The quintessential coming-of-age film Stand By Me celebrates it's 25th anniversary this year. The movie was released in the summer of 1986 and tells the story of four twelve-year-old boys in a small town in Oregon and the Labor Day weekend that changed their lives forever.
The film was a hit almost immediately after it was released in theaters and it's gone on to become a beloved classic since then. Actor Wil Wheaton, who played Gordie Lachance, Stand By Me's star, tells weekends on All Things Considered guest host David Greene that he credits the cast and director Rob Reiner for the film's success.
"I felt from the very first time we all got together up in Oregon that we were making something really special," Wheaton says.
Corey Feldman, Jerry O'Connell and River Phoenix played Teddy Duchamp, Vern Tessio and Chris Chambers, respectively, alongside Wheaton. The actors were all the same age and bonded during filming, a chemistry that is apparent in their friendships onscreen.
"Rob Reiner found four young boys who basically were the characters we played," Wheaton explains.
Wheaton grew especially close to Phoenix, who played his best friend in the film and who died tragically of a drug overdose at the age of 23. Even though the two were the same age at the time, Wheaton describes him as a kind of father figure as well as "one of the kindest people he'd ever been around."
"We stayed friends after we worked on the film and I went and visited his family and I guess around the time that I was turning maybe 15, we just drifted apart. And I always felt really sad about that," Wheaton says.
Despite the young ages of the film's cast, Stand By Me deals with a lot of adult themes including abuse, dysfunctional families and death. But even with all of these issues, Wheaton still sees the film as a love letter to childhood innocence.
"Stand By Me, it sort of talks about this time in your life that feels incredibly complicated but as you get older you realize is actually incredibly simple," Wheaton explains. "And its a time that stays with us even as we become adults."