It’s hard to believe that we’re already celebrating the 35th anniversary of one of the best coming-of-age films ever, Stand By Me, which premiered in theaters in 1986. It’s been an eventful and often tragic 35 years for the foursome at the center of the film. River Phoenix died of an overdose in 1993, and Corey Feldman has experienced a lifetime of drug and alcohol abuse. Jerry O’Connell, however, seems to have weathered the last three-and-a-half decades fairly well.
The other lead cast member was Wil Wheaton, who has had a fairly successful low-key career, both in out and out of the movie and television industry. He had a memorable role in Star Trek: The Next Generation, and he does a lot of voice work, but he’s mostly known at this point as a writer and man about town in the nerd world. However, he’s probably still best known for his break-out role in Stand By Me, in which he starred as Gordie, a 12-year-old aspiring writer.
As he recently told Yahoo! Movies, however, being a child actor was not a choice he made. He was forced into it by his mother, Debra, who was an actress, and his father, a medical specialist.
“I didn’t want to be an actor when I was a kid,” Wheaton told Yahoo Movies. “My parents forced me to do it, my mother made me do it. My mother coached me to go into her agency and tell the children’s agent, ‘I want to do what mommy does.’ And through a combination of an incredible emotional abuse from my father and a lot of manipulation, using me, from my mother, it really put me in that place.”
It is obviously unfortunate that Wheaton — who is now estranged from his parents — had that reservoir of abuse to pull from, and it’s sad that Wheaton experienced so many parallels with his Stand By Me character. It did, however, provoke a remarkable performance:
“[It] put me in exactly the right place to play Gordie. Because Gordie’s experience very much reflected my experience. We’re both invisible in our homes. We both have a brother who is the golden child. We’re both the scapegoat in the family. So when I watch Stand by Me now, I cannot ignore the unbelievable sadness in my eyes. And I cannot ignore the reality that it was that sadness, that isolation that I think gave me what Gordie needed to come to life and I think Rob Reiner saw that.”
There is, however, one more parallel between the lives of Gordie and Wheaton that has proven to be a positive one. “I guess I want to be a writer so that makes me Gordie. I never realized until I was in my 40s that I was Gordie because I was Gordie.” Wheaton has written a number of books over the last 20 years and has even been able to perform the audiobook versions himself. He’s also been a truly inspirational figure for many.
Stand by Me will be returning to theaters on May 26th. Tickets are available here.
(Via Yahoo! Movies)