On the set of Stand By Me

This picture was originally posted on Tumblr by thefactory-:

image from i.imgur.com

You know that montage when we’re walking back home, near the end of the movie, and we go by in silhouette during sunset? It’s what they used as inspiration for the poster.

This picture was taken when we filmed that little bit. That thing we’re sitting on is called a Chapman Crane, and it’s a really neat piece of film equipment that allows for those big, beautiful, dramatic, sweeping panoramic shots you see in movies.

It’s a little dangerous, though, because there are weights and things on the end of that arm to perfectly counterbalance the weight of the camera and whoever is sitting next to it. More than once in film history, someone has stepped off the crane before it’s been rebalanced, and, finding itself a hundred or more pounds heavier at one end than the other, the crane has turned into a very dangerous catapult. 

The way I remember it, we kept asking Rob Reiner if we could sit on it when the shot was over, because the idea of sitting up in the sky next to the camera was so awesome, and he eventually said yes, because he was like that.

We were so excited to sit on this thing, and so excited to ride it up as high as it would go — it seemed like a hundred feet, but I’m sure it was more like thirty — but we had to wear seatbelts, promise to sit still and not step off the thing until it was balanced. I don't remember what everyting looked like from up there, but I do remember someone deciding to give the slate to River (who, of course, has his serious face on, like he always did) because it was a fantastic publicity photo opportunity.

I’m glad someone took this picture, because it reminded me of a joyful moment that I haven’t thought of in over a quarter century.

36 thoughts on “On the set of Stand By Me”

  1. So, I never watched TNG until right before Nemesis came out, so when I saw Flubber, I was all, “That’s the skinny kid from Stand by Me! He got cute!”
    Then my ex-fiance introduced me to the wonderful world of the USS Enterprise-D, and I got to laugh at your awkward teen-ness.
    My husband wants to know if the sweaters you wore in TNG still exist, or if they were from your closet at home.

  2. Oh gosh I loved this movie! It came out at a delicate time in my life when I too was “coming of age” and it just rang through. I loved everything about it – the Steven King story, the characters especially Gordie (to this day I imagine your voice as Richard Dreyfus) and Keifer Sutherland was badass even then. AND the soundtrack was awesome!

  3. So, I’ve been wanting to thank you for a while for being my gateway to Geek. See, Stand By Me came out on tape when I was 11 or 12 (I don’t know why I didn’t see it in the theater, I suppose because of the rating), and it quickly became my all-time favorite movie, watched a zillion times, and was a staple for any slumber party I held or attended. A friend and I watched it again a couple of weekends ago, for the first time in years, and I was amazed at all of the memories and feelings that came flooding back. But that’s another story.
    How were you my Gateway to Geek? Well my crush on you/Gordie led me to Start Treck, TNG. I watched it for you, with all the reverence of an adolescent girl with a crush. That’s powerful stuff, adolescent girl devotion, and it kept me tuning in even after I cringed at “I feel strange, but also good.” And that’s when my Geek really started to develop. I mean, Star Trek! What a world! Fantasy and Sci Fi books quickly came along, and in high school, role playing. My favorite character was a battleaxe-wielding giant with a weak constitution. Every time I succeeded in battle, I’d have to role to make sure I could go on without throwing up, much to the sadistic glee of my DM.
    ANYWAY, all of this is my clumsy way of thaking you. Obviously the potential for my geekiness was always there, but you were the catalyst. So, thanks.

  4. It’s great how photos still do that. They can be a link to a part of the brain that a memory has been hiding. What amazes me most is when I get other sensory memory as well, like when I remember what the 1970’s smelled like, or the California sun on the skin, or the taste of fresh grapefruit.

  5. This is the kind of stuff that keeps me following you Wil. Not only do you share a shot that is great in and of itself, but you take the time to share your thoughts, feelings, and memories that accompany it. I wish more folks were as open as you.
    Many thanks.

  6. Derek, same here. I immediately thought of climbing up the sawdust piles at the sawmill near my house (which had a logging road past it, which we called “Up the Hollow” immediately after Stand By Me came out).
    Just lovely, Wil. Thanks for sharing, as always.

  7. This is such an awesome photo! It reminds me of that classic shot of a bunch of construction workers eating their lunch along the arm of a crane above New York. Same quality of awesome.

  8. To quote a speech:
    “But trust me, in 20 years you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked.”
    – Mary Schmich “Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young”

  9. That is ten kinds of awesome. I’m not usually one to wax nostalgic for my childhood (most of my nostalgia is for my mid-late twenties, which is weird since I’m only 31), but every great once in a while, I have an experience like that, where on little thing someone else brings up drags out a bunch of interesting/cool/whatever memories from way back when… this is a good thing.
    Also, I so want to ride one of those things now…

  10. Great photo of you, River (RIP) and the others. Also a technically great photo–the lighting, contrast, etc. are perfect. It’s amazing what you could do in a darkroom with a good piece of FILM.

  11. There are three modern (currently unwritten) memoirs I would give my eyeteeth for:
    Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson: Shared Memories (Different Views)
    Everything Unknown Is Taken for Magnificent: Infocom and the Lurking Horror of MIT, by Dave Lebling
    Whatever the heck you would call your complete Stand By Me memoir.

  12. Thank you Will, for being such a great uncle in waiting for my grandson, and for sharing in the enthusiasm of his anticipated arrival. I can’t wait to see him in his Batman onesie!

  13. I miss River. “Stand By Me” is one of my favorite movies (and the short story “The Body” by Stephen King, is pretty good, too), and every time I see River fade away at the end, I always get something in my eye. Both eyes, actually.
    I am glad you are still around, Mr. Wheaton.

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