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5 Things You Might Not Know About Richard Donner & Steven Spielberg's 'The Goonies'

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by Oliver Lyttelton
June 7, 2012 11:05 AM
2 Comments
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The Goonies

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 today, on June 7, 1985, and to mark the occasion, we've assembled a treasure trove of facts about the picture that would do One-Eyed Willie proud. Check it out below.

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.

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2 Comments

  • Mike | June 7, 2012 3:00 PMReply

    I knew all of that. The octopus is in the version they used to show on the disney channel, along with the scene where Troy burns the map in the store. Weak article. Tell me something new or good.

  • nik | June 7, 2012 2:42 PMReply

    Epic one, a truly unforgettable movie. good job, oliver.

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