January 23, 1998 at 05:00 AM EST

School Ties

Current Status
In Season
Brendan Fraser, Matt Damon, Chris O'Donnell, Ben Affleck, Cole Hauser, Zeljko Ivanek, Amy Locane, Andrew Lowery, Randall Batinkoff, Anthony Rapp
Robert Mandel
Dick Wolf

The talent search lasted well over a year, and, Cole Hauser says, ”every 15- to 22-year-old actor wanted that movie.” It was School Ties (Paramount, 1992), a 1950s ensemble drama about anti-Semitism at a New England prep school that in retrospect is shaping up as an American Graffiti for the ’90s. Just as Graffiti provided first major roles for Harrison Ford, Richard Dreyfuss, Suzanne Somers, and Cindy Williams, Ties cast the then-little-seen Brendan Fraser, Chris O’Donnell, Amy Locane, Hauser, and Good Will Hunting’s Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, who played a privileged blue blood five years before he portrayed Hunting’s puggish South Boston townie. It was Damon’s first major role, and he remembers having to read for the part more than a dozen times before nabbing one of Ties’ eight preppie roles (among those who didn’t make the cut were Noah Wyle and Jason Priestley). ”O’Donnell was the most outrageously goofy,” recalls director Robert Mandel. Fraser, who starred as the Jewish kid and shot Encino Man right after Ties, recalls, ”The weird thing was that all of us — me, Chris, Matt — were getting FedEx envelopes and sneaking down to audition in New York for Scent of a Woman. Everyone was getting on Chris because he wouldn’t fess up about what was in the FedEx.”

Mandel believes that for the right script, his million-dollar babies would reunite in some sort of collegiate follow-up. But Ties co-casting director Pat McCorkle says with a laugh, ”We couldn’t get that cast back together now if we tried.”

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