No film quite captures what it’s like to be 12 years old more than Rob Reiner’s Stand By Me. Based on the Stephen King novella The Body, Reiner’s film adaptation follows four boys who spend a weekend late in the summer of 1959 following some train tracks to find the body of a missing boy. Here’s a look at some fascinating facts to commemorate this bittersweet ode to childhood on its 30th anniversary.
The Source Material Was A Little Darker
While it wasn’t without its coming-of-age sensibility, Stephen King’s The Body had a more haunting tone to it, implying that finding the body of Ray Brower was a kind of dark turning point for the four boys. Like the movie, it ends describing the tragic murder of Chris Chambers, but goes on to detail the untimely deaths of Vern Tessio and Teddy DuChamp as well.
While adapting the novella for Stand By Me, director Rob Reiner softened the material, making the character of Gordie the focus of the story. He also adjusted the setting from 1960 to 1959 and shifted the town of Castle Rock from Maine to Oregon. After a private screening, Stephen King said it was the best adaptation of his material he’d ever seen, and even improved on his original story.
It Was Almost Directed By Adrian Lyne
British filmmaker Adrian Lyne, who’s best known for directing movies with an erotic sensibility, was initially attached to the direct Stand By Me. In the earliest stages of development, Lyne was busy finishing up his work on 9 1/2 Weeks and had promised himself a six-month vacation once that was done. That would’ve pushed production of Stand By Me back to early 1986 and producers didn’t want to wait that long. Once Lyne decided that he really wanted to take the time off, he surrendered the project, allowing Rob Reiner to take over.
It Was Financed By Norman Lear
Just as Rob Reiner was beginning rehearsals with the principle cast, producer Norman Lear had sold his company, Embassy Communications, to Coca-Cola. The problem was that Embassy Communications was bankrolling Stand By Me, and the soft drink behemoth saw no profit potential in the movie and pulled the plug. Lear, having worked with Reiner back when he played Meathead in All In The Family, agreed to finance the movie out of his own pocket. The film’s total budget came to “$8 million and change,” Lear told the New York Times in 1986.
The Wil Wheaton Connection To Wagon Train
In the movie, among the numerous pop culture references of the time, Gordie Lachance (Wil Wheaton) briefly mentions the old Western TV show Wagon Train. (“They never seem to get anywhere, they just keep on Wagon Training…”)
The lore is that Wil Wheaton’s grandfather was one of the show’s stars, and they worked in a reference in to the script. Wheaton cleared this up on his website back in 2009, explaining that his grandfather was the property master on the show, not one of the stars. He did not address if Wagon Train was mentioned in Stand By Me because of this, however.
It Could Have Starred The Two Coreys
Corey Haim and Corey Feldman were synonymous with teen movies in the 1980s. Known as ‘The Two Coreys,’ they first appeared on screen together in 1987’s The Lost Boys. It turns out, Haim had read for the part of Chris Chambers, and was offered the part the same day he was offered the title role in David Seltzer’s tragicomedy Lucas. Haim chose the role in Lucas over Stand By Me, and the part of Chris Chambers went to the late River Phoenix.
Tragically, Haim’s life was also cut short, and he died of drug-induced pneumonia in 2010 at the age of 38.
The Stars Really Identified With Their Characters
In a 2011 interview with NPR, commemorating the films 25th anniversary, Wil Wheaton explained Stand By Me‘s lasting success to Rob Reiner’s casting choices, explaining that the four stars were “basically were the characters we played.”
For example, River Phoenix told the Chicago Tribune that he “was a total wreck by the end of the shoot,” and he identified with his character so much that he may have needed to see a shrink had it not been for his family. Corey Feldman told Variety that in order to play hot-headed Teddy Duchamp he “didn’t have any problem getting to the emotional places,” citing his abusive family life at the time. Finally, Jerry O’Connell told the New York Times that during the shoot he “tried to stay like Vern and say the stupid things Vern would. I think I was Vern that summer.”
Kiefer Sutherland Claims Jerry O’Connell Was Drugged (At A Renaissance Fair)
While appearing on Jimmy Kimmel Live back in 2011, Kiefer Sutherland told the story of a young Jerry O’Connell who snuck out to attend a “Hippy Fair” near where they were filming in Oregon. At the fair, O’Connell supposedly bought some cookies that were laced with marijuana. According to Sutherland, O’Connell had gotten lost and was later found crying in a park, shutting down production for a day or so until O’Connell could recuperate.
They Smoked Cabbage Leaves
Rob Reiner is known for his anti-smoking stance and even helped push for California’s smoking ban. When making Stand By Me, Reiner made sure that the cigarettes the boys smoked on camera were made out of cabbage leaves.
The Body Of Ray Brower Was Also Corey Feldman’s Stand-In
Back in 1985, Kent Luttrell was just your average college freshman who answered an ad in the school paper that was looking for stand-ins and photo-doubles for the cast of Stand By Me. Talking to Portland Monthly earlier this year, Luttrell ended up getting called back for three auditions, even meeting Rob Reiner at one point, and was eventually hired as a stand-in for Corey Feldman.
He didn’t get the part of Ray Brower’s body until the day they shot that scene. The mannequin they’d planned on using didn’t look right, so they asked Luttrell if he’d do it. During the first take, they had black beetles crawling out of his mouth(!), one of which bit Luttrell on his lip. After the cameraman rewarded him with a shot of whiskey, they did a second take without the beetles, which is what ended up in the movie.
Even though he’d been working on the movie and even hung out with the cast of the film, the four boys weren’t allowed to see Luttrell as Ray Brower until the last possible moment to get the most earnest reaction.
The Town Where It Was Filmed Still Celebrates It To This Day
The town of Brownsville, Oregon was chosen for its ’50s aesthetic to stand in for the fictional Castle Rock. In the three decades since, Brownsville has remained proud of that fact, and has held major celebrations for both the 25th and 30th anniversary, including pie-eating contests, guided tours, and cast and crew reunions.