The Life And Career Of Actor Jerry O'Connell

Jerry O'Connell got his start in the entertainment industry at just 11 years old. His acting career launched after starring in the beloved coming-of-age film "Stand By Me," in which he plays the iconic Vern Tessio. Working in a movie alongside the likes of River Phoenix, with Rob Reiner as the director, he clearly got a lucky big break from the get-go. As a matter of fact, as far as Vanity Fair's concerned, "Stand By Me" is the best Stephen King movie adaptation. Not bad for an 11-year-old just starting out. Even so, O'Connell's film career wasn't always so smooth.

Despite his early success, O'Connell faced a lot of rejection. "Obviously I didn't get a few roles," he confessed during an interview with Paramount Plus. He goes on to say that he was so used to getting amazing parts early on in his career that he was disappointed when he didn't get cast in the "Mod Squad" remake. "I remember thinking at the time, 'I can't believe they didn't cast me. I'm in 'Sliders!' ....What?" he said.

Of course, he now realizes that not everyone in show business is lucky enough to get their start in a film as iconic and critically acclaimed as "Stand By Me." Still, O'Connell's passion for entertainment lives on to this day. Nowadays, O'Connell and his wife Rebecca Romijn are hosting the reality dating series "The Real Love Boat" on CBS. Keep reading to learn more about the lovable actor.

He is a family man through and through

Jerry O'Connell has said he used to think his acting career, which started when he was still a kid, would always be his number one priority. But once he got married to model Rebecca Romijn and became a father to twins, the things that mattered most to O'Connell had significantly shifted.

As O'Connell recalled to People, he and Romijn connected at a Las Vegas party back in 2004, while Romijn was in the middle of divorcing "Full House" star John Stamos. Although there was no funny business going on between O'Connell and Romijn in Sin City, the two did have immediate chemistry. A couple months later, she and the "Jerry McGuire" actor started to date. And the rest is history.

Although O'Connell is madly in love with his wife, it still took a bit of time before he could adjust from "Hollywood big shot" to "family man." Of the transition, he said on CBS' "The Talk" (via Yahoo!), "I always put work first. It's just what I did. It's kind of how I was raised...when I met my wife and we had kids my wife was like 'You can't,' there was a specific job, and my wife was like 'You can't do it. You can't leave me alone. We have twins.'" He went on to add, "My wife made me prioritize my family over making money. By the way, it was a fight, but my wife was right."

Jerry O'Connell's other half was a big Stand By Me Fan

Everyone and their mother is in love with the movie "Stand By Me," which is of course based on the Stephen King novella from the 1980s. But perhaps no one is a bigger fan of the film than Jerry O'Connell's wife, supermodel Rebecca Romijn. As O'Connell said on "The Talk," he is constantly flabbergasted as to why someone as beautiful, intelligent, and funny as Romijn would want anything to do with him. As O'Connell said on "Live! With Kelly and Ryan," "Even my family was like, 'Why is your wife doing this?'"

And after learning some details about Romijn, he now has a theory as to why they ended up happily ever after. Evidently, when the actor began dating the runway icon, her good friend let him in on some crucial information. As he shared on "Kelly and Ryan," apparently, Romijn was obsessed with "Stand By Me" while growing up, and even had multiple posters of the film on her wall throughout her childhood. Things started to add up for the actor. He joked that the beloved coming-of-age film is the reason he's married to such a ten-out-of-ten knockout.

Jerry O'Connell was 'unrecognizable' after Stand By Me

"Stand By Me" helped launch the careers of actors River Phoenix, Wil Wheaton, Jerry O'Connell, and Corey Feldman. That said, O'Connell maintains that he never received the same level of recognition as the others. But that's not because Vern Tessio had less of an impact than the other kids. Instead, it is due to the fact that O'Connell lost a significant amount of weight following the film's release. As he told Jess Cagle for People, he went through puberty around that time, which changed his overall appearance. "I got tall ... and it just stretched out," he said. O'Connell added that he'd also started working with a personal trainer who not only set him up with a workout routine, but guided him toward a more nutrient-based diet. 

So while O'Connell's first feature film role got the ball rolling on his career, it did not exactly make it impossible for him to go out to dinner with his family without getting swarmed by fans. "Some might say I was a little huskier when I was younger and then I grew out of it, so I was unrecognizable as that kid," he told "So when someone does recognize me, it's rarely for 'Stand By Me.'

He was a 'troublemaker' during his childhood

Jerry O'Connell wasn't exactly known for being a bashful little angel during his youth. In fact, while chatting with ET all the way back in 1986, fellow "Stand By Me" stars River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, and Wil Wheaton said they considered O'Connell to be the "troublemaker" of their friend group. Just like the kids in the film, the "Stand By Me" cast became incredibly close once the cameras stopped rolling. While they all engaged in mischievous behavior while on set, O'Connell was probably the biggest pot-stirrer of them all. 

But the trouble didn't start while he was on set. As the "Kangaroo Jack" actor told Andy Cohen for 92NY, he has always struggled with being on his best behavior during his schooling days. This wasn't because he wanted to stir up trouble necessarily, but a result of his high energy level. "I had been called ... hyperactive, that was the word I always heard in parent-teacher conferences," he shared, noting that he was led to believe he was doing something wrong. It wasn't until he got his role in "Stand By Me" that he wasn't reprimanded for his excitable ways; for the first time in his life, it was encouraged. "I found it to be the most freeing place in my life at the age of 11," he said. "It was the only place I felt... just like me."

Jerry O'Connell has a reality TV star brother

It's always entertaining to learn about celebrities that you had no idea were related to one another. This is certainly the case for Jerry O'Connell and his brother, fellow actor Charlie O'Connell. Back in 2005, the "Dude, Where's My Car?" supporting actor starred on "The Bachelor." According to PeopleTV's "Chatter," filming the competitive dating series was no walk in the park for Charlie. "It did get pretty stressful toward the end, I could tell, for my brother," Jerry revealed. "It definitely peaks into a stressful situation."

Fortunately, Charlie won't have to go back on any dating reality shows anytime soon, because he got married in 2018 and evidently has left Hollywood for a life of fishing on the East Coast. But Charlie isn't the only O'Connell with ties to the wonderful world of reality TV. According to Jerry, he is a mega-fan of any and every reality TV show that he can get his hands on. "We watch probably an unhealthy amount of reality — or if we want to get fancy — unscripted television," he shared on "CBS Morning" while promoting "The Real Love Boat" with Rebecca Romijn. And hey, when they aren't busy watching unscripted fare, they get to host their very own dating reality show. Maybe his brother Charlie will make a guest appearance?

The drama between the O'Connells and The Bachelor

As Jerry O'Connell made abundantly clear on "CBS Morning," he's a huge reality TV show fan — may we not forget that Bravo gave him a short-lived reality TV late night chat show — but that doesn't mean he has too many nice things to say about "The Bachelor." Evidently, he feels his family was forced to endure a "harrowing" experience on the reality series back in 2005 when his brother Charlie O'Connell was that year's Bachelor. On an episode of Justin Long's "Life is Short" podcast, Jerry pointed out that the incredibly long days, intense activities, and constant flow of alcohol was a heavy-handed recipe for drama. "At around 4 or 5 a.m. is when they get the good stuff for their show. ... That's why people are hysterical on that show all the time," he said. 

According to Jerry, a producer apparently offered his mother a glass of wine to try to loosen her up so she'd be critical of contestants on camera, but she turned it down. "I gotta say, after that experience with my mom, my parents, myself, we really wanted nothing to do with this production," he said. "And it was acrimonious." 

It sounds like Charlie wasn't the most popular behind the scenes. As former "Bachelor" host Chris Harrison told Us Weekly, "Really, the only one I think I had a hard time getting along with was Charlie O'Connell back in the day." Harrison clarified that they didn't clash. "It just didn't blend," he said.

How the actor was finally able to quit smoking

During an episode of "The Talk," on which Jerry O'Connell serves as one of the hosts, the subject of smoking cigarettes came up. O'Connell shared that he struggled with giving it up. According to the actor, he had been hooked on cigarettes since he was a high schooler, and because he has been at it for so long, it was incredibly challenging to shake off the habit. It wasn't until he married his wife, Rebecca Romijn, that he was finally able to quit. According to O'Connell, Romijn was also a smoker when they first met. But once she gave birth and they had twins, the "Ugly Betty" actor realized they had a duty to stop.

"I met my wife, we were smoking ciggies," he told his "The Talk" co-hosts. "Then we were going to start a family and my wife poof stopped. I couldn't stop. We had kids and I was running outside [to smoke]. My wife one day said to me 'I don't want that smell in my house.' My wife said 'I'm not touching you until you quit.'" Evidently, that tactic did the trick. 

The actor went on to add, "The second I accepted that the cravings never went away [I was able to quit]. It really helped me to not have a cigarette coming up on ten years."

How Stand By Me still factors into his everyday life

For a long while, Jerry O'Connell was eager to move on from "Stand By Me." Although filming the classic '80s flick based on the Stephen King novel was one of the biggest highlights of his life, he has said he didn't exactly enjoy some of the attention he received following the major success of the movie's release. As he shared with ET, "If people would ever say to me, 'Hey, you were the fat kid in "Stand By Me,"' it used to make me angry." 

Yet as time passed, O'Connell could acknowledge how much of an impact the movie had both on his own life and on the lives of movie lovers across the globe. As per The Wrap, on an episode of "Live with Kelly," he fondly remembered one time he and his co-stars got ahold of some fireworks. As he put it, "It was the happiest moment of my adolescence." He continued, "We loaded up a car with them and went to River's house and lit those up all night long."

To this day, he and his family recreate the "happiest moment" from his childhood with their own set of fireworks. "We go buy a trunk-load of fireworks and light those mofos off on the beach because of my happiest memory from 'Stand by Me,'" he revealed to The Wrap. "The light in the summer sky in July right now is exactly the same as it was when we were shooting the film."