The Heartbreaking Reason Jerry O'Connell Is Apologizing To A Former Co-Star

Jerry O'Connell first crossed paths with Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, and Corey Feldman in the mid-1980s, when they co-starred in the Stephen King-inspired "Stand by Me." With their poignant performances, the boys, whose ages ranged from 11 to 14, gave us one of the most beloved coming-of-age classics of the decade. Director Rob Reiner knew that the film's success depended on how well O'Connell, Wheaton, Phoenix, and Feldman gelled together, so he ensured the boys bonded before they started shooting, The New York Times reported in 1986.

To achieve his goal, Reiner gathered the young actors in a hotel room in Oregon and had them play games. "If it wasn't for Rob, the acting wouldn't have been half as good," O'Connell said. As a result, the quartet became friends. "When you saw the four of us being comrades, that was real life, not acting," Wheaton said. However, the young Wheaton also had darker reasons to identify with his character, Gordie, a 12-year-old boy living with negligent parents. 

In 2021, Wheaton opened up about how his own experience at home shaped his breakthrough performance. As it turns out, Wheaton become an actor because his parents forced him into it, he told Yahoo!. "Through a combination of an incredible emotional abuse from my father and a lot of manipulation, using me, from my mother, it really put me in that place," he said. O'Connell was just a kid and aware of his friend's personal situation, but he still regrets not doing more.

Jerry O'Connell is apologizing to Wil Wheaton

Whenever Wil Wheaton watches "Stand by Me," he sees his own pain reflected in his character. "I cannot ignore the unbelievable sadness in my eyes," he told Yahoo!. Jerry O'Connell wishes he had paid more attention to his friend's reality. "While I was 11 at the time, that's an excuse, [but] I do want to apologize for not being there more for you when you were younger" O'Connell told Wheaton on "The Talk" on April 14.

O'Connell wanted to use their own shared experience to make a point about compassion. "You never know what someone is going through when you're with them," he said. "I don't feel guilt but I just wanted to say I'm sorry I wasn't there for you more." While Wheaton appreciated his friend's words, he never expected any of his peers to know what he was experiencing. "Everyone who is a trauma survivor knows this — we're real, real, real good at covering up what we're going through," Wheaton said. 

This isn't the first time O'Connell expresses his regret over the situation. Shortly after Wheaton spoke up about his childhood, O'Connell said while hosting "The Talk" (via Entertainment Tonight) he should have picked up on the clues. "If you sense anything is amiss, anything weird, it costs you nothing to go up to them and say, 'Hey is everything OK? Is anything going on? Do you want someone to talk to?" O'Connell said in the May 2021 episode.