(This interview was originally published February 6, 2014 on the now-retired Kickin' it Old School blog. It is one installment in an incredible series of interviews we are republishing on Rediscover the '80s for posterity and your enjoyment. These are more than just interviews in a way; they are more like '80s timelines or oral histories on their respective subject matters. Please keep in mind the original date because some content could be specific to the time of the interview, though the majority should be timeless and totally rad.)
When the opportunity presents itself to ask a few questions to someone who contributed to the awesomeness of the '80s, I will continue to share those answers with you right here. Again, lucky for me (and hopefully you), I do get to share a little more awesomeness with you.
This time that awesomeness is Andy Lindberg. You may not recognize the name, but he played a key character in a great scene from one of my all-time favorite films, 1986's Stand By Me. Lindberg played Davey "Lardass" Hogan (like Charlie Hogan's brother, if he had one) in the awesome pie-eating contest story that Gordie tells by the campfire. Find out about his experiences working on Stand By Me, that iconic scene and more as we get on to some selections from my interview with Andy Lindberg...
Q: How did the role of "Lardass Hogan" in Stand By Me come your way? How were you made aware of the role? What do you remember about the audition process? Who ultimately chose you for the role? Had you had any previous acting experience?
Andy: As I child I had become involved in community theatre at the Portland Civic Theatre. I took classes after school and had been cast in a number of shows for children and on their Main Stage. One of my instructors, Beth Harper, who still teaches theatre at The Portland Actors Conservatory knew someone who was acting as a local casting agent for the film. She told some friends and me about it and we made arrangements to go in.
All we knew at that point was that the movie was based on a Stephen King book and it took place in the 1950's. So the three of us put on white t-shirts, blue jeans, and Chuck Taylor's and went in. The first audition was just each of us on camera (a camcorder, I'm sure) saying our name, height, weight, and any acting credits. I think I even screwed up my first try and I recall doing a second.
Somehow I then heard that the movie was to be based on Stephen King's novella 'The Body' from the book 'Different Seasons'. So I began to read it. The timeline begins to get a bit fuzzy here, but I had a second audition, reading from the script. I cannot really remember what I read, but I began to hope that they were considering me for the role of "Vern". I later heard from a friend at the Civic Theatre that they were considering me for "Lardass". I remember being disappointed, but not heart broken, as I was still in the running for something. I DO recall reading the book, getting to the Lardass chapter and thinking, "Oh no. I bet THIS is what they'll cast me as!"
Eventually, I was asked to come down to Eugene, Oregon (2 hours south of Portland, in the Willamette Valley) to read a third time. My mother picked me up early from school (my parents had always been very supportive of my acting- though my mother had heard about the movie auditions on the radio and decided not to tell me, as we had a big trip planned for the summer) and we drove to Eugene. At the Eugene Hilton, where the film had set up its base of operations, I was shuttled into a room with director Rob Reiner, Producer Andrew Scheinman and writers Raynold Gideon and Bruce Evans (I think. I KNOW Reiner was there.) I read the "goocher" speech that Vern gives in the junkyard. I remember everyone being very nice, and I also recall that I was the only fat kid in the waiting room. I took these as good signs.
A number of weeks passed, before I received a phone call informing me that I'd been cast. The whole experience had become so other-worldly that by the time the phone call came I was not at all surprised. I cannot recall who made the call, but she later told my mother that she was surprised by my lack of emotion upon hearing the news! As far as I was concerned, though, why wouldn't I be cast in the only movie I'd ever auditioned for?!
Q: What were your expectations going into the film? Were you nervous with this being your first feature film? How did you prepare for the role? Did you have any reservations about playing a character known as "Lardass"?
Andy: As I said before, the experience had taken on a certain other-worldly, almost dream-like quality. There was a sense of, what, inevitability to it? Of course I had been cast in a movie! It made total sense, because, well, why not?!
The combination of this feeling of inevitability and my own naivete', and the fact that I hate being the "New Guy" at anything meant that I chose to be very comfortable with the whole thing. I had gone back to the Eugene Hilton for a costume fitting of the fat suit, and had been given a copy of the script. That, and having read 'The Body', seemed to be all the preparation I did. Coming from a theatre background, I expected that we'd rehearse everything and so I didn't worry. In fact, I think I didn't even read the script in more than a cursory way! I sure hope I didn't come off as arrogant. I wasn't! I was just, well, naive.
As for being a character named "Lardass", I have been obese my entire life and, though it was and is a challenge and a source of ridicule when I was young, I figured "F*** You! I'm in a movie, and you are not!"
Q: What can you tell us about Rob Reiner and your experience working with and being directed by him?
Andy: My dad thought it was funny to remind me not to call Rob Reiner "Meathead". I was able to avoid doing this.
My first on-set interaction with Rob Reiner was after the hairdresser had buzzed all of my hair off except for a funny little forelock that poked out, kind of like Tintin's hair. I was marched over to Rob and he had them zip it off. I remember Rob being very kind and funny. I was used to working cooperatively in the theatre, and so, being the naive child actor that I was, I would offer my thoughts on this shot or that moment. My suggestions were always welcomed. I think, in part because I was offering to do more than they expected me to do, or, I hope, because it was just a good idea.
I do recall that Reiner lost his patience with the extras during the crowd shots and kind of gave them a talking-to over the megaphone. I was thankful that he never had a reason to turn that ire on me.
Stand By Me was directed by Rob Reiner and based on The Body by Stephen King. It was released in theaters at the end of summer in 1986. It went on to become the thirteenth highest grossing film that year and remains one of my all-time favorites. The coming-of-age film stars Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Jerry O'Connell and Corey Feldman as four friends going on an adventure to find a dead body. The pie-eating contest scene comes as a story told by Gordie (Wheaton) while the boys sat around the campfire. "Why don't you tell us one about Sergeant Stone and his battling leathernecks?" "Well, the one I've been thinking about is kind of different." Here is most of that wonderfully awesome scene featuring Andy Lindberg as Lardass causing "a complete and total barf-o-rama" in Stand By Me...
Q: How long did it take to shoot your scene from the film? Were there any rehearsals previous to shooting? Was it all scripted out carefully or was there some improvising? Was your scene shot early in the process or late in the process of the total film shoot?
Andy: The pie-eating scene was right in the middle of the shooting of the film. Since none of the principals were in the scene it was a week off for the four boys, though they were hanging around the set. (If you look at the pictures on my website you can see a shot of me walking back to my trailer with Wil Wheaton in the foreground.)
As I stated previously, there were no real rehearsals before we started shooting. The first of the four days we shot (a Saturday) took us up to the moment where we began eating the pies. There was definitely a seat-of-your-pants feel to some of it, especially the special effects (see my comments on the castor oil and eggs). In fact I remember the special effects crew telling us that they still had no idea how they were going to do the vomit at the end of our first day of filming!
Q: You appeared to be wearing some padding to make yourself look heavier than you were. Was that the case? Why was it decided that you'd wear the extra padding?
Andy: "Lardass" was meant to be huge, cartoony huge, and with that in mind I wore a fat suit. The suit consisted of both top and bottom padding and was very hot. The crew was very sweet and would bring me water or cold RC Cola whenever I asked.
My costume over the suit was a pair of size 60 waist Levis! There were several pairs and many identical shirts. I have big feet so they didn't have any shoes that fit me. I wound up wearing my own black Converse Chuck Taylor hi-tops. By the end of the shoot they were sticky, purple, grass-covered wrecks. I should have saved them, but I kept wearing them as my regular street shoes for another year until they fell apart.
People on the film were sensitive to the fact that I was an obese young man playing a character that was shamed for being fat, and so they took pains to point out that I was wearing a fat suit, so it wasn't really ME that was being made fun of. I had no problem with it, but it does help that I was not, and have never been anywhere close to wearing size 60 pants.
Q: I am assuming that the drinking of the castor oil was an optical illusion? Did you actually eat the raw eggs and if so how many takes did you have to do on that?
Andy: The one special effect that they for sure had their s*** together on in advance was the castor oil. It was my very first shot on the film, and to my mind at least, you can tell that the angle of the sun in the shot is low in the sky. But I was there, so I might be making it up.
The special effects crew had drilled a hole in the bottom on a Jack Daniels bottle, filled it with water and added some RC Cola to make it brownish. I kept my finger over the hole until I tipped it to my mouth to drink. The air from the bottle could escape through the hole in the bottom and this prevented the liquid from "glugging" and thus gave the illusion that liquid was thicker. They may have slowed the footage down, but I think it is all just the lack of air bubbles in the liquid that sells it. I recall we did it in one or two takes.
The egg was a different story. I had the idea that I would crack the egg open on my forehead and then drop the egg into my mouth! (See, they TOTALLY took my suggestions!) The special effects crew had scored the egg so it would break more easily and they put a bucket in front of me in case I needed to abort the mission.
On the first take, the egg burst all over my forehead and I ended up dripping egg yolk and shell bits into my mouth. The second and third takes went similarly. We abandoned my idea of breaking the egg on my forehead and on the fourth take (I'm eating these eggs each time, mind you) my arm blocked the egg falling into my mouth. The fifth and final egg was the winner! (Years later when I watched the film on TV with some friends we all ate a raw egg in solidarity.)
Q: Please tell us a little about the actual pie-eating contest. How much actual eating of blueberry pies took place? Were you sticking your face into real pies? What can you tell us about how that part of the scene was created? How sick of blueberries were you after filming the scene? Do you even like blueberry pie and have you continued to eat it at all since then?
Andy: The Pie Eat began on our second day of shooting (Monday). Some bakery in Eugene showed up each morning on-set with hundreds of real blueberry pies. Real pies. The pies had been baked with care and even had rock sugar on top- which cut my face. I had tiny cuts on my nose from forcing my way into the pies.
I did some estimating once and calculated that based on the number of shots and the number of takes I put my face into several hundred pies. I have never liked pie. I didn't like it before the film, and I am not a huge fan now. In fact, on a few occasions I have been served a pie or cobbler with a blueberry filling and it has triggered my gag reflex!
We weren't ever eating the pies (I couldn't have taken it if we were) and one of the bits that was shot but didn't make it into the film was a bit where the voice over describes Lardass "vacuuming up" the pies. The special effects crew had tried using an actual vacuum next to my mouth, shot close to achieve the effect. They even shot from beneath the table with a pie on plexi-glass to try and get the effect to work from below. I remember working very hard to get that effect to work. (That and there is this amazingly determined flash of my tongue as I go back into the pies after the Mayor talks to me.
I love that bit of tongue acting!) One of my most memorable moments, and I think a very fun bit of film, is when Lardass is shot in close coming up out of the pies. He has increasingly more and more pie on his face. In the final such shot he comes up and burbles pie filling out of his mouth before driving back in. That was the ONLY moment when I nearly threw up myself. I was given a paper cup filled with cold pie filling (we'd been in the pies for at least two days by then) and was told to fill my mouth with it, come up into shot, burble and then duck back out of the shot. That mouthful of filling was almost more than I could handle.
I also love that sequence because, if you look closely you can see that (somehow) I got a blueberry in my ear! For continuities' sake (which admittedly is rather bad throughout the scene) they had to put a berry in my ear whenever we reached that point in the contest.
Q: Then what can you tell us about the special effects used to simulate the vomiting part? How did you spew what looked like gallons of blueberry sauce on your opponent? How much fun was covering him "with five pies worth of used blueberries"?
Andy: The first attempt at vomiting was done with a power washer filled with blueberry pie filling. Poor Dick Durock ["Bill Travis"] was blasted with however many hundreds of PSI of pie! That, needless to say, did not work.
In the end, they built a rig made from a ten-gallon cylinder with a plunger on top and a hosepipe at the bottom. The hose then snaked along the floor, up my leg, beneath my shirt to the side of my face away from camera. Five guys (at least) would push on the plunger, forcing the mixture of blueberry pie filling and large curd cottage cheese out through the 3-inch hose that was literally attached to the side of my face with tape.
All I had to do was open my mouth as wide as possible and turn my head. From that moment on in the shoot there was not a second that some part of me wasn't sticky with pie filling. Smaller versions of the rig were built for the other guys on the dais who threw up.
(A friend who worked in a movie theatre in California told me that they had to clean up vomit after EVERY showing.)
Q: Any interesting other stories or facts about creating your memorable scene from Stand By Me that you can share with us and let us in on? What are some of your best memories from being in Stand By Me?
Andy: In no particular order here are some random memories:
Kiefer Sutherland was working on the sound crew during the filming of my scene.
It got so hot on set that the cakes on display in the background began to melt.
In at least one of the takes of the crowd barfing there is a crying child in the front, actually throwing up.
To shoot the crowd vomiting, numbered ziplock bags (1, 2, 3) were passed around. Before the camera rolled the extras put the pie filling in their mouths, trying to look natural. When your number was called you barfed out your pie filling.
Q: What were your feelings about your scene and the film as a whole when you first saw the final version in 1986? Where and when did you first see it? Did you see it in a theater with a regular audience and how much fun was it watching/hearing their reaction to your scene in the film?
Andy: I liked the film when I first saw it. I think I was a little old for the film when it came out (15 going on 30). But I have always felt it was a film I would have enjoyed even if I hadn't been in it.
I told all my friends that I would see it with them when it came, so I ended up seeing it many, many times in the theatre. The first time was with my family at the (now gone) Southgate Cinema in Milwaukie, Oregon. It was rather surreal. Up to the moment I saw my scene for the first time I only had my own, first-person memories of the various shots. Suddenly, here was an outside eye showing me my own life (as it were). Those first few viewings were the closest to an out-of-body-experience I may ever have!
Q: Were you recognized at all afterwards for your role in the film? What changed for you personally after your role in Stand By Me? Were you ever asked to enter or judge any pie-eating contests?
Andy: I never really looked like the character of David "Lardass" Hogan. I wore my hair rather long in high school, and was never as big as Davey was. So I always chuckled and sort of went along with people who said they recognized me. It never happened on the street, but mainly at social gatherings, where I always assumed someone was told who I was and they happened to "spot me" in the crowd and "recognize me from the movie." I was, and still am, flattered by the attention people give me from the role.
The attention from people who enjoyed the film is probably the largest legacy in my life from the movie. It gave people with whom I had no connection or acquaintance the opportunity to connect. I am always happy to share about the film. (And if you were in a film I loved, I'd want to hear about it from you, too!)
There was a time when the attention could be a little overwhelming, but that ended long ago. I will say, the film still has a lot of street cred. Most younger people don't know the film as well and often they give me attention because their parents are huge fans! That makes me feel old, for sure.
I have yet to attend another pie eating contest (though, yes I have been asked many times), and if the universe is kind I never will!
Q: What are your feelings about the film Stand By Me and your part in it now over 27 years later?
Andy: It is strange to have an event that took place nearly 30 years ago be such a presence in my life. For better and for worse, this amazing opportunity has shaped my life. Certainly for better it has opened doors, opened hearts of strangers, and perhaps for the worse it has set a very high bar for what I can consider "success" in life.
If ever I am flipped s*** about the character name, or a lack of other big film credits, I simply ask, "What beloved American film were YOU in?" That tends to shut down that line of attack and we can move on to talk about the castor oil or the vomit tube!
Q: Why did you surprisingly not go on to appear in other feature films following your excellent portrayal in Stand By Me? Was this by your own choice?
Andy: Though my family was very supportive of my acting as a kid, I would never have thought to ask them to move to L.A., and that was what would have had to happen for a film career. Portland, Oregon was always going to be the next big movie city, but that didn't happen.
Truth be told, I have always looked at acting as a very selfish endeavor. I did it because I enjoyed it. I wasn't interested in changing lives with it or educating audiences. I had a great time performing. I almost studied Theatre in college, but, again, I just felt selfish about that. In the end, I have had a variety of amazing careers, mainly in science education.
And... in 2008, I dropped it all and moved to New York to pursue acting! Life is dumb sometimes.
Q: Please tell us a little about some of the things you have been doing since Stand By Me.
Andy: The project I'm most excited about, currently, is an Oregon history podcast called Kick Ass Oregon History. Soon to be released weekly, the podcast is a partnership between me and longtime friend Doug Kenck-Crispin, who is pursuing his Masters in Public History from Portland State University. The podcast is a rather irreverent mix of history, commentary and music, all with the goal of having fun learning about my home state of Oregon.
I am so pleased that Andy was able to take some time to answer some questions so I could share them with you here. You can find out more and keep up with him at his official AndyLindberg.com website.
I want to take this occasion to again thank Andy Lindberg for his contributions to '80s pop culture especially through his pie-eating portrayal of "Lardass" in Stand By Me and, even more, for going back to the '80s with us here for a little while as well.