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Wil Wheaton Acting in Stand by Me Inspired by Parents’ Emotional Abuse


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Wil Wheaton has revealed that his acting in Stand By Me was inspired by the emotional abuse he suffered from his parents. The 1986 film, Stand By Me is a touching coming of age drama directed by Rob Reiner and starring Wheaton, Corey Feldman, River Phoenix, Jerry O'Connell, and Kiefer Sutherland. Based off a Stephen King novel, the films follows four troubled boys who embark on an adventure to find the body of a missing boy.

The film boasted many stellar performances, especially from Wheaton and Feldman, who portrayed Gordie Lachance and Teddy Duchamp, respectively. Gordie and Teddy are arguably the most complex characters of the film. Gordie is a neglected child whose parents are too wrapped up in the grief of losing his older brother to notice him, while Teddy is the angry son of a mentally ill father. The actors and director brought the film to life in a way that was heartfelt and touching, immortalizing it as a classic. As Stand By Me's 35th anniversary and re-release approaches, Wheaton is opening up about his portrayal of Gordie.

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RELATED: Recasting Stand By Me In 2021 (Every Major Character)

In a statement to Yahoo Entertainment, Wheaton revealed that his portrayal of Gordie was influenced by his own parents' emotional abuse. Wheaton believes that he gave life to the role of Gordie so well because, in many ways, he was Gordie. As a child, he wasn't interested in acting, but was forced into it by his manipulative and exploitative actress mother. As the scapegoat of the family, living in shadows of his golden-child brother, Wheaton also suffered severe emotional abuse from his medical specialist father. The parallels between Wheaton and Gordie are hard to miss, something that Reiner definitely caught onto when casting him. Read Wheaton's statement below:

“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.' And through a combination of 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. 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.”

Wheaton acknowledges that Stand By Me's success and the way it was brought to life, was the result of Reiner's impeccable casting choices. Essentially, all four of the main actors bore striking similarities to their characters - Wheaton had the sadness and pain of Gordie, Feldman the fiery rage of Teddy, Phoenix the intellect of Chris, and O'Connell the innocence of Vern. Despite the pain he was in at the time, Wheaton did enjoy the experiences he had with his castmates and the lasting legacy of Stand By Me. Today, he is estranged from his parents and mainly writes (much like Gordie), narrates audio books, and hosts a Star Trek after-show, The Ready Room.

It is inspiring to hear Wheaton's reflection on his role as Gordie, as he speaks out about his parents abuse. His role in Stand By Me demonstrates the immense emotional weight that films can hold when they create realistic characters that the actors/actress can relate to. In addition to this, it is inspiring to the many other victims of child abuse. The fact that Wheaton took his pain and released it in such a manner that he brought a character and film to life in a way that touched many people, shows that victims have a certain power about them. When victims release their pain, many do so in the form of artistic expressions (e.g. acting, writing, singing) and their works tend to be extremely powerful and emotional, especially to other survivors. Hopefully, as other victims of abuse hear Wheaton's story, they realize they are not any less because of their experiences, but, on the contrary, they have incredible power in their words, actions, and expressions and their stories of survival are immensely inspiring.

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