We can hardly believe it has been over 30 years since the release of Rob Reiner’s seminal coming-of-age movie Stand by Me. The film, which was adapted from the Stephen King short story The Body, was a commercial success when it was released in 1986 and has since gained classic status with audiences.
Due in large part to the success of Stand by Me, Rob Reiner founded Castle Rock Entertainment’s production business. The film’s influence can be seen in countless works of cinema and television, including the smash hit original series Stranger Things on Netflix. We are taking a look back at the cast members who made this classic picture what it is today.
Richard Dreyfuss (The Writer)
Adult Gordie Lachance (Richard Dreyfuss), a skilled writer who serves as the film’s narrator, tells the story of how he and his three best friends went on a hunt for a body in the late summer of 1959. When his story is done, we learn from the epilogue what happened to the other boys after they split up that weekend: Vern got married right after high school, Teddy tried (and failed) to join the Army, and Chris became a lawyer before being killed while trying to break up a knife fight between strangers.
The popularity of Stand by Me led to many other parts for Richard Dreyfuss. He was already well-known to audiences for his top performances in legendary classics like Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. His performance in the 1995 film Mr. Holland’s Opus earned him an Academy Award nomination.
Recent appearances include Fox’s Shots Fired, where Dreyfuss plays a real estate billionaire, and The Last Laugh, a Netflix original film costarring Chevy Chase, Andie MacDowell, and Lewis Black..
Jerry O’Connell (Vern Tessio)
Jerry O’Connell plays Vern Tessio, one of four young men who form the core of the Stand by Me cast. Vern is the most reserved person in the group, yet he does not hold back when discussing his love of Cherry Pez and his disdain for Mighty Mouse and Goofy.
Due to his large frame, Vern is a frequent target of abuse from his peers, especially his older brother Billy and Ace Merrill’s gang members. After overhearing his brother and some of his pals discussing the body besides the train tracks, Vern encouraged the lads to set out on their adventure.
As a result of his breakthrough performance in Stand by Me, O’Connell went on to have a fruitful acting career. O’Connell has since appeared in a wide variety of movies and TV episodes, such as Sliders, Jerry Maguire, Kangaroo Jack, and many more.
In 2009, O’Connell took a break from acting to enroll in law school, but he soon interrupted his studies to co-star with Jim Belushi in the judicial drama The Defenders. O’Connell, who voiced Clark Kent/Superman in the Justice League animated films, is set to star in the subsequent comedy crime series Carter.
Kiefer Sutherland (Ace Merrill)
John Ace Merrill (Kiefer Sutherland), boss of the criminal underworld in Castle Rock, spends his days stealing automobiles, playing “mailbox baseball,” and bullying the innocent. He and his gang confront Gordie and the younger lads when he discovers that Billy Tessio and Charlie Hogan know the location of the missing boy’s body and intend to recover it to become heroes.
While Sutherland’s appearance as Ace in Stand by Me was one of his earliest in a major film, it would not be his last. He made his acting debut the following year in The Lost Boys and has continued to thrive in the industry ever since. Currently, he is most well-known for his role as counter-terrorist agent Jack Bauer in the long-running Fox series 24, in which he has starred.
Recently, Sutherland has been on tour for both his 2016 country album Down in a Hole and his role as President Tom Kirkman in the ABC political drama series Designated Survivor.
Casey Siemaszko (Billy Tessio)
Billy Tessio (Casey Siemaszko) and Charlie Hogan (Gary Riley), Vern’s older brother and friend, are dumping a stolen car when they come across the body of Ray Brower, a missing boy from a nearby town. Vern, who is under the porch looking for his misplaced jar of pennies, overhears them discussing seeing Brower’s body and shares the information with his buddies.
Billy and Charlie make a pact to keep each other’s secrets, but they end up spilling the beans to Ace Merrill, who then proceeds to retrieve Brower’s body on his own. The actor known as Billy from Stand by Me also played 3-D in the Back to the Future movies, Curley from Of Mice and Men, and Charlie Bowdre from Young Guns.
Siemaszko has also appeared on several episodes of TV shows like Oz, NYPD Blue, Law & Order, Blue Bloods, and Damages in recurring roles. The episode of the Showtime drama series Billions from 2016 is his most recent credited appearance.
Bradley Gregg (Eyeball Chambers)
Eyeball Chambers (Bradley Gregg) is Ace Merrill’s (Matthew Modine) trusted lieutenant in the gang that he leads with an iron grip and switchblade. Eyeball’s illegal actions as Chris Chambers’ older brother have tarnished the family name in Castle Rock. The eyeball is a bully that enjoys attacking Chris and his pals whenever he gets the chance.
Surprisingly, Bradley Gregg and River Phoenix’s coupling as brothers in Stand by Me was not the first time they had worked together; they had actually acted in the film Explorers in 1985. Gregg continued his acting career after his role as Eyeball, appearing in films and television shows such as Silver Spoons, Lonesome Dove, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and many more.
Gregg is also a writer and director; he and his wife, Dawn, founded the production firm Eventide Fields. They translated their story of adopting two children into the 2006 documentary Journey to Jemima.
Wil Wheaton (Gordie Lachance)
Gordie Lachance (Wil Wheaton), the film’s protagonist, is a 12-year-old resident of the made-up town of Castle Rock. Since his older brother Denny passed away, Gordie has been having a tough time. When Gordie’s heartbroken parents refuse to accept him, he turns to his pals Chris, Teddy, and Vern for solace, and the four go on a life-altering weekend trip.
Wil Wheaton, who started as Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation a year after Stand by Me was released, is an actor and writer who is arguably best known today for his role as Gordie. He has since appeared in dozens of films and TV shows, such as Flubber, The Guild, and The Big Bang Theory, in which he has a recurring role.
Wheaton is known for lending his voice to several animated characters, including Ben 10’s Mike Morningstar/Darkstar. Away from the screen, Wheaton is an active writer, author of several books, and gamer who presently presents the online series TableTop on Felicia Day’s YouTube channel, Geek & Sundry.
Jason Oliver (Vince Desjardins)
Stand by Me is a scenario in which Ace Merrill challenges his pals to a game of chicken on a two-lane road. In the other car, Vince Desjardins (Jason Oliver) is jubilant since he can see a truck barreling down on Ace’s convertible and is, therefore, certain to win.
Vince’s jubilation, however, was premature; Ace, ever unexpected, stayed in his lane, knocked the logging truck off the road, and then pulled ahead of Vince to secure the victory. Between 1987 and 2001, Oliver appeared in a few more films and TV shows after his breakthrough role in Stand by Me.
After that, Oliver focused on writing and directing other projects, such as the graphic novel Rollin Bluestone and the 2017 short film Revolution Starts Now, depicting political protests in Portland, Oregon. A 2017 crime/horror film, The Wolves of Savin Hill, marks Oliver’s come back to the acting profession.
River Phoenix (Chris Chambers)
Chris Chambers (River Phoenix), whose family has a history of drinking and criminal conduct in Castle Rock, fights with his entirely unearned status as the group’s leader (and Gordie’s best friend) during the course of Stand by Me. Chris is unafraid to defend his friends and the truth, which makes him a frequent target for his older brother Eyeball (Bradley Gregg) and gang leader Ace Merrill (Kiefer Sutherland).
According to the film’s coda, Chambers’s life was cut brutally short when he was stabbed while trying to stop a brawl between two random people. After gaining widespread recognition as a child actor in the wake of the success of “Stand by Me,” River Phoenix was able to successfully make the transition into adult roles.
She was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance in the 1988 crime drama Running on Empty, despite being only 19 years old at the time. Aside from My Own Private Idaho, Dogfight, and Sneakers, he had other cinematic roles (alongside Robert Redford, Dan Aykroyd, and Sidney Poitier).
Phoenix had a wide range of interests outside of acting; he dabbled as a songwriter and financed Dan Aykroyd’s first House of Blues in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Phoenix’s tragically brief life will end before he can fully demonstrate his talents to the world.
After a long day of filming the Dark Blood, Phoenix overdosed and passed out outside the Viper Room, a famous Hollywood nightclub. He went into cardiac arrest and was taken to Cedars-Sinai Hospital, where doctors tried unsuccessfully to revive him. A young man of 23 passed away on October 31st, 1993.
Gary Riley (Charlie Hogan)
After finding Ray Brower’s body, Charlie Hogan (Gary Riley) could not keep quiet, and Vern overheard all about how the missing boy had been hit by a train off a deserted road. Vern informed his pals, and they went on a hunt to locate Brower’s corpse.
Riley gained recognition in Hollywood for his roles as a burglar in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles and as Dave Frazier in the rom-com Summer School (1987), starring Mark Harmon and Kirstie Alley.
After playing a hacker in the 1996 Mark Wahlberg film Fear, Riley decided to retire from acting and instead live a somewhat bohemian lifestyle, supporting himself with residual checks and making regular appearances as a guest on the Adventure Club Podcast.
Riley made an appearance at the “Stand by Me Day” celebration in Brownsville, Oregon, in 2017.
John Cusack (Denny Lachance)
Even though we only see Denny Lachance (John Cusack) in Gordie’s dreams and flashbacks, the events of Stand by Me are profoundly affected by his absence. Gordie feels like a spectre at home since his parents are still grieving the loss of their eldest son, Denny, who died in a Jeep accident.
As a result of Denny’s support, Gordie was able to develop his writing skills and eventually become a published author. After his breakout appearance in Stand by Me, John Cusack went on to become a household name thanks to his leading parts in movies like Say Anything…, Con Air, High Fidelity, and Being John Malkovich.
In 2007, he co-starred in the film adaptation of Stephen King’s short story 1408 with Samuel L. Jackson, marking his triumphant return to the world of Stephen King. The 2017 science fiction picture Singularity will include Cusack in a leading role, and Blood Money will feature him in a supporting role.
Corey Feldman (Teddy Duchamp)
Teddy Duchamp (Corey Feldman) was the protagonist with the most challenging part of the four main characters in the film Stand by Me. Although his veteran father once held Teddy’s ear to a stove in a fit of wrath, Teddy is enamoured with the military and worships his mentally disturbed father. In one of the film’s most iconic scenes, Teddy stares down a speeding train until his pals pull him off the tracks in the nick of time.
Not only did Feldman star in Stand by Me, but he also had prominent roles in films like The Goonies, Gremlins, and The Lost Boys when he was younger (alongside his Stand by Me castmate Kiefer Sutherland). Before Haim’s death from pneumonia in 2010, Feldman, his friend, and fellow teen hero Corey Haim collaborated on several projects, including the 1989 film Dream a Little Dream and the A&E reality series The Two Coreys.
Feldman, much like Phoenix, is an artist who has put out multiple albums. He published a tell-all book about his life as a child star and the alleged sexual assault he and Corey Haim endured in Hollywood in 2013. Most recently, in 2016, Feldman wed his longtime girlfriend. He has also been providing the voice of Slash in Nickelodeon’s animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series since 2013.