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For anyone who grew up in the 1980s, St. Elmo's Fire was peak Brat Pack. The drama about young adults trying to figure out their lives after college starred an ensemble of hot, young actors who were considered to be the next big things in Hollywood. And, with a cast that featured Rob Lowe, Demi Moore, Emilio Estevez, Andrew McCarthy, Ally Sheedy, Mare Winningham, and Judd Nelson, you really couldn't go wrong if you wanted one film where you could see said Brat Packers shine. But, it turns out that there's one aspect of the movie which has always driven Lowe nuts, and now the screenwriter has apologized for it.
Writer Carl Kurlander recently looked back on his experiences developing and filming the movie with the late director Joel Schumacher for Deadline, and noted that he just found out that there's one well-known part of 1985's St. Elmo's Fire that's been bugging Rob Lowe since it came out. As Kurlander explains it, he and Schumacher had gotten a lot of pushback on the title (which Kurlander had chosen because the screenplay was based on a short story he'd written while working at Chautauqua, New York's St. Elmo Hotel in college), and Schumacher wanted a scene written into the movie to make the title harder to change.
Apparently, though, that resulting scene, which included a speech from Rob Lowe's character (Billy) to Demi Moore's (Jules) about the scientific phenomenon of St. Elmo's Fire, has led to much annoyance from fans, and this has really driven Lowe nuts over the years. As Kurlander explained:
Recently, I learned Rob Lowe has been bothered by that speech for years, as people have taken it to mean his character was saying the phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire did not exist. When I heard that, I became momentarily incensed and went to Wikipedia to reassure myself we had gotten things right. There, after a lengthy explanation of the weather phenomenon, the entry talks about how St. Elmo’s Fire has been alluded to from Julius Caesar to Charles Darwin and has appeared in literature from Melville’s Moby Dick to Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five. And then near the bottom of many more references, it states: In St. Elmo’s Fire (1985), Rob Lowe’s character erroneously claims that the phenomenon is “not even a real thing.”
Alright, everyone calm down! I know what all you St. Elmo's Fire stans are thinking: What's the big deal, and why is this even an issue? Well, why don't we take a look at the scene in question first, just in case you've forgotten the glory that is mid-80s Rob Lowe and Demi Moore, and then we can get into this a bit more.
So, here's the thing. Billy has clearly brought up St. Elmo's Fire to try and help Jules out of a very real slump, and he's definitely made it sound like the phenomenon isn't real as a way to tell her that the current shitty time she's having will pass before long. The problem seems to come from the fact that while what Billy says about St. Elmo's Fire is true (there is no real St. Elmo, and there is no real fire) the phenomenon itself is actually a real thing that sailors saw as a good omen that they would make it through storms at sea.
So, Carl Kurlander was left with no choice, but to offer a sincere apologize for how he worded Billy's speech in the film:
I could argue we were never trying to imply that St. Elmo’s Fire was “not a real thing”, but I want to hereby officially apologize to the scientific community for any misperception we may have caused. And it doesn’t really matter anyway because in the middle of the scene, Rob added this bit where he takes a lighter to a can of hairspray and creates an actual burst of flame to symbolize St. Elmo’s Fire. That is probably what people remember. Memes of this scene come across my social media feed regularly– which must drive even crazier whoever at Columbia Pictures wrote that memo about St. Elmo’s Fire being a horrible title.
OK, so there is a bit of an exception in that Carl Kurlander doesn't seem to think that most people have even noticed the incorrect info that Rob Lowe was used to impart, seeing as how he created aerosol fire during the scene, but I think this is just as good of an apology as any. After all, we are talking about a tiny part of the whole movie, and who hasn't latched onto something in a film which seems incorrect / stupid / poorly done and proceeded to be bugged by it for way too long?
To help you get over all of this St. Elmo's Fire business, be sure to check out what you can watch right now and in the coming months with our 2020 movie release schedule!