In the 1980s, the Steven Spielberg brand was untouchable. His was the gold standard for popular entertainment: in addition to the classic movies he personally directed in this period, Spielberg also acted as producer on the blockbusters Poltergeist, Gremlins and, perhaps most importantly of all to kids of a certain age, The Goonies.
Produced by Spielberg, written by Gremlins scribe Chris Columbus and directed by Superman’s Richard Donner, The Goonies was a perfect storm of family entertainment. And what was only modestly popular then, in 1985 a box office sleeper hit and critical smash, has by now become a bona fide cult item. You guys, here are 20 things you never knew about The Goonies.
20. It was Josh Brolin’s first film
Josh Brolin, of Avengers, Sicario and Deadpool 2 fame, has been hard at work in the film industry for 35 years. Now Oscar-nominated, and a major player in not one but three Hollywood franchises, it’s hard to believe that Brolin’s career actually started with The Goonies back in 1985. Playing the big brother character to Sean Astin’s Mikey Walsh was Brolin’s big-screen debut, and helped him land a starring role in Thrashin’, the 1986 skateboarding retelling of Romeo and Juliet.
From there, Brolin went on to star in the Private Eye TV series, as well as other popular 80s properties such as 21 Jump Street. Brolin didn’t seriously return to film until 1994, but he quickly regained momentum with films like No Country for Old Men and Milk. It was these back-to-back movie performances that helped to rocket him to stardom, and they were all a result of having appeared in The Goonies.
19. John Matuszak had to spend a ridiculous amount of time in the makeup chair
He may have been used to physical challenges, but even for former NFL star John Matuszak, playing Sloth in The Goonies must have been taxing. Matuszak had to spend five hours in the makeup chair every day to transform into Sloth, with Matuszak also having to constantly contend with the nuisance of a remote-controlled mechanical eye. Matuszak (right) had played imposing characters before, and even characters that were similarly geared more towards physical acting than dialogue. However, none of his previous performances as cavemen or fantasy creatures had required quite so much time in the make-up chair.
Given his five hours every morning in the makeup chair, it’s no surprise that Matuszak never again played another character with such high-maintenance costuming. In fact, he mostly stayed away from fantasy creatures altogether, instead playing characters in much more grounded properties, like Miami Vice.
18. The One-Eyed Willy skeleton is no prop
Think the skeleton of One-Eyed Willy was just something knocked up by the props department? Think again. The bones of One-Eyed Willy that we see in the film are real, and they once belonged to a man who died of lead poisoning named Raul Woo. The story of One-Eyed Willy’s skull being from a real man who had died has been widely circulated, including his name.
In fact, Woo’s name has even featured in cast lists, and on websites related to the movie, with Woo treated like a real-life actor in the film despite him not technically doing any acting. However, only One-Eyed Willy’s skull was rumoured to have belonged to Woo – the rest of the skeleton did not consist of real bones. The skeletons of One-Eyed Willy’s crew were also fake and fully poseable, with one clutching his throat as though Willy had caused his death via poisoning.
17. The Inferno was a life-sized working ship
One-Eyed Willy’s ship, like One-Eyed Willy himself, was not all just some product of camera trickery. The Inferno was a real, life-sized working ship built especially for the film over the course of two-and-a-half months. Once completed, the ship measured 105 feet long and was so impressive that Josh Brolin cursed upon first seeing it, ruining a take. All the cast members had an extreme reaction upon seeing it for the first time, which is exactly what the director wanted.
In fact, those working behind the camera wanted to preserve the cast’s shocked and awed reactions so much that they banned the kids from seeing the ship while it was in the process of being built. The scene in the movie where they see the ship for the first time really was their first proper look at the entirely practical set piece, and their reactions were suitably wondrous.
16. Steven Spielberg directed some of the film
Steven Spielberg didn’t just produce and dream up the story for The Goonies, according to those who were there. Spielberg was so passionate about his idea that he was constantly on set, interacting with the actors and helping to increase morale. Not only that, but for certain sequences the ET filmmaker was so passionate about his vision coming to life exactly the way he imagined, he simply directed those scenes himself.
As production on the movie progressed, Spielberg became more and more of a co-director, although he was never officially credited as such. This annoyed the movie’s actual director Richard Donner, who had to balance his own ideas with Spielberg’s. This was made especially complicated by the fact that The Goonies was the brainchild of Spielberg, who – naturally – had rather set ideas about its interpretation.
15. Sean Astin got to keep the treasure map (until he lost it)
Many movies have iconic props, and though they are often lost during production or carelessly recycled, many survive to become iconic. These surviving items usually make their way into the hands of private collections or end up in museums dedicated to popular movie items. Sean Astin was lucky, because not only did he get to play the lead in a Steven Spielberg-produced adventure movie about pirate treasure, but he also got to take home the film’s prized treasure map once filming wrapped.
Unfortunately, the map didn’t stay in Astin’s possession for long: his mum, thinking it was just an old piece of paper, soon threw the valuable prop in the bin. Astin has been lucky enough to enjoy a prolific career ever since, starring in such enormous hits as the Lord of the Rings trilogy and TV’s Stranger Things. With that said, the actor probably wishes that his mum had been a little more careful while tidying up, just for sentimental reasons.
14. There’s real blood on the treasure map
The Goonies might be a film for children, with a cast of kids and a fairly upbeat tone overall, but it does have some darker elements. The movie doesn’t shy away from death and violence, and the family of villains are genuinely scary even today. What you might not expect is that behind the scenes of the movie that same devilish tone was employed.
Specifically, things got gorier than you might expect when it came to making the infamous treasure map, which was apparently difficult to make look authentically old and creepy. J Michael Riva, The Goonies’ production designer and props man, was initially unhappy with how new and fake the film’s treasure map looked. To make it camera-ready, Riva ‘aged’ the map with coffee and, in a final macabre touch, smeared some of his own blood on it.
13. Ke Huy Quan was forbidden from swearing on-set
Ke Huy Quan, who plays brainbox Data in The Goonies, was under strict instructions from his mother not to curse on the project. This necessitated a change to the film’s script: in the cave scene, as rocks fall from the ceiling, Data yells “Holy S-H-I-T!”, Quan spelling the word out as opposed to saying the line as scripted. The change did lower the curse-word count in the movie by one, but it wasn’t a big deal overall, owed to how many curse words there actually were.
There are over 15 total curse words in the movie, which is a fair amount when you consider the age of the characters saying them. With that said, the bad language was often edited to be quieter and easily masked by other sounds, such as water splashing or cars going past. This made it way easier to create clean-language versions of the film, which didn’t have to change too much or cut out a ton of dialogue to make it appropriate.
12. A longer version of the film is out there – and there’s only one way you’ll ever see it
If you’re a child of the 80s, then chances are you’ve seen The Goonies enough times to know the film inside and out. What you might not know is that the movie with which you’re so familiar isn’t actually the full, uncut version. The uncut Goonies includes two scenes trimmed from the theatrical version and isn’t available on home video.
This rare edition can only be seen occasionally on US television; otherwise, this cut has never aired in any other country, on TV or otherwise. So if you’ve ever had a conversation with a friend from another country about this movie, and realised that your memories don’t exactly match up, that’s why. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that these scenes will ever see the light of day outside of this US TV version, even in the form of DVD extras.
11. A sequence with a giant octopus was deleted from the film
Enormous effort went into the making of The Goonies, but arguably the most effort was put into a sequence that was removed from the film altogether. An action setpiece featuring a giant octopus was eventually cut from the movie, despite involving the creation of a huge and intricate octopus prop by the special effects department. The sequence even had its own song called Eight Arms to Hold You, which was bafflingly written and performed by Arthur Baker and Cyndi Lauper.
All that’s left of the sequence in the theatrical edition is a fleeting mention at the end of the film, where one of the kids says to the gathered reporters that “the octopus was very scary”. Thankfully, it’s still possible to see behind-the-scenes photos of the octopus prop, which is awesomely designed and bigger than you might expect. It was the pride and joy of the props team, so it’s good to see that evidence of it still survives.
10. Sloth’s wardrobe choices all have secret meanings
A lot of the kids in The Goonies have some pretty awesome and outlandish outfits, from Data’s utility belt to Chunk’s bright patterned shirts. When it comes to wardrobe though, it is Sloth who takes the cake, with his excellent combo of Superman t-shirt, pirate hat and suspenders. It might seem that these choices were just totally random, but the shirts that Sloth wears were actually very carefully selected.
Sloth was brought to life by John Matuszak, a former NFL player who once played for the Oakland Raiders. In tribute to this, Sloth wears a Raiders shirt, while the character’s Superman shirt is a reference to The Goonies’ director. Director Richard Donner also directed 1978’s Superman and parts of the sequel; Sloth’s shirt was a small nod to this.
9. The Goonies oath was cut from the movie
The best thing about The Goonies is that it focuses on a gang of friends, with all the inside jokes and jovial competitiveness that tends to go along with that. However, it does fail to showcase one thing that a lot of friendship groups have: a motto. Beyond the repeated reminders that ‘Goonies never say die’, the full motto that was written for the gang never actually appears in the final film.
However, it is possible to find the full transcript of what they call The Goonies Oath, and it goes as follows: “I will never betray my goon dock friends, we will stick together until the whole world ends, through heaven and hell, and nuclear war, good pals like us, will stick like tar. In the city, or the country, or the forest, or the boonies, I am proudly declared a fellow Goonie”.
8. Corey Haim was almost cast as Mouth
It’s hard to imagine anyone but Corey Feldman playing the character of Mouth, the Spanish-speaking and whipsmart joker of The Goonies. With that said, his casting was far from a certainty for a long time, and his replacement almost ended up being another Corey. Corey Haim was also in the running to play the character of Mouth, but he was eventually beaten out by Feldman.
The careers of the two actors have been entwined ever since, with the two often vying for parts and working together. Most famously, the two starred together in The Lost Boys, and went on to become best friends over the course of filming. They then went on to star in a full six films together, while Feldman restored the balance by losing out on the lead in License to Drive to Haim.
7. Rosalita actress Lupe Ontiveros wrote Corey Feldman’s Spanish-language jokes
The character of Rosalita in The Goonies may not be able to speak any English, but the actress portraying her, Lupe Ontiveros, was fluent in both English and Spanish. As a result of this, Ontiveros tutored Corey Feldman aka Mouth, since the actor had to make a lot of jokes in Spanish, a language he didn’t have any experience with. As well as tutoring him on his pronunciation and making sure he could remember all of his Spanish lines, Ontiveros also edited the jokes herself.
She suggested improvements to make the jokes funnier and closer to what an actual Spanish-speaking person would say, rather than just a clunky translation. In order to help Feldman learn his lines, Ontiveros spelled Feldman’s Spanish lines out phonetically, which made it much quicker for him to learn. It’s because of Ontiveros that all the English to Spanish jokes in The Goonies are completely hilarious.
6. Jeff Cohen was ill with chickenpox when he shot the truffle shuffle scene
Anyone who has seen The Goonies would attest to the fact that it’s hard to imagine anyone but Jeff Cohen playing the part of Chunk. His performance is so loveable, unique and over the top, that it’s clear that no-one but him could have turned in such a memorable performance. Unfortunately for Cohen, he was struck down with a bout of chickenpox two weeks before shooting started, and was very much still sick when it came time for him to shoot his first scene.
Cohen was terrified that if he called the shoot to explain that he was ill, he would be unceremoniously replaced, and so he showed up to act anyway. And so, in the scene where Chunk demonstrates his famous truffle shuffle, you can clearly see some chickenpox and redness on his stomach. Thankfully Cohen soon recovered, and didn’t kickstart a chickenpox epidemic throughout the cast.
5. A scene showing Jake Fratelli’s violent prison escape was edited out for being inappropriate
There are several scenes in The Goonies that were initially filmed but only ended up in the TV movie edition, and which were never made available to watch on home video or DVD. However, there were also scenes that were trimmed or altogether cut from the film due to them being too frightening. One such scene is the discovery of the skeleton of Chester Copperpot, which originally featured a shot of Andy screaming that was considered too frightening.
The movie instead cuts straight from the gang finding a lantern and realising that someone has been there before them, to Chunk telling his life story to the Fratellis. Another scene, in which Jake Fratelli pretends to have committed suicide in order to escape prison, was edited out of the film entirely. Both the implication of the character hanging and his violent confrontation with the police were considered too inappropriate for audiences.
4. Andy was almost played by A Nightmare on Elm Street’s Heather Langenkamp
Kerry Green’s performance as the cheerleader turned honorary Goonie Andy definitely cannot be beaten, but she was not the only actress in the running for the role. Heather Langenkamp was another actress who was considered for the part, with casting directors saying she had exactly the right look. Not only that, but Langenkamp allegedly also had the perfect attitude to embody the flirty but kind-hearted popular girl, but in the end it was decided that she just couldn’t play the part.
The reason was that Langenkamp was already 20 at the time of her audition, making her too old to convincingly play the high-schooler amongst a cast of actual kids. The 17-year-old Kerri Green was chosen instead, and Langenkamp went on to star in another iconic 80s property instead. Langenkamp was cast as Nancy Thompson in A Nightmare on Elm Street, a far less child-friendly movie, but a beloved and nostalgic one nonetheless.
3. The movie almost had a very different setting
The Goonies is set in the Goon Docks area of Astoria, Oregon, a setting that is integral to the plot (not least the title). Not only does the location influence the movie’s main catchphrase of ‘Goonies never say die’, but it also deeply affects the spirit of the movie. With that said, writer Chris Columbus originally had some very different ideas for the movie, and that included the setting.
In earlier drafts of the script, the movie actually took place in Ohio, because that’s where Columbus himself grew up. The whole story was inspired by Columbus’ own childhood in Ohio, where he would sneak into the abandoned coal mines because there was nothing else to do. It was only in later drafts of the script that the Goon Docks setting was settled on, rather than the setting sticking so close to Columbus’ own experiences.
2. In the novelisation, Sloth has an even happier ending
It’s impossible to argue that Sloth isn’t an honorary Goonie by the end of the film, as the whole group has accepted him and he basically saves the day. With that said, Sloth has an especially strong bond with one of the kids in particular, and that’s Chunk. Chunk is the first one to show Sloth any sympathy and understanding, and the two become fast friends.
So it’s no surprise that the novelisation of the movie confirms that Sloth and Chunk’s lives stay intertwined long after the credits roll. The book confirms that Chunk’s parents allow Sloth to live with them, and even adopt him officially into the family. Sloth also continues to go on adventures with Chunk, which is exactly the kind of happy ending that he deserves.
1. The movie exists in the same universe as Gremlins
The screenplay for The Goonies was written by Chris Columbus, even though the story itself was conceptualised by Steven Spielberg. That might be why it contains a reference to another movie with a screenplay written by Columbus, which has a similar mix of whimsy and terror. That’s right, Columbus also had a hand in Gremlins, another 80s movie that went on to have a huge impact on 80s culture.
Columbus even snuck in a small reference to Gremlins in The Goonies, though you have to be pretty quick if you want to catch it. When Chunk calls the police, they assume he must be pranking them, as a result of him having made similarly outlandish claims before. One of the stories they accuse him of telling is about ‘creatures that multiply when you throw water on them’… sound familiar?