'Stand by Me' turns 30: The blueberry pie scene gets an oral history
No one who’s seen the classic Stand by Me — which celebrates its 30th anniversary this summer — can ever forget the campfire tale that Gordie (Wil Wheaton) spins for his best friends (River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, and Jerry O’Connell) about a kid nicknamed Lardass (Andy Lindberg) who enacts warm, sweet, blueberry revenge on the town bullies. EW spoke to director Rob Reiner (whose newest film, Being Charlie, is in theaters) and Lindberg, now 45, about the movie’s unforgettable Barf-o-Rama.
The “Revenge of Lardass Hogan” story was a part of Stephen King’s novella The Body (the basis for Stand by Me), but Reiner had qualms about putting it on screen.
ROB REINER: I wrestled with including this scene, not because it was too graphic, but because we’d established that Gordie is going to turn into a great writer someday. Would he really tell a story about vomiting? It’s like a fart story. So I went back and forth, but I made peace and I said okay.
ANDY LINDBERG: That was just the kind of thing that would win the Pulitzer if 12-year-olds could vote.
The production built a tent in Brownsville, Oregon, hired extras, and ordered dozens of blueberry pies, plus vats of filling, from a local bakery.
REINER: We worked very hard at getting the sound of the stomach. There used to be a sound I remember as a kid when I watched Jackie Gleason on TV. One of his characters was Reggie Van Gleason III. He was a very rich guy who would drink, and he would drink and be rude to people and his stomach would make strange creaking and pinging noises.
LINDBERG: There’s a moment when I stand up and stagger, just before I start throwing up. Reiner was saying, “Think of how Jackie Gleason would do this.” That was the direction he gave me.
REINER: I set up a lot of cameras because I didn’t want to have to do a lot of cleanup. It was hard work, but it was also very fun. We made a big mixture of blueberry pie filling and large-curd cottage cheese.
LINDBERG: The first time the crew tried the vomiting effect, they used a power washer. They filled the reservoir and just rocketed it out, and 500 pounds per square inch of pressure went on the guy to my left. But that didn’t work. The stream was too fine. Finally, after experimenting, they got four or five guys to press down on a giant plunger on top of a cylinder, which pushed all five gallons of pie filling up a vacuum hose through my shirt collar and out from the tube taped to the side of my face.
REINER: I mean, if you look closely, it’s pretty cheesy because we obviously had to hide the tube to get the projectile effect.
LINDBERG: I was completely covered in blueberry pie filling, to the point where I probably left blueberry stains on the floor of my hotel room. I remember talking to the extras and they were joking about how sticky and covered in goo I was — but then the tables got turned the next day. They had to vomit on each other, so the expression of satisfaction I make on film was a bit truthful.
REINER: The mayor’s wife, it gets on her chest and everything. [Laughs]
Audiences flipped — and even ralphed — for the scene.
LINDBERG: As gross as it was, my impression was that in the crowd, they were going for realism. Everybody else, the volume of their vomit was anywhere from a cup to two pints. So that contrast, compared to the five gallons from me, was very distinct.
REINER: You know, the idea of chain-reaction vomiting, it does happen. I remember watching test audiences go through the roof at that scene. They were exploding when they watched it, and I was almost worried what might happen.
LINDBERG: A friend of mine worked at a movie theater in California when Stand by Me came out. He told me that after almost every showing they would have to clean up because someone had vomited during the movie. Which, of course, for me is a point of pride. I’ve made people throw up all over the world.
REINER: All the agonizing that I went through about whether or not to include it, and it turned out to be the biggest thing in the whole movie. Every year in Brownsville, they show the movie and have a pie eating contest. I’m very happy it’s remembered so well.