I first noticed (and fell madly in love with) Matt after viewing Little Darlings, which I was watching for Kristy McNichol. (Kristy reminded me of myself. She was in a 70′s TV show called Family and was the tomboy kid who loved skateboards and climbing trees etc. Also we’re vaguely alike looks-wise. Anyway, when Kristy graduated to film I was stoked. She was definitely the first ‘star’ that I ever followed. But, as usual, I digress. Sorry). Kristy was fantastic in Little Darlings and so was Matt. Matt was also, obviously, a total hunk and I fell for him instantly, as I say. He was just great as what you thought was this sort of stupid lug but – Randy, his character, later revealed a great sensitivity and sweetness and Matt portrayed that wonderfully.
In way, Matt was the king of 80′s teen films. Although he acted with Brat Pack alumni (Emilio, Rob and Diane Lane), he was never in the Brat Pack and his films were better than theirs. Matt had playing troubled yet complex teens down and was hired for that and, he totally delivered.
He played a total tough guy in his follow up, My Bodyguard. Melvin Moody was the school bully who will extort your lunch money or beat you up. I recall the the film being a total hit and Matt went on from strength to strength.
Matt’s performance in Tex is also wonderful. He’s so beautifully naive and sweet yet, as usual, a bit of a troublemaker although that said, even the vice principal of the school can’t help but love him. I love Tex – it’s a total favorite of mine and you should see it if you haven’t already. Matt has the character down to a T and his acting is flawless.
The Outsiders and Rumble Fish followed. The Outsiders was a massive hit of course. Matt’s Dallas was once again a tough guy with a sensitive heart and again, he was wicked. Rumble Fish was a massive miss, despite it being an S.E. Hinton novel (she also co-wrote the screenplay) and also directed by Francis Ford Coppola. Coppola wrote the screenplay while filming The Outsiders; he loved the book and identified with Matt’s Rusty – a younger brother who idolizes his older brother. For the mainstream media/critics, Rumble Fish was ‘too avant garde’ and many dissed the film. It was actually booed during it’s debut at the New York Film Festival! However, Europeans thought it amazing and the film won won the highest prize in the 32nd San Sebastian International Film Festival, the International Critic’s Big Award. I, personally, like the film and the stylization doesn’t detract for me although that said, fleshing out the characters a little more would have made the film even better than it is. All that said, Matt – and the rest of the cast – are (no surprise) excellent. We’re talking Mickey Rourke and Dennis Hopper!
I remember a big fuss over The Flamingo Kid which was pleasing but then there was a dip in popularity after that and you sort of had to be a ‘true fan’ to follow him. At the end of the day it was simply a matter of kids growing up and Matt growing older too. He couldn’t play a troubled teen his entire life, obviously. His mid 80′s films were still fairly solid, although no-one really went to see them. However, the end of the decade (1989) proved a triumphant return to the public eye as, finally, credibility, plaudits and awards landed Matt’s way for Drugstore Cowboy. Matt was always an excellent actor but no one ever talked about his skills because he was a teen idol and a regular in 16, Bop, Tiger Beat et al – so, it was refreshing to see critics praise his acting and it was long overdue. He went on to act in excellent films in the 90′s & 2000′s including Singles, In & Out, To Die For, Wild Things and Something About Mary. Finally, let’s not forget Crash, either, for which he won awards and was also nominated for an Academy Award!
So, in short – Matt was extremely cool in the 80′s and was – and still is - a great actor.
As Jeffrey Willis: The Flamingo Kid
(Jeffrey Willis has just finished high school and isn’t quite sure what the future holds. His parents expect him to go to college but he is starting to find his close-knit family stifling. He gets a summer job at the Flamingo club where he meets Phil Brody, a successful car dealer who fills Jeffrey’s head with ideas about how to make his fortune)
Target – co starring the legendary Gene Hackman (who I love to bits, as does Matt. Gene is his idol).
(Chris Lloyd does NOT get along with his father Walter. Walter is too careful, cautious, and boring to Chris, and never tries anything new, and Chris had to live by the same standards when he was growing up. But when his mother is kidnapped while in Europe, to Chris’s confusion, Walter suddenly turns into a man of action. Just who is his father anyway?)
(This drama is set in World War II Australia, where an American Marine, Rebel, is recuperating from wounds suffered in battle. He is weary of war and is intent on going AWOL and escaping from Australia. He becomes infatuated with a local singer, Kathy and pursues her).
As Jan in Native Son (1986)
(In 1940s Chicago, a young black man takes a job as a chauffeur to a white family, which takes a turn for the worse when he accidentally kills the teenage daughter of the couple and then tries to cover it up. Matt plays the teen daughter’s boyfriend, Jan.)
Matt plays Regret in this film. I confess I haven’t seen it b/c it’s simply unappealing and I can’t take Madonna seriously as an actress – and that was even before I came to despise her. I do remember the film tanked tho.