After director Rob Reiner screened the movie for Stephen King, he noticed that King was visibly shaking and wasn't speaking. He left the room and upon his return, told Reiner that the movie was the best adaptation of his work he had ever seen.
Kiefer Sutherland claimed in an interview that in one of the locations of the film, a Renaissance Fair was being held and the cast and crew attended and bought some cookies. Unfortunately, the cookies turned out to be pot cookies and two hours later, the crew found Jerry O'Connell crying and high on the cookies somewhere in the park.
In the campfire scene in which Chris breaks down, Rob Reiner was sure River Phoenix could do better. He asked him to think of a time in his own life when an adult had let him down and use it in the scene, which Phoenix did. Upset and crying, he had to be comforted by the director afterwards. The result of Phoenix's exercise is the scene that ended up in the final cut.
The pond the boys fall into was a man-made pool because the crew wanted them to be "safe and secure" and did not want to put them in a real pond because they did not know what would be in it. However, Corey Feldman stated in a interview that the joke of the whole thing was that they built and filled it with water in the beginning of June and by time they got to film the scene, it was the end of August. So it had been out in the woods for three months and they did not know what was in it anyway.
River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, Wil Wheaton and Jerry O'Connell got up to much mischief in the hotel they were staying in during filming. This included throwing all the poolside furniture into the pool, Wheaton fixing video games in the lobby so they could play them for free and Phoenix (spurred on by the other boys) unknowingly covering Kiefer Sutherland's car in mud, only discovering whose car it was when Sutherland confronted a scared and nervous Phoenix about it later.
Corey Feldman has stated in several interviews that of all the characters he's played, Teddy was actually the closest to his personality and personal life at the time.
In an interview by Stephen King in the special features section of the DVD, he reveals that the scene with the leeches, which is straight from his novella, actually did happen to him when he was a child.
As with most of Stephen King's stories, this one originally contained connections to other books he has written. Ace Merrill later re-appeared in the book Needful Things (1993), although he does not appear in the film. The dog Chopper is compared to Cujo (1983). Characters are familiar with Shawshank Prison, from The Shawshank Redemption (1994). Teddy Duchamp was actually first mentioned in King's first book, Carrie (1976), in which Carrie destroys a gas station he once worked at.
To keep in character while off-camera, Kiefer Sutherland often picked on Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman and Jerry O'Connell.
At the insistence of director Rob Reiner (an avid non-smoker who campaigned for anti-smoking laws in California), the cigarettes smoked by the boys were made from cabbage leaves.
In the shot where Gordie and Vern are running towards the camera with the train right behind them, the train was actually at the far end of the trestle with the two actors on the opposite end. The crew used a 600mm long-focus lens that, when shot at the telephoto end, compressed the image so much that it made it look like the train was right behind them.
While practicing his lines, Jerry O'Connell was impressed that, as an 11-year old, he was being allowed to swear.
Corey Feldman and director Rob Reiner tested 30 different laughs before deciding upon the one for Teddy Duchamp. The laugh happens to be similar to that described in Stephen King's story.
In the scene where Gordie and Chris race each other through the junkyard, Wil Wheaton could run faster than River Phoenix but Wheaton's character was supposed to lose. Wheaton had to fake a fast run when running slow so that Phoenix's character would win.
Rob Reiner "agonized" over the pie-eating scene because he was having trouble trying to envision what kind of writer Gordie would become and how that would play out as a 12-year-old. "Ultimately, in my mind, he became Stephen King," Reiner said. "And Stephen King is a great story teller and most of the stories he tells are supernatural or there's horror involved." He decided to go over the top with it and make it rather cartoonish, the way it would appear in a young boy's mind. According to Reiner, the audience went crazy for it, justifying his decision to leave it in.
Director Rob Reiner had trouble casting the role of "The Writer," first casting David Dukes, then going to Michael McKean, among others, before finally settling on high school friend Richard Dreyfuss.
While filming the scene in which Ace Merrill takes Gordie's brother's Yankees cap, Kiefer Sutherland's first instinct was to put it on, rather than hand it to Eyeball Chambers. Rob Reiner told Sutherland not to put the hat on as a way of showing that Ace was stealing it just to be cruel to Gordie and not because the hat itself was at all important to Ace. Sutherland and Wil Wheaton both confirm in the DVD's behind the scenes documentary that the reason that Gordie never gets the hat back from Ace is that Ace threw it away immediately after stealing it from Gordie.
Wil Wheaton's grandfather starred in Wagon Train (1957), so his grandmother asked that "Wagon Train" somehow be worked into the dialogue, and it was.
According to Andy Lindberg, a child extra actually threw up for real during the filming of the "barf-o-rama."
In the opening of the scene where Chris meets Gordie and shows him the gun, River Phoenix jumps from the back of a truck and says, "Thanks a lot" to the couple in the front. The truck was driven by Phoenix's friend, with Phoenix's mother riding in the passenger seat.
The movie is based on a short story called "The Body" by Stephen King, from a book of short stories called "Different Seasons" which also includes the models for The Shawshank Redemption (1994) and Apt Pupil (1998), as well as "The Breathing Method", which has never been adapted to film.
The actress pictured on the cover of a vintage movie magazine is Elizabeth McGovern, who was at the time engaged to Rob Reiner.
River Phoenix had auditioned for the part of Gordie Lachance, but director Rob Reiner thought that he would be better cast as Chris Chambers.
The novella and the film take place in the town of Castle Rock (Maine and then Oregon, respectively). Castle Rock became the name of Rob Reiner's production company.
During a 2016 oral history of this film in the trade publication "Variety", Jerry O'Connell said that it was not until after he had already been dating Rebecca Romijn (who would become his wife) for many months that he learned she had been a devoted fan of the movie as a child (and she wasn't the one to tell him). O'Connell said, "I'm married to Rebecca Romijn, a beautiful model. She's way out of my league, a million times out of my league. About three months into dating, my wife is from Berkeley, and I went up there to met her high school friends. We got a little drunk and her high school best friend said to me, 'You know, "Stand by Me" is Rebecca's favorite movie of all time. You know she had posters of it all over her room growing up'. She never told me that."
When the boys add up all their money, they come up with $2.37. The number 237 appears in quite a few of Stephen King's stories.
Michael Jackson was asked to do a cover of Ben E. King's song, "Stand by Me," for the movie; Rob Reiner, in the end, thought the original version better suited the movie.
River Phoenix lost his virginity during filming. Rob Reiner remembered that Phoenix came into work one day "with this big smile on his face" after spending the night with a family friend. He wrote to Reiner on a piece of paper, "It finally happened." Corey Feldman drank alcohol, kissed a girl off-screen, and smoked pot for the first time during that fateful summer of 1985.
Columbia Pictures, concerned that the original title, "The Body", was misleading, renamed the film "Stand by Me". According to screenwriter Raynold Gideon, " . . . it sounded like either a sex film, a bodybuilding film or another Stephen King horror film. Rob Reiner came up with 'Stand by Me' [after the Ben E. King song], and it ended up being the least unpopular option."
Coca-Cola bought Embassy Pictures, the film's original production company, and announced it wasn't going to fund the film just two days before production was to begin. Norman Lear - who had worked with Rob Reiner for years on All in the Family (1971) - was one of the three owners of Embassy prior to its sale. He believed in the project enough that he agreed to personally foot the film's $8 million budget.
The film's success resulted in renewed interest in the Ben E. King song, which inspired the title used in the movie and is featured on the soundtrack. King's version of the song was originally released in 1961, and was re-released at the time of the film. The re-release would reach the Top Ten, peaking at #9 in the fall of 1986.
Rob Reiner credits much of his success with his cast to the fact that he had been an actor himself. Wil Wheaton said he did not realize it at the time, but that the experience of working with Reiner taught him the meaning of the term "an actor's director." In the making-of documentary, Kiefer Sutherland said of Reiner, "Because he's so proficient as an actor, he can allow you to discover a moment when in fact he's telling it to you."
The vomit used in the "Lardass" story was made from cottage cheese and blueberry mix.
The train scene took a full week of shooting, making use of four small adult female stunt doubles with closely cropped hair, made up to look like the film's protagonists. Plywood planks were laid across the trestles to provide a safer surface on which the stunt doubles could run.
As Labor Day in 1959 was on Monday, September 7, the bulk of the film takes place from Friday, September 4 to Sunday, September 6, 1959. The newspaper showing the date Wednesday, September 4, 1985 (at the beginning of the film), is accurate.
Rob Reiner developed a good working relationship with Stephen King after this movie, so much so that King only agreed to sell the film rights to Misery (1990) if Reiner directed the film. Reiner's production company, Castle Rock Entertainment, also went on to produce several other adaptations of King's stories. In addition, John Cusack went on to appear in the film 1408 (2007), and Kiefer Sutherland's father Donald Sutherland appeared in Salem's Lot (2004).
Corey Feldman has said in interviews he and River Phoenix used to meet up at auditions together. While the other kids would be waiting nervously for their turns, Feldman and Phoenix would play outside until they were called.
An unconfirmed explanation of why the setting was changed from Maine to Oregon is that one of the screenwriters misunderstood the novella's reference to "Portland" being nearby.
The roughly 60-day shoot was favored with sunny days, unusual for that sustained a period in Oregon, but since the story takes place over only two days, it was fortunate to have consistency in the weather.
Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix and Jerry O'Connell soaked Corey Feldman's clothes in beer, then dried them so he smelled like a wino.
The Royal River is mentioned in several of Maine native Stephen King's novels, including "The Body", when the boys cross it only to be attacked by leeches, as well as "Salem's Lot" and "The Shawshank Redemption", as the river into which Andy threw his gun.
The four main actors met Rob Reiner and some of the crew in an Oregon hotel suite in June of 1985 to perform games based on Viola Spolin's Improvisation for the Theater to develop trust in one another. The actors did things like mirror each other and talk each other through traversing the hotel lobby while blindfolded.
The disaster that struck the set of Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983) had a direct influence on the making of this film. On July 23, 1982, Vic Morrow and two small children were killed by the main rotor of a crashing helicopter during filming of a bombing of a small Vietnamese village. Special effects explosives destroyed the tail rotor of a hovering helicopter while Morrow and the children struggled across a shallow river. Because children were involved, restrictions on children working in films was seriously tightened, and director Rob Reiner found it very, very difficult to shoot certain scenes involving the children. Fortunately, with the help of stand-ins for the boys and special effects, he was able to get what he wanted without any danger to the children.
The apparel of the four boys is the same throughout the movie, except for Teddy. From the beginning to the treehouse scene, he is wearing a nice shirt with a design on it. Then he is seen wearing a green shirt, from the part where they all meet up to go on the journey, to the end of the movie. Gordie, Chris and Vern, on the other hand, are all wearing the same clothes throughout the movie.
Contrary to urban legend, the leeches were fake. They were molded latex, stuck on with rubber cement, which the boys found irritating on their skin. Wil Wheaton recounted in a 2000 interview that the tenacious cement with red coloring mixed into it to simulate blood caused them to be denied admission to a Hydro Tube water slide after that day's filming because it looked like a contagious skin disease.
Sean Astin, Stephen Dorff and Ethan Hawke were considered for the role of Gordie Lachance.
The railroad trestle (at Hat Creek) the boys cross in the train scene no longer has railroad tracks across it.
The significance of the deer Gordie, alone, sees and decides to keep himself until his adult life has been debated. Two theories often suggested are: (1) After all the bad things in the lives of the four boys - the death of Gordie's brother and the treatment from his parents; Ace and his friends; Teddy's abusive father; Ray Brower's death; etc. - the deer represents that some things in the world are still beautiful, and this gives him hope. He wanted to keep it to himself so that nobody could debunk his theory. (2) Gordie has spent the entire trip in the constant company of his friends, not doing or saying anything that isn't seen or heard by the others. The deer is the one thing that is personal to him from the entire time they are searching for the body.
David Dukes was originally cast as The Writer. After those scenes were shot, Richard Dreyfuss was cast in the role and the scenes were re-shot with him. However, the opening long shot of a grown-up Lachance sitting in the car is of David Dukes.
Corey Haim auditioned for the role of Gordie Lachance, but the studio wanted him to play Chris Chambers. He didn't want to play the role of the best friend, so he turned it down in favor of Lucas (1986), and the irony is that his friend Corey Feldman landed the role of Teddy Duchamp.
Wil Wheaton, who played writer Gordie Lachance as a youth, would grow up to author a half-dozen books himself.
The gang sang "I Ran All the Way Home", which was the theme song to All the Way Home (1981) starring Frances Lee McCain, Gordie's mother.
Since 2007 the city of Brownsville, OR, which served as the setting for Castle Rock, has held an annual "Stand By Me Day" celebrating the movie. In 2013 the Chamber of Commerce set the date to July 23 so that the big 30th-anniversary event would fall on a Saturday in 2016. The movie has a significant fan base in Japan, and they receive a lot of visitors there as well.
In the Spanish Castilian dub, Gordie's name was change to "Cornie," since "Gordie" in Spanish is pronounced like "Gordo," which means "Fatty."
When filming was completed, River Phoenix identified so much with his character that if he didn't have his family to go home to, he would have needed a psychiatrist.
Stephen King's novella, The Body, takes place in Maine (as do almost all of his stories). The movie takes place in Oregon.
Adrian Lyne, who was set to direct this film, was forced to hand it over to Rob Reiner when 9½ Weeks (1986) ran over schedule.
Teddy says that he and his dad had fished the Royal River for "cossies." There is no fish by that name. This is a joke and play on words - cossies are 1950s-era one-piece bathing suits. The name derives from "costume"; the British call bathing suits "bathing costumes."
Mr. Quidacioluo is played by Bruce Kirby, whose real last name is the nearly identical Quidaciolu.
Included among the "1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die," edited by Steven Schneider.
John Cusack plays Gordie's deceased brother in the flashback scene; he had just completed filming Rob Reiner's other movie, The Sure Thing (1985).
Corey Feldman, Wil Wheaton and Jerry O'Connell were all included on VH1's "100 Greatest Kid Stars."They were ranked #8, #62, and #70, respectively.
Corey Feldman and Jerry O'Connell would later reunite in Sliders: Electric Twister Acid Test (1996).
All four of the film's stars have starred in music videos. Wil Wheaton and River Phoenix appeared in Ben E. King's "Stand by Me" (made for the movie), Corey Feldman appeared in the video for Cyndi Lauper's "Goonies 'R' Good Enough" (made for The Goonies (1985)) and Jerry O'Connell appeared in Mariah Carey's music video for her song "Heartbreaker."
Although it is assumed that the other kids are the same age as Gordie, River Phoenix figured that Chris Chambers might have been a year older and had once flunked a grade. Early reviews of the film suggest his age to be 13, accordingly.
The Yankee cap scene was later used in The Thing Called Love (1993), also starring River Phoenix.
The boys sing "The Ballad of Paladin", which is the ending theme song to the TV series "Have Gun - Will Travel" (1957) starring Richard Boone as Paladin. Songwriter Johnny Western successfully sued the producers for not securing his permission beforehand.
The film was released in theaters on August 22, 1986, a day before River Phoenix's 16th birthday.
When Ace and Eyeball meet up with Gordie and Chris, the plate glass window identifies the place they have just exited as "Irby's Billiards," named after first assistant director Irby Smith.
The treehouse seen at the beginning of the film was built specifically for the movie.
River Phoenix' character wasn't far from his own persona, with a troubled childhood, righteous-but-misunderstood attitude, and a premature death.
When auditioning for the role, Jerry O'Connell thought Rob Reiner had played the Archie Bunker character on All in the Family (1971). In fact, Reiner played Bunker's son-in-law Michael Stivic (aka "Meathead").
Rob Reiner replied that Ace threw the hat away around the corner. Sutherland's initial instinct was to put it on, but Reiner told him that his character would never mess up his hair.
The scene where Teddy is crying about his dad storming the beach at Normandy takes place in a private driveway that is located behind the junkyard located on Tidball Lane in Veneta, Oregon.
The beer that Eyeball and Ace are drinking while playing mailbox baseball is Rainier.
The very next year, Wil Wheaton appeared on Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987) as Ens. Wesley Crusher. His character, a young Starfleet officer serving as a Helmsman, was arguably analogous to the character Chekhov from the original series. Wheaton would later lend his voice to various Romulan characters on Star Trek (2009), which featured Anton Yelchin as Chekhov. Yelchin also began his career as a child in a Stephen King adaptation, Hearts in Atlantis (2001).
Bradley Gregg and River Phoenix appeared in three films together between 1985-89: Explorers (1985), this film, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989).
Kiefer Sutherland and Casey Siemaszko previously appeared together in Amazing Stories: The Mission (1985). They would also go on to appear together in Young Guns (1988).
In the Kiefer Sutherland TV show 24 (2001), there is a character also named Milo Pressman, played by Eric Balfour.
The handgun Chris steals is a Colt M1911A1, which he calls simply a ".45." According to the novella, he had nine bullets in total stolen in the box of shells. When not being fired, the gun appears to be replaced with a replica model, which is noted by an external extractor. In addition, it is clearly a 1911 replica in .45 and not a 9mm Star B.
Keifer Sutherland is actually British. (He was born in Britain). He currently lives in Canada, not the US. Donald Sutherland, his famous dad, was born and bred in Canada, not the US.