Sadly, lots of kids have shitty parents but very few were forced to work to provide for their shitty parents and to have the painful evidence of that labor live on in perpetuity for all the world to see. But hey, that’s Hollywood for you. Wil Wheaton, who is estranged from his parents, recently spoke with Yahoo! Entertainment about the 35th anniversary of Stand By Me and explained that his performance as Gordie was fueled by the “sadness” and “isolation” he felt in his life at that time. That’s great technique if you’re Daniel Day-Lewis going for your 6th Academy Award nomination playing an anguished cobbler or some shit, but it’s heartbreaking for a 14-year-old kid.
In case you didn’t go watch Stand By Me in the theater 12 times in a single summer in an attempt to get River Phoenix to notice you, Will plays Gordie Lachance, the would-be writer who’s neglected by his parents in favor of the memory of his dead older brother played by John Cusack. SBM was directed by Rob Reiner and also starred Corey Feldman and Jerry O’Connell. According to Yahoo!:
“I didn’t want to be an actor when I was a kid. My parents forced me to do it, my mother made me do it. My mother coached me to go into her agency and tell the children’s agent, ‘I want to do what mommy does,’” Wheaton tells us in a new interview (watch above) about growing up in Burbank, Calif., with mother Debra, an actress, and father Richard, a medical specialist. (Yahoo was unable to reach Wheaton’s parents for comment.) “And through a combination of an incredible emotional abuse from my father and a lot of manipulation, using me, from my mother, it really put me in that place.”
“[It] put me in exactly the right place to play Gordie,” he says. “Because Gordie’s experience very much reflected my experience. We’re both invisible in our homes. We both have a brother who is the golden child. We’re both the scapegoat in the family. So when I watch Stand by Me now, I cannot ignore the unbelievable sadness in my eyes. And I cannot ignore the reality that it was that sadness, that isolation that I think gave me what Gordie needed to come to life and I think Rob Reiner saw that.”
Despite the emotional turmoil he endured, Wil says he still looks back at the experience “(mostly) with love.” And he said part of the reason the film has endured is because the roles they all played matched each kid’s personality. Corey played Teddy, the crazy one, Jerry played Vern, the clown, and River played Chris, the strong silent type who refused to acknowledge my tear-stained face or the way I was wiggling in my seat, just so, every time he was on screen.
“Corey was such a pain in the ass and I said to Rob, ‘Why did you cast him?’ And Rob said, ‘There was no other actor who was as angry as Corey was. And Teddy is filled with anger and rage.’ And I went, ‘Oh my God, that totally makes sense.’ River is smarter than all of us and wiser beyond his years than any of us are. And that’s exactly who Chris is. And Jerry is unbelievably funny, and really easy to get along with, and is guileless. ‘Oh my God, that’s Vern.’
Jerry even confirmed his childhood guilelessness on The Talk when he heard about Wil’s revelation. Yes, since Sharon Osbourne left, other people can actually talk on The Talk! According to Entertainment Weekly:
“I love Wil. He’s a great friend of mine,” O’Connell said, adding that he’s been friends with Wheaton since the film debuted 35 years ago. “I had no idea he was feeling this when we were doing this film and I think what should be said is, you have no idea, not even coworkers, just people close to you, you have no idea what is going on with someone.
O’Connell acknowledged that while he has “great memories from doing this film,” he expressed regret for not doing anything to help his friend when he needed it because he wasn’t aware of what Wheaton was going through. “I wish I was older back then so I could have said, ‘Hey Wil, hey man is anything wrong?'”
Now Jerry, how would it look you being a grown-ass man acting opposite those kids? Don’t be silly. Leave that shit to Ben Platt. SBM is back in theaters (IN WHAT?!) this week and I may have to pop my post-vaccine movie-going cherry to give River one last shot at falling in love with me. I know he’s gone, but I’d say my chances haven’t diminished significantly since my last attempts.