Jason Patric was supposed to be a movie star. He was good-looking and talented. He starred in a hit movie and dated America’s Sweetheart. Critics loved him. And yet somehow Jason Patric never became a star. In fact, I’m willing to bet most people reading this article won’t remember who he is until they read the article and see which movies he starred in and who he dated.
What the hell happened?
Jason Patric is the son of Academy Award-nominated actor and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Jason Miller. You probably know Miller as Father Damien Karras from The Exorcist. Patric’s full name is Jason Patric Miller. His mother is Linda Mae Gleason, daughter of the legendary comedian Jackie Gleason.
TV in the 80’s was a steady stream of TV movies warning viewers of the dangers of drugs. Patric made his debut in one such “Just Say No” movie of the week. He played a drug-addicted teen in the movie Toughlove. Lee Remick and Bruce Dern played Patric’s frustrated parents who turn to an organization called Toughlove for help because back then there was no Dr. Phil show to write into. The organization tells them they should love and support their son no matter what. Just kidding. They tell him to exercise some tough love. D’uh. It’s right there in the title people. It may be heard to believe today when the term “tough love” is overused to the point of cliche but in the mid 80’s the idea of not enabling your loved ones was a new one. Thank goodness we had movies like Toughlove to set us straight!
Want to know what else is significant about Toughlove? Nothing. Moving on.
Patric made his big screen debut in the 1986 sci-fi schlock, Solarbabies.
Patric starred opposite Jami Gertz and Lukas Haas. They played a bunch of space orphans living in a dystopian future, Because really, what other kind is there? In this future, the orphans are force to participate in a game that is kind of like lacrosse only on roller skates. What is it with future sports and roller skates anyway? The roller-boogie orphans locate a magical space orb that may be able to bring much-needed rain. If not, they can hang it as a disco ball in their roller skating rink. That would be pretty rad.
It’s basically The Road Warrior meets Rollerball starring a bunch of kids. How can that not be a hit? Critics blasted the movie for being a cheap rip-off of better movies. Roger Ebert wrote “This movie owes so much to the Road Warrior pictures that I doubt if it could have been made without them.” Solar Babies currently holds the dreaded zero percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences didn’t like it any better than critics so the movie flopped.
In 1987, Patric scored the lead role in Joel Schumacher’s teen vampire movie, The Lost Boys.
Patric and Corey Haim played brothers who move to the fictional beach community of Santa Carla, California. Patric’s character, Michael, falls for a local girl played by his Solarbabies co-star, Jami Gertz. Through Gertz’s character, he becomes involves with a gang of teenage vampires lead by Kiefer Sutherland.
According to Patric, he turned down Lost Boys more than once:
Joel Schumacher will tell you, I turned that role down twice. I didn’t want to wear teeth and makeup – that’s just not what I wanted to do as an actor. He convinced me.
The Lost Boys was produced by Richard Donner. The original script was about “a bunch of Goonies-type 5th-6th grade kid vampires”. The screenwriter, James Jeremias, came up with the idea that Peter Pan – a character who flies, visits children at night and never ages – could be a vampire. Originally, the script included more obvious references to Peter Pan. The brothers were named Michael and John, their mother was named Wendy and Sutherland’s character was named Peter.
Donner, who directed The Goonies, originally intended to direct The Lost Boys himself. But when he committed to make Lethal Weapon, he hired Schumacher to direct instead. Schumacher hated the script and only agreed to direct if he could age the main characters to teenagers.
The end result was a very hip, stylish vampire movie. Patric thinks that it would be and even bigger hit if it was released today:
The truth is, if it came out today, it would have made half a billion dollars. It would be Twilight.
The mix of horror and comedy was a hit with critics and audiences. Schumacher tried for years to make a sequel, Lost Girls. Eventually, two direct-to-video sequels were made.
In 1988, Patric starred in the war movie, The Beast.
Patric played a Russian tank driver during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. His tank gets separated from the rest of the unit after an assault on a village. They find themselves lost and beseiged by a band of Mujahadeen guerrillas.
The film was originally titled The Beast of War. After a regime change at Columbia Pictures, the studio was no longer interested in promoting the movie. The new studio head dumped The Beast in a limited number of theaters with little to no advertising.
The movie was largely ignored by critics and audiences alike. But eventually, it gained a small cult audience when it was released on video.