Stand By Me co-star Kiefer Sutherland says he gave Rob Reiner the idea of changing Stephen King’s source story title.
Kiefer Sutherland plays a small but key character in 1986’s Stand By Me as bully Ace, who tries to foil the core group’s journey to discovering the corpse of Ray Brower…and entering a premature manhood. But behind the scenes, his role may have been far more important, as Sutherland says he was the one who inspired the movie’s title.
Based on Stephen King’s short story “The Body”, the original title was questioned because it apparently sounded more like a porno or a straight-up horror movie more akin to something that, well, Stephen King might write. Fortunately for the studio — and probably the film’s legacy overall — Kiefer Sutherland was adept at the guitar and tinkered around a bit while filming. As he told Jimmy Fallon on his late night show, “We were making Stand by Me, which was a Stephen King short story called ‘The Body’ and River Phoenix was learning guitar and playing guitar, and he was actually very, very good…He said, ‘Oh, I love the melody of that song,’ and he hadn’t heard it before…So I was teaching it to him, and Rob Reiner walked by and said, ‘Oh, I haven’t heard that song for a long time. I love it.’ And then that was the end of that discussion.”
While others have attributed the title change to director Reiner, we do at least have evidence that the screenplay wasn’t always titled Stand By Me, as drafts do state that the title of “The Body” was planned to appear onscreen.
Whoever officially decided that “The Body” should be changed to Stand By Me deserves a lot of credit not just for the movie’s success but also the resurgence of a classic song. Even if the movie primarily takes place a couple of years before Ben E. King’s song was released, the number’s usage in the coming-of-age essential put the then-25-year-old song back on the charts.
On the brink of its 40th anniversary, Stand By Me is a must-see, still feeling like a rite-of-passage movie that one shouldn’t get out of their teenage years without experiencing. So if you’re of that age and still haven’t had the chance, do yourself a favor by grabbing a copy of the film and cuing it up with your closest friends. And don’t forget the cherry-flavored Pez!
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