GRAY FREDERICKSON COULD be forgiven, almost forty years after the fact, for missing a few of the finer details of how The Outsiders came to be made in Tulsa. Still, when he’s asked about it, his reply is rich with film history.
“We were making a movie in Hollywood called One from the Heart,” he says. “Francis Coppola, myself, and my co-producer. We got a letter from a grade school class in Ohio. The letter said, ‘Dear Mr. Coppola, we just read a book called The Outsiders. We think you should make a movie out of it.’
Francis said, ‘Will someone read this damn book and see if they’re right?’ One of us read it, we found out what the story was, and we found out it was set in Tulsa. Francis said, ‘Gray, you’re from Oklahoma; what do you think?’
‘It’s set in Oklahoma, it’s written by a person from Oklahoma, you’re from Oklahoma, let’s shoot it in Oklahoma!’
I said, ‘It sounds great!’ Francis said, ‘It’s set in Oklahoma, it’s written by a person from Oklahoma, you’re from Oklahoma, let’s shoot it in Oklahoma!’ Is that what you wanted to hear? Yep? Good luck!”
With that, Frederickson hangs up the phone, having nailed his part in one take.
HE GOT THE story almost right. It was, in truth, a junior high