Top10Films Presents Classic Scenes #4

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stand by me rob reiner top10films classics scenes

Rob Reiner’s “Stand By Me”

“I was 12 going on 13 the first time I saw a dead human being. It happened in the summer of 1959-a long time ago, but only if you measure in terms of years. I was living in a small town in Oregon called Castle Rock. There were only twelve hundred and eighty-one people. But to me, it was the whole world.”

“Stand By Me” is one of the finest Stephen King book-to-screen adaptations ever made. Director Rob Reiner had a knack with King’s material as he also brilliantly brought “Misery” to the screen. In “Stand By Me”, a tale steeped in 1950s nostalgia, four childhood friends set off on a journey to find the missing body of one of their classmates. The friends, portrayed by young actors River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, Wil Wheaton, and Jerry O’Connell, discover more than just a body on their travels, each finding a bond within one another that would last for the rest of their lives.

stand by me campfire

It is a wonderful film about friendship, growing-up, family, and the innocence of youth. One scene that has always stood out occurs between the late River Phoenix and Wil Wheaton. Phoenix’s Chris Chambers is the school bad boy. We learn that the school suspended him over missing milk money but as Chris explains to Wheaton’s Gordie Lachance, no one ever asked him if he took the money, they just assumed he had because of his reputation.

Stephen King says the idea came from a real life experience when he was in the seventh grade. Reiner has stated frequently that the scene in the movie is his favourite. He says, “It’s beautifully written, with the dialogue taken straight from the book. It talks about a time when a child is let down by an adult which is a devastating thing when an adult disappoints you, or lies to you, or cheats you in some way. That is a terrible blow to a child. The other thing is the two performances, when we did that scene, River had to carry that very emotional thing where he breaks down and cries over having been hurt by this teacher in the school.

“When he did it the first couple of times he didn’t have all the emotion he needed for the scene. I talked to him about some sense memory – I asked him if there was a moment in his life when he could recall an adult letting him down and betraying him in some way. I don’t want you to tell me what it is, I just want you to think about it. He went off and thought about it then came back and said I’m ready to do the scene.”

The take that was then recorded was the one we see in the film.

river phonex wil wheaton stand by me top10films
Chris Chambers (River Phoenix): “So let’s just say that I stole the milk money, but Old Lady Simmons stole it back from me. Just say that I told this story. Me, Chris Chambers. Kid brother to Eyeball Chambers. Do you think that anyone would’ve believed it?”

stand by me film movie river phoenix breaks and cries
Gordie Lachance (Wil Wheaton): “Did you take it?”

stand by me film movie river phoenix breaks and cries
Chris Chambers (River Phoenix): “Yeah, I took it! I mean, you knew I took it. Teddy knew I took it. Everyone knew I took it. Even Vern knew it, I think. But maybe I was sorry and I tried to give it back. Maybe I took it to Old Lady Simmons and told her, and the money was all there. But I still got a three day vacation because it never showed up. And maybe the next week, Old Lady Simmons had this new suit on when she came to school.

stand by me film movie river phoenix breaks and cries
Chris Chambers (River Phoenix): “I just wish I could go someplace where nobody knows me.”

Reiner adds, “It was one of those times he felt comfortable enough to expose himself. After the scene I went over and hugged him.”

About the Author
Editor of Top 10 Films, Dan Stephens is usually found pondering his next list. An unhealthy love of 1980s Hollywood sees most of his top 10s involving a time-travelling DeLorean and an adventurous archaeologist going by the name Indiana.

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  1. Avatar
    Aiden R. Reply

    Awesome factoid about Reiner and Phoenix there at the end. Great scene in one of my all-time faves.

  2. Avatar
    Dan Reply

    @Aiden: Yeah, discovered that on one of the making-ofs. Lovely moment between actor and director – Reiner really knew how to work with these young kids.

  3. Avatar
    Castor Reply

    I only saw Stand by Me for the first time quite recently. It certainly is a very solid movie and this is one of its most memorable scenes which was superbly performed.

  4. Avatar
    Dan Reply

    @Castor: I’d actually say the film gets better on subsequent viewing. I liked it a lot when I first saw the film but now I think it’s one of the greatest films of the 80s.

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    rtm Reply

    Miss River Phoenix… he was like the Heath Ledger of his time… both died far too young. Funny how Wil Wheaton still looks the same today, just older. Jerry O’Connell’s probably the one that looks nothing like he was here. That is a cool tidbit about Reiner & Phoenix, that’s got to be a poignant day on the set.

  6. Avatar
    Dan Reply

    @rtm: O’Connell has definitely changed the most. In fact, he’s almost unrecognisable. Phoenix was an actor with loads of potential and I think this scene in Stand By Me is one of his best.

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    Dan Grant Reply

    Stand By Me is one of the all time greats and probably Reiner’s best, and that’s saying something as he has done a lot of very good films. That scene with Wheaton and Phoenix brings a tear to my eye every once in a while. It’s done to perfection.

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