Andrew McCarthy: From Brat-Packer to Backpacker
Friday, September 28, 2012
If you were alive in the 1980s, you, or someone you loved, had a crush on Andrew McCarthy. He played Blane McDonnagh, the rich kid who captures the heart of Molly Ringwald’s character in the teen drama Pretty in Pink. He went on to star in films like St. Elmo’s Fire and Weekend At Bernie’s, and had many roles on television. But when he woke up to adult life, McCarthy quietly took on a second career. He became a serious travel writer, contributing to National Geographic Traveler, The New York Times, and The Atlantic, among others.
With a name as common as Andrew McCarthy, it was easy to fly under the radar. “I didn’t hide it, but I certainly didn’t make any fuss about it,” he tells Kurt Andersen. McCarthy’s new memoir The Longest Way Home chronicles his personal struggles both as an actor and traveler. When he had trouble dealing with his early stardom, McCarthy turned to alcohol. “I withdrew and was very much lost in that fog. It took me a couple years to realize it was an issue and it took me a couple years to do something about it,” he remembers. He then walked the Camino de Santiago, the ancient pilgrimage route across northern Spain. The experience was “miserable,” but revelatory: “I had this realization that fear had dominated who I was in the world.” The solution was to continue to travel solo “and I began to grow more comfortable … and came home a better version of myself.”
McCarthy was sitting in director John Hughes’ office when the article that first named the “brat pack” broke. Hughes was amused; McCarthy, mortified. Independent film was rapidly becoming a force, but he was already too popular for those parts; “Tarantino wouldn’t return my calls,” he jokes. And those old, heartthrob roles have a long afterlife. “I could land on Mars, and the headline would be Andrew ‘Pretty in Pink’ McCarthy Lands on Mars.”
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