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The Outsiders: The Complete Novel
TULSA - It's been nearly a quarter century since California school librarian Jo Ellen Misakian wrote director Francis Ford Coppola a letter on behalf of her students, beseeching him to consider adapting S.E. Hinton's timeless novel about wayward youths, "The Outsiders."

Moved by the students' request, Coppola indeed translated Hinton's 1967 work to the silver screen in 1983 (another of Hinton's books, "Rumble Fish," was adapted by Coppola on the heels of "The Outsiders"), populating the cast with a veritable who's who of up-and-coming stars. Filmed on location in Tulsa, the film was embraced by fans, albeit with reservations.

"In the rush to distribution, aspects of the story were edited out," Coppola wrote in June. "After hearing 'Where's the rest of the book?' for so many years, I decided to cobble together a version more closely aligned with the novel for a screening for my granddaughter and her class."

The end result, The Outsiders: The Complete Novel, will be released on DVD Tuesday (after its Sept. 8 world premiere in Tulsa and a limited theatrical engagement in New York City) with 22 minutes of footage restored, as well as re-mastered picture and sound. Whole plotlines are re-integrated, actors' roles beefed up and Carmine Coppola's score axed in favor of a rock-centric, period appropriate soundtrack.

Oklahoma native Hinton is understandably pleased with the cinematic rebirth of her most enduring work.

"I'm very excited," Hinton said during a recent interview at the Renaissance Hotel. "It was a shock to me to see the theatrical cut of the movie, because we'd filmed the whole book. I've gotten all these letters over the years asking (where certain scenes were) and I think Francis had gotten them as well and gotten embarrassed - so he wanted to get it back together like it's supposed to be."

The novel surprised Coppola, who said he made "bold connections" with the material. "I realized I wanted to make a movie about youth and belonging - belonging to a group of people with whom you identify and feel real love," Coppola wrote. "Even though these boys were poor and in a way, insignificant, the story gives them a kind of beauty and nobility. It is an enchanted moment of time in their lives. I wanted to catch that moment; I wanted to take those young street rats and give them heroic proportions."

Producer Kim Aubry, who worked with Coppola to restore not only this film, but also Apocalypse Now and One From The Heart, said the potential for DVD release drove the restoration of the film, not a possible theatrical distribution.

"Definitely DVD was the engine, in fact we started the restoration work even before we started another project called Apocalypse Now Redux" Aubry said during a recent interview at the Renaissance Hotel. "We made a wacky gamble (with The Outsiders) and made a pitch to Warner Bros. (to help with the restoration)."

Aubry, when asked if he felt the mini-renaissance of directors tinkering with much-loved films and restoring or altering footage, said he wasn't worried about auteurs rewriting history.

"As long as the original remains available, I'm fine with directors revising their films," Aubry said.

For Ralph Macchio and C. Thomas Howell, who star as Johnny Cade and Ponyboy Curtis, respectively, the restored film is another welcome chapter in the Outsiders saga.

"It's always been there," Macchio said during a recent interview at the Renaissance Hotel. "Outside of it being the classic book that it is, it's a film that has stood the test of time and it's a classic. So having the opportunity to go back in and Coppola adding this extra footage and making it a truer version of the novel reaps great benefits for us."

"I wasn't quite sure that we'd ever be sitting here, to be honest," Howell said during a recent interview at the Renaissance Hotel. "It was a long, arduous trip but we're here and I think it's well worth it."

Read Preston Jones's reviews of The Outsiders: The Complete Novel and Rumble Fish: Special Edition

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