Forty years ago this month, a shabby little whitewashed wood and brick house put Tulsa’s Northside neighborhood on the national map when the movie The Outsiders premiered.
The coming-of-age film, directed by Francis Ford Coppola and based on the young-adult novel of the same name by Tulsa native S. E. Hinton, also helped launch the careers of a handful of actors you might have heard of—Tom Cruise, Emilio Esteves, and Patrick Swayze, to name just a few of the now A-list cast.
“It’s hard for me to imagine that the stars of The Outsiders are all either just about to turn sixty, or have already done so in the last couple of years,” says photographer David Burnett, who shot stills throughout the production. “Sixty feels like one of those definitive ages, heralding the imminent arrival of ‘old age.’ Yet there remains something in these pictures so youthful, so bound up in post-adolescent energy. Though many of the actors might have known each other before they were cast, there was clearly a binding energy, which was evident when Coppola brought them all to Tulsa in 1982.”
In 2015, the rapper Danny Boy O’Connor of House of Pain fame (“Jump around! Jump around!”) purchased the house to create a museum dedicated to the legacy of Hinton and The Outsiders—he’s an avid fan and memorabilia collector. Now, O’Connor keeps a full lineup of events, activities, and tours at the Outsiders House Museum.
“We are also working on an oral history of the film, along with a new photo book called The Outsiders Rare and Unseen,” O’Connor says. The book gathers previously unpublished photographs shot by Burnett, including the young actors around town and on set at the house, a time capsule of the spirit of 1980s Tulsa.
“One afternoon while filming at the drive-in, there was a short break about sunset,” Burnett remembers. “I asked the guys to hop up on the white wall, the screen acting as a seamless backdrop. Once I had a few pictures of them filling the frame, I asked them to jump down all at once. It was the kind of situation that you get one try at, so don’t miss it. Pretty sure we can say it worked out just fine.”
CJ Lotz contributed to this story.