This week marks the 30th anniversary of the 1986 coming-of-age classic Stand By Me. Although the title was changed to that of Ben E. King's best-known song, the plot and characters of Rob Reiner's film are based on prolific horror author Stephen King's novella The Body, from the 1982 collection Different Seasons.
In the decades since its release, Stand By Me has become one of the most influential pieces of American filmmaking in recent memory, earning references in pop culture from Pokémon Red, Blue and Yellow to Netflix's Stranger Things. Creative minds far and wide have paid homage to the '80s classic.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Stranger Things showrunners Matt and Ross Duffer confirmed that Stand By Me influenced them so much they went on to name an episode after it's source material:
"This episode is called 'The Body.' That's our not-so-subtle nod to Stephen King's short story 'The Body,' which was the basis for Rob Reiner's classic film 'Stand by Me.' We love that story and that film with all of our boyish hearts, and its DNA is written all over the show. (You'll see kids marching down railroad tracks in the next chapter because we couldn't resist.)"
Stand By Me focuses on a summer adventure shared between four best friends — Gordie, Chris, Teddy and Vern. As the story progresses, the events of the boys' adolescent escapade forces them to tackle adult issues and realize that these seemingly carefree times are far more complicated than they appear.
In real life, the inspiration for King's story stemmed from a particularly impactful day back when he was barely four years old. And while he still doesn't remember the event in question, it has influenced his work ever since.
Interested in Stand by Me? Check out these other Movie Pilot articles:
- Stranger Things Is The Stand By Me Remake You Didn't Know You Needed
- What Ever Happened to the Cast of Stand By Me?
- Hail to the King: The Best Stephen King Film Adaptations
In his 1991 non-fiction book Danse Macabre, King recounts the 1979 Ides of Mohonk panel where he first shared the story that almost directly parallels scenes from The Body and Stand By Me:
"According to Mom, I had gone off to play at a neighbor’s house – a house that was near a railroad line. About an hour after I left I came back (she said), as white as a ghost. I would not speak for the rest of the day; I would not tell her why I’d not waited to be picked up or phoned that I wanted to come home; I would not tell her why my chum’s mom hadn’t walked me back but had allowed me to come alone.
It turned out that the kid I had been playing with had been run over by a freight train while playing on or crossing the tracks (years later, my mother told me they had picked up the pieces in a wicker basket). My mom never knew if I had been near him when it happened, if it had occurred before I even arrived, or if I had wandered away after it happened. Perhaps she had her own ideas on the subject. But as I’ve said, I have no memory of the incident at all; only of having been told about it some years after the fact."
While some have been quick to attribute this experience to King's subject matter, he went on to deny claims that other works like 'Salem’s Lot, The Stand and The Shining were inspired by it. He has since called the notion that he has been writing about this shocking incident "a totally specious idea — such shoot-from-the-hip psychological judgments are little more than jumped-up astrology."
Though King is sure to state that The Shining was in no way inspired by his childhood trauma — and who am I do disagree with one of the world's most accomplished and beloved authors? — it's hard to deny the similarities between the occurrence and Stand By Me.
What Stephen King book do you still want to see adapted to the screen? Let us know in the comments section!