Rob Reiner’s coming-of-age movie “Stand By Me” was released widely by Columbia Pictures 35 years ago today. The film starred a young actor named River Phoenix who spoke to film critic David Elliott from his family’s home in Rancho Santa Fe.
From the San Diego Union, Friday August 22, 1986
‘Stand By Me’ Separates Teenagers From Boys
River Phoenix flows naturally into an entertainment career
By David Elliott, film critic
With a name like River Phoenix, what can a boy do but wander? Which, as the young “Stand By Me” star claims, is the only life for him …
“My family continued to travel, to live in a VW van. We have been everywhere. Florida. Mexico. South America. My parents are like gypsies, children of flowers. With a big family, there wasn’t always a lot of money, but I never felt alone or deprived. I know some kids wouldn’t like to move so much, but I do. My life has been so unpredictable, so spontaneous.
Currently, the young Phoenixes – River, Brother Leaf, sisters Rainbow, Summer and Sunshine – have “run off” for a time to their new North County home with parents John and Arlen, the flower children turned tumbleweeds who run also their talented brood careers. With such a background, an actor’s wandering life was made to order for Phoenix. But like many 16-year-old boys, he set out to “become a rock star.” This is still my goal.
In the meantime, his acting is a key force in “Stand By Me”, Robb Reiner’s film about a Stephen King story. The robust, blond and calmly master of himself plays Chris, a boy from a broken house who mobilizes under duress to become a kind of father to one of his four friends on a long night of adventure, who takes place in Oregon in 1959.
“I made up Chris’s background in my head, so I knew what he was thinking,” the actor said. “And we listened to tapes of ’50s songs and talked in that’ 50s style, even off the set. Stay with. It was fun, even though the hard things are never the technical things, it’s finding those real personal feelings … When I see the movie, I see so much that I could have done better.
River’s mature perspective was made clear, after a successful premiere of the film at the Cinema Society of San Diego, when he answered a viewer’s angry question about “naked bodies” in some films. youthful youth with a wonderfully blunt, “What’s wrong with naked bodies?
Later, for this interview, the young star amplified, “My mum and dad have a lot to do with who I am. I guess they are kids from the 60s, which is why we all have kind names. And some ideas.
River was “born in an Oregon log cabin” and further down the winding road he and his siblings began “playing, first on the street, making our own songs. We were cute kids, but we weren’t great, not professional singers. Dad said we were new. I still want to be a singer, but it’s much more difficult for a child to get into it than to act, much more competitive.
Her mother was “a secretary at NBC for a while, then started casting. This led me to take an agent. And that led to the advertisements. I hate TV commercials because I can’t stand being fake. You stick a smile or cry for no reason. It’s just stupid. But I had to start there and then I got into the ‘Seven Brides for Seven Brothers’ TV show and we did 22 episodes.
The rest is show biz: an NBC (“Celebrity”) mini-series, an ABC Afterschool Special on dyslexia, much like Robert Kennedy Jr. on a CBS mini-series, the ABC movie “Surviving” , another kind of geometry tutor on “Family Links.” He knows the tutors, having left school years ago for schedules like this …
“After ‘Surviving’ two years ago I flew to Northern California for another job, then took a few weeks off and got into the pilot of a remake of ‘I Dream of Jeannie ‘. And then came “Stand By Me”. Then I went to “The Mosquito Coast”. Now I’m advertising “Stand By Me”, then promoting “Mosquito Coast”, and next month I’m starting a movie in Chicago called “Jimmy Reardon”. I don’t think I’ll go to college. I want to keep moving, to see the world.
As the son of Harrison Ford in Peter Weir’s new film “The Mosquito Coast” by Paul Theroux, set in tropical Belize, River has overcome some of his youthful cynicism of big stars:
“A lot of stars are just stars. The way some of them act makes me sick. I really don’t like morons. But Harrison Ford is cool, he sits down and talks to you. Of course, I was nervous at first. You think he’s a big action star, but at the hearing he was dressed like a real conservative businessman, which bowled me a bit. But we hung out in LA for a bit before the shoot, and it was great. He has a dry, a little sarcastic sense of humor, but he was like a father to me.
Although he is neutral about his success, he is excited to talk about his family. He’s happy that “they’re all starting to have fun now. Leaf, my little brother, is a good little actor. He was in ‘SpaceCamp.’ My sister Rainbow just did a movie with Ally Sheedy. Summer has also done a lot and Sunshine is a gymnast. She and Rainbow dance a lot and I play guitar.
“I have a four-track studio in my room and after this next film I’m going to record. Dweezil Zappa is a friend of mine, and he just released an album. I really want to do this. It will happen – I promise.
Who can doubt it?