i never did national network tv interviews later on in life like the ones i did when i was twelve

When we filmed Stand By Me, none of us knew it was going to be the huge success that it became. None of us expected it to be part of that 50s revival that was so much fun in the mid-80s, and none of us knew that it would essentially launch all of our acting careers.

But I think that, if you asked any of us – actors or crew – who worked on the film, we'd all say that we knew we were working on something special, something that was definitely not going to suck, something that we could be proud of. The fact that audiences agreed with us was pretty awesome.

I don't know about the other guys, but I was totally unprepared for Stand By Me's success and the way it shoved a lot of us into the center of the spotlight. Maybe Corey knew what to expect, because he'd already been in a ton of popular movies (we all saw Goonies together while we were on location in Oregon) but I certainly didn't know what to do when I came home from a family vacation and saw several boxes on my porch, filled with fan mail. 

You know, I haven't thought about this in two decades, but I just got this almost-photographic memory of sitting on my parents couch long after the rest of the family had gone to sleep, listening to Led Zeppelin IV on my dad's huge stereo (with the multi-band graphic equalizer component attached) on a very hot night in late August of 1986, trying to read and answer all of that fan mail by myself. I recall feeling embarrassed by it all, a little weirded out, but also a little excited. I remember thinking that maybe, in those boxes, was a letter from a girl who might want to go to the movies with me.

As I said, I was totally unprepared for the whole thing.

After about a year of being part of that whole Teen Beat crowd, I was totally over it, I thought it was stupid and fake, and really wanted to just get back to being an actor and having a normal life … but for the first few months, I will admit that it was pretty cool and a lot of fun to travel around the country for interviews on TV shows, like Good Morning America.

I forget what day this picture was taken, but it was 1986, right after Stand By Me had been released. There we are, sitting on chairs in the green room, waiting to go be interviewed by (I think) Ron Reagan, Jr. It was my first trip to New York, and I remember how excited I was to go to that huge, almost mythical city, see Times Square, ride the subway, visit the Statue of Liberty, and hang out with Jerry in his home town.

Waiting to promote Stand By Me on Good Morning America in 1986

This photo captures our personalities perfectly: River and Corey are focused and serious (Corey is even wearing a tie and drinking coffee!) I am listening to the same person they are, but I'm not even trying to contain how excited I am to be going on a television show that I had been watching with my Aunt Val since I could remember, in front of the whole country, no less.

My favorite part of this picture, though, is Jerry. It's almost like he caught my mom or dad taking this picture of us, and decided to strike a pose, just to be silly. I just love that he isn't taking the thing too seriously, and that he's just having fun and enjoying the whole thing. As I got older and began to feel like the teen magazine publicity stuff was taking over my life, it stopped being fun, and it started to feel like a chore. I always envied that Jerry seemed to take it all in stride, keep it in perspective, and just have fun with it. I heard him on the Adam Carolla podcast about a week or so ago, and he hadn't changed a bit: still silly, still cracking me up, still keeping everything in perspective.

I've always said that Stand By Me was so successful because Rob cast four young actors who were so much like their characters, but I think it's spooky how the four of us ended up being so much like our characters: River died too young, Corey struggled like crazy to get his personal demons under control, Jerry found success and happiness, and I'm a writer.

…I have had a fucking weird life, man.

82 thoughts on “i never did national network tv interviews later on in life like the ones i did when i was twelve”

  1. Wow. How totally awesome. Pictures like this always make me feel like I’m flipping through a great big photo album of humanity. It’s neat to see moments in time like this – just snippets that are unrehearsed and almost banal but fascinating because they are so… regular. Part of me doesn’t even register who’s all in this picture. It’s just a hole into a moment in time and I’m fascinated by who these kids are, what’s going on in the world they live in during this time, what they’re thinking, why they’re serious, silly or excited and what happened before and what happened after this one moment in time. But I’m kind of weird like that – I have a box of old photos that I’ve bought from antique stores of people I don’t know but the moment in time that’s captured in the picture is mesmerizing. This is one of those pictures. Thank you for sharing it – it’s wonderful. And thanks for giving the backstory. Even though my mind wants to make a story for them, it’s cool to know the true story.
    P.S. Yes, it’s geeky and cool because I know darn well who everyone in this picture is… but it’s cool on many levels.

  2. i love this post… took me back to being 8 and seeing this film with my bro and our summer sitter. and i couldn’t help the *snort/giggle* at the image of sitting at the table with the fan letters…
    thanks for the memories.

  3. I, too, have noticed over time the parallels between the four actors and the four characters.
    Spooky is the correct word. (Not ‘Spocky’, which is a word that could be used to describe a photo of a young you, Wil.)
    Oh, and love this green room photo.

  4. Dude, I’m freaking out about the whole knew-how-you-would-end-up-when-he-cast-you thing. Now I’m thinking about adults I knew as a kid & people who thought I would do stuff. Like the h.s. teacher who said I was a natural lawyer and I said I would *never* be a lawyer (uh…) and the parent who said I was such a great writer and I was like no, I’m not a *real* writer because I’m not *really* creative (uh…) and the business teacher who thought I was a natural entrepreneur, and the drama person who thought I was great at improv … god damnit.
    ~ @ElizabethPW

  5. Whenever I come upon some old photo like this it makes me feel weird too. This example you give makes me feel that you and Jerry should get together since it seems you’d both have a blast together. Probably not true but it would give a good – and probably fake – feeling of a resolution to that bit of past for the rest of us. In your more open non-acted bits the public has seen, you two seem the most compatible.
    Here’s the other odd thing though, why should I care except that looking at some old photos I have, I wonder how other of my friends or acquaintances I had back then ended up, what would it be like for me to talk to them again and how would we get along now. Of course, that’s a real thing for me but you guys were only together for a movie so weren’t real friends to begin with anyway.
    Ah well. You’ve done well my non-friend, non-acquaintance. Keep it up and keep sending us interesting tid-bits to read and see.

  6. I think it was John Houston who said that half of solving your problems as a director is casting correctly. There’s no doubt Rob cast perfectly for Stand by Me, but there’s also no doubt in my mind you are a talented actor. People who had a problem with you as Wesley failed to understand it wasn’t the actors’ fault what words go put in their mouths, but people forget that movies and TV shows are written at all. (Wesley was a tough tough character to write. I tackled a full script as a final in my TV and Film class and Wesley was the hardest character to get on the page.)
    I love reading you slice of life posts here. They are well written, entertaining and illuminating. Keep it up will.
    Also –we’ve all hard weird lives. The most accepted fiction is that anyone has a normal life. The normal life is the myth.

  7. Wow, what a great picture! I have to admit, I saw Stand By Me and that’s what drew me to your other work. (Not like you’ve ever heard that before?) Now I’m a reader of an actor/writer’s blog, who is about the only one of his kind in LA who doesn’t “think his crap don’t stink”. I would love to post this picture on the site,(giving credit of course).

  8. I have to say, one of the best lines in Stand By Me was one of yours –
    Ace: What are you gonna do? Shoot us all?
    Gordie: No, Ace. Just you.

  9. Restrained River, Cool Corey, Jesting Jerry, and Wondrous Wil.
    Sigh…truly a moment in time…when you were twelve.
    We all find pictures like this occasionally, and it’s always wonderful. Thank you for sharing yours with us.
    Lovely post, Wil.

  10. River died too young, Corey struggled like crazy to get his personal demons under control, Jerry found success and happiness, and I’m a writer.
    Spooky isn’t the word for it. I got a shiver down my spine after reading that.

  11. I was going on 12 the year I saw Stand by Me. I believed and still believe that you never have years or summers like you did when you were 12, after hearing that end quote. I made it a point that year to be so present in my moments and to hold on to them because life would never be like it was that summer. Of course he was right about the summer and about life. I’m so grateful to you all for giving me that! Thank you a million times over.

  12. I was always a big fan of Jerry when I was a kid. I was the goofy, kind of chubby kid that always strived to make kids laugh. I was so disappointed when Sliders was canceled – watching Jerry made me hope that one day I would grow out of the “baby fat” and be a handsome rockstar like him.

  13. Awesome photo, Wil. I bet the 1980s were one of the key moments of your life, yet you were so young. You always seem to go back to that decade in your blog, which is good because the 1980s were full of win.

  14. This is a great post, Wil. I think it’s great that you are a great actor AND writer AND such a nice guy. You may have had a weird life, but I think it’s pretty awesome and love that you share it with us. :)

  15. I love this picture. Seeing actors being so candid, so natural, un-actory really makes me feel normal too for some reason. Like my childhood wasn’t as boring and ordinary as I think it was, or maybe yours wasn’t as glamorous and exciting as I think it was, because I’ve got pictures just like this one. I know that doesn’t make any sense, but knowing that kids are just kids (except for Corey obviously) no matter how weird their lives are…well it just shrinks the world a bit for me. And I like that.

  16. My boys and I had this talk last time we watched Stand By Me. The last viewing with my boys was the best as they are 10 and just about 14 now and see it with completely different eyes from when I first started showing it to them. I was 10 when it came out.
    I think my two most favourite moments came from comments from my oldest on a couple of these topics. To quickly copy and paste something I wrote on this (because seriously it is one of those “these are the moments to remember” moments)
    “In the ending scene as adult Gordie was writing his book my oldest pipes up, “Can people really make money doing that?” Even so I thought I knew what “that” meant I asked, “What do you mean?” He confirmed my thoughts by replying, “Writing stories about your life and childhood.” I smiled and said, “Yes they can. In fact that is one of the ways that Wil makes money today.” If only you could have seen his face. This look of really understanding how life has imitated art in this movie. However, the only words he had on the subject was (and this is one of his most common phrases to come out of him), “That’s… that’s interesting.”
    Now that I think about the above comment more, it surprised me he even asked since he has heard our interview on this a few times and talking about feeling weird about the fan mail, Corey and River, etc.
    And the winner for best moment was
    “At the end of the movie the adult Gordie narrates, “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?” To which my oldest says, “Even so I am just starting my teen years, I know that the friends I have now will be the most important friends that I will ever have.” However, even before this..
    The adult Gordie says something along the lines of, “We’d only been gone two days, but somehow the town seemed smaller. Different.” To which my oldest says, “That is because you can do a lot of growing up in just two days.” My youngest replied, “Really?” And my oldest answered, “Yes. When you get older you will realize just how much life can change forever in just two days.”
    On another note, seeing River in that picture brings me to tears. Knowing how close you and River were, well I just hope he found peace and I can only imagine how you must miss him.

  17. i am one of the girls who received a hand written letter from you back then…and i sure as hell would’ve gone to the movies with you…i would go now too! ha :)
    thanks for sharing this. beautiful stuff.

  18. It is astounding how photographs from others can trigger tangents of memories, unwarranted ephemera, and actual nostalgia, from the viewers with which we share them.
    For instance, I am noticing you are wearing a Shah Safari brand shirt. This observation cascades into personal recollections of Chess King at the mall in order to buy the new year’s school clothes to the locations of my lockers throughout high school to all its integral aspirations and failures that laid the foundations to my mindset today. All from noticing a piece of cloth on a scan of somebody else’s one-hour photo developed a generation ago.
    Twitchy things, neurons.

  19. … but I think it’s spooky how the four of us ended up being so much like our characters: River died too young, Corey struggled like crazy to get his personal demons under control, Jerry found success and happiness, and I’m a writer.

  20. Thanks Wil – awesome flashback and pic. Stand By Me captured not just the 50s, but timeless boyhood. The 80s were very magical – like you I grew up in them and I can’t seem to get past them, and I’m not sure I want to! In my heart I’ll always live there.
    Funny, because a few weeks ago I was pining for the 80s, missing the feel of life back then and wondering where the world took a wrong turn, or where I did. That got me thinking about a movie you were in, which I looked up, and that’s how I found this blog, where you’re reminding me of so much 80s magic, which you’ve clearly kept alive within you. Don’t let it go, Wil – RECREATE the best of it, again and again. At least that’s what I’m doing.

  21. Awesomeness trapped in amber. How eerily fascinating the whole art imitating life thing can be. Hey, I wonder, does anyone here remember Jerry’s TV series when he was younger. It was called “My Secret Identity”, and sort of had him as a young super powered tween/teen. Judging from how he looked, I would guess that it would have taken place a little after the movie(late 80’s perhaps?).

  22. This was a realy awesome post Wil. I was only a few years younger than you when this was taken. Jerry, Corey, you and River were all “teen actors” that I looked up to.
    I was very shy as a child, and was constantly told by teachers that I didn’t have much of an imagination because I was to afraid to be vocal about my creativity. I chose to escape into a world of tv shows and movies where I could watch others do and say the things I would have loved to. I followed the careers of all of you, and like so many others of the same age bracket I was devastated when River passed away. To this day, I still think the world really lost a very talented individual when he passed.
    Thank you for sharing a photo that must have brought up so many memories happy and painful) for you. All the best.

  23. You know I was just talking about that same thing the other day when I watched “Stand By Me” with my best friend since the sixth grade. I made the same comparisons and my friend thought I was the second coming of Nostradamus or something. It was funny that you would bring it up in your blog no less than three weeks after I said pretty much the same thing.
    And you are a GREAT writer my friend. And yes it’s too had that River died so early. I really like Jerry also. He’s seems like a totally cool guy. Are you guys still friends? Do you still talk to him, or are your worlds too busy to keep in touch? Just wondering.
    Keep up the great blog.

  24. …I have had a fucking weird life, man.

    Some people think that reality isn’t at all what we are perceiving it to be. Often we say those people are crazy. Other times we call them visionaries. Take this essay by Philip K Dick, for example:
    I’m pretty impressed you didn’t get sucked into that tar pit at such a young age. I’m pretty sure I would have wallowed in the adolation and gotten really messed up.

  25. So do I. TV is just not the same anymore.
    I want my ColicoVision back and Simon and hyper-colour ts and slouch socks and He-Man, She-Ra, G.I. Joe, Transformers, The Cosby Show, Family Ties, Growing Pains, Silver Spoons, Punky Brewster, Different Strokes and The Facts of Life.
    Oh and of course A-Team, Airwolf, Simon and Simon, MacGyver, M.A.S.H., Cheers, Knight Rider, Riptide, Magnum P.I., Star Trek: The Next Generation…
    I think I should stop

  26. Thank you so much for this post, and for being a part of Stand By Me. I still think that it was fate that led me to rent the movie in 1987, when I was 11 years old. I popped the tape into the VCR and was forever changed. I recorded the movie onto a tape and when I wasn’t watching it, I was listening to it on my boom box! :)
    I was watching Stand By Me while talking to my sister on the phone a few months ago, and she said “Wow, we wouldn’t have had childhoods without that movie!” I couldn’t have said it better myself. I don’t understand the power of that movie, but I believe it. :) It is mystical.
    I still miss River so much that it actually hurts somedays. He positively influenced my life in so many ways, and I will be eternally thankful for that. I am so thrilled that you shared a special memory with us. When people remember him with love, he is still here with us. I couldn’t help but notice that this post is very timely, as River’s 39th birthday would have been Sunday.
    Thanks again, Wil.

  27. OMG. More than anything else, that logo in the green room just hurtled me back in time.
    It’s really cool that you are unabashedly enjoying the moment in that photo. Your authenticity and genuine passion for what you do is what makes your work such a joy.
    (BTW, do I owe you an email? Nerd Prom killed my memory.)

  28. Thank you for posting such a precious photo. The film is a gem. Whenever I watch the piece of work, I still cry when Chris confides to Gordie about the truth behind “the stolen milk money and the polka dot skirt” and am fascinated by the serene/poetic moment when Gordie meets a deer in the morning.
    The different paths the four actors took after the movie were somewhat prophetic as you said. But I personally don’t feel spooky about it. If you don’t have the elements of the characters, you won’t become “the one” no matter what others say or do. (Except for River’s case, though. It could have been different if someone with decent mind was beside him…) I always remember the very last words of Alanis Morisette’s “Ironic” when I think about it. [Life has a funny way of sneaking up on you/Life has a funny way of helping you out]. Probably knowing “the elements” consciously and unconsciously as a directer, Rob Reiner did a beautiful job of bringing them out from you all and embody them in the work. With the superb direction, the solid script, the beautiful cinematography and other out-of-the-frame works, the film was universally accepted and is/will be cherished throughout the world because it’s authentic.
    One thing I could not and still can not understand is why Richard Dreyfuss was cast as Gordie the writer. “That little Gordie turns into him? Nah, I don’t buy that.” Though I admitted Mr. D as one of the good actors, Gordie was not him in my mind.
    Then, when I found your blog and recent picture, the idea became a conviction. You look a zillion times hotter than the big R, perhaps in a geeky way. :)

  29. You’re so fortunate to have had such an amazing experience. Thank you for sharing. And thank you for the Teen Beat eye candy as well! When I was 10, I would have had a very lonely closet door with out you and Bon Jovi taped all over it. Even your worst of times provided fond memories for someone out there.

  30. That is an awesome moment in time. Thanks for sharing that. At the time I was twenty and a movie about young kids was not my thing. Boy was I wrong. Today I love this movie thanks to the better 1/2. Again, thanks for the trip in the wayback machine.

  31. Wow. That is an…amazing capture of a moment. You know, I’ve been really nervous lately about going to college in a few weeks, but…I feel much better for some reason now. Thanks, Wil.

  32. Hi Wil, i really enjoyed hearing your memories of Stand By Me because of the stories my grandma has told me about the filming. i dont know if you will remember her but she was the set-mom for Corey, her name is Melina Neal? she told me some stories about that time and the four of you. she says that she remembered you as a very sweet boy. my cousin Rose was also there sometimes too you might remember her, i dont know. anyway, i didn’t want to come off all ‘hey look at me’ but i liked this entry in your blog and it made me think of her and those stories.
    hope you are well, cheers

  33. I remember thinking that maybe, in those boxes, was a letter from a girl who might want to go to the movies with me.
    Dude! If I’d known that, I would have written you that fan letter that I never worked up the courage to write. It’s just that you were SO much older than I was…by a whole 2 years!
    In all seriousness, though, this has to be one of my favorite posts of yours, ever. When I get nostalgic over my childhood memories of the 80s, you are always there because of your work in two of the shows/movies that defined important moments in my life. It’s strange, yet really cool, to be able to share in your nostalgia of the same things. I miss River Phoenix and all of his art that he never had the chance to share with us. But it’s really nice to see the rest of you have found your own stride in your own ways.
    Thank you for giving us our own “Stand By Me” experience through your blog. What you do has always brought me happiness. I’m glad you were a part of my childhood and adolescence, and I’m even more glad that Wil the writer (as well as the many other things you do) is a part of my adulthood.

  34. I was 12 the summer Stand By Me was released, so the movie really resonated with me – and still does. Fantastic post, and thanks for sharing that great photo :-)

  35. Great fuckin’ story man! I was (and still am) a huge Stephen King fan, so this movie was a very big deal for me when it came out. I thought everyone in it was brilliant and it is definitely a film that has stood the test of time.

  36. I already thanked you on twitter, but I’m going to thank you again here =)
    thanks for sharing this, really loved the picture, I have a couple of Stand By Me fan friends and I’m sure they’ll love it too =)
    Love from Brazil =)

Comments are closed.