'St. Elmo’s Fire' turns 35: Andie MacDowell reflects on her awkward relationship with Demi Moore

Kevin Polowy
Senior Correspondent, Yahoo Entertainment

In one of the most memorable moments in St. Elmo’s Fire, the Joel Schumacher-directed drama about twentysomethings that debuted 35 years ago, on June 28, 1985, law student Kirby (Emilio Estevez) gets over the heartbreak of discovering longtime crush Dale (Andie MacDowell) is already in a relationship by sharing a long kiss with her, lowering her down for a smooch in the most cinematic of ways.

Behind the scenes, though, it was Estevez who was already in a committed relationship, with their costar Demi Moore, which made the experience uncomfortable for MacDowell, an outsider to the film’s well-established Brat Pack gang.

“Emilio was fun to work with. It was odd because he was dating Demi, and I didn’t want Demi not to like me. And we’re young. It’s all so awkward when you’re young,” MacDowell told Yahoo Entertainment during a recent Role Recall interview (watch in full above, with St. Elmo’s Fire chat starting at 1:26).

“I remember one scene with Demi and finally connecting and hoping that she liked me. That’s how you feel, still. All of us feel that way.”

St. Elmo’s Fire, titled after a Georgetown bar where a close-knit group of recent college grads gather to drink and commiserate over their various professional and romantic indiscretions, also starred Rob Lowe, Andrew McCarthy, Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy and Mare Winningham.

Estevez and Moore met on the set of the film and dated for two years, at one point becoming engaged but never marrying. “I was deeply in love with her,” Estevez said, according to the Brat Pack tell-all You Couldn’t Ignore Me If You Tried. “[He] was definitely my first love,” Moore told Cosmopolitan, which, as author Susannah Gora points out, was a stunning admission considering the future G.I. Jane star had been previously married to musician Freddy Moore.

The film marked a major turnaround for MacDowell, the model-turned-actress who was still coping with the humiliating experience of having her lines dubbed over in her film debut, 1984’s Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes.

“Disappointing is not a big enough word. It was shocking, and heartbreaking. I went back in and we were going to try to fight for it, but I could barely speak,” MacDowell told us about the experience. “People were horrible to me. The press made fun of me. It was cruel, it was a very cruel time in my life.

“It took time for me to absorb it and recover. I had to make a decision: It was give up or fight. I thought about what my grandchildren would think of me, that's really what I thought. I thought, ‘My grandchildren someday are gonna say, “Yeah my grandmother did this movie, she did this movie about Tarzan and they dubbed her voice. And she was a model.”’ And that was the fight. The fight for me was my legacy on a personal level.”

St. Elmo’s Fire also marked one of the highlights in the long and illustrious career of costume designer-turned-director Joel Schumacher, who went on to direct films like The Lost Boys (1987), Flatliners (1990), Falling Down (1993), Batman Forever (1995), A Time to Kill (1996), Batman & Robin (1997), Tigerland (2000) and Phone Booth (2002).

Schumacher died from cancer Monday at the age of 80.

“Working with Joel Schumacher on St. Elmo’s Fire was a pivotal moment in not just my career, but in my journey to recovery,” Moore, who struggled with drug abuse during the film’s production and was once ordered off the set by the director when she arrived high, wrote on Instagram. “Forever grateful for the tough love and the chance he took on me. His daring, dynamic spirit will be missed. Rest easy Joel.”

St. Elmo’s Fire is available for streaming on Amazon.

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