Outfest revisits “Little Darlings” which starred Tatum O’Neal and now out lesbians Kristy McNichol and Cynthia Nixon
Just got back from Outfest’s Downtown 30 screening of Little Darlings, the 1980 comedy starring Tatum O’Neal and Kristy McNichol which I had not seen in ages.
The film about two 15-year old girls from different sides of the tracks who compete to see who will be first to lose their virginity while at camp is still a charmer and funny in ways both originally intended and in new ways too.
In one of the early scenes, McNichol is accused of being a lesbian by one of her fellow campers and later she wonders why everyone is so excited about seeing a bunch of naked male campers across the lake skinny dipping. Those lines got bigger laughs because McNichol came out publicly last summer as a lesbian.
But McNichol is just a wonder in this movie, such a good actress who conveys so much in just a look and with her expressive eyes. It’s a shame she no longer acts because she was always so good.
A very young Cynthia Nixon is also in the movie as sort of a flower child camper and she has one of the best lines in the movie after she punches the resident bitch in the face she looks at her with disgust and says: “You fraud.”
The movie does not have any overt lesbianism in it but it is a cult fave among lesbians – no doubt even more so now that McNichol is out and Nixon too.
Writer Kimi Peck was at tonight’s screening and was surprised to learn that the film she wrote just out of film school at USC is a favorite among lesbians. But she seemed happy about it.
Peck also shared some juicy tidbits about casting and the filming of the movie which had initially been rated X by the MPAA but later managed to get an R rating.
She told us that while she wrote the script with Tatum ONeal in mind for the role of rich girl Ferris, Kristy McNichol was not the first or second choice for the role of Angel.
The production heavily courted a then red-hot Brooke Shields for the role of Angel part but her manager-mother Terri Shields was demanding a $500,000 salary. They then went after Jodie Foster who had starred in Foxes that same year and been nominated for an Academy Award in 1976 for Taxi Driver.
Peck admitted that she was initially disappointed when McNichol was cast because she was best known as a television actress from a ABC drama Family. But she has won an Emmy for the show and had played Burt Reynolds’ daughter in the 1978 dark comedy The End.
Peck says it quickly became clear that McNichol was the best thing about the film.
Matt Dillon had made a few films but was still largely unknown when he was cast as Randy Adams, the male camper who Angel hooks up with. Peck says she saw him in a roomful of other hopefuls during the audition process and immediately knew he was the perfect choice.
Peck also revealed at the screening that Armand Assante, who played the camp counselor who O’Neal’s character pretends to have slept with, was not only not the first choice for the role but he was not even present when filming began.
It was Perry King who was cast in the role then fired after just one week of production.
O’Neal also clashed with director Ronald F. Maxwell early on and that prompted a visit to the Georgia set by her father, Ryan O’Neal who was accompanied by his then-girlfriend Diana Ross.
For Peck, Little Darlings would ultimately be her only movie. She had written several other screenplays, including a few that were close to getting made, but grew disillusioned after a change in studio regimes. She left the business to focus on animal rescues.
She said she is eager to have Little Darlings released on DVDs because she would welcome the residuals. But that release seems to be hung up on music clearance issues. The film’s soundtrack includes such songs as Supertramp’s School, John Lennon’s Oh My Love and The Belamy Brothers’ Let Your Love Flow.