The Story Behind The Lost Boys

This week, on 10 March 2010, actor Corey Haim died of a suspected accidental drug overdose.

The star, who had a number of movies in the pipeline, made his name in oddball '80s comedies like License To Drive and Lucas , which ensured that by the mid-90s he was firmly a household name.

It was The Lost Boys that truly made him a star. A vampire flick made back when vampire flicks weren't known for being edgy and fun, it came out of nowhere and launched the careers of Haim, his namesake co-star Corey Feldman (who had just starred in The Goonies ), as well as a young, very blond Kiefer Sutherland.

But the film very almost wasn't the adored cult hit that it has become today. Come with us (we won't bite) as we flip through the history books, and find out the twisted tale behind The Lost Boys ...

Next: "Let's start with the little one. First come, first staked." [page-break]

“Let's start with the little one. First come, first staked.”

Back in the 1980s, vampires weren’t cool. They didn’t go around pretending to be 17-year-old twinks. They didn’t have funkycool hair. And they certainly didn’t become all glittery and gorgeous when they wandered into the sunlight.

Yes, the pre- Twilight days of movie vamps were a simpler time. Buffy was but a twinkle in Joss Whedon’s eye, Blade was only in his early embryonic form, and a certain Swede wasn’t getting down and dirty in something called True Blood .

In 1986 - the year before The Lost Boys slipped quietly onto the big screen and kick-started a vampire revolution that is still going strong 20 plus years later - there were a handful of fang flicks.

There was Grace Jones getting bitey with it in Vamp , space expeditions getting sexy with it in Lifeforce , and Hong Kong getting flippy with it in Mr Vampire .

Only one neck-chewing nasty tapped the teen horror vein successfully, and that was Fright Night in 1985. But even Fright Night wasn’t quite slick and hip enough to pull off a vampolution.

Enter Richard Donner. Having soared to the top of everybody’s must-have directors list in 1978 with Superman , the New York native was enjoying mean success with The Goonies .

Fresh from that Spielberg-produced wonder, Donner came across an original screenplay written by first-timers Janice Fischer and James Jeremias, which had been dumped by original director Richard Franklin.

It starred the Frog Brothers, two chubby eight-year-old cub scouts who take on fifth grade kid vampires.

It was called The Lost Boys . Intending to direct the flick as a companion piece to Goonies , Donner nonetheless got caught in a slow-moving production that prompted him to fire up Lethal Weapon instead.

But he was still keen for Boys to see the light of day. First Mary Lambert took a look at the project, before bailing thanks to “creative differences”. So Donner called up Joel Schumacher and asked him to give the script a glance...

Next: "We don't ride with vampires." [page-break]

“We don't ride with vampires.”

Schumacher hated the idea. But he loved the title, a darkly comic riff on Peter Pan’s gang of rebellious young vagabonds, who refuse to grow up, instead embracing their eternal youth.

Having just directed teen Brat Pack pic St Elmo’s Fire , Schumacher spied potential in Boys as something more suited to an adolescent audience.

Turfing out the vampire kids storyline, and going for a sexier, racier approach, Schumacher set about doing something that many thought couldn’t be done – merging comedy and horror into a hybrid entity that somehow came out smelling like roses.

“It was a big chance taken by a studio,” Schumacher remembers. “We were very lucky. A lot of people at the studio didn't think you could mix horror and humour.

“Dick Donner was originally going to direct it, then wanted to do Lethal Weapon instead, so he gave it to me. What he wanted to do was quite different, which was sort of a cutesy, G-rated movie aimed at young kids. There were no wild teenagers on motorcycles.”

A condition of Schumacher taking on the project was that he could seriously push it around, and shape it into what he wanted it to be. Given wary permission by Warner Bros, the director hired Jeffrey Boam to give the script a re-write.

But because he was working in unexplored territory, there was very much an element of feeling around in the dark. Not that Schumacher let the studios cotton on to that fact.

“We really didn't know what we were doing then!” he laughs. “We made it up as we went along.”

He whole-heartedly embraced the invaluable advice that Woody Allen once gave him: “Be bold, take risks, follow your own instincts, listen to other people only when you really believe in your gut that they're right. Get a great cast. Get a cinematographer that isn't jealous that you're the director. Get an editor that's not jealous you're the director. You can do it.”

Next: "The blood-sucking Brady Bunch." [page-break]

Nowadays, beating off the celebrities in order to cast “fresh” new talent is the epitome of en vogue casting, with many a director racing to find the next best thing.

Back in the day, drafting in unknowns was more of a necessity. It’s something Schumacher discovered when he attempted to assemble his ensemble.

“The big films and the big stars weren't being offered to me, so I had to find the best people around for my films,” he says.

Not that it bothered him much. With free reign to cast whomsoever he wanted, Schumacher set about searching out some previously untapped talent for his vampire renaissance.

A little pre-tapped talent didn’t hurt, of course.

Corey Feldman was by far the biggest ‘name’ floated early, having appeared in two of the Friday the 13th sequels, along with Gremlins and Stand By Me .

It was his role in The Goonies that most impressed, though (“Come on, Brand, slip her the tongue!”), and producer Donner was keen for Schumacher to cast the young actor as Edgar Frog, one of the two vamp-slaying Frog Brothers.

Schumacher remained unconvinced until Corey returned with longer hair. Evidently, the hair has it. Feldman, who won the Youth In Film award for his portrayal, didn’t let his squeamishness get in the way.

“I like the occasional horror movie but I'm very squeamish,” he has said. “I don't like the gory parts. It wasn't part of the masterplan but somehow I became Vincent Price. I'm not sure how that happened. I should maybe put an end to it but it's a lot of fun making them and I really enjoy it.”

Schumacher also took a little convincing taking on Corey Haim, who he had seen in 1986’s Lucas . But a single meeting with the actor made him realise that Haim was perfect for the part of Sam, the burgeoning teen who teams up with the Frogs when his brother is lured in by a group of biker vampires.

“I've been lucky that the people I've chosen have been great in those parts and the audience has embraced them,” the director remembers. “It started with St Elmo's Fire , because that cast was so fresh then, and then Lost Boys .”

Haim recently admitted that it was while working on The Lost Boys that he smoked his first joint.

“But a year before that, I was starting to drink beer on the set of the film Lucas ,” said the actor. At the time he was just 12-years-old. “I lived in Los Angeles in the '80s, which was not the best place to be. I did cocaine for about a year and a half, then it led to crack.

“I started on the downers which were a hell of a lot better than the uppers because I was a nervous wreck. But one led to two, two led to four, four led to eight, until at the end it was about 85 a day - the doctors could not believe I was taking that much.”

For his head vamp, Schumacher approached the up-and-coming son of legendary actor Donald Sutherland, Kiefer, who had also appeared in Stand By Me .

The Lost Boys was kitschy and fun,” recalls Kiefer. “I think we both [ he and Schumacher ] knew that was going to be a fun ride and we were both cool with that.”

Adds the director: “The studio was incredibly patient and supportive considering they'd never heard of Kiefer Sutherland, or Jason Patric, or Jamie Gertz, or Corey Haim.”

Sadly, the original actors approached for the part of Grandpa never made it to the film’s set. Keenan Wynn died just before filming, while vampire film veteran John Carradine was too ill to work.

Next: "The one thing I could never stomach about Santa Carla; all the damn vampires." [page-break]

“When I was shooting The Lost Boys , the studio kept saying, ‘Joel, are you making a horror film or a comedy because the two won't go together!’” laughs the director.

“Most of my films were dark horses, and I still like to take risks, I feel very comfortable with it. It also makes me feel that I am growing and am trying to get better at what I do and the only way to do that is to challenge myself.”

Shooting of the flick took place mostly in Santa Cruz, California, where the backdrop of the Santa Cruz mountains lent a foreboding air of isolation, suffocation and impending doom to combat the breezy sunshine.

Neat trivia alert: Santa Cruz means 'Holy Cross' in Spanish. How’s that for coincidental subtext?

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk provided the amusement park where much of the initial action kicks off – it’s the same boardwalk that would be seen again in Sutherland’s Brotherhood Of Justice , Sudden Impact , and Harold and Maude .

Meanwhile, Grandpa’s house was in reality the Pogonip Country Club. The interiors of the house, along with the cave interiors, were filmed on Stages 12 and 15 on the Warner Bros lot.

Haim remembered loving the prop room above anything else. “It's a mini Toys R Us for me. And the set was so large. When we got back - we filmed half in Santa Cruz and the rest back on Warner Brothers. You know Stage 15 was the house and everything. And Stage 12 was the [kids room].”

By all accounts the set was lively and creative, with Corey Feldman and Frog brother Jamison Newlander performing bike tricks out in public. And Haim, Brooke McCarter and Billy Wirth made music together in-between takes.

The set wasn’t entirely fun-filled, though. Haim suffered from pneumonia part way through shooting, and Sutherland broke his wrist showing off with a motorbike stunt (which is why he keeps the black gloves on throughout much of the film).

Schumacher remembers that there were “sleepless nights”. “Sometimes the scariest route is the best. I've turned down a lot of money and some nights I wake up and think, ‘Joel, are you insane? You worked hard to get this career and now you're going to piss it all way.’”

Next: "Totally annihilated his night-stalking ass!" [page-break]

“Totally annihilated his night-stalking ass!”

New movie vamps, new rules. At least that’s what Schumacher wanted.

Aware that, up ‘til then, most movie vampires had adhered to the strict rules laid down back in Bram Stoker’s account of Vlad the Impaler (oh alright, Lifeforce not withstanding), Schumacher wanted to shake things up.

The result? Vampires who looked like everybody else, but whose faces morphed into visages of horror when they were hunting. It’s an idea that made an indelible impression on a young Joss Whedon, who used the idea in his Buffy The Vampire Slayer series.

“The idea of them looking like monsters and then looking like people, that was in Lost Boys , and that was very useful for us,” the multi-hyphenate geek god says. “You could have somebody fool you, or someone like Angel seem like he's not a vampire and then he is one. You make up rules that you need and jettison the ones you don't.”

Twisting comic book ideas into the fabric of vampire lore, Schumacher and writer Boam funked up the fanged freaks. No capes or silly hair peaks here. As Edgar Frog warns, “No two blood suckers go out the same way. Some yell and scream, some go quietly, some explode, some implode. But, all will try and take you with them.” Nasty.

Turning the bloodsuckers into punk rockers living their unlives on the edge of decency, morality and mortality, this lot are cool as hell and frightening to boot.

Legendary make-up expert Greg Cannom joined the project halfway through shooting the movie to sort out the special effects, which meant that he had only a matter of weeks to devise the vamp designs and pull them off realistically. Cannom has gone on to work on Blade , Benjamin Button and Watchmen .

Sutherland and the rest of the vamps went the method route to really get under the skins of their undead roles, reportedly becoming nocturnal during filming. Rumours also abound that they hung heavy drapes over their hotel windows to aid their quest.

Meanwhile, Feldman really had to repress his tendancy to balk at horrific stuff as he was faced with buckets of fake blood that contained glitter. It was “slimier than other fake blood” gulps the actor.

Next: "Initiation's over, Michael. Time to join the club!" [page-break]

“Initiation's over, Michael. Time to join the club!”

“I can't say exactly why that film was such a hit because nobody ever can predict these things,” says Feldman. “But you sometimes get a feeling on one of them and Lost Boys just had the right chemistry, the right mix and everything falling into place at the right time.

“You know, I look at it now and laugh at the clothes and the hair which seem pretty ridiculous and so dated but the movie itself has endured. It's still funny, it's still scary and it still has that bite.”

Any nervous jitters that Schumacher and his studio suffered from during the making of the flick were quickly alleviated when The Lost Boys opened in cinemas on 31 July 1987.

Roger Ebert said “there's some good stuff in the movie, including a cast that's good right down the line and a willingness to have some fun with teenage culture in the Mass Murder Capital,” even though he ultimately accused the film of “selling its soul”.

At the box office, it took over $32m, which was considered a massive successive considering its R-rating. Later that year, it won the Saturn Award for Best Horror Film, beating Kathryn Bigelow’s more sedate vamp flick Near Dark .

Haim recently said that people in the street still remembered him for the film.

“People say to me, ‘I'm scared of that movie.’ I don't watch, I don't see it. I don't see what's so scary. But then for that outsider's part of view I do see what might be very scary back then. And it's also quite a timeless movie, The Lost Boys .”

An accompanying novel, written by Craig Shaw Gardner, was timed with the film’s release, and included a host of scenes that never made it into the film. It also expanded on the vampire lore, elaborating that a vamp couldn’t cross running water. You can grab a pristine condition copy for around £100.

Meanwhile, the film’s memorable theme tune ‘Cry Little Sister’, as recorded by Gerard McMahon became a big hit, and is forevermore synonymous with the film.

Schumacher attributes the film’s success to the way it tapped into modern culture.

“I think that a lot of our culture is set up for people to deny who they really are,” he says. “I'm not saying that all people are inherently evil, but we spend so much of the time wanting people to think that we're perfect.

“That we don't have bad thoughts, or do bad things, that we're all really perfect people, and we are. We're perfect in our imperfections. This is what's most interesting to me: we talked about growing up on dark films, if you ask anyone what their favourite movies are, there's going to be dark ones in there.”

Next: "We blew it, man, we lost it!" [page-break]

“We blew it, man, we lost it!”

In the wake of the success of The Lost Boys , it wasn’t long before the studio started the obligatory sequel chatter. Schumacher pitched an idea for a follow-up entitled The Lost Girls , but it never made it in front of cameras, despite numerous attempts on the director’s part.

It’s evidently still a sore spot for all of those involved.

“There were great [ follow-up ] ideas,” says Sutherland. “Joel had one that was a prequel dating back all the way to the earthquake in San Francisco. The one we talk about in the original.

“The prequel was always going to follow David when he was mortal before he got sucked into the earthquake and got turned. That was Joel’s idea and I thought that was really cool. But apparently Joel was really busy, Warner Bros was really busy and it didn’t happen.”

In 2008, a sequel finally received the green light. Entitled Lost Boys: The Tribe , it featured an entirely new cast of characters, except for Corey Feldman as Edgar Frog.

Feldman was reluctant to return, but was tempted back by a script rewrite.

“They brought on a great writer, Hans Rodionoff, who came up with a great story line,” he says. “In the script, as it is today, I am one of the leads. My involvement is very close to what my involvement was in the first one. So I'm pretty much scattered throughout.”

The film was shot without Corey Haim’s involvement, but in the editing room the filmmakers realised they wanted him back for a credit’s sequence that would set up a possible third Lost Boys . No hard feelings, though.

“They called me three months after that movie was being made,” the actor remembered. “And they said we’d like to do some alternate endings and some re-shoots. And I was like, ‘You know I inquired about this movie and you guys said you didn’t want me, and now you do.’ So, I did it…I mean it’s Lost Boys 2 .”

He wasn’t pleased with the end result, however. “They should have done it years ago, or just done it properly. It’s way too late. That’s just my opinion.”

One person who refused to return was Sutherland (whose looky-likey half-brother is the lead vamp in The Tribe ).

“No, absolutely not,” says Sutherland. “ The Lost Boys was a massive part of my life, it still is. You can’t crap on that. And I’m not going to go out and do a cameo in a DVD release sequel.

“Why they never talked to Joel Schumacher in the past 15 years about doing a proper sequel… If you’re not going to embrace what you’re coming from in its original state… Look, it was hard enough for me to do Young Guns 2 which I ended up thinking – because we were all better – was a better film.”

In March 2009, MTV reported that work was prepping on a third Lost Boys flick branded Lost Boys: The Thirst . Corey Feldman was tipped to be serving as an executive producer as well as reprising his now infamous Frog role.

There’s no word if the sequel will be going ahead without Haim.

After over two decades spent in the media spotlight, it's a tragedy that Haim's life was cut short after just 38 years. He will forever be remembered for his decade-defining performance in The Lost Boys , and for his free-spirited ways, which meant he rarely dwelt on the past.

In a recent interview, Haim said: “I would not change anything from the past, except maybe the hurt I caused my mom and my dad. I would just take the hurt away.

“You know, the hurt that came from them always expecting the call: ‘Your son is dead.’”

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Josh Winning has worn a lot of hats over the years. Contributing Editor at Total Film, writer for SFX, and senior film writer at the Radio Times. Josh has also penned a novel about mysteries and monsters, is the co-host of a movie podcast, and has a library of pretty phenomenal stories from visiting some of the biggest TV and film sets in the world. He would also like you to know that he "lives for cat videos..." Don't we all, Josh. Don't we all.