Whew, so my recent frenzied film rewatches have finally brought this into being! It’s been burning a hole in my mind for awhile.
I LOVE Stand by Me. I sorta wish I could send flowers to my childhood’s VHS rental store, just for having it in their collection. It’s really almost as though they had this film just for me and my friends to grow up on. Some years ago, I also found the Stephen King novella it was based on (The Body), and I soaked up everything else that I didn’t know about my favorite characters. They’re almost real to me, I can’t even tell you.
The thing is: this isn't only a ‘critics-approved’ film. Nope. It’s totally beloved, and no wonder. Anybody could see a bit of themselves in it. It’s all about childhood and goldenness and losing innocence when you didn’t know you still had it; it’s about being yanked into harsher waters and trying to stay afloat, when you're still not quite ready to "grow up". And it is about friendship. Oh, is it about friendship!
It also revolves all around four boys, and that was always fine by me. After all, their journey in the movie quite isolates them from (almost!) everyone else in the world.
But like anyone who eats up the character-study goodness of a gender!swap, I’ve been having a blast re-imagining Stand by Me. Let’s say the golden summer and the sweet melancholy strain and everything else in this story stay intact…but let’s say that these familiar characters were all young girls! Girls living in the shadows of their mothers and their sisters; four girls who go questing down the railroad tracks…
Well, why ever not? Other than the character-study aspect of it, fantasy casting is always hella FUN. : )
“It was almost noon as we set out to find the body of a dead kid named Rachel Brower…”
I was twelve going on thirteen the first time I saw a dead human being. It happened in the summer of 1959-a long time ago, but only if you measure in terms of years. I was living in a small town in Oregon called Castle Rock. There were only twelve hundred and eighty-one people, but to me, it was the whole world.
“I’m not sure it should be a good time…going to see a dead kid. Maybe it shouldn’t be a party.”
“…It seems to me now, it was more, and we all knew it. Everything was there and around us. We knew exactly who we were and exactly where we were going: it was grand.”
Elle Fanning played the sensitive Alice on Super 8, and many took notice. She has the right quality of fragility and dreaminess for Gordie, don’t you think? One of the ways Wil Wheaton worked so well as Gordie was how delicate he looked next to the other boys: him walking next to Chris was… oh, a fawn next to a baby wildcat? : ) Similarly, Elle has more fairytale-esque looks compared to the others, and same as Wil, she’s rather coltishly built. And you would easily believe her as someone who is clammed up and broken, sometimes off in her own world, and very reliant on the friends she’s got around her.
Okay then, got ourselves a protagonist!
Chris Chambers was the leader of our gang and my best friend. She came from a bad family and everyone just knew she'd turn out bad. Including Chris.
“I just wish… that I could go someplace…where nobody knows me.”
“It's like God gave you something, man, all those stories you can make up? And He said, ‘This is what we got for ya, kid. Try not to lose it.’ Kids lose everything, unless there's someone there to look out for them. And if your parents are too fucked up to do it, then maybe I should!”
Yep, River Phoenix (*sob*) was genius in this role. Chris was always my favorite and for the longest time, I thought about what girl!Chris would be like. The “older, oldest, ageless” soul covering up her scars with the hardass act, the cigarettes and the swearing, the ‘unladylike’ temperament…still the trickiest character to get just right, in my opinion.
Hailee Steinfeld showed heaps of promise in True Grit, bleeding toughness and war stories from her character simply by how she spoke and carried herself. And this? Was always something that made River so very magnetic as Chris. I think you’d have little trouble seeing Hailee as the one in the gang ‘always making the best peace’; the leader who takes her girls on a quest down the tracks and stands sentinel over her much-gentler best friend. I still don’t know if she could be as affecting as River was in baring all of Chris’s inner hurt and compassion. But if I was a director (hah), I’d so trust her to go for it.
CHLOË MORETZ as Thea Duchamp
.Corey Feldman as Teddy Duchamp
Thea Duchamp was the craziest girl we hung around with. She didn't have much of a chance in life. Her mom was given to fits of rage. One time she held Thea's ear to a stove and almost burned it off.
“No sign of the enemy. The fort is secure. The dogfaces rested easy. In the knowledge that Corporal Thea Duchamp was protecting all that was dear to them…”
“This is my age! I'm in the prime of my youth! And I'll only be young once!”
When I got to Teddy, I didn’t only ask who could play him, but who could get away with it. Who could get away with being as zany and audacious and purposely annoying as Teddy, while also letting us feel for all the hell he goes through at home? It had to be somebody convincing in their extremeness, the way Corey Feldman was.
Chloë Moretz, in Kickass, proved she could play up cockiness and go off the rails like this. Can’t you just see her itching for that train dodge or going ballistic on Milo Pressman or pestering Vern endlessly? And judging from her other movie characters, you’d still believe it sincere when she happily declares that she 'cherishes these moments' all around the campfire.
EMMA KENNEY as Verne Tessio
.Jerry O' Connell as Vern Tessio
…at the beginning of the schoolyear, she had buried a quart-jar of pennies underneath her house. She drew a treasure map, so she could find them again. A week later her dad cleaned out her room and threw away the map. Verne had been trying to find those pennies for nine months. Nine months, man. She didn't know whether to laugh or cry.
“Oh man, you guys are not gonna believe this. This is so boss. Oh man, wait'll you hear this, wait'll you hear this. You won't believe it. It's unbelievable. Let me catch my breath. I ran all the way from my house—”
“What am I supposed to do, think of everything? I brought the comb!”
This is goofy but I felt a bit of Rob Reiner lucking out on little Jerry O’Connell here: casting Vern wasn’t even a question. If you’ve seen Emma Kenney on Showtime’s Shameless, you know she already has the perfectly exasperated, oh-dear-universe-WHY-ALWAYS-ME mannerisms down to a tee. She’s so wise and officious as Debbie Gallagher that I’m sure she’d have a blast playing an indignant underdog like Vern Tessio.
Also: unlike Jerry, Emma has lots and lots of hair, so for once poor Verno would be justified in bringing that silly comb. ; )~
KATIE CASSIDY as Ace Merrill
.Kiefer Sutherland as Ace Merrill
About this time, Charlie and Billy were playing mailbox baseball with Ace and Eyeball…
“Okay. Okay. You stated your position clearly. Now I'm gonna state mine. Get in the fucking car. Now!”
“You girls have two choices. Either leave quietly. We take the body. Or you stay. We'll beat the shit outta you. We take the body.”
HEH. Another no-brainer. Now I’m quite fond of Katie, and I feel almost guilty re-imagining her as a thug who bullies her (equally horrible) gang, knocks down mailboxes for kicks, and pulls knives on twelve-year-olds. But DANG, how much scariness would this lady bring to the role?? The eventual Katie-Hailee standoff could be as electric as the Kiefer-River one, I’ll bet. Ace calls for an actor who’s unafraid to go soulless if need be, and who better to do that than somebody who’s already played a demon?
CANDICE ACCOLA as Denny Lachance
.John Cusack as Denny Lachance
That summer at home, I had become the invisible girl.
In April, my older sister, Denise, had been killed in a Jeep accident. Four months had passed but my parents still hadn't been able to put the pieces back together again.
“Hey don’t start with me, porcupine, c’mere. C’mere. Give me a hug.”
“Mom, did you read the story that Gordie wrote? Gordie wrote a story. It was really good. Gordie…I really liked it. I thought it was great.”
John Cusack in the flashback scenes totally embodied the popular golden-boy, but he was also beautiful at being the down-to-earth, loving person whom Gordie had on a pedestal. And Candice is someone who’s fanTAStic at carrying this kind of inner light for all of two scenes—heck, girlfriend had my heart from the first second she appeared on The Vampire Diaries. The moment Gordie gives the one-two punch that 1) she has just lost her sister and 2) who was sunshine made into a person, it is going to hurt like all hell. Just like it has to.
MARTHA PLIMPTON as The Writer
.Richard Dreyfuss as The Writer
“I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?”
So, I was originally planning to end the casting at Denny. Then out of the blue, while in the deeps of childhood movie nostalgia (Stand by Me has that effect on me), I remembered how I was in stitches throughout the (price.less.) Goonies DVD commentary. Particularly at Martha Plimpton, who snarked and chortled her way through the whole thing. I remembered thinking: wouldn’t she make a fantastic narrator? She should do an audio book or something!
So I cast her! I think Martha resembles Elle enough to pass as an older Gordie (though let’s honest: Richard Dreyfuss totally did not resemble an older Wil Wheaton, right? :p ). And she has a really lovely, husky voice: same as Dreyfuss, she can sound warmly amused, nostalgic, funny and affectionate, all in one storytelling sitting.
(this one is for anybody who's on Tumblr, or who, like Gordie, is simply enchanted by woodland creatures...)
BONUS CAMEO: ANDREW GARFIELD as The Deer
Because Andrew’s rising star is a boon upon every film and fancasting and come on, look at that. For the few seconds that he prances onscreen, you, like our protagonist sitting on the railroad tracks, would be enthralled. They might even create an Academy Award category for Best Cameo. Just for him. Sincerely!