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Touching Moment Between ‘Stand by Me’ Co-Stars Began With an Apology

Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures / MovieStillsDB
Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures / MovieStillsDB

Stand by Me‘s Wil Wheaton and Jerry O’Connell made an appearance on CBS’ The Talk that left many fans misty-eyed. O’Connell issued an apology to Wheaton for not realizing his co-star and friend had been dealing with “emotional abuse” in his personal life.

Wil Wheaton and River Phoenix in 'Stand by Me'
Stand by Me, 1986. (Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures / MovieStillsDB)

Wheaton made the revelation during a May 2021 interview with Yahoo Entertainment, saying he was forced into acting by his mother and made to deal with emotional abuse from his father, a medical specialist.

“I didn’t want to be an actor when I was a kid,” he said. “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 that 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 continued. “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, the isolation that I think gave me what Gordie needed to come to life and I think Rob Reiner saw that.”

Wil Wheaton sitting on a panel at Comic Con
Wil Wheaton attending CBS’ The Big Bang Theory panel during Comic Con International at the San Diego Convention Center on July 25, 2014 in San Diego, California. (Photo Credit: Ethan Miller / Getty Images)

Stand by Me was directed by Rob Reiner and is based on the novel The Body by Stephen King. Wheaton and O’Connell starred in the film, alongside Corey Feldman and the late River Phoenix. It tells the story of four best friends who embark on the search for a dead body in Oregon in 1959.

Gordie, in particular, is a teen dealing with emotionally distant parents who are still coming to terms with the death of his older brother, played by John Cusack.

The film grossed $52.3 million at the box office and earned an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Cast of 'Stand by Me'
Stand by Me, 1986. (Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures / MovieStillsDB)

In an April 2022 interview on The Talk, O’Connell acknowledged that he should have done something to help his friend, saying, “I just wanted to say I heard you talked before about some of the struggles you were going through during Stand by Me, and while I was 11 at the time, that’s not an excuse. I do want to apologize for not being there more for you when you were younger.

“You never know what someone is going through when you’re with them,” he continued. “I don’t feel guilty, but I just wanted to say I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you more.”

Wheaton thanked his friend for the apology, responding, “I deeply appreciate that. You were 11. How could you have possibly have known?”

Jerry O'Connell smiling
Jerry O’Connell attending Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies And Mysteries 2019 Winter TCA Tour at Tournament House on February 9, 2019 in Pasadena, California. (Photo Credit: Rachel Luna / Getty Images)

This isn’t the first time O’Connell has addressed Wheaton’s revelations of emotional abuse. In a 2021 co-hosting gig on The Talk, he said, “I love Wil. He’s a great friend of mine. We’ve obviously been friends for 35 years now. That film was 35 years ago. I had no idea he was feeling this when we were doing this film.”

He then turned to the audience:

“I think what should be said is, you have no idea, not even co-workers, just people close to you, you have no idea what is going on with someone. So, if you sense anything is amiss, anything weird, it costs you nothing to go up to them and say, ‘Hey, is everything OK? Is anything going on? Do you want someone to talk to?’ I just think even saying that I think reaches a hand out to someone.

“I wish I was older back then, so I could have said, ‘Hey Wil, hey man, is anything [wrong]?'”

River Phoenix and Wil Wheaton in 'Stand by Me'
Stand by Me, 1986. (Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures / MovieStillsDB)

More from us: Think You Know Your ’80s Movies? From ‘E.T.’ to ‘Beetlejuice,’ Check Out These Cult Film Facts

Stand by Me is celebrating its 37th anniversary in 2023.

Clare Fitzgerald

Clare Fitzgerald is a Writer and Editor with eight years of experience in the online content sphere. Graduating with a Bachelor of Arts from King’s University College at Western University, her portfolio includes coverage of digital media, current affairs, history and true crime.

Among her accomplishments are being the Founder of the true crime blog, Stories of the Unsolved, which garners between 400,000 and 500,000 views annually, and a contributor for John Lordan’s Seriously Mysterious podcast. Prior to its hiatus, she also served as the Head of Content for UK YouTube publication, TenEighty Magazine.

In her spare time, Clare likes to play Pokemon GO and re-watch Heartland over and over (and over) again. She’ll also rave about her three Maltese dogs whenever she gets the chance.

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