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Andrew McCarthy’s Kids Think His ’80s Movies Are Cringey

How the Brat Pack icon overcame his anxiety, bonded with his son and made peace with his dying dad

Andrew McCarthy and his son
Courtesy Andrew McCarthy

During the 1980s, Andrew McCarthy was dating mannequins, dissing the idea of love and stealing redheads from Duckie. (Well, on-screen at least.)  But his biggest role has been as a father of three. He recently asked his eldest son, Sam, who was 19 at the time, to join him on a five-week trek across the Camino de Santiago, which crosses parts of France and northern Spain. He wrote about the experience in his new book, “Walking With Sam: A Father, a Son and Five Hundred Miles Across Spain.”

We called McCarthy, now 60, to ask him about fathers and sons, and that Pretty in Pink ending we still can’t get past.
[This interview has been edited for length and clarity.]

What made this trip so powerful that you had to write a book about it?

Andrew McCarthy: Walking the Camino was a real life changer the first time I did it, decades ago. I suffered from what we now call impostor syndrome, after all my early success. The walk really illuminated to me how much fear had dominated my life and decision-making. I thought my son would benefit from that. He’s very physically focused. You try and sit my son down for a chat, you don’t get too far. But get him moving, and it all comes out. 

It’s easier for guys to relate when they’re doing something physical.

That's absolutely true. It’s exhaustion, coupled with accomplishment, coupled with trust, coupled with a sense of community in walking. But certainly physical exhaustion wears us — it’s a very creative and accessible state. The hamster wheel of the brain and emotions can stop, and you can see what’s happening underneath.

Did you have a good relationship with your own dad?

No. When I left home at 17, our relationship, in essence, ended. And that was one of the great regrets of my life. I didn’t want that to happen with my kids. It takes a long time, if ever, for kids to see their parents as real people. And I think that the inverse is equally true, you know?

I imagine that our fathers were of pretty similar generations. I did not have a father who tried to teach me things, like, “Son, here’s what you need to understand to walk through the world.” What was your father like in that regard?

My dad was a volatile guy, and so most of my relationship with him was reacting to his volatility and being a sort of fear-based person. That combination does not garner intimacy. 

There were probably only a half-dozen times after the age of 17 when I saw him. But I went when he was dying, and I went selfishly. I didn’t want it to end that way. I have three brothers, and none of them went when he was dying. I think they did themselves a disservice. To see him afraid, and with all the fight gone, gave me great compassion for him. I held his hand, our past dropped away, and then I was free to love my dad in a way I didn’t in life. Relationships with people don’t end when they die. I was grateful for that new beginning.

You say in the book that you never thought of yourself becoming a parent. When did that change? 

When my wife became pregnant [laughs]. I always thought of myself as so young in a certain way. I remember when Sam was born, I had a friend who saw the fear in my eyes. He grabbed my arm and he said, “Andy, you just love them and keep them dry. The rest works out.” And I tell you, to this day, it's the best parenting advice I’ve ever gotten. 

Do your kids show an interest in your movies? 

Sam saw Weekend at Bernie’s several years ago. He said, “I love you, Dad. But that’s the stupidest movie I’ve ever seen.” To which I said, “That is the point.” It is, you know? And my daughter, she’s 16. So some of her friends told her she needs to watch Pretty in Pink. She watched the trailer, saw me kissing Molly Ringwald and said, “I'm not watching a movie where you’re kissing some other woman.” I thought that was a good, healthy response. 

I remember reading that in the original cut of Pretty in Pink, Andie ends up with Duckie, not Blaine. As a dad with a teenage girl around Andie’s age in the movie, which of those endings is more realistic? And would you want to see her with Duckie or with Blaine? 

It couldn’t have ended any other way. The audience sort of demanded it. Because it was a fairy tale. It was her fairy tale. So you have to give her what she wants. She can’t end up with Duckie. Come on.

Follow Article Topics: Family-&-Fatherhood