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16 Nostalgic Facts About Stand by Me

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In 1986, a Stephen King novella in which a writer reminisces about the formative 48 hours he spent with his best friends searching for a dead body became the classic film Stand by Me. Here are some facts about the Rob Reiner-directed movie that will ensure you aren’t stupid for the rest of your life.

1. IT CAME FROM THE SAME STORY COLLECTION AS THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION.

Stand by Me came from the story “The Body,” which was part of Stephen King’s 1982 collection Different Seasons. The collection also included “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption,” which was adapted into The Shawshank Redemption in 1994. ("Apt Pupil," which Bryan Singer adapted for the big screen in 1998, was in there, too.) For the movie, “The Body”’s setting was changed from Maine to Oregon, and the year from 1960 to 1959.

2. ADRIAN LYNE WAS ORIGINALLY SUPPOSED TO DIRECT.

But the future director of Fatal Attraction promised himself a vacation, which would have significantly delayed filming. Rob Reiner, who had recently made the transition from actor to director with This is Spinal Tap and The Sure Thing, stepped in.

3. COCA-COLA ALMOST SHUT DOWN THE MOVIE ENTIRELY.

The soda company bought Embassy Pictures, the film's original production company, and announced they weren’t going to fund Stand by Me just two days before they were set to start shooting. Television legend Norman Lear—who had worked with Reiner for years on All in the Family—was one of the three owners of Embassy prior to its sale. He believed in the project enough that he agreed to personally foot the film's $8 million budget.

4. RICHARD DREYFUSS WAS AT LEAST THE THIRD CHOICE TO PLAY ADULT GORDIE.

David Dukes was cast, and allegedly was filmed playing the part, but ultimately it was decided that he did not have the “right voice” for the part. After Michael McKean gave it a shot, Dreyfuss nailed it. Reiner and Dreyfuss had known each other since they were 15 years old.

5. REINER HAD THE KIDS PLAY THEATER GAMES BEFORE FILMING BEGAN.

Wil Wheaton (then 12), River Phoenix (14), Corey Feldman (13), and Jerry O’Connell (11) met Reiner and some of the crew in an Oregon hotel suite in June of 1985 to perform games based on Viola Spolin’s Improvisation for the Theater to develop trust in one another. The actors did things like mirror each other and talk each other through traversing the hotel lobby while blindfolded.

6. PHOENIX LOST HIS VIRGINITY DURING FILMING.

Reiner remembered that Phoenix came into work one day “with this big smile on his face” after spending the night with a family friend. Feldman drank alcohol, kissed a girl off-screen, and smoked pot for the first time during that fateful summer of 1985.

7. WHEATON FIXED THE GAMES IN THE HOTEL SO THAT THEY COULD PLAY FOR FREE.

Phoenix told Wheaton that if he managed to pull it off, he would take the blame for him.

8. REINER HAD TO YELL AT O’CONNELL AND WHEATON SO THEY WOULD LOOK SCARED.

The young actors were never in danger of actually getting hit by the train, thanks to the use of a 600mm image-compressing camera lens. Because of this, Vern and Gordie weren’t looking fearful enough in the scene, meaning that they had to shoot take after take with an exhausted crew pushing a heavy camera down the train tracks. Their director lost his temper, screaming that they were “f*cking this thing up” and threatened their lives. Reiner got his shot.

9. PHOENIX HAD TROUBLE TURNING OFF HIS EMOTIONS.

Reiner again was forced to provoke unwanted emotions from his young stars, asking Phoenix to think of a time when an adult let him down before shooting the scene where Chris had to talk about how worthless he felt. Once they got it down, Phoenix couldn’t stop crying. Reiner hugged him to help stop the tears.

10. THE ACTORS DIDN’T SEE THE DEAD BODY UNTIL THE CHARACTERS DID.

The idea was to get the most authentic reaction possible by not revealing Ray Brower’s body to the kids until the last possible moment.

11. JERRY O’CONNELL WAS FRIGHTENED OF KIEFER SUTHERLAND.

Sutherland played bully Ace Merrill, and liked to stay in character off-camera. The three more seasoned actors playing the good guys didn’t seem to care; O’Connell was legitimately scared. Presumably a part of staying in character for Sutherland was rolling a car off a sand bank with John Cusack, who played Wheaton's late brother.

12. O’CONNELL GOT SO HIGH THAT PRODUCTION HAD TO BE SHUT DOWN FOR AT LEAST A DAY.

In two late night talk show appearances, Sutherland claimed that O’Connell managed to tie his babysitter to a banister and escape to a Renaissance Fair. Unfortunately, according to Sutherland, young Jerry’s cookies had pot in them. He was allegedly found two hours later crying in a parking lot.

13. REINER CAME UP WITH THE TITLE.

Columbia Pictures didn't like the idea of using The Body as the movie title for a variety of reasons. Reiner thought naming it after the Ben E. King song that plays at the end of the movie would be good. Co-writer Raynold Gideon said Reiner's suggestion was the “least unpopular option.”

14. STEPHEN KING WAS IMPRESSED.

After Reiner screened the finished product for the author, King excused himself for 15 minutes. When he returned, he said it was the first time one of his stories was successfully put on film. King even applauded Reiner for changing it so that Gordie picks up the gun instead of Chris, wishing he had thought of that in the first place.

15. PHOENIX WAS A "TOTAL WRECK" BY THE END OF FILMING.

After his critically acclaimed role, the young actor said he identified so much with his character, Chris Chambers, that if he didn’t have his family to go home to, he would have needed a psychiatrist.

16. THE TOWN OF CASTLE ROCK WAS ACTUALLY BROWNSVILLE, OREGON.

Stand by Me was also shot in and around the Oregon towns and cities of Eugene, Veneta, Franklin, and Cottage Grove. (The only part of the movie shot in California was the scene where the boys outrun the train.) At the Brownsville visitors center today, there is a map that displays all of the movie's locations in five different languages. Rob Reiner named his production company Castle Rock Entertainment after the fictional town.

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The Origins of 5 International Food Staples

Food is more than fuel. Cuisine and culture are so thoroughly intertwined that many people automatically equate tomatoes with Italy and potatoes with Ireland. Yet a thousand years ago those dietary staples were unheard of in Europe. How did they get to be so ubiquitous there—and beyond?

1. TOMATOES

For years, the wonderful fruit that’s now synonymous with Italy was mostly ignored there. Native to South America and likely cultivated in Central America, tomatoes were introduced to Italy by Spanish explorers during the 1500s. Shortly thereafter, widespread misconceptions about the newcomers took root. In part due to their watery complexion, it was inaccurately thought that eating tomatoes could cause severe digestive problems. Before the 18th century, the plants were mainly cultivated for ornamental purposes. Tomato-based sauce recipes wouldn’t start appearing in present-day Italy until 1692 (although even those recipes were more like a salsa or relish than a sauce). Over the next 150 years, tomato products slowly spread throughout the peninsula, thanks in no small part to the agreeable Mediterranean climate. By 1773, some cooks had taken to stuffing tomatoes with rice or veal. In Naples, the fruits were sometimes chopped up and placed onto flatbread—the beginnings of modern pizza. But what turned the humble tomato into a national icon was the canning industry. Within Italy’s borders, this business took off in a big way during the mid-to-late 19th century. Because tomatoes do well stored inside metal containers, canning companies dramatically drove up the demand. The popularity of canned tomatoes was later solidified by immigrants who came to the United States from Italy during the early 20th century: Longing for Mediterranean ingredients, transplanted families created a huge market for Italian-grown tomatoes in the US.

2. CURRY

Bowl of chicken curry with a spoon in it

An international favorite, curry is beloved in both India and the British Isles, not to mention the United States. And it turns out humans may have been enjoying the stuff for a very, very long time. The word “curry” was coined by European colonists and is something of an umbrella term. In Tamil, a language primarily found in India and Sri Lanka, “kari” means “sauce.” When Europeans started traveling to India, the term was eventually modified into “curry,” which came to designate any number of spicy foods with South or Southeast Asian origins. Nonetheless, a great number of curry dishes share two popular components: turmeric and ginger. In 2012, traces of both were discovered inside residue caked onto pots and human teeth at a 4500-year-old archaeological site in northern India. And where there’s curry, there’s usually garlic: A carbonized clove of this plant was also spotted nearby. “We don’t know they were putting all of them together in a dish, but we know that they were eating them at least individually,” Steve Weber, one of the archaeologists who helped make this astonishing find, told The Columbian. He and his colleagues have tentatively described their discovery as "proto-curry."

3. THE BAGUETTE

Several baguettes

A quintessential Gallic food, baguettes are adored throughout France, where residents gobble up an estimated 10 billion every year. The name of the iconic bread ultimately comes from the Latin word for stick, baculum, and references its long, slender form. How the baguette got that signature shape is a mystery. One popular yarn credits Napoleon Bonaparte: Supposedly, the military leader asked French bakers to devise a new type of skinny bread loaf that could be comfortably tucked into his soldiers’ pockets. Another origin story involves the Paris metro, built in the 19th century by a team of around 3500 workers who were apparently sometimes prone to violence during meal times. It’s been theorized that the metro foremen tried to de-escalate the situation by introducing bread that could be broken into pieces by hand—thereby eliminating the need for laborers to carry knives. Alas, neither story is supported by much in the way of historical evidence. Still, it’s clear that lengthy bread is nothing new in France: Six-foot loaves were a common sight in the mid-1800s. The baguette as we know it today, however, didn’t spring into existence until the early 20th century. The modern loaf is noted for its crispy golden crust and white, puffy center—both traits made possible by the advent of steam-based ovens, which first arrived on France’s culinary scene in the 1920s.

4. POTATOES

Bowl of red, white, and black potatoes on wooden table

Historical records show that potatoes reached Ireland by the year 1600. Nobody knows who first introduced them; the list of potential candidates includes everyone from Sir Walter Raleigh to the Spanish Armada. Regardless, Ireland turned out to be a perfect habitat for the tubers, which hail from the misty slopes of the Andes Mountains in South America. Half a world away, Ireland’s rich soils and rainy climate provided similar conditions—and potatoes thrived there. They also became indispensable. For millennia, the Irish diet had mainly consisted of dairy products, pig meats, and grains, none of which were easy for poor farmers to raise. Potatoes, on the other hand, were inexpensive, easy to grow, required fairly little space, and yielded an abundance of filling carbs. Soon enough, the average Irish peasant was subsisting almost entirely on potatoes, and the magical plant is credited with almost single-handedly triggering an Irish population boom. In 1590, only around 1 million people lived on the island; by 1840, that number had skyrocketed to 8.2 million. Unfortunately, this near-total reliance on potatoes would have dire consequences for the Irish people. In 1845, a disease caused by fungus-like organisms killed off somewhere between one-third and one-half of the country’s potatoes. Roughly a million people died as a result, and almost twice as many left Ireland in a desperate mass exodus. Yet potatoes remained a cornerstone of the Irish diet after the famine ended; in 1899, one magazine reported that citizens were eating an average of four pounds’ worth of them every day. Expatriates also brought their love of potatoes with them to other countries, including the U.S. But by then, the Yanks had already developed a taste for the crop: The oldest record of a permanent potato patch on American soil dates back to 1719. That year, a group of farmers—most likely Scots-Irish immigrants—planted one in the vicinity of modern-day Derry, New Hampshire. From these humble origins, the potato steadily rose in popularity, and by 1796, American cookbooks were praising its “universal use, profit, and easy acquirement.”

5. CORN

Corn growing in a field

In the 1930s, geneticist George W. Beadle exposed a vital clue about how corn—also known as maize—came into existence. A future Nobel Prize winner, Beadle demonstrated that the chromosomes found in everyday corn bear a striking resemblance to those of a Mexican grass called teosinte. At first glance, teosinte may not look very corn-like. Although it does have kernels, these are few in number and encased in tough shells that can easily chip a human tooth. Nonetheless, years of work allowed Beadle to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that corn was descended from teosinte. Today, genetic and archaeological data suggests that humans began the slow process of converting this grass into corn around 8700 years ago in southwestern Mexico. If you're wondering why early farmers showed any interest in cultivating teosinte to begin with, while the plant is fairly unappetizing in its natural state, it does have a few key attributes. One of these is the ability to produce popcorn: If held over an open fire, the kernels will “pop” just as our favorite movie theater treat does today. It might have been this very quality that inspired ancient horticulturalists to tinker around with teosinte—and eventually turn it into corn

BONUS: TEA

Person sitting cross-legged holding a cup of green tea

The United Kingdom’s ongoing love affair with this hot drink began somewhat recently. Tea—which is probably of Chinese origin—didn’t appear in Britain until the 1600s. Initially, the beverage was seen as an exotic curiosity with possible health benefits. Shipping costs and tariffs put a hefty price tag on tea, rendering it quite inaccessible to the lower classes. Even within England’s most affluent circles, tea didn’t really catch on until King Charles II married Princess Catherine of Braganza. By the time they tied the knot in 1662, tea-drinking was an established pastime among the elite in her native Portugal. Once Catherine was crowned Queen, tea became all the rage in her husband’s royal court. From there, its popularity slowly grew over several centuries and eventually transcended socioeconomic class. At present, the average Brit drinks an estimated three and a half cups of tea every day.

All photos courtesy of iStock.

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10 Filling Facts About A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving
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Though it may not be as widely known as It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown or A Charlie Brown Christmas, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving has been a beloved holiday tradition for many families for more than 40 years now. Even if you've seen it 100 times, there’s still probably a lot you don’t know about this Turkey Day special.

1. IT’S THE FIRST PEANUTS SPECIAL TO FEATURE AN ADULT VOICE.

We all know the trombone “wah wah wah” sound that Charlie Brown’s teacher makes when speaking in a Peanuts special. But A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, which was released in 1973, made history as the first Peanuts special to feature a real, live, human adult voice. But it’s not a speaking voice—it’s heard in the song “Little Birdie.”

2. IT WASN’T JUST ANY ADULT WHO LENT HIS VOICE TO THE SPECIAL.

Being the first adult to lend his or her voice to a Peanuts special was kind of a big deal, so it makes sense that the honor wasn’t bestowed on just any old singer or voice actor. The song was performed by composer Vince Guardaldi, whose memorable compositions have become synonymous with Charlie Brown and the rest of the gang.

“Guaraldi was one of the main reasons our shows got off to such a great start,” Lee Mendelson, the Emmy-winning producer who worked on many of the Peanuts specials—including A Charlie Brown Thanksgivingwrote for The Huffington Post in 2013. “His ‘Linus and Lucy,’ introduced in A Charlie Brown Christmas, set the bar for the first 16 shows for which he created all the music. For our Thanksgiving show, he told me he wanted to sing a new song he had written for Woodstock. I agreed with much trepidation as I had never heard him sing a note. His singing of ‘Little Birdie’ became a hit."

3. DESPITE THE VOICE, THERE ARE NO ADULTS FEATURED IN THE SPECIAL.

While Peanuts specials are largely populated by children, there’s usually at least an adult or two seen or heard somewhere. That’s not the case with A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. “Charlie Brown Thanksgiving may be the only Thanksgiving special (live or animated) that does not include adults,” Mendelson wrote for HuffPo. “Our first 25 specials honored the convention of the comic strip where no adults ever appeared. (Ironically, our Mayflower special does include adults for the first time.)”

4. LUCY IS MOSTLY M.I.A., TOO.

Though early on in the special, viewers get that staple scene of Lucy pulling a football away from Charlie Brown at the last minute, that’s all we see of Chuck’s nemesis in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. (Lucy's brother, Linus, however, is still a main character.)

5. CHARLIE BROWN AND LUCY STILL KEEP IN TOUCH.

Though they only had a single scene together, Todd Barbee, who voiced Charlie Brown, told Noblemania that he and Robin Kohn, who voiced Lucy in the Thanksgiving special, still keep in touch. “We actually went to high school together,” Barbee said. “We still live in Marin County, are Facebook friends, and occasionally see each other.”

6. CHARLIE BROWN HAD SOME TROUBLE WITH HIS SIGNATURE “AAARRRGG.”

One unique aspect of the Peanuts specials is that the bulk of the characters are voiced by real kids. In the case of A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, 10-year-old newcomer Todd Barbee was tasked with giving a voice to Charlie Brown—and it wasn’t always easy.

“One time they wanted me to voice that ‘AAAAAAARRRRRGGGGG’ when Charlie Brown goes to kick the football and Lucy yanks it away,” Barbee recalled to Noblemania in 2014. “Try as I might, I just couldn’t generate [it as] long [as] they were looking for … so after something like 25 takes, we moved on. I was sweating the whole time. I think they eventually got an adult or a kid with an older voice to do that one take."

7. LINUS STILL GETS AN ENTHUSIASTIC RESPONSE.

While Barbee got a crash course in the downside of celebrity at a very early age—“seeing my name printed in TV Guide made everyone around me go bananas … everybody … just thought I was some big movie star or something,” he told Noblemania—Stephen Shea, who voiced Linus, still gets a pretty big reaction.

"I don't walk around saying 'I'm the voice of Linus,'" Shea told the Los Angeles Times in 2013. "But when people find out one way or another, they scream 'I love Linus. That is my favorite character!'"

8. THANKS TO LINUS, THE THANKSGIVING SPECIAL GOT A SPINOFF.

As is often the case in a Peanuts special, Linus gets to play the role of philosopher in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and remind his friends (and the viewers) about the history and true meaning of whatever holiday they’re celebrating. His speech about the Pilgrims’ first Thanksgiving eventually led to This is America, Charlie Brown: The Mayflower Voyagers, a kind of spinoff adapted from that Thanksgiving Day prayer, which sees the Peanuts gang becoming a part of history.

9. LEE MENDELSON HAD AN ISSUE WITH BIRD CANNIBALISM.

In writing for HuffPo for A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving’s 40th anniversary, Mendelson admitted that one particular scene in the special led to “a rare, minor dispute during the creation of the show. Mr. Schulz insisted that Woodstock join Snoopy in carving and eating a turkey. For some reason I was bothered that Woodstock would eat a turkey. I voiced my concern, which was immediately overruled.”

10. MENDELSON EVENTUALLY GOT HIS WAY ... THOUGH NOT FOR LONG.

Though Mendelson lost his original argument against seeing Woodstock eating another bird, he was eventually able to right that wrong. “Years later, when CBS cut the show from its original 25 minutes to 22 minutes, I sneakily edited out the scene of Woodstock eating,” he wrote. “But when we moved to ABC in 2001, the network (happily) elected to restore all the holiday shows to the original 25 minutes, so I finally have given up.”

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