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. What a cool picture and post. You know, when I first saw Jerry on whatever that Boston coroner show was, I had no idea he was the pudgy kid from Stand by Me. I first discovered that on an earlier post on this blog. But in that picture you can really tell its him. That “not taking anything to seriously” seems to come across in everything he does. I don’t think that means he’s not doing the work as an actor, just that he remembers that it’s supposed to be fun.
    While he makes a lot of money now, I remember doing theater with a director who used to say “If you’re not having fun, you could be making a lot more money somewhere else”. He also said: “Remember, we’re not saving any lives here”.
    It’s a good attitude, and I’m glad Jerry seems to have remembered that over all these years. Also, I’m enjoying calling him Jerry just because you did.

  2. Forgot something, I know the people in Brownsville had a great time at the Stand By Me cruise-in this year. From the looks of things, this movie has really been getting some attention lately.

  3. Wow! That is awesome. Stand By Me is still one of my favorite movies and I look forward to watching it with my kids when they are a little older. Ironically, I was listening to Howard Stern on Sirius radio and Jerry was on the show (as he often is) a couple of months ago talking about when you guys were filming. He was saying how great it was working with you, Phoenix, and Corey except that Kiefer Sutherland was a total asscock to you guys most of the time. Jerry’s very funny on the show and speaks very highly of you. Stern is also a Star Trek fan and did refer to you as “That kid who was always saving the Enterprise because they couldn’t seem to keep their shit together” You might consider looking into an appearance on that show to promote the upcoming “memories” book that I’m soooo looking forward to reading.
    Thanks Wil

  4. Last time I went to see a movie there was a clip from The Hour with George Strombopolous (I don’t know if that show comes on outside of Canada I would doubt it) talking to Ryan Reynolds about Stand by Me!

  5. Ha ha, Jerry looks adorable in his pose there! And oh god, River looks so young and earnest it breaks my heart.
    Thanks again, Wil, for sharing your memories and impressions of those times with us. You rock.

  6. “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.”
    When I discovered that you had started writing in your post-Trek career, the line I kept hearing over and over in my head was the line where Chris tells Gordie that someday he could be a real writer. Life imitating art, and all that. Perhaps you’ve always had the soul of a writer, and maybe that’s why you had such a good handle on your character. Could also be why Jerry played Vern so well – he tapped into that boundless enthusiasm for life that he’s managed to hang onto all these years.
    Stand By Me is one of those films from my childhood that, when I happen upon it whilst flipping channels, I’ll always stop and watch. The source material for the film was excellent, of course, but you guys made it something special.

  7. It’s odd that you are writing this, right now. I had similiar thoughts a while back when I caught Stand By Me while clicking through the channels. I had mostly zereod in on how you are a writer and that you look nothing like Richard Dreyfuss…thankfully.

  8. Wow, you’re a lot more interesting to read when you’re not all obsessing about the previous administration. It’s like your Bush Derangement Syndrome went away and you’re all blissful now.
    Well, we have a couple good years before the Congress changes….

  9. Wow, Okay. I’m going to be honest with you – I just found out about your blog a few days ago, and I thought i’d check it out just to see if you had something written about Stand by me! Becasue it has been my favourite movie since I was 11 and I am 18 now.
    And as I looked through your blog I didn’t see so much written about the film, so I felt a bit sad, haha. But I thought I’d keep reading after all, because everything you write, really shows what a great person you are! Plus, it’s interesting too!
    And look at that – you posted a picture of the four of you, a picture I don’t even have words to describe of how beautiful you all truly are. So anyway, I guess I just wanted to say thank you for posting that picture. It made my day indeed. And my eyes just started to tear up as I read this post!
    And, Wil. I think you are a great writer and you seem like such a beautiful person, from the inside and out.
    Gosh, there’s just so many things I want to write here, but I just find it hard to put them into words.
    Thank you for being who you are, and keep on rockin’!

  10. Weird life perhaps, but full of experiences. I feel antsy when I don’t do something new once a month. I don’t care what it is. Travel to a new city or state, eat something questionable…hell, stare at a frog’s ass from an odd angle. As long as it is something outside the norm!
    Most people see the same thing day in and day out, so despite the weirdness, you gotta admit, you’ve seen some memorable crap most people can’t come close to. Good on ya!
    Best,
    G.

  11. Thanks for sharing this picture and your memories of the cast and your experience making this movie and after. Your closing thoughts gave me chills just like the conclusion of the movie gives me everytime.

  12. It’s really weird to know the thoughts of this guy who I watched thousands of time in my favorite movie, Stand by me. Well, I really didn’t know how famous it were, cause now i’m just 18 (Younger than the movie in fact), and living very far away. I know you have to be more than really tired of hearing about that, but I admire you, just because who you’re now, this normal adult, being a geek, it’s the best.

  13. I loved that movie (still do, really). And one of the letters in those boxes on your porch probably came from 10 year old me. I had a huge crush on you from that movie.

  14. 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.
    Shades of Rod Serling stepping out of The Twilight Zone.

  15. aww thats adorable. i discovered stand by me at the grand old age of twenty four. great post and brilliant picture. who knew jerry o connell would end up hot?

  16. What a great post! Stand By Me is one of my top 5 favorite movies EVER! It reminds me of my childhood and all my old friends I never see anymore. Just like it says in the movie, I never have had friends like the ones I did when I was 12 and probably never will. You guys were perfect together. You are a great actor Wil! Thank you for the trip down memory lane:)-Joshua

  17. Wil, It was Stand By Me that I became a fan of yours. Those doe eyes and that sweet caring nature. Stand By Me will always be one of my most favorite movies of all time. Thing is nobody likes to watch it with me, cause I can recite every single word in the movie. Of course I have my favorite quotes from the movie. I didn’t become a fan of Jerry’s until he did the show MY SECRET IDENTITY and the first time I watched that I couldn’t believe he was the “Fat kid” in Stand By Me. I do have all four seasons of Sliders on DVD and was sad when he left the show, but Wil I became a fan of yours first and I totally love that photo of you all in the green room. Thanks for sharing this precious memory Wil.

  18. something about this post truly touched me and i think it’s because I’ve reached a stage in my life where I am reconnected or truly losing touch with people and you look back on memories and it can be shocking how much they resonate with who you are now

  19. I watched Stand By Me the other day, and I remember thinking at the end how true-to-life your characters ended up being. It was nice to come here today and read you saying the same thing.
    Was it really over 20 years ago? I remember it like it was yesterday.

  20. Hey Wil… That is a great photo of you guys, thank you for sharing it!
    Its amazing how a single photo can take you back… you get to open your mind to visit that moment in time again, so cool!
    Thank you for sharing this post….

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