"When I watch Stand by Me now, I cannot ignore the unbelievable sadness in my eyes."

By Rosy Cordero
May 23, 2021 at 12:54 PM EDT

Ahead of the 35th anniversary of Rob Reiner's Stand by Me, the film's star Wil Wheaton revealed how his tumultuous childhood inspired his performance of Gordie.

"Important context, I think, is that I didn't want to be an actor when I was a kid. My parents forced me to do it," Wheaton told Yahoo Entertainment in a recent interview. "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.'"

Showbiz Kids
Credit: HBO

Wheaton was 14 years old when he starred opposite River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, and Jerry O'Connell in the coming of age film, but had already been a working child actor for approximately five years by then. The California native has been open about the abuse he experienced at the hands of his mother Debbie, a former actress, and his father Richard, a medical specialist.

"And then through a combination of an incredible emotional abuse from my father and a lot of manipulation, using me, from my mother, like really put me in that place," Wheaton continued. "Which, as it turns out, put me in the exact place to play Gordie. 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."

Stand by Me
Credit: Columbia Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

Watching the film takes Wheaton back to his complicated childhood, but now as an adult, he can see clearly just how alike he and Gordie really are.

"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, that isolation, that I think gave me what Gordie needed to come to life and I think Rob Reiner saw that," Wheaton said.

He added, "I guess I want to be a writer so that makes me Gordie. I never realized until I was in my 40s that I was Gordie because I was Gordie."

Related content:

Stand By Me

  • Movie
  • R
  • 88 minutes
  • Rob Reiner