"The Breakfast Club," opening next week, has been dubbed "The Little Chill" by observers who find this tale of half a dozen high schoolers confronting and learning about each other during an all-day detention session vaguely familiar. But it's hardly alone in its ensemble cast of youngsters. "Breakfast Club" has Molly Ringwald, Emilio Estevez, Ally Sheedy, Judd Nelson and Anthony Michael Hall. "St. Elmo's Fire," due out in late summer, stars Estevez, Sheedy, Nelson, plus Demi Moore, Rob Lowe, Andrew McCarthy and Mare Winningham. And tomorrow is opening day for "Mischief," a coming-of-age-in-the-'50s comedy featuring Doug McKeon, Chris Nash, Kelly Preston and Catherine Mary Stewart.
The hope is that these films will showcase up-and-comers the way, say, "The Outsiders" did for "Flamingo Kid" Matt Dillon, "Risky Business"-man Tom Cruise, "Karate Kid" Ralph Macchio and heartthrob C. Thomas Howell. Which means, if you're a young performer, that competition will be stiff.
"Since we finished 'Mischief,' Kelly Preston and I have been up for about three of the same roles," says Catherine Mary Stewart, who also appeared in "The Last Starfighter." "I'll see her going in to audition as I'm coming out. . . . It keeps you on your toes."
Both were ill at ease during their "Mischief" auditions. Stewart was irritated at the producers for handing her scenes she hadn't prepared, and at costar Chris Nash for eating an onion roll before their kissing scene. Preston had qualms about her own love scene with Doug McKeon ("On Golden Pond"), who was recovering from a skin infection.
But they both got roles, learned to like their costars, went on location and acted like . . . well, like kids. They filmed in Nelsonville, Ohio, a small town where, Preston says, "the local hot spot was the Dairy Queen." "And if you wanted to get really wild," says Stewart, "you went to the college town of Athens and hung out at the movies with all the drunk college kids who were depressed at being in the middle of nowhere."
So they improvised, in ways that Robert De Niro and Meryl Streep probably wouldn't even think of. Chris Nash, a singer/songwriter who moved to L.A. in search of a record deal rather than an acting job, played guitar in his room, and the "Nashettes" added doo-wahs. Doug McKeon, 17 and fresh out of high school, showed up "brimming with high school beer games," says Stewart, "so we tried them. All of them. In one night."
Finally, Preston and McKeon carried on an elaborate feud. "I thought, 'I've gotta end it with something big,' " Preston says. "So after he was all packed to go home I took all of his clothes out of his suitcase, put them in a sheet and hung them out his hotel room window. I thought I was safe -- until I went to the front desk, where there was an envelope waiting for me with my teddy bear's paw in it. It was sick." A grin. "But it turns out it wasn't my teddy bear -- he'd gone out and bought a duplicate to chop up" . . .
Now that the Academy Award nominations are out, many of 1984's biggies have gotten broader releases. Last weekend, contenders "Amadeus," "The Killing Fields" and "A Passage to India" did a good business as they increased their theater count, and tomorrow "Places in the Heart" and "Mrs. Soffel" add theaters. But none has been able to touch "Beverly Hills Cop" -- which made $7.1 million last weekend, more than double the total of the second-place "Killing Fields" . . .
The only 1985 entry to make the top half-dozen was "The Falcon and the Snowman," John Schlesinger's film about altar-boy-turned-spy Christopher Boyce. Timothy Hutton, Sean Penn and the rest of the cast all play real-life characters, and only one name has been changed to protect the "innocent" -- instead of TRW, the high-security credit center/defense contractor where Boyce works is called "RTX." The decision was made without apparent pressure from TRW, which is nonetheless not too happy about such scenes as the one in which Hutton and his top-clearance colleagues mix margaritas in a paper shredder . . .