Tag Archives: movies

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.

Though I hadn’t seen him in over twenty years, I knew I’d miss him forever

I stood in the lobby of the Falcon Theater in Toluca Lake, and looked at Twitter while I waited for the rest of the guys to arrive. The walls were covered with posters from productions like CHiPs: The Musical and It's A Stevie Wonderful Life. Being in a theater during the day, when it's just a building with a stage, instead of the performance space it becomes when an audience fills the seats makes me feel like I'm getting to see The Haunted Mansion with all the lights on, like I'm in a secret place that few people get to see, and I felt an almost imperceptible longing to perform in a play tug gently but insistently at that thing in my being that makes me an actor.

Someone came over and started talking to me. I made polite conversation, but I don't remember what or who we talked about. This was an emotional day for me (though I didn’t know precisely how emotional it would be until later), and while I didn’t want to be rude, I wasn’t in a particularly chatty mood. It was the first time Corey Feldman, Jerry O’Connell and I would be in the same place since 1986 or 1987. We were technically there to give some interviews to promote Stand By Me’s blu-ray release, but  — for me at least — it was much more than that. It was a reunion.

We made Stand By Me twenty-five years ago. To commemorate the anniversary, a special blu-ray disc has been produced. Among the obligatory special features is a feature-length commentary that Rob Reiner, Corey, and I did together while watching the movie a couple months ago. On that day, I was apprehensive: what would they think of me? Would our memories match up? Would the commentary be entertaining and informative? …who would be the first to talk about River, and how would we all react to it?

It turns out that I had nothing to worry about then. It was a joy to watch the movie with them, and I was especially happy to discover that, after a very troubled life, Corey seems to be doing really well. Rob made me feel like he was a proud father and we were his kids, and when we talked about River, it was … well, private. I’ll leave it at that.

So as I stood there in the lobby, waiting for a familiar face to come through the door, I was happy and looking forward to our reunion without nervousness or apprehension. This stood in marked contrast to all the times I reunited with my friends from TNG when I was younger (my problem, not theirs), and I was grateful for that.

A few minutes later, the door opened, and an incredibly tall, handsome, well-dressed man walked through it.

“Holy crap,” I thought, “Jerry grew up.”

It was such a stupid thought, but there it was. I see Jerry on television all the time, and I knew that he was tall and handsome and only two years younger than me, but I had that strange disconnect in my mind that can only come from not seeing someone for about twenty years and I simultaneously did and did not recognize him.

I was standing near some food on a table, and Jerry walked up to grab a sandwich. As he reached toward the table, we made eye contact.

“Hi,” I said.

“Hi, I’m Jerry,” he said, with a friendly smile.

“I’m Wil,” I said, “We worked on this movie together twenty-five years ago.”

In a few seconds that seemed to go on for minutes, I saw him look at me in disbelief, surprise, recognition, and joy. He flashed a smile that lit up the room and wrapped me in a hug.

“Oh my God, dude,” he said, “I can’t believe it’s … wow! You’re — I — Jesus, look at you!”

I smiled back, and strangely noted that my son is taller than him. “Look at you!” I said.

We talked as much as we could, trying to compress two decades into ten minutes, before he had to go to the make-up chair. As he walked away, my brain tapped me on the shoulder and said, “You know, he’s married to Rebecca Romijn. When he’s talking about his wife, that’s who he means.” “I know, brain. I know,” I thought back, “don’t be weird. Be cool, man.” A moment later, Richard Dreyfuss walked into the lobby, followed fairly quickly by Rob and then Corey.

Before I had time to do more than Twitter about how surreal it felt to see them all, we were all gathered together and directed from the lobby into the theater for our first interview. On the way in, I said to Corey, “I feel like there are all these famous, successful people here … and me.”

He laughed and said, “I was thinking exactly the same thing!”

Before I could make a witty zinger, he clarified, “about myself, I mean. Famous people and me, not, like, famous people and you.”

I laughed. “I knew what you meant, man,” I said.

It was the kind of friendly, enjoyable, effortless conversation we couldn’t have when we were younger, and I was glad for it.

There were five chairs set up for us in a semi circle. Our names were on pieces of paper so we knew where to sit. I was between Rob and Corey, and Jerry and Richard sat to Corey’s left. When we all sat down, Rob looked down the row of seats and softly said to me, “it feels like there should be an empty seat here for River.”

People ask me about River all the time. He and I were close during filming, and for about a year or so after filming, but the sad truth is that he got sucked into a lifestyle that I just don’t have room in my life for, and we drifted apart. When he died, I was shocked and horrified, but I wasn’t completely surprised. I didn’t feel a real sense of loss at the time — the River I knew and loved had been gone for a long time at that point — but I felt sad for his family, and angry at the people around him who didn’t do more to help him help himself. Since he died, when I've talked about him, I've felt like I’m talking about the idea of him, instead of the person I knew, if that makes sense.

But when Rob said that to me, with such sadness in his eyes, it was like I’d been punched in the stomach by eighteen years of suppressed grief. I knew that if I tried to say anything, all I would do was cry, and I didn’t know if I’d be able to stop. I took a deep breath, swallowed hard, and nodded. “Yeah,” I whispered.

Later that day, when I’d had time to think about it and was recounting the whole thing to my wife, Anne, I said, “I think that having all of us together — the surviving members of the cast — made me feel like he really wasn’t there for the first time since he died. I don’t mean to be callous or anything like that, but that’s what it took to make his death and his absence a real thing that I could feel, instead of an event that I wasn’t part of but am forced to talk about more often than I’d like.”

I spent much of the next few days remembering all the things we did together during production, thinking about how much I looked up to him and how much I loved his entire family. I don’t know what would have happened to us if he hadn’t overdosed, if he ever would have come back from the edge, or if we would even have had anything in common … but when he was fifteen and I was thirteen, he was my friend. That’s the person I knew, and that’s the person I miss.

We talked about River in the interview, of course, and I think Richard put it best when he said that there is this monster in Hollywood that everyone knows about. It lurks just out of view, and occasionally it reaches up and snatches someone … and it got River.

Richard also talked about why we are actors, and what it means to him to be creative. It was so poetic and inspiring, that almost imperceptible longing to perform in a play I felt in the lobby turned into an overwhelming compulsion. Distracted by the responsibilities of every day life, it’s easy for me to forget why I love and need to perform. It’s easy to forget how satisfying it is to create a character, to discover something magnificent in a script or a scene, and then bring those things to life with other actors in front of an audience.

The entire interview lasted for close to an hour, I guess, and will be edited down to something between three and six minutes. I hope that the producers will cut together something longer, or even run the entire thing online somewhere, because it was one of the rare conversations that I think a lot of people, especially artists, would enjoy listening to.

When all of our interviews were done, I asked Jerry if he’d like to get together when he was on hiatus to have a proper conversation and really catch up on stuff. He said he’d like that, so we traded e-mail addresses. I didn’t expect him to actually want to see me once the glow of seeing each other for the first time in two decades faded, but we’re actually planning it, which delights me. Rob hugged me and made me feel like he was proud of me, and Richard blew me away with the work he’s doing for The Dreyfuss Initiative. 

As I drove home from the theater I was overwhelmed by conflicting emotions. It was wonderful to see those guys again, and especially to reconnect with Jerry, but it was also tremendously sad to truly feel River’s loss for the first time. That turbulent mix of joy and sorrow stayed with me for several days, which is why I haven’t been able to write about it for almost a week.

Most actors will go their entire careers without doing a movie like Stand By Me, or working with a director like Rob Reiner. I got to do both when I was 12. For a long, long time, I felt like I needed to top or equal that, and it wasn’t until I was in my early 30s that I accepted that it’s unlikely to happen — movies like Stand By Me come along once in a generation. 

But getting to spend a few hours remembering the experience with Rob, Jerry, Corey and Richard, free of the burden to prove to them that I was worthy of Stand By Me’s legacy, was something I will cherish for years. I just wish that River was here to enjoy it with us.

regarding dangly ankh earrings and the 18 year-olds who wore them in 1990

I shoot Big Bang Theory on Monday before I go back to Vancouver to finish out the fourth season of Eureka, so I have scored an entirely unexpected bonus weekend at home with my wife.

Yesterday, we heard that Toy Soldiers was playing on local station KDOC (which was one of the truly great UHF stations here for my entire childhood). Anne told me that she'd never seen it before, so we flipped to channel 56 and began to watch.

We picked it up somewhere toward the middle, in a scene where we're all sitting around in our underwear at night.

"Why are you in your underwear?" Anne asked.

"Because that's what dudes do," I said.

She frowned for a moment, thinking, and then said, "how long did it take you to choreograph the upcoming sword fight?"

"Not long at all," I said. "Turns out it was a class feature."

She gave me a blank look.

"D&D reference."

She nodded, patiently, and turned her attention back to the movie.

I don't remember the exact line, but in the theatrical version, I say something like, "We should get a fucking machine gun, Billy. Wid a machine gun, we could shred dees muddafuckas!"

FUN FACT: Dan Petrie, the director, asked me to do some kind of New York accent for the movie. I was only 18, and didn't think to actually study up on a specific one, so I just did what sounded right in my head, and asked Dan to ensure that I never sounded "like Corey Feldman in Lost Boys." Dan has always said that he thought it sounded fine, but I'm not so sure. I trust and respect him, though, so I'm willing to accept that I hear (and see) this movie through a lens of self-consciousness that exists only in my mind.

The version we were watching, though, was the TV edit, so I actually say something like, "We should get a [jarring edit] machine gun, Billy! Wid a machine gun, we could [jarring edit] these money finders!"

Because, you know, that's how rebel dudes in bording schools talk to each other.

"Hey, what's up, money finder?"

"Oh, you know, just flipping around."

"Did you see those girls from Delta house last night? They were flipping hot!"

"Yeah, I totally flipped that girl Gina. Flipped her [jarring edit] yeah!"

"You lucky bad man! Well, see you later, money finder. I'm going to go get some ponies and get flipped up."

I've often thought that the TV edits of movies are pretty silly. At the End of Stand By Me, Ace says, "You going to kill us all?" Gordie replies, "Just you, Ace [jarring edit] you cheap dimestore hood." OHHH BURN! You can see that Ace is so horrified by what a mother flipping bad man Gordie is, he has no choice but to back down.

Anyway, we had a really good time watching the rest of the movie, Anne just enjoying the 1990 time capsule, me watching 18 year-old me and his painful fashion choices though the spread fingers of a facepalm.

Speaking of facepalm, I paused the movie right after Joey died (SPOILER ALERT – he couldn't handle a flipping machine gun, and didn't shred a single monkeyflapper) so I could share this with the world:

Facepalmankh

Though I give myself a lot of shit for things like my accent, the dangly ankh earring, and the endless scenes of underwear-clad dudes who were totally not gay, I should point out, and make very clear, that I like Toy Soldiers a lot. Even though it's incredibly dated, I'm proud to be part of it. I had a great time working on it, made some good friends during production, and gained several levels in acting and being an adult while we were on location.

Anne and I had a surprisingly good time watching it, and it seemed like every scene prompted a memory that I hadn't thought of in years. I had so much fun recalling them, I'm considering making my own commentary track as an mp3 and selling it at Lulu for a few bucks. You know, in all my vast amounts of free time.

If you want to watch Toy Soldiers in all its non-TV-edited glory, you can stream it from Netflix, or you could always buy the DVD … though I think it really needs to be viewed on VHS for maximum authenticity.

in which bad golf is played and news items are discussed

Last week, I took Nolan to the 3 par golf course I played on all the time as a teenager for a round of what we call Bad Golf. 

The rules of Bad Golf are pretty simple:

1. If you completely blow it on a shot, you get an automatic do-over, no penalty.

2. If you miss the cup by a distance equal to or less than the head on your putter, you count it as "in the hole", so long as you shout, "it's in the hole!"

3. If you somehow hit a squirrel (unintentionally) you automatically win the round.

4. Once a round, you can call "that was totally bullshit" and have a do-over.

5. You must quote Caddyshack whenever appropriate.

These rules were built by me and my friend Kevin when we were in our early 20s, because we loved golf, but were truly horrible at the actual playing of it. They worked out well for us, because they forced us to not take the game too seriously, and gave us a number of excuses to have fun, even when we were playing poorly (which was always.)

This was the first time Nolan or I had picked up a club since the last time we played on this course three years ago, when Nolan was still shorter than me. We played the front 9, invoked Rules 1 and 2 a few times, and had a blast. I shot 37 because I am the master of the four-putt, and Nolan shot 40 because he's taller and stronger than he was last time we played, and even trying to take it easy with his pitching wedge, he was flying over most of the greens. Like everything I do with my kids, though, it wasn't about the score of the game as much as it was about the time spent playing it.

On the way home, I saw a lot of signs around the golf course that pointed to a website called SaveTheGolfCourse.org. When I got home, I looked it up and was horrified to discover that a dirtbag developer is trying to destroy the Verdugo Hills Golf Course and build 320 condos on the land. A lot of residents are fighting it, and I hope they win. I love that place, it's a real treasure for everyone who lives in Sunland, Tujunga, and La Crescenta, and the last thing that area needs is more condos.

And now, various items for your Sunday reading, starting with some book-related things:

I have the final cover for Memories of the Future Volume One, and I'll be posting it next week. Yes, this means that the official release date is right around the corner.

I think I'm bringing a limited-edition chapbook to PAX. If I can get it all together, it will be a short fiction collection, including unpublished stories that I'm pretty sure don't suck.

Jim C. Hines, author of the wonderful book Goblin Quest, read Just A Geek and wrote some extraordinarily kind things about me and my book in his blog.

My columns at Suicide Girls and the LA Weekly, which have been on summer vacation, will be starting up again next month.

For the last two weeks, I've been jogging just a little bit every day, so I can get my skeleton and muscles used to the idea of me doing more physical activity than just sitting at my desk and writing (remember, I've resolved to play ice hockey again before the year is out, and with just four months left, I'm running out of time.) I take my iPod with me and listen to podcasts while I'm out, and I wanted to point out two recent episodes that I enjoyed: From Escape Pod, Carthago Delenda Est and from Stuff You Should Know, The Necronomicon

Back in March, I posted about the debut of my friend Ed's webseries, Angel of Death:

Angel of Death stars Zoe Bell (who you've seen double all kinds of people, but probably didn't know it. She also spent much of Death Proof
riding around on the hood of a car being awesome) as an assassin who
"gets stabbed through the skull; she survives, but the head injury
leaves her with an awkward side effect: She
suddenly develops a conscience."

Though Angel of Death was originally released as an episodic webseries, I guess they always intended to eventually release it as a feature film, and last night, Nolan and I finally got to watch that version on DVD. It looks and sounds great, and the story plays even better on TV than it did in my browser. If you liked Kill Bill, Grindhouse, or Sin City, I think you'll like Angel of Death.

I came across a blog called Study Hacks (via Reddit) that is worth a look, especially if you're a student.

As it turns out, I'm all over the damn place next week: Season 3 of The Guild premieres on Xbox Live on Tuesday the 25th, my episode of Leverage airs on Wednesday the 26th, and the newest D&D Penny Arcade Podcast begins on Friday the 28th.

Axis of Anarchy RULES!

A few months ago, Felicia Day asked me if I'd like to play a character in Season 3 of The Guild.

The conversation went something like this:

Felicia: So, I wrote this character for Season 3 of The Guild and I wondered if y—

Me: YES YES A THOUSAND TIMES YES YOU HAD ME AT "THE GUILD!"

Rob Reiner's Mother: I'll have what he's having.

Felicia told me that she and the other producers wanted to keep my involvement in the show and the the details of my character a secret, because they planned a big reveal at Comic-Con.

So all those times I told Twitter some variation of, "Holy crap if I could tell you what I'm working on right now, you'd be all 'OMG NO WAI' and I'd be all 'WAI' and you'd be all 'awesome!' and then I'd be all, 'I know, right?'" Now you know one of the things I was talking about.

We started shooting a few weeks later, and after some 31-hour shooting days, my work on the show was done. I still can't get into specifics about my character or the story, but I think it's safe (and totally unsurprising) to tell you that working on The Guild was as fun and wonderful as you would expect, and every single person on the cast and crew was an absolute joy to work with.

As I said on The Guild panel at Comic-Con, I've known, written, and performed with a lot of these guys for years, and I'm not surprised in the least that everyone loves them so much. It rules to see so many people in the world (millions per episode, I guess) finding out for themselves what I've known for years.

Season 3 is going to kick thirteen different kinds of ass, and I'm thrilled to be a small part of part of it. I'll talk about each episode a little more after it's released.

more than meets the eye

Yesterday, I went to the dentist, and while I was waiting, I picked up a copy of Highlights (because that's what you do when you're at the dentist, whether you're 6 or 36.)

I went directly to the hidden pictures page, confirmed that, yes, children are still circling the hidden pictures and they are still using pen, and then went hunting for Goofus and Gallant.

This is what I saw:

Michael Bay's anonymous Transformers apology in Highlights.

If you can't read that, it says, "I felt like Goofus when I annoyed my family with my Transformers." -Noah, Age 5, Georgia.

"Holy crap," I thought, "Michael Bay is writing anonymous apologies in Highlights!"