‘Stand By Me’ Cast Then and Now: Classic coming-of-age drama’s child actors through the years

The iconic 1986 hit ‘Stand By Me’ remains a timeless, must-watch film

River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, Wil Wheaton, and Jerry O'Connell in Stand by Me (1986) (Columbia Pictures)
River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, Wil Wheaton, and Jerry O’Connell in ‘Stand by Me’ (Columbia Pictures)


Directed by Rob Reiner and adapted from Stephen King’s novella ‘The Body’, ‘Stand By Me’ remains a beloved gem from the 1980s, offering a poignant and timeless viewing experience even after all these years. With its exceptional soundtrack featuring hits from the ’50s and ’60s, including the iconic title track, the film continues to be a must-watch classic. This cinematic masterpiece also introduced audiences to a talented ensemble of young actors, who went on to leave their indelible mark on the entertainment industry. Here’s a retrospective look at their subsequent journeys after the film released.

Corey Feldman as Teddy

Corey Feldman portrays Teddy Duchamp in Stand by Me
Corey Feldman portrays Teddy Duchamp in ‘Stand by Me’ (Columbia Pictures, Getty Images)


Corey Feldman was a seasoned child star, who took on roles in ‘Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter’, ‘Gremlins’, and ‘The Goonies’, even before his appearance in ‘Stand by Me’. His journey continued with ‘The Lost Boys’, a film that solidified his collaboration with Corey Haim, collectively known as ‘The Two Coreys’. In the tumultuous 1990s, Corey encountered personal struggles related to substance abuse, temporarily affecting his Hollywood career. However, he remained an active presence in the entertainment industry, taking on various roles in both film and television, as well as participating in reality TV endeavors. His remarkable journey also led him to the UK’s ‘Dancing on Ice’ in 2012, while concurrently pursuing a music career with his band, Corey’s Angels.


John Cusack as Denny

John Cusack played the role of Gordie’s older brother, Denny (
John Cusack played the role of Gordie’s older brother, Denny (Columbia Pictures, Getty Images)


John Cusack, in the role of Denny, portrayed Gordie’s older sibling, a character whose presence looms large even after his untimely demise prior to the events of the film. John Cusack went on to act in several successful films like ‘Say Anything’, ‘Bullets Over Broadway’, ‘Con Air’, ‘Being John Malkovich’, ‘Serendipity’, ‘Hot Tub Time Machine’, and ‘High Fidelity’, to name just a few. His exceptional talent garnered him a prestigious Golden Globe award for ‘High Fidelity’. Beyond his acting endeavors, Cusack ventured into film production and screenwriting, contributing to projects like ‘War, Inc’ and ‘High Fidelity’. In the realm of cinema, his most recent appearance was in the 2022 action film, ‘Pursuit’.

Kiefer Sutherland as Ace

Kiefer Sutherland portrays John “Ace” Merill in Stand by Me (Colombia Pictures) (Getty Images)
Kiefer Sutherland portrays John ‘Ace’ Merill in ‘Stand by Me’ (Colombia Pictures, Getty Images)


Kiefer Sutherland, scion of the renowned actor Donald Sutherland, graced the screen as Ace in the film. His stint in ‘Stand by Me’ marked the inception of a flourishing career that saw him carve a niche for himself as a character actor in Hollywood thanks to subsequent cinematic gems, including ‘The Lost Boys’, ‘Young Guns’, ‘Flatliners’, ‘A Few Good Men’, ‘The Three Musketeers’, ‘Dark City’, and ‘Melancholia’. However, it was in 2001 that he became a household name, embodying the iconic character Jack Bauer in the action-packed TV series ’24’. This transformative role earned him a plethora of accolades, including an Emmy Award, a Golden Globe Award, Screen Actors Guild Awards, and Satellite Awards, all in recognition of his exceptional performance. Sutherland’s artistic horizons also extended to the realm of music, with his own musical creations adding to his multifaceted repertoire.

River Phoenix as Chris

River Phoenix who portrayed Chris in ‘Stand By Me’ died of drug overdose at the age of 23 (Columbia Pictures, @heartsphoenix/Instagram)


River Phoenix’s portrayal of Chris in the film added another chapter to the young actor’s career and he seemed destined for stardom. As the elder brother of renowned actor Joaquin Phoenix, River’s artistic journey flourished post-‘Stand by Me’, with remarkable appearances in films such as ‘Running on Empty’, which earned him an Academy Award nomination at the tender age of 18. He also etched his name in cinematic history by depicting a youthful Indiana Jones in ‘The Last Crusade’. However, tragedy struck in 1993 when River Phoenix’s life was tragically cut short after a drug overdose at the age of 23. Despite his untimely demise, his cinematic legacy endured, culminating in the posthumous release of his final film, ‘Dark Blood’, in 2012.

Wil Wheaton as Gordie

Wil Wheaton
Wil Wheaton played the character of Gordie in ‘Stand by Me’ (Colombia Pictures, Getty Images)


Wil Wheaton, who breathed life into the character of Gordie in ‘Stand by Me’, later found recognition for his role as Wesley Crusher in ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’. His cinematic journey extended to films like ‘Toy Soldiers’ and ‘Flubber’, while his mellifluous voice found a home in animated series like ‘Teen Titans’ and ‘Ben 10’. Beyond acting, Wheaton made memorable appearances as a fictionalized version of himself in the popular TV series ‘The Big Bang Theory’ and ventured into the digital realm by creating the YouTube board game show, ‘TableTop’.

Jerry O’Connell as Vern

Jerry O'Connell in Stand by Me (1986)
Jerry O’Connell as Vern in ‘Stand by Me’ (Colombia Pictures, Getty Images)


Jerry O’Connell, known for his portrayal of Vern in the film, witnessed a resurgence in his career over a decade later when he assumed the role of Quinn Mallory in the science fiction series ‘Sliders’. His versatile filmography encompasses titles like ‘Joe’s Apartment’, ‘Jerry Maguire’, ‘Scream 2’, ‘Kangaroo Jack’, and ‘Crossing Jordan’. Currently, he lends his voice to the character Commander Jack Ransom in the animated series ‘Star Trek: Lower Decks’. Beyond the realm of entertainment, Jerry O’Connell found love and family bliss as he married actress Rebecca Romijn in 2007, and together they welcomed twin daughters into their lives on December 28, 2008.

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