. In her father's words, "Little Domino now is one of the more important woman directors in the country."