Andy Lindberg in Stand by Me. (Columbia Pictures)
In the annals of classic cinematic vomiters — a list that includes such formidable chunk-blowers as Mr. Creosote in The Meaning of Life and Regan MacNeil in The Exorcist— one name still stands supreme: Lard-Ass Hogan. Thirty years ago this summer, this portly hero showed moviegoers what an epic Barf-o-Rama looks like in the 1986 coming-of-age classic, Stand by Me, directed by Rob Reiner. The brainchild of fledgling author Gordie Lachance (Wil Wheaton) — the fictional stand-in for Stephen King, who wrote The Body, the novella the film is based on — Lard-Ass endures years of taunts and abuse from his friends and neighbors, due to his sizable appetite and prodigious gut. All the while, he waits for the perfect moment to exact his revenge, and finds it during his small town’s annual pie-eating contest. With the aid of a bottle of castor oil, a raw egg and a bottomless stack of pies, Lard-Ass turns an ordinary tent into a blueberry-colored vomitorium.
The Lard-Ass sequence is one of the defining moments of Stand by Me, and continues to reduce audiences of all ages to gasping laughter. But not everyone emerged from the Barf-o-Rama unscathed. “To this day, I can’t eat blueberry pie,” actor Andy Lindberg, who brought Lard-Ass to life onscreen, admits to Yahoo Movies. “And there are certain pastries that trigger my gag reflex, because they taste like whatever that blueberry pie filling was.” Fortunately, the experience didn’t cause Lindberg to lose his appetite for acting. And when he’s not auditioning for roles, he hosts the podcast Kick Ass Oregon History, based in the state where Stand by Me was shot three decades ago. We spoke with Lindberg about the legacy of Lard-Ass, and whether he’s ever gotten Stephen King’s seal of approval.
I first saw Stand by Me when I was 8 years old, and Lard-Ass made an instant impression on me. It was this perfect piece of juvenile humor dropped in this very serious coming-of-age story. Did it strike you as hilarious when you first read the scene on the page?
During the audition process, I had figured out the movie was going to be based on The Body. So I read the book, and remember getting to the Lard-Ass scene and really enjoying it. The way I have come to see it is that it’s the calm before the storm; it’s a little bit of comic relief before the story goes to its darkest place. Because the next morning, they find the dead body, and events just keep moving towards the dark conclusion. So having that bright spot in the arc of the story helps make it stand out more. It’s so childlike and goofy, it establishes the contrast with the loss of childhood in the last chapter of the movie. And because you’ve had this moment to laugh and relax, you’re more emotionally available for the things that happen afterwards.
Growing up, I was one of my school’s fat kids, so Lard-Ass’s revenge always resonated with me. Was it easy for you to get into the mindset of being one of those outcast social groups in the school ecosystem?
No, but it was very easy to get into that headspace. When I read the script, I skipped over the humor of the sequence and went straight to sympathizing with Lard-Ass, and identifying with the fact that he’s put upon and made fun of. I went to a high school across town from my neighborhood, so I only knew a few people. And these were the days where you could be mercilessly bullied at school, and it was just treated as: “Oh, that’s what people do.” It was very easy to identify with the way that he felt. The irony is that because I played Lard-Ass, after the summer of 1986, I was a celebrity in my high school! Everyone claimed to know me so they could be associated with the film, so I ended up benefiting from it!
What sort of padding was required to transform you into Lard-Ass?
They either built or rented a two-piece fat suit. I would put on legs with suspenders and then a big padded top. They had Size 60 Levi’s jeans that I would wear when I had the suit on. That padding made it a more comfortable role to do. People sometimes asked me, “Weren’t you embarrassed [to be that fat]?” And I was like, “No, it was all pretend.” And when people really used to have a go at me, my response was, “Well, what beloved American movie were you in?” And unless they were one of those Goonies kids, we didn’t need to talk. [Laughs.]
What are some of the sights and smells that you remember from filming that sequence?
Being on the set was actually pretty businesslike. I mostly remember the small, funny details, like how much care had gone into the hats worn by the Benevolent Order of Antelopes. And there were a couple of scenes that we filmed that didn’t make it into the final cut, like a scene where they used a vacuum cleaner to show how quickly Lard-Ass was sucking up the pies. Some of the pies melted because it was so hot.
After awhile, it got pretty rancid, and there was only so much cleanup they could do. There was just sticky, hot, decomposing blueberry pie gook all over the place. Every day when I would leave the set, I had grass clippings and blueberry pie stuff stuck to my shoes. In one of the big group vomit scenes, they passed out bags of this blueberry pie filling that people concealed in their mouths. They’d call out a number and the No. 1s would spit theirs up. When they called cut after one scene, there was this little 5-year-old kid in the front who was crying. It turned out that he had actually thrown up all over himself! I have no idea if that take made it into the movie.
What was it like to watch that sequence in the finished film?
It was strange, because until I went to the theater that first night in 1986 with my family, I only had memories of the scene from my own perspective. So to see it from the camera’s perspective was the closest thing to an out-of-body experience I think I’ll ever have. I had such vivid memories of every single moment and take, so it was really fascinating to be sitting there watching something that happened to me being shown on the screen for everyone else.
Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Jerry O’Connell, Corey Feldman in Stand by Me. (Everett)
Even without the Lard-Ass fat suit, are you still recognized sometimes?
Not much anymore. There was a time when I would get recognized or notice someone pointing me out. For a broad age group, it was one of those standard kids’ movies you saw. But it’s not part of my everyday life [anymore]. It’s not something I bring up when I meet people, but if it comes up, I’m always happy to talk about it. People tell me about the first time they saw it, or what their favorite parts are, or what it means to them. It really is part of their childhood. I’ll go to auditions sometimes, and someone will see that on my résumé and they’ll just brighten up! To see the effect it has on people is really amazing.
I recently showed Stand by Me to my son, and it was a real joy watching the film with him. Have you watched it with younger viewers?
I’ve watched it with friends’ kids. The difference in how I look between being a child and an adult man means that it takes them a little while to recognize that it’s me. I’ve had some people say they didn’t recognize me until the moment where Lard-Ass crosses his arms and smiles. They’re like, “That’s your smile!” I’ve also worked on and off in youth development over the years, and because it’s rated R, I could never show it in school. I refused to show the edited version where they bleep out the word “Ass” and just chant, “Lard, Lard, Lard!” That’s just wrong.
Andy Lindberg (andylindberg.com)
Looking back, what’s the most gratifying thing about having been involved with Stand by Me?
I’m so fortunate that it’s a good movie! I know all kinds of people who, even that summer, shot other movies and had bigger roles, but you’ve never heard of them because they weren’t good movies. I don’t know what the right way to put it is, but to think that a thing I had an amazing time doing is so important to so many people is just an incredible feeling.
Has Stephen King ever reached out to tell how he feels about the movie’s version of Lard-Ass?
No, he hasn’t! People ask me if I met him on set, but I don’t remember him being involved at all. I’ve never heard what he thought of that interpretation of his story. I’d love to know, if you can get hold of him.
We’re happy to help! After this interview, Yahoo Movies reached out to Stephen King on email for his thoughts about the Lard-Ass sequence:
Stephen King: It was beautiful, because the puking was done in a way that was so surreal, it didn’t make anyone feel ill. Not tasteful — you can’t really make projectile vomiting tasteful — but it really was very funny.
Watch the Stand by Me trailer: