Whatever Happened To The Cast Of 'Stand by Me'?

Based on the Stephen King novella The Body, Stand by Me is a 1986 coming-of-age classic not just for the '80s, but for all time. While a large part of its success comes from its universal themes of the loss of innocence and the trauma of growing up, no one can deny that its memorable cast of characters - mainly troubled boys Gordie, Chris, Teddy, and Vern - also helped it stick the landing. The actors behind them, even at their young age, did an excellent job of bringing the characters to life.

So what happened to those boys - or any of the movie's other notable actors - once the film wrapped? Here are some of their stories, and for more "where are they now" lists, be sure to check out these roundups of the casts of The Lost Boys and The Sandlot.

  • After playing the sensitive young writer Gordon "Gordie" Lachance in Stand by Me, Wil Wheaton went on to become something of a staple figure in nerd culture. This was mainly because his next big part (coming just a year after Gordie) was as young Starfleet hopeful Wesley Crusher in the first four seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

    While the character was polarizing within the fandom, Wesley Crusher was just Wheaton's jumping-off point for a long career in nerdy entertainment, particularly as a voice actor. Wheaton provided voices for recurring characters on Teen Titans, Legion of Super Heroes, and Ben 10: Alien Force, as well as for minor characters on Naruto, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, and Avatar: The Last Airbender. His voice work also extends into multiple Tom Clancy and Grand Theft Auto games, and he has narrated many audiobooks, among them The Martian and Ready Player Two. He's even appeared as himself in the Star Trek documentary Trekkies, in The Big Bang Theory, and as a contestant on Whose Line Is It Anyway?

    In his personal life, Wheaton took a break from acting for five years post-Star Trek, during which he graduated from drama school. Perhaps the break - as well as his subsequent shift towards animated roles - was a way of getting off camera, as Wheaton said he never wanted to act anyway: "I didn’t want to be an actor when I was a kid. My parents forced me to do it." This pressure was compounding upon his anxiety and depression, which he has discussed frequently, along with his support of mental health-related nonprofits like NAMI and Project UROK.

    Still, Wheaton enjoys the community his work is a part of by attending Star Trek conventions, playing tabletop games, and performing in a sci-fi related comedy troupe.

  • Since Stand by Me is framed as a story written by a now-adult Gordie, he's actually the only kid we get to see grow up, and he's played by Richard Dreyfuss. With a career spanning all the way back to the '60s and still going strong, Dreyfuss has countless memorable roles to his name, including parts in classic films like American Graffiti, Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and an Oscar-winning performance in The Goodbye Girl - this all before Stand by Me was even released. Afterwards, he earned an Oscar nomination for Mr. Holland's Opus and Golden Globe nominations for Opus and Nuts. 

    Outside of acting, he founded the the Dreyfuss Civics Initiative in 2008, a nonprofit organization that promotes giving civics lessons in public classrooms. He also cowrote an alternate-history science-fiction book with author Harry Turtledove called The Two Georges. He's been married three times - to Jeramie Rain, Janelle Lacey, and Svetlana Erokhin - and has three children from his first marriage.

  • Vern Tessio can sometimes seem like the punching bag of the group. But in spite of all the teasing, the boys truly care about Vern, with Gordie even risking his life to save Vern from an oncoming train when the group crosses a bridge. Vern was Jerry O'Connell's first feature-film role, but most of O'Connell's fame and success came from parts he took later in life as an older teen and adult.

    From 1995 to 1999, he starred as the main character of the sci-fi show Sliders, in 1996 he was in comedies like Jerry Maguire and Joe's Apartment, and in 1997 he even joined the cast of Scream 2. He was also the sheriff in the 2014 Veronica Mars film. However, he prefers to work in TV and has appearanced in a number of shows including BillionsThe Big Bang Theory, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Scream Queens. He was also in a Mariah Carey music video as her cheating boyfriend.

    Like his Stand by Me costar Wil Wheaton, O'Connell, too, seems to have a penchant for geek culture, with recurring roles in Marvel's The Defenders and Star Trek: Lower Decks, as well as multiple Justice League animated projects, in which he frequently voices Superman. 

    The actor is equally busy in his personal life. Five years after playing Vern, he enrolled at NYU, where he studied screenwriting and fenced voraciously before graduating. "[I] was captain of the sabre squad. Nationally, I was ranked 17th at my peak," he said. Much later, he also enrolled in law school but eventually dropped out to focus on acting. He is married to actress Rebecca Romijn and has two twin daughters named Charlie, after his brother Charlie O’Connell, and Dolly, after Dolly Parton.

  • Teddy Duchamp's thick glasses and injured ear don't keep him from fighting everyone and everything in Stand by Me. While Gordie shrinks inward as a result of his lost childhood, Teddy acts out. But it's hard not to feel for the poor boy just as much as any of the other kids. 

    Just a year after Stand by Me, Corey Feldman found even wider recognition as Edgar Frog in the summer horror hit The Lost Boys. In this film, he worked alongside fellow child star Corey Haim, and together they went on to be known as "The Two Coreys" acting duo in both film and a reality TV show. On his own, he voiced Donatello in the 1990 live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, and he later voiced Slash in the 2012 animated TMNT series. He even returned for two Lost Boys sequels and a Zoom reunion with the cast of The Goonies (which came out just before Stand by Me).

    His other cameos are scattered pretty widely and randomly across TV, film, and music - at one point, he even showed up in the music video for Katy Perry's "Last Friday Night," playing her father and disapprovingly asking why she had "some lost boy" in her room.

    Outside of acting, he released a memoir titled Coreyography, he's a longtime vegetarian and animal rights activist, and he has released music both as a solo artist and as part of two bands of his own making: Corey Feldman's Truth Movement and Corey's Angels.

    Perhaps what he is now best-known for are his claims, projects, and views surrounding the alleged sexual assault he and Haim experienced as children. He produced a documentary covering the subject, has lobbied for bills addressing the issue, and frequently expresses his belief that the harm adults inflict on children in the entertainment industry is the biggest issue in Hollywood today - something that motivates him to keep his own son "as far away from the entertainment business as possible." His work in this area has received mixed reactions, ranging from sympathy to cynicism, in part because he himself has received allegations of maltreatment from former band members.

  • Gordie may be the narrator and protagonist of the story, but Chris Chambers, the de facto leader and most mature member of the friend group, is perhaps the most captivating character. Because of his family's working-class background and bad reputation, the community has dismissed the intelligent and emotional Chris as a problem child for most of his young life. Luckily, Gordie sees the best in him and eventually pushes Chris to escape his situation by going to school and becoming a lawyer.

    It's a memorable performance by the late River Phoenix, who, according to The Washington Post, "gave the movie its center of gravity." Hollywood saw his star power brewing beneath the surface, and from there he went on to appear in The Mosquito Coast alongside Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren, as well as Running on Empty, for which he was nominated for an Oscar and Golden Globe at just 18 years old. He played young Indy in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, won more awards and took on an edgier role in the avant-garde drama My Own Private Idaho, and found commercial success alongside big names like Robert Redford in Sneakers. 

    He wasn't just an actor, either - he had a passion for music and the environment. He formed his own band called Aleka's Attic with his sister, invested in opening the original House of Blues with Blues Brother Dan Aykroyd, and was a lifelong vegan and activist, speaking out and raising money for environmental causes. 

    Unfortunately, like his Stand by Me character, Phoenix passed too soon. On Halloween night of 1993, he went into multiple seizures outside the Viper Room, a famous Sunset Strip hangout for young stars that was partially owned by Johnny Depp at the time. He had overdosed on a mixture of heroine and cocaine and was pronounced dead at a hospital later that night.

    His abrupt end was shocking for a number of reasons, among them that he was just 23 and it was an interruption of a career mid-takeoff. He had just been shooting a film (Dark Blood) earlier that day and was set to star in Interview with the Vampire in the role that later went to Christian Slater. His passing was tragic and very well may have resulted in the loss of a future acting legend. 

    In 2020, his brother, actor Joaquin Phoenix, welcomed his first child with actress Rooney Mara. The two named the child River in memory of Phoenix's lost sibling.

  • Gordie's kindly big brother Denny has passed before the movie even starts, but his character still has a huge impact on the film. Gordie's parents mourn their dead son so much, they completely neglect their living one. We see Denny in flashbacks played by John Cusack of the Hollywood-entrenched Cusack family, and anyone who knows film has seen him in countless projects in the ensuing years: Say Anything, Bullets Over Broadway, Con Air, Being John Malkovich, High Fidelity (for which he won a Golden Globe for best actor), Serendipity, Hot Tub Time Machine, and many more. He was also in two other movies adapted from Stephen King works: Cell and 1408

    But Cusack's influence extends beyond the camera: He's also a producer, screenwriter, and political activist. His first production and screenplay credits came with 1997's Grosse Pointe Blank, and from there he continued to contribute behind the scenes on several projects he also starred in. His activism focuses on antiwar sentiment, and he's written for and spoken with numerous outlets criticizing the war in Iraq and the use of drone strikes. He also helped found a a not-for-profit group called the Freedom of the Press Foundation, which "help[s] news organisations retain their confidentiality and independence," and co-authored a book about a meeting he had with Edward Snowden in Moscow in the aftermath of Snowden's leaks. 

    In his personal life, Cusack has grown increasingly critical of the way Hollywood treats young actors, saying, "The culture just eats young actors up and spits them out... It’s a wh*rehouse and people go mad." As for family, he has never married because, in his own words, "Society doesn't tell me what to do." And when it comes to hobbies, he has trained in kickboxing for over 30 years under former American world champion Benny Urquidez.