The Goonies epitomizes ’80s movies. The 1985 film had the perfect combination of comedy and adventure, with a memorable cast to boot. It’s also one of those movies that seems more fun to make than it is to watch – and it is a heck of a fun movie to watch! While some points of the production were great and would make any fan envious, the making of The Goonies wasn’t a walk in the park for either director Richard Donner or the cast of mostly inexperienced kids.
They pushed through, though, gave it their all, and ultimately delivered. It proved to be Hollywood’s seventh-biggest box-office hit of 1985 and eventually became a cult classic which sits at number 13 on Rolling Stone’s 25 greatest movies of the 1980s. After all, what’s not to love about a gang of friends on the hunt for One-Eyed Willy’s treasure?
Steven Spielberg is the brains behind The Goonies, as he came up with the story, but he didn’t direct it. Spielberg served as an executive producer on the film. After having done such a great job working with kids on E.T., you would think he would have jumped at the chance to work with kids again, but Spielberg handed off the directing job to Richard Donner.
Donner was someone who admitted to never having liked children, so it was a bit of a wonder why he was chosen. Donner himself was bewildered by the choice: “My first thoughts were, ‘why me?’” he confessed. He said Spielberg told him he was busy doing something else, “and he thought I was as big a kid as he was, and he gave it to me.”
Working with inexperienced child actors turned out to be a mixed bag for Donner: “The annoying thing was the lack of discipline,” he said. But he also said that it was great “because it meant that they weren’t professionals.” What came out of the young actors was instinct, and that, to Donner, “was beautiful.”
Still, it’s not easy directing inexperienced kids who don’t quite get timing. So, Donner had to make many cuts. As a result, they “were all over the place, never on the same marks.” Funnily enough, the cast of kids thought it would be funny to prank Donner during the making of the film. Richard Donner recalled one especially mischievous prank that the cast pulled on him.
There was a water scene in which the gang first sees the boat. Donner explained how there was a wet suit and a dry suit. With the wet suit, you “strip down to your skivvies” to put on this hard, rubber suit so that you stay dry. The dry suit, on the other hand, can be put on over your shoes and clothes and just zip it at the top: “you’re in and out, and it’s easy.”
When he went to put it back on, he found himself saying, “Oh, no.” The water seeped into his clothes. The kids had undone his zippers when he was talking to someone. “I mean, they’re devils. But they were children having the time of their lives with all the freedom that they could.”
The former NFL defensive end John Matuszak does not look anything like Sloth in real life. The football turned Hollywood star had to spend four hours every single day in the makeup chair to become the character Sloth. The hardest part of doing his makeup was attaching the googly eye, which was actually mechanically controlled with a remote.
A major challenge was keeping that eye totally dry since water could cause it to malfunction. Donner had to warn the kids not to get any water whatsoever on Matuszak. But they only pretended to listen: “Bang, first take, John is covered in water. They ran over, as the characters, in glee seeing him, and they drenched him.”
The Goonies set became a hot spot. Actors such as Dan Aykroyd, Harrison Ford, and Pee-wee Herman all came to visit while the film was in production. Corey Feldman, who played Mouth, said that Michael Jackson came to the set so often that “he was basically part of the cast.”
The way Feldman remembers it, it was “like we had the coolest set on the lot.” He remembers Harrison Ford walking the caves with them. “We felt like we were in Indiana Jones.” Speaking of M.J., it is pretty noteworthy that the ‘80s pop idol was on the set as much as he was, considering he never had even one scene in the movie.
Not only did Jackson not appear in the film – he wasn’t a part of the soundtrack, either. According to Jeff Cohen, who played Chunk in the film, the only way Jackson was even remotely involved in the film was due to the fact that Jackson came to his house to use the bathroom.
As Cohen’s story goes, Donner invited Jackson to the site. Another peculiar way in which Jackson was intertwined into the making of the film was in one scene. While filming the scene where the pipes burst on them, Donner just couldn’t get the reaction he was looking for from the kids. So, he told them that Michael Jackson would be watching the shoot. He got the reaction he wanted…
Josh Brolin, the A-lister who would come to star in films like No Country for Old Men and Milk (for which he earned an Oscar nomination) and became a comic book staple with Deadpool and The Avengers movies, made his movie debut playing Brand in The Goonies.
Remember him? He was the high school athlete and Mikey’s older brother. Funnily enough, there’s one scene where Sean Astin, who played Mikey, accidentally called Brolin by his real name. The small goof occurred in the scene after Chunk breaks the water cooler in the abandoned restaurant’s basement.
Most of the movie was filmed in Astoria, Oregon, but within the film’s fantasy world, it was in the same world as another major ‘80s movie. Here’s a fun little Easter egg for both ‘80s movie fans and admirers of Steven Spielberg: The Goonies actually “exists” in the same universe as the Gremlins, which is also a Spielberg film. Remember the scene where the cop believes Chunk is pranking him over the phone again?
The cop that Chunk is talking to recalls one of Chunk’s stories about “little creatures that multiply when you pour water on them.” That’s right – it’s a reference to Gremlins. Spielberg executively produced both films, and screenwriter Chris Columbus wrote both as well. Oh, and Corey Feldman appeared in both, too.
Spielberg produced the film, but he also directed a few scenes in The Goonies too. He secretly directed the scene in which the boys bang on the underground pipes and the wishing well scene. When it comes to shooting, most films are not shot in chronological order. But The Goonies was.
Typically, a production schedule dictates when the scenes are to be filmed. But in this case, Donner opted to shoot it almost entirely in order, just as Spielberg did for E.T., because he wanted to get the most out of his young actors. What it did, though, was add about five months to the production schedule.
Most fans say their favorite scene in The Goonies is the “Truffle Shuffle.” It’s the scene where Chunk has to perform a dance for his friends in order to be let into Mikey’s house. Apparently, Donner felt so bad about asking Jeff Cohen to film the scene that he couldn’t stop thinking about it for years.
The director told Uproxx: “There was no direction. I don’t take any credit for that; it was just Jeff. He had to stand on that stump and be ridiculed by his friends so he could come in the house, and he did it as best as that character could do it.”
Donner pointed out that a lot of humor comes from pain. But, he’s sure Cohen was too young to be analytical about it. “It was a painful scene.” Cohen didn’t dwell on that scene as much as Donner seemingly did.
The kid became the captain of both his high school wrestling team and football team. And after graduation, he became a successful entertainment lawyer. “My clients get a kick out of the fact their lawyer is Chunk,” he proudly admitted. “They dig it. With my job, I’m dealing with legitimately famous people, so it’s just silly and fun. I’m usually only the fifth most famous person in the room at any one time.”
Cohen may look back at his Truffle Shuffle days with nostalgia these days, but as a young kid, it wasn’t always fun and games. That scene was “really hard” for Cohen. He explained that, “as a fat kid, the last thing you want to do is show your belly to everybody. So that’s horrifying, to begin with.”
It wasn’t just his weight that he was uncomfortable with. Another reason he was afraid to do it was because he had chicken pox at the time, and the scars were mostly on his stomach. He knew he had to show his stomach, and with chicken pox, “it would be a mess.” Cohen says that if you pause that scene, you can spot his scars.
On more than one occasion, Donner wanted the kids to have the most honest, natural reactions on film. And when it came to seeing One-Eyed Willy’s pirate ship, their reactions were, in fact, genuine. The crew built an actual pirate ship on the sound stage.
The vessel was nicknamed The Inferno, and it was 105 feet long and took two and a half months to complete. The kids were denied access until it was completed. They only saw the ship for the first time while Donner was filming. It was such a spectacular sight that some of them let out a few curse words. The scene was then re-shot without the swearing.
Die-hard football fans know that John Matuszak was a controversial bad boy as the Oakland Raiders’ defensive end. But to the cast, especially the kids, Matuszak was seen as a sweetheart. Cohen got to know the Super Bowl champion well because they had extended scenes together.
“When I was a teenager, and I would start to watch the old NFL films, they would have films of John playing for the Raiders. He was one of the meanest players in the history of the league. He would just terrify people on the field, which was totally shocking to me. I knew him as Sloth, the nice, lovable giant.”
Donner wanted authentic performances, so when it came to Sean Astin’s scene, when he tells his friends the saga of One-Eyed Willy, he made sure it was real. As it turns out, a lot of Astin’s monologue in the scene was unscripted.
All Donner did was simply lay out plot points, and he told Astin to fill in the rest of the story as the cameras were rolling. His plan worked as the scene became an inspiring one. It also helped to show audiences the bond that Mikey felt with the pirate.
At the end of the movie, when the kids reunite with their families, Data, played by Jonathan Ke Quan, tells a reporter, “The octopus was really scary!” The scene he was referring to was deleted from the final cut. In the cut-out scene, Data had to fight off an octopus by playing the song “Eight Arms to Hold You” on his Walkman. The octopus then danced away.
The scene actually made it onto the 2001 DVD release. Even though it was deleted, the song appeared on the movie’s soundtrack, and it became a hit on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play charts.
Speaking of deleted scenes…
Another deleted scene involved two gorillas who were supposed to steal Troy’s car after escaping from the zoo. The scene was meant to be part of the opening car chase in order to further increase the hectic vibe of the sequence.
After deciding that Troy would need his car to annoy the Goonies, the producers decided that cutting this scene would be to the film’s benefit. And so, there were these two oddly placed character actors in gorilla suits who got paid for nothing pretty much. But I’m sure they didn’t complain.
Jeff Cohen eats a lot of food throughout the film, including everything from chips to pizza to chocolate bars. It was whipped cream, though, that put the young actor over the edge. There was one scene where he said, “Oh God, am I depressed,” and squirts whipped cream into his mouth.
Well, it may come as no surprise that Cohen actually got sick from all the whipped cream in that specific scene. He refers to that experience as “the hazard of being a fat kid in show business.” Again, he’s moved on from it…
In one of the film’s most memorable scenes, Chunk is interrogated by the Fratelli brothers, who were played by Robert Davi and Joe Pantoliano. The brothers threatened to put Chunk’s hand in a blender if he didn’t tell them everything they needed to know.
Chunk panicked and listed all his past indiscretions, and then started crying. Cohen later revealed that those on-screen tears were indeed real. “The way they got me to cry… is they actually pulled the little hairs out of the bottom of my neck. It would make me cry, and it was so scary, so that was my version of method acting.”
The Fratelli family was a bunch of hardened criminals who act as the film’s main antagonists. There were four Fratellis in total: an unnamed mother and her three sons, Jake, Francis, and Sloth. After learning of the possibility of finding One-Eyed Willy’s treasure, they started living in an old building with a way into the caverns.
Mama Fratelli was played by Anne Ramsey, who only turned to acting in her later years. She appeared in a few small but memorable roles. She was actually nominated for an Academy Award for her role in Throw Momma from the Train. Jake was played by director Robert Davi who acted in the films Die Hard and License to Kill. Joe Pantoliano, who played Francis, was a television actor.
It turns out that Richard Donner also directed a music video for The Goonies, and it was Cyndi Lauper’s “Goonies ‘r’ Good Enough.” The song even became a Top 10 hit. It consisted of a two-part video featuring most of the film’s cast, as well as Steven Spielberg, the musical group The Bangles, and a bunch of professional wrestlers.
Fast forward to 2012, and Lauper recorded a new version of the song for an episode of the Fox animated show Bob’s Burgers, which was obviously a tribute to The Goonies.
During the last week of shooting, Donner noticed that the kids had stopped paying attention to him. The director got upset. He later admitted that he even said to his wife at the time, “I hate kids. And I hate these kids.” He said they became the professionals he never thought they were.
At the wrap party, they ignored him. But it was all part of an elaborate prank set up by the mastermind Steven Spielberg. The producer told the young actors that he would pay for all of them to go on a week’s vacation in Hawaii, where Donner had a house. But there was one condition…
Spielberg told them he would only pay for their vacation if they agreed to ignore the director for a week. Then, the entire cast and their families would just show up at Donner’s Hawaiian beach house to surprise him. They pulled it off, and they surprised him.
The deal was for them to spend a few hours there and then go to another island. But Donner decided to keep them around. “We had a great BBQ, and everybody came. But it was them. That’s the first time they ever had to act because up until then, they were themselves.”
In most cases, when a movie involves young actors of school age, there is required schooling. For all the kids in The Goonies, despite the gap in ages, they all shared one teacher and worked in the same trailer. Books and supplies were brought in, and the teacher was even hired to live on set and help them keep up with their studies.
The name of the teacher who sacrificed so much to help these kids keep up to par with their peers is Rhoda C. Fine. The cast thought of her as a sweet and motherly figure. You can see her in some behind-the-scenes photos. The actress who played Andy, Kerri Green, left Fine a gift (a carving) that read, “Goonies 4 Ever.”
An insane amount of makeup and prosthetics were required in order to craft Sloth’s face. John Matuszak, a naturally large man, was selected to play the part because of his powerful stature. The man in charge of the makeup department was Ellis Burman.
Burman decided that the best way to make the character look deformed was to make his eyes particularly unusual. So, they created a prosthetic mask that would alter the structure of Matuszak’s face. One of the eyes was set normally so he could actually see, but the other was a fake that was set lower. His teeth were also modified – with a strip that would cover up his real teeth and display the fake ones.
Sean Astin is the son of Oscar-winning actress Patty Duke, and he embarked on his own screen career with his movie debut as the lead of The Goonies. Astin went on to star in the action-thriller film Toy Soldiers (1991) and played the football underdog in Rudy (1993).
He then began his sidekick roles as Samwise Gamgee in The Lord of the Rings trilogy in the early 2000s. He later started directing and doing voice-over work and also appeared in series like Stranger Things. Astin also competed in multiple marathons and promoted fitness through his #RUN3rd Twitter campaign.
James Brolin appeared in Pee-wee’s Big Adventure in the same year as The Goonies, where he showed off his future leading man chops as the protective big brother Brand. But his climb to the A-list wasn’t an immediate one. The actor turned to day trading in 2002 to make an income.
It wasn’t until 2007/2008 that he started acting in high-profile features like No Country for Old Men and Milk. He followed those with Oldboy (2013), Inherent Vice (2014) and Sicario (2015). His intimidating glare meant he was well-suited for villainous roles in comic book blockbusters like Avengers: Infinity War (2017) and Deadpool 2 (2018) and Avengers: End Game (2019).
Following his role as Chunk, Jeff Cohen appeared in 1986’s TV movie Ask Max and series like Family Ties. But he left his acting career behind to become a true academic. He graduated from the UCLA School of Law, went into entertainment law, and co-founded Cohen Gardner LLP in 2002.
Cohen earned industry praise as he was mentioned in Variety’s Dealmakers Impact Report. He contributed to publications like The Huffington Post and Backstage, and in 2015, he wrote The Dealmaker’s Ten Commandments: Ten Essential Tools for Business Forged in the Trenches of Hollywood.
Most people who watched The Goonies remember the gadget-wielding Data from his performance as Short Round in Indiana Jones as well as in the Temple of Doom (1984). After playing a part in later seasons of Head of the Class and 1992’s Encino Man, Jonathan Ke Quan vanished from American screens.
He decided to reinvent himself as a stunt coordinator for movies like X-Men (2000) and Jet Li’s The One (2001). He then went back to acting, making a comeback two decades later with projects like Finding Ohana.
Kerri Green enjoyed her big-screen debut as cheerleader Andy in The Goonies, after which she played parts in Summer Rental (1985) and Lucas (1986). But fame wasn’t in the stars for Green, who made sporadic appearances in shows like Mad About You and Murder, She Wrote.
She kept her foot in the door, though, by forming the Independent Women Artists production company. Later, she directed the teen pregnancy movie Bellyfruit in 1999, featuring a young Michael Peña. Green has largely remained out of the public eye, other than her role in the 2012 film Complacent.
By the time he played the troublemaker Mouth, Corey Feldman was already an industry veteran. He became a top child star of the era with his characters in Stand By Me (1986), The Lost Boys (1987) and License to Drive (1988). But transitioning into adulthood wasn’t an easy path for Feldman, who was arrested for heroin possession in 1990. Ever since, he struggled to get his career back on track.
He was on the reality show The Surreal Life in 2003, and four years later, he joined another troubled former child star, Corey Haim, for the reality show The Two Coreys. After Haim died in 2010, Feldman highlighted what he claimed to be an epidemic of child abuse in Hollywood. He wrote a memoir in 2013 called Coreyography, and in 2020 he made a documentary called (My) Truth: The Rape of 2 Coreys.
By the time she was cast as Andy’s best friend and Mouth’s antagonist, Martha Plimpton was already busy working as a model and actor. After The Goonies, she was in The Mosquito Coast (1986) and Running on Empty (1988). She went on to appear in indie flicks throughout the ‘90s and became a serious actress with performances in Hobson’s Choice and Coast of Utopia the following decade.
Plimpton also enjoyed success on TV, with starring roles in the sitcoms Raising Hope and The Real O’Neals. In 2012, she earned an Emmy for The Good Wife, and she has advocated for reproductive rights as a co-founder of the nonprofit organization ‘A is For.’
Under all that makeup and prosthetics, the man behind Sloth is the 6-foot, 8-inch John Matuszak. The former top NFL draft pick won two Super Bowls as the defensive lineman of the Oakland Raiders. He was also in the popular football movie North Dallas Forty in 1979.
He made a full-dive into acting with credits in films like The Ice Pirates (1984) and One Crazy Summer (1986). He then wrote his autobiography in 1987 called Cruisin’ with the Tooz. Sadly, he died in 1989 from a prescription drug overdose.
The longtime stage actress Anne Ramsey started getting steady acting work in TV and film in the 1970s. But, it was her performance as villain Mama Fratelli that sparked her late-career resurgence, leading to an Academy Award-nominated role as the matriarch of Throw Momma from the Train (1987).
Unfortunately, she succumbed to throat cancer in 1988. Her later roles, however, made her a sought-after actress to her very end. Remember her in Doctor Hackenstein, Scrooged and Homer and Eddie? All those films were released in the months following her death.
The role of Jake Fratelli was just one in a series of tough-guy roles for Robert Davi. You might remember him as drug lord Frank Sanchez in 1989’s License to Kill and later in Predator 2 (1990), Showgirls (1995) and The Iceman (2012).
Unsurprising to anyone who listened to him sing in The Goonies, Davi released an album of Frank Sinatra standards in 2011. He also has a podcast and was involved with the Heart of a Child Foundation and the Humane Society of the United States. His latest performance was as famed gangster Vito Genovese in 2019’s Mob Town.
The other half of the Fratelli brothers was Joe Pantoliano, who carved out an impressive career as one of the most recognizable character actors in Hollywood. He followed The Goonies with roles in Midnight Run (1988), The Fugitive (1993) and Bad Boys (1995).
Of course, one of his biggest films was The Matrix (1999), and he got an Emmy in 2003 for his performance as Ralphie Cifaretto in The Sopranos. He came back with the popular cop buddy franchise Bad Boys for Life in 2020. “Joey Pants” sought to erase the stigma of mental illness through the publication of two memoirs and the nonprofit, No Kidding? Me Too!!
The original cast of The Goonies reunited for a special cause in December 2020. Josh Brolin, Sean Astin, Martha Plimpton, Corey Feldman, Kerri Green, Jonathan Ke Quan, Jeff Cohen, Joe Pantoliano, and Robert Davi all took part in a reunion on December 5th to raise money and awareness to benefit No Kid Hungry.
It’s the second time that year that the cast reunited. They previously joined Josh Gad for his series Reunited Apart during the summer. To date, the reunion has been watched well over 3 million times.