|Cast of the revamped Red Dawn (Handout)
There are odd parallels between the re-boot of the invasion movie Red Dawn that opened this week and the 1984 original -- apart from the fact that they are both ridiculously implausible.
The main one is that they were both lower-tier films with a cast of young, relative unknowns playing the Wolverines, high-schoolers who head to the forest and go guerilla on the Commie invaders.
And both casts of unknowns would become "knowns."
In fact, given that this misbegotten Red Dawn sat on a shelf for two years, the fact that it was released at all can be credited to star Chris Hemsworth playing Thor in two movies (including The Avengers) and Josh Hutcherson co-starring in The Hunger Games. There's also a kid named Connor Cruise, who apparently took grinning lessons from his adoptive dad Tom.
As for the 1984 original, I was on a junket in Denver (where the Soviet invasion was set) in which the fresh-faced newcomers were interviewed, along with action-director/Cold Warrior John Milius.
The biggest name in the movie was C. Thomas Howell, who'd starred as Ponyboy in The Outsiders. Newbies included Patrick Swayze (who'd had a small role in that same film), his future Dirty Dancing co-star Jennifer Grey, future Caroline in the City star Lea Thompson, and an 18-year-old kid named Charlie Sheen.
Milius was so far right, he considered Reagan soft on the Soviets. (In his movie, all the world's Communists invade the U.S., after Latin America fell like dominoes). And by accounts, he turned his set into a boot-camp/Red Menace Awareness seminar.
Thompson and Grey both rejected the indoctrination and seemed uncomfortable and upset about their involvement in the movie. Swayze took a diplomatic tact, saying Red Dawn wasn't meant to be political, but was a movie about the human spirit and refusal to accept defeat.
And then there was Charlie, the Sheen no one had heard of -- yet. Sheen was apparently Milius's star pupil when it came to Cold War politics.
The chain-smoking teen didn't shy away from Red Dawn like his co-stars.
"I don't like to sound prejudiced," Sheen said, "but I am fed up with the Soviets. If they ever walked in, I'd be armed and ready." Not an idle threat, considering the "accidental" shooting of his girlfriend Kelly Preston years later.
After some more Red-baiting, Charlie went on to his famous family. Of dad Martin Sheen, he said, "My father's such a goddamn activist, he thinks he's f---ing Gandhi."
Then why use his dad's stage name, instead of Estevez like his brother Emilio? "My brother said I was flipped (crazy)," for taking the name Sheen. "He's so hung up on making it entirely without my father's help. My reaction was, 'What's in a name?' "
And thus was born Charlie, the gift that keeps on giving.