Welcome to Commentary Commentary, where we sit and listen to filmmakers talk about their work, then share the most interesting parts. In this edition, Kevin Carr descends into the tunnels with the director and cast commentary for The Goonies.
Whether you saw it in the theaters in the ’80s or watched it dozens of times while it played on HBO in the ’90s, The Goonies has become an essential part of the childhood movie diet. That’s pretty impressive for a film that includes that many pre-teen curse words, sexual references, and dangerous situations. Billed as a collaboration between producer Steven Spielberg and director Richard Donner, it was one of the few hits from the 80s that didn’t get an immediate sequel.
Whether you’re still waiting around for that sequel – and whether you think that sequel is a good idea or not – you can still enjoy The Goonies in a variety of home video formats. Back when the DVD was released in 2001, the cast reunited with Richard Donner to provide a commentary track that has been preserved on subsequent Blu-ray releases.
Even though the commentary track is almost as old now as the movie was when the commentary was recorded, it still has some fun insight into the film, including the mysterious message that Sean Astin wanted to share with Cyndi Lauper.
The Goonies (1985)
Commentators: Richard Donner (director), Sean Astin (actor), Corey Feldman (actor), Ke Huy Quan (actor), Josh Brolin (actor), Jeff Cohen (actor), Kerri Green (actress), and Martha Plimpton (actress)
1. The Fedora hat that Robert Davi wears is an homage to Indiana Jones.
2. The plumber working on the sink in the house at the beginning of the film was played by cinematographer Nick McLean.
3. While at UC Berkeley, Jeff Cohen ran for class president and won under the slogan “Chunk for President.”
4. Richard Donner’s motorhome can be seen parked on the road in the opening shot of Astoria, Oregon. It can also be seen in the scene in which Mikey (Sean Astin) is looking over the railing of the wrap-around porch.
5. Because he was self-conscious, Cohen had the set cleared for his truffle shuffle scene. When he lifts his shirt, you can see blemishes from chickenpox, which he contracted before shooting but didn’t tell anyone because he was afraid he’d lose the job.
6. Michael Jackson visited the set often and ended up giving Corey Feldman a pair of his sunglasses. This was after they shot the first scene in the house, which includes an unflattering joke about him. Spielberg ended up asking Jackson if it was okay for them to use the joke.
7. The long Steadicam shot in the attic, which includes Feldman sticking his tongue through the painting, was shot dozens of times over the course of two days.
8. Sean Astin’s monologue about the story of One-Eyed Willy was not originally scripted for him. On set, Donner asked him to paraphrase the story so it would come from Mikey.
9. The most common direction that Donner gave the children was: “Big eyes!”
10. Cohen got sick from eating too much whipped cream during the kitchen scene. He referred to it as “the hazard of being a fat kid in show business.”
11. The edges of the map are burned in the close-up shots. This is explained in a deleted scene where Troy (Steve Antin) burns it at a 7-Eleven (which is included on the DVD and Blu-ray).
12. The most quoted line on set was Ke Huy Quan’s stilted line-read: “You know, I’m wondering, what is in the bag?”
13. Astin had to choose between getting on offer to star in The Goonies or test for a role in Explorers. He chose this movie because he got to kiss the girl near the end of the film. Smart choice.
14. While Mikey (Astin) and Brand (Josh Brolin) are arguing about digging through the concrete floor, Astin calls him “Josh.”
15. The dead FBI Agent the kids find in the freezer is played by Ted Grossman, a stunt man who appeared in all of Spielberg’s movies in the 80s.
16. When Chunk spills his guts to the Fratellis, he mentions his uncle Max and sister Edie, who are real people in his life. The story about being sent away to a fat farm was also true, though he was not kicked out.
17. Ke Huy Quan says “Holy S-H-I-T!” instead of “Holy shit!” because his mother would no let him curse.
18. John Matuszak spent five hours in the make-up chair in order to apply his Sloth prosthetics and make-up.
19. In order for Sloth to blink, the make-up effects crew had to coordinate his remote-controlled left eye with Matuszak’s real right eye. This can be seen in his close up while watching a cake being frosted on TV as well as at the climax on the pirate ship.
20. Nestlé sent Cohen a bunch of Baby Ruth candy bars after the release of the film.
21. Sloth wears a Raiders shirt over his Superman shirt because Matuszak was a defensive lineman for the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders.
22. Donner would not let the kids see the pirate ship until the day of filming when they turned around on set. This was to get a natural reaction from the actors (even though Feldman saw it beforehand after wandering onto the set). Many of them ended up swearing when they saw it.
23. After filming, the production tried to get an amusement park to take the pirate ship, at one time hoping it would go to Magic Mountain. However, no one wanted it, so the set was demolished.
24. Donner kept the head of the One-Eyed Willy skeleton and stored it in his office.
25. Cohen lost one of his baby teeth when he put the knife in his mouth and rode down the rope on the pirate ship.
26. During the production, Donner told Martha Plimpton that he would pay her $100 if she stopped biting her nails. While recording the commentary, she showed Donner her manicured nails, and he ended up paying her the money.
27. Donner makes an appearance as one of the cops riding a four-wheeler on the beach when the kids emerge.
28. The families of the child actors on the beach were played by the actors’ real families and guardians.
Best in Commentary
- Feldman: “Do you think we got enough Pepsi endorsements?”
- Cohen: “Every fat kid part I played in the 80s, I was wearing a Hawaiian shirt and/or plaid pants. Now, Donner had the genius to put them both on me at the same time.”
- Plimpton: “That big pink butt was not mine.”
Like The Monster Squad, The Goonies is quintessential 80s adventure for the pre-teen boy. While I was just a bit too old for it to become a vital part of my childhood growing up, I appreciate it for being a part of 80s pop culture and to see its effect on my kids, who now love the movie.
While some of the commentary notes are outdated (including many references to Michael Jackson, which are even stranger now), it’s still pretty cool to hear the actors come together more than 15 years after the production.
Normally, commentary tracks recorded with eight people can be extremely hard to listen to, and the group falls into some of the problems like interrupting each other or talking over their fellow commentators. However, it’s clear that the group gets along and hearing their discussion makes you feel more involved in the film. They may have been annoyed with each other by the end of the five-month shoot, but they all seem to bring fond memories of the experience for the commentary.
It’s well known that Sean Astin disappears in the middle of the commentary for a prior commitment, and he never gets to comment on Cyndi Lauper. Elements like this make the commentary track at times almost as famous as the film itself. If you still want to know what Astin was going to say, check out this interview here.