In the last couple of years, a spate of films, from Joe Cornish‘s “Attack The Block” to J.J. Abrams‘ “Super 8,” have named one film as a particular influence: Richard Donner‘s “The Goonies,” the 1985 kids’ adventure film that served as part of the 1980s golden age of Amblin, Steven Spielberg‘s production company. Following a group of working class kids from the ‘Goon Docks’ of Astoria, Oregon, on one last adventure before their homes are demolished, only to end up on a quest, and pursued by a vicious criminal family, the Fratellis, the film is a rollicking adventure that also had a particular feel for the friendships between kids.
Providing early introductions to people like Josh Brolin, Martha Plimpton, Corey Feldman and Sean Astin, the film’s become an enduring family favorite, and as the kids who grew up on it have become directors themselves, its reputation has only grown. The movie hit theaters 27 years ago on June 7, 1985, and to mark the occasion, Indie Wire assembled a treasure trove of facts about the picture that would do One-Eyed Willie proud.
1. The shoot was great fun for all involved, except Richard Donner, who was wound up by the kids, and had a hands-on producer in Steven Spielberg.
By 1985, Steven Spielberg was keen to be taken more seriously as a film director: he was helming “The Color Purple,” with “Empire of the Sun” to follow not long afterward. But he’d also established Amblin Entertainment to make the kind of family adventures he had become famous for, and “The Goonies” was a particular passion project for him. He had come up with the story, and had hired his young protege, “Gremlins” writer Chris Columbus, to pen the screenplay, before selecting Richard Donner (who’d mentored Spielberg during his TV directing days) to helm the project. But as ever, Spielberg was hands on, to the extent that some of the cast saw him as something of a co-director — Sean Astin says as much in his biography. By most accounts, Donner was firmly in charge, but it doesn’t seem to have been the easiest of working relationships; the director’s friend and editor Stuart Baird told Hotdog Magazine in 2004 that “I think it was a difficult time because it’s very difficult to have a producer on the show who’s also a director. And I think Dick allowed Spielberg to shoot a lot of second until stuff. He had known Spielberg for a long time – I think he’d been kind to [Spielberg] when he had been a kid, letting him come on a stage and watch shoots of the TV shows and stuff, and they had always talked about working with each other – but I would imagine it wasn’t the warmest or easiest of collaborations.” Donner was getting it on two fronts; while we adored the kids, they could be a handful to work with. He joked at the time: “I think the unique thing about working with the kids on this picture is that every night I’m contemplating suicide. Individually, they’re wonderful, the warmest little things that have come into my life. But in composite form you get them together and it’s mind-blowing.” And Astin acknowledged that they were pranksters on set, but says they were usually able to disarm Donner. “He’d get mad when we were goofing around sometimes,” the actor told the magazine, “But while he was screaming his lungs out we’d play a joke on him, like squirting him with water or something. Then it would be hard for him to be mad because he’d be laughing too much.”
2. That being said, Spielberg did surprise Donner by flying the cast out to Maui for a wrap party.
As wound up as Donner could be by his young stars, there was a huge bond between the director and his Goonies, so he was a little perturbed to find them keeping their distance, and even behaving a little coldly towards him on the final week of the shoot. The film wrapped, with little in the way of goodbyes, and Donner flew out to his beach house in Maui, Hawaii, for some much needed R&R. After a long trip, he finally got there, only to find his young cast waiting for him, ready for a cookout and final wrap party. As it turns out, Jeff Cohen, who played Chunk (and later retired from acting to become a successful entertainment attorney), had come up with the idea, and had taken it to Spielberg, who loved it. But the producer was afraid that the cast would give the game away, and had ordered them to keep their distance from Donner, in case someone spilled the beans. Amazingly, it went off without a hitch, and became famous within the industry as one of the truly great wrap parties.
3. John Matuszak, who played Sloth, was a famously hard-partying former player for the Oakland Raiders
One of the film’s most indelible creations was ‘Sloth’ Fratelli, the deformed but good-hearted Fratelli who ends up coming to the rescue of the Goonies. The character was played not by an experienced actor, but by John Matuszak, a 6’8″, 280 pound former defensive linesman for the Oakland Raiders, known to fans as the Tooz. Matuszak had been the first draft pick back in the day, but his career had long been overshadowed by a hard-partying lifestyle, and heavy drug use (Sports Illustrated would later place him among the top five NFL bad boys). After spending the 1982 season injured, Matuszak turned to acting with roles on TV series including “The Dukes of Hazzard” and “The A-Team,” as well as features “Caveman” and “The Ice Pirates,” before he got the part of Sloth. The make-up took a whopping five hours to apply (with an eye that was operated by remote control), and if it got wet, had to be reapplied from scratch — something that, as soon as they realized, gave Josh Brolin and some of the other young cast enormous power over Matuszak. The actor died four years later of a heart attack, thought to be caused by steroid use.
4. There was an entire deleted scene where the crew battle an octopus.
At the end, when Data tells his mother of their adventures, you’d be forgiven for being a little confused when he says that they fought off an octopus, despite that not having taken place in the film. The sequence, in which Data fends off the aquatic beast by putting a tape recorder in its mouth, playing the Arthur Baker-produced “Eight Arms To Love You,” created especially for the film, was scripted and shot, but eventually trimmed. This caused some problems, as Baker and musical director Cyndi Lauper had hoped the song would be a big hit. As it turns out, it did become something of a dancefloor favorite, making it to number one on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Songs chart, and inspiring the odd stop-motion video below. That wasn’t the only video that came off the album (which also included The Bangles and REO Speedwagon): Donner directed an epic, cameo-packed video for Lauper’s theme-tune to the movie, “The Goonies R Good Enough,” which included appearances from the film’s cast, The Bangles, Spielberg and a selection of wrestlers, including Andre The Giant. Earlier this year, Lauper recorded a new version for an episode of Fox animated series “Bob’s Burger” that pays tribute to the movie.
5. Nearly 30 years on, a sequel looks unlikely, but there may be a Broadway musical version soon.
“The Goonies” was a pretty big hit when it opened in June 1985: it was beaten to the top spot by “Rambo: First Blood Part II,” but ended up in the ten top domestic grossers in the year. But for a long time, it looked like the closest it would get to a sequel would be the 1987 NES video game “The Goonies II.” But as the film became an enduring cult classic, Donner and Spielberg came up with an idea, and met with writers, but no one could crack it: Donner told Empire at a cast reunion in 2009 that “We tried for a long time. Steven and I had many meetings… but nothing stuck. It seemed disrespectful… No hope.” However, continuations in other mediums may be more likely: an animated series, which would see the adult Goonies passing the torch to younger kids, was in the works at Cartoon Network, but deals couldn’t be signed with the cast. But a Broadway musical version remains in the early stages, with Donner telling Collider last year that, “We’re getting good outlines and good story. I’d say hopefully we’ll have a good script maybe by the middle of this year, around September or October, we’ll have a script that we can go to from there. It’s a long process, Broadway, it’s amazing. It’s frightening in a strange way. But we only get great reactions from everybody, everybody wants to see it. It seems like a great idea, and we’ll persevere. A musical of ‘Goonies’ on Broadway? But it’s gotta be irreverent, and it’s gotta be ‘Goonies.'”