Stand by Me: Plot, Cast and Everything We Know About This Super-hit Movie

Rob Reiner directed the 1986 American coming-of-age film Stand by Me. The title comes from a Ben E. King song and is based on Stephen King's 1982 novella The Body. Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, and Jerry O'Connell play four lads on a trip in 1959 in search of a missing boy's body.

Stand by Me received Academy Award nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay and two Golden Globe nominations: one for Best Drama Motion Picture and the other for Best Director.

Plot

Gordie Lachance, a writer, is reading a newspaper article about a man who was attacked in a restaurant. Gordie describes a childhood episode in which he, his best friend Chris Chambers, and two other pals, Teddy Duchamp and Vern Tessio, went on a search for a missing boy in Castle Rock, Oregon, over Labor Day weekend in September 1959.

Stand By Me

Gordie's parents are too preoccupied with grieving over their older brother Denny to pay much attention to Gordie, who is twelve years old. Vern overhears his older brother Billy chatting with his friend Charlie about finding the body of the missing boy, Ray Brower, outside of town, while digging for money he hid beneath his parents' porch. Billy is hesitant to disclose the body because it may draw attention to the fact that he and Charlie were recently caught stealing a car.

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When Vern informs Gordie, Chris, and Teddy what he's heard, the four lads resolve to go seek for the body in the hopes of becoming local heroes. Chris and Gordie run into local hoodlum “Ace” Merrill and Chris's older brother, “Eyeball” Chambers, after Chris steals his father's pistol. Eyeball snatches Gordie's Yankees cap, which was a present from Denny, and Ace threatens Chris with a lighted cigarette.

The four boys set out on their journey. They are caught trespassing by owner Milo Pressman and his dog, Chopper, after stopping at a junkyard for water. Milo calls Teddy's mentally ill father a “loony” as they flee over a fence. Teddy, outraged, tries to attack Milo, but the other guys stop him. The four continue their journey, and despite his father's displeasure, Chris urges Gordie to pursue his dream of becoming a writer. Gordie and Vern are nearly murdered by an approaching train as they cross a railroad bridge, but they jump off the tracks and avoid major injury.

Stand By Me

Cast

Gordon “Gordie” Lachance is played by Wil Wheaton (aged 12)
As an adult, Richard Dreyfuss Chris Chambers is played by Gordon River Phoenix.
Teddy Duchamp is played by Corey Feldman.
Vern is played by Jerry O'Connell. John “Ace” Merrill, played by Tessio Kiefer Sutherland, is a gang leader.
John Cusack as Dennis “Denny” LaChance, Gordie's older brother Marshall Bell as Mr. LaChance, Billy Tessio, gang member and Vern's older brother Casey Siemaszko as Billy Tessio, gang member and Vern's older brother Casey Siemaszko as Billy Tessio, gang member and Vern's older brother Casey Siemaszko as Billy Tessio,
Frances Mrs. LaChance is played by Lee McCain.
Charlie Hogan, a gang member and Billy's best friend, is played by Gary Riley.
Richard “Eyeball” Chambers, a gang member and Chris' older brother, is played by Bradley Gregg.

Production

Development

The Body, a Stephen King book, was turned into a film.

On August 29, 1983, Bruce A. Evans sent Karen Gideon, the wife of his friend and writing partner Raynold Gideon, a copy of The Body as a birthday present.

[6] Both Gideon and Evans instantly became fans of the novella and approached King's representative, Kirby McCauley, to discuss picture rights. McCauley responded that King's terms were $100,000 and 10% of the total earnings.

Although money was not an issue, the percentage of gross revenues was deemed exorbitant, especially since no celebrities could be used to promote the film. As a result, Evans and Gideon went after a well-known director, Adrian Lyne, to assist them market the project.

Lyne teamed up with Evans and Gideon after reading the story, but everyone of the studios they approached turned down the concept save Martin Shafer at Embassy Pictures. Embassy spent four months negotiating the rights with McCauley, settling on $50,000 and a lower percentage of the income, while Evans and Gideon worked on the screenplay for eight weeks.

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Shafer proposed Evans and Gideon link up with Andy Scheinman, a more seasoned producer, to co-produce the picture.  Embassy refused to pay Lyne's remuneration for directing the film until Evans and Gideon agreed to give up half of their profit share in order to meet Lyne's demands.

Casting

Wil Wheaton ascribed the film's success to the director's casting selections in a 2011 interview with NPR: Rob Reiner selected four young boys who were the characters we played. River was cool, smart, passionate, and even at that age, kind of like a father figure to some of us, Jerry was one of the funniest people I had ever seen in my life, either before or since, and Corey  was unbelievably angry and in a lot of pain and had a terrible relationship with his parents, and I was awkward and nerdy and shy and uncomfortable in my skin and sensitive, and River was cool, smart, passionate, and even at that age, kind of like a hero

stand by Me

Filming

The penultimate sequences were shot atop a bridge on the route leading into Brownsville, Oregon (2009)
On June 17, 1985, principal photography began and completed in late August 1985.

Brownsville, Oregon, which served as a stand-in for the fictional town of Castle Rock, was used for some of the filming. The place was chosen because of its small-town 1950s feel.  As extras, some 100 people from the area were hired.

Brownsville was also used to film the “barf-o-rama” sequence. The pies and extra filling were provided by a local bakery, which was mixed with large-curd cottage cheese to resemble vomit. The amount of simulated vomit per participant ranged from 5 US gallons (19 l) during the triggering event to 116 US gallon afterward (0.24 l).

The train chase sequence was filmed on the McCloud River Railroad trestle across Lake Britton in California (2012)
The McCloud River Railroad, located above Lake Britton Reservoir in McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park in California, was used to film the scene in which the boys outrun a steam train engine across an 80-foot tall trestle.
The scene took a week to film and featured four petite adult female stunt doubles with closely cropped hair who were made up to seem like the protagonists of the film.
Plywood boards were put across the ties to give the stunt duplicates a safer surface to run on.  The film crew even brought a brand-new camera for the shoot, but it jammed between the rails during the first shot. M.C.R.R. 25, the locomotive featured in the scenario, is still in use on the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad for excursion service.

Home Media

RCA/Columbia Pictures Home Video released Stand by Me on VHS on March 19, 1987. On August 29, 2000, a DVD featuring a director's commentary, numerous language options (subtitles and audio), and a featurette titled “Walking The Tracks- The Summer Of Stand By Me” was released. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment re-released the film on Blu-ray in 2011 and on 4K Blu-ray in 2019.

Box Office Receipts

In North America, the picture was a box office hit. On August 8, 1986, it had a limited run in 16 cinemas and grossed $242,795, averaging $15,174 per theatre. On August 22, the picture had a wide release in 745 theatres, grossing $3,812,093, average $5,116 per theatre and placing #2. The picture was released in 848 theatres and grossed $52,287,414 in total, much above its $8 million budget.

Stand by Me

A Critical Reaction

Walter Goodman of The New York Times wrote in his review of the film that Reiner's direction was self-conscious, with him “looking continuously at his audience.” “Reiner's direction hammers in every obvious element in an obvious storyline,” Goodman stated, calling the picture a “trite narrative.”

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Dave Kehr said in his Chicago Tribune review that “nothing natural” about the manner Reiner “overloaded his film with contrived drama.”  In her review for the Los Angeles Times, Sheila Benson termed the picture “[a treasure] absolutely not to be missed.” The acting ensemble was “excellent,” according to Paul Attanasio of The Washington Post, who commended Wheaton and Phoenix in particular.