The Reason Judd Nelson Hated The Brat Pack Label

Whether or not you grew up in 1980’s, the name "The Brat Pack" should sound familiar to you if you're a true movie fan. It was the name given to a group of young, up and coming actors who starred in movies like The Breakfast Club and St. Elmo’s Fire. One of the actors who starred in both films, Judd Nelson, recently spoke about the reason the label was such a problem for him. Because it not only affected the people he could work with, but also who he could hang out with.

Yahoo Movies has the story of Nelson’s recent appearance on The Bret Easton Ellis Podcast, where the actor talks about the ramifications of the original New York Magazine article which coined the term. Specifically, Nelson had this to say:

These were people I worked with, who I really liked as people — funny, smart, committed to the work. I mean, no one was professionally irresponsible. And after that article, not only are we strongly encouraged not to work with each other again — and for the most part we haven’t — but it was insinuated we might not want to be hanging out with these people. And it was like, I didn’t know that good friends are so easy to come by in this world that they should be tossed asunder.

It’s easy to see how frustrating this situation could have been for a young actor, as The Breakfast Club and St. Elmo’s Fire were Nelson’s third and fourth films respectively. He was new to the business, and through these films he’d not only met people he enjoyed working with, but friends he enjoyed being around. It wasn't long before he was being told that he couldn’t even see them socially, because it would reinforce this "Brat Pack" persona - potentially hindering his career. This was all because the "Brat Pack" label was credited with stalling several of its members' careers - branding them as young, lazy, party animals - instead of serious actors.

The Brat Pack was a term used by New York writer David Blum in an article that came about after spending an evening with St. Elmo’s Fire co-stars Emilio Estevez, Rob Lowe, and Judd Nelson. From there, most of the other actors from that film, as well as The Breakfast Club, were also included in the pack. A handful of other actors, like Robert Downey Jr. and John Cusack, are also included by some for making similar films or co-starring with other members of "the pack."

The fact that there is debate and discussion about who gets to be made part of the group is a perfect example of where the problem was, as according to Nelson, there really was no "pack" to begin with. He reinforced this with the following:

And to think that we’re some kind of gang, or group! I lived in New York City. I don’t go three thousand miles to have a beer…But it just seemed like we were like fruit picked too soon, and then being blamed for being picked too soon.

Anybody who was a fan of the films Judd Nelson and his friends had starred in would have trouble saying they were "picked too soon." The films they were in are beloved by many and there’s no reason to believe that they could not have made more if they’d been given more chances. Unfortunately, Nelson's story proves that one false word can go a long way.

Dirk Libbey
Content Producer/Theme Park Beat

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.