Stand By Me, one of the best (if not the best) coming-of-age stories ever told. Four young boys travel across their wooded Maine home in search of the corpse of a missing boy, left abandoned in the wilderness. Pursued by a gang of thugs intent on finding the body, too, the four boys light out on a journey that will change their foursome forever. Okay, that sounds totally hokey, but the execution from Rob Reiner, based on a short story by Stephen King, Stand By Me is nothing short of masterful. In addition to the top technical talent, the film was stocked with a who’s who of up-and-comers who promised to really show the world something in the coming years. So, whatever happened to the one of the most talented young casts ever assembled?
1. Wil Wheaton (Gordie LaChance)
In the lead role of Gordie Lachance, Wil Wheaton is excellent. He perfectly portrays the grieving bookish kid who seems to be soaking up every detail of the experience he’ll later recount. After Stand By Me, Wheaton went on to portray Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: the Next Generation, a role that helped him to gain some amount of credibility in the geek community. In recent years, his past role on Trek plus his extremely active social media presence have helped Wheaton stay in the limelight with recurring roles on The Big Bang Theory, Syfy’s Dark Matter, and a growing tally of shows that cross genre and medium.
2. River Phoenix (Chris Chambers)
In the second lead, River Phoenix kind of stole the show as the cigarette-smoking kid with the troubled homelife who played on screen like a 12-year-old James Dean. The sky was the limit for River Phoenix. After Stand By Me, the young actor quickly gained a reputation for his impressive talent, pulling off solid supporting roles in both Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and My Own Private Idaho. Unfortunately, the burgeoning actor’s promise was cut short when Phoenix overdosed on a lethal combination of morphine, cocaine, and alcohol on October 30, 1993 outside Los Angeles’ famed Viper Room. Phoenix’s brother, Joaquin — who’s since gone on to win great acclaim as an actor himself, appearing in films like Her and The Master — and his sister, Rain, were at the scene of his tragic death.
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