Former Child Star Says Acting Was "Forced on Him"
"I don't want to do this. I just want to be a kid. Let me be a kid."
Stand by Me is one of the most beloved coming-of-age movies of all time, but behind-the-scenes, star Wil Wheaton was struggling in his own adolescence. In a new interview with Access Hollywood, Wheaton, who also appeared in Star Trek: The Next Generation as a teen, claimed he was forced to act as a child, even though he begged his mother to stop making him. The actor also said that he relates to his Stand by Me character, Gordie Lachance, because of the issues they both had with their fathers.
This isn't the first time that Wheaton has opened up about his home life while he was a child star. Read on to see what Wheaton has to say and for his family's response.
Wheaton came to fame in the 1980s.
Wheaton's first movie and TV acting credits are from around the time he was nine and 10 years old. His breakthrough role in Stand by Me came when he was 14. He went on to star in Star Trek: The Next Generation, and the movies Toy Soldiers and Flubber, among many other roles.
Wheaton is still working in entertainment today, though as an adult, he has focused more on voiceover roles and hosting. Some recent onscreen appearances as an actor include The Big Bang Theory and an episode of Star Trek: Picard. He's also a writer; his most recent book is titled Still Just a Geek.
He claims acting was "forced" on him.
In the interview with Access Hollywood, as part of their "Surviving Child Stardom" series, Wheaton said that he was made to be an actor by his mother, against his will, when he was a child.
"Acting was actually something that was forced on me," Wheaton said. "I have these very clear memories of saying over and over, 'I don't want to do this. I just want to be a kid. Let me be a kid.'" He continued, "I just learned as a child, if I'm gonna be happy, if I'm gonna get attention and approval from my parents—that I think every child absolutely deserves unconditionally—I have to do what Mom wants. And maybe if I do what Mom wants, for some reason, Dad will love me."
Wheaton also said that he considered ending his life when he was a teenager. "I'm so grateful that, for whatever reason, I didn't make [irrevocable] choices when I was younger … I am a survivor," he said.
It's painful to watch himself in Stand by Me.
Wheaton was asked what he notices about his younger self when he watches Stand by Me now, and he responded, "How sad I look. It hurts. It hurts my heart to see that little boy, to see how much he's hurting."
The 49-year-old also shared how he relates to his character. "The fundamental motivating force in Gordie Lachance's life is his line, 'My dad hates me. I'm no good,'" Wheaton said. "That was how I felt and I didn't know it." Of his father, Wheaton said, "There was a time in my life where he made a choice that I wasn't his son, I was [his mother] Debbie's thing."
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His family deny the claims.
In a statement to Access Hollywood, a spokesperson for Wheaton's family said, "Wil's entire family is shocked by these allegations. We have always been a tight-knit close, loving family." They added that Wheaton's mother "is not giving up hope for reconciliation."
In a lengthy post on his website, Wheaton shared that he was not surprised by his family's reaction and went further in depth about the situation. He claimed that his mother has for a long time lied about his desire to act and about them being a close family.
One of his co-stars apologized.
In a 2021 interview with Yahoo!, Wheaton claimed that his mother told him what to say to a potential agent. "I didn't want to be an actor when I was a kid. My parents forced me to do it, my mother made me do it," he said. "My mother coached me to go into her agency and tell the children's agent, 'I want to do what mommy does.'"
The topic also came up when Wheaton appeared on The Talk in April 2022, which is co-hosted by his Stand by Me co-star Jerry O'Connell. O'Connell apologized for not being there for Wheaton when they were making the film. Wheaton responded, "I deeply appreciate that … You were 11. How could you have possibly known? Also, everyone in the audience who is a trauma survivor knows this: We're real, real, real good at covering up what we're going through."