Stand By Me remains one of my favorite films today along with The Shawshank Redemption. Here are some fun facts about this great Stephen King adaptation:
-The film was originally called The Body because that was the title of the Stephen King novella the movie was based on. The novella was subtitled “Fall From Innocence.”
– Don’t worry: Rob Reiner made all of the kids smoke lettuce leaves, not cigarettes.
– Jerry O’Connell (Vern) had never really acted before – he had just one commercial under his belt. When he auditioned, he recognized Rob Reiner and said, “Aren’t you the guy on channel 5?” At the time, the local channel 5 had been airing reruns of All in the Family at the time and Jerry recognized Rob as Meathead.
-A lot of the dialogue was taken right out of the novella.
-John Cusack (Gordie’s dead older brother, Denny) was cast because Cusack had just made The Sure Thing with Rob Reiner and the two of them became good friends. Reiner felt certain that Cusack would be able to make a good impression on the audience even though his screen time was very limited.
-Kiefer Sutherland (Ace) used method acting during his time on the set – he liked to pick on the four younger boys even when the cameras weren’t rolling, just to keep the mood flowing. Jerry O’Connell later admitted that he was actually really terrified of Kiefer.
-When they filmed the scene where Teddy (Corey Feldman) wants to play chicken with the train, the boys were really standing in front of a real, moving locomotive. But they were never in any danger: a long-angle lens was used to make it look like train was a lot closer than it actually was. The same technique was used in the scene where Vern and Gordie (Wil Wheaton) almost get run over by the train.
– Incidentally, the reason the kids are crying during that scene is because Rob Reiner yelled at them. They had done the take over and over and the actors wouldn’t cry; the guys operating the cameras and the dollies were getting tired from running alongside the kids and filming them. Reiner started yelling that everyone was sick and tired of doing this scene because these kids wouldn’t do their jobs, and that was all it took. Once it was over, the kids were thrilled that they were finally able to cry and everyone made up.
-In the book, Chris Chambers (River Phoenix in the film) references other Stephen King fictional spots – at one point, he says something about how towns often have stupid names, such as the nearby Jerusalem’s Lot. Also in the novella, Teddy says something about not getting sent to “The ‘Shank,” which is, of course, Shawshank Penitentiary from The Shawshank Redemption.
-Likewise, characters from The Body are referenced in other Stephen King books. For instance, in Carrie, an Amoco gas station was once owned by Teddy Duchamp. And bad greaser dude Ace Merrill meets his maker in Needful Things.
-Wil Wheaton had to fake like he was running slower than River Phoenix in the junkyard race scene; in reality he was a lot faster than River.
-Rob Reiner said a couple of times during the director’s commentary that Corey Feldman was the only kid they auditioned who had the kind of rage to pull off the Teddy Duchamp character. Feldman’s audition was the scene where he and the junkyard guy get into it and apparently he nailed it.
-Horrifically, the leech scene really happened to Stephen King when he was a kid. It was his friend who passed out, though, not Stephen.
-The part where the kids find the body was supposed to be overcast and dreary, but of course, it was a gorgeous afternoon in Oregon that day. So the production crew used artificial means to make everything look the way they wanted – they even had monofilament fishing line tied to the bushes and had people pulling them off-camera to make them look like the wind was blowing (in addition to having wind machines, of course).
-The novella, like most Stephen King books, is set in Maine. Although the movie is based in Oregon, the town name, still pays homage to the story: it’s Castle Rock.
-Kent Lutrell, the kid who played the dead body of Ray Brower, grew up to be a stuntman and stunt rigger. He has worked on Baywatch, Army of Darkness, Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the series), Titanic, Corky Romano and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.