Gorillas? An Octopus? How ‘The Goonies’ Could Have Been Different
On June 7, 1985, The Goonies was released in theaters, quickly becoming one of the most beloved movies of its era.
Through a blend of fantasy, adventure and comedy, the flick endeared itself to moviegoers everywhere, but it took many wise - and occasionally lucky - decisions to get to that point.
Off screen, The Goonies featured some of Hollywood’s heaviest hitters. Steven Spielberg was an executive producer, Richard Donner (Superman) directed and screenwriter Chris Columbus (Gremlins) handled the script. In contrast, the onscreen cast was made up almost entirely of fresh faces.
Sean Astin, who at the time had only two TV credits to his name, would play Mikey, the Goonies’ precocious leader. Jonathan Luke Ke Huy Quan, who had worked with Spielberg in 1984’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, took on the role of Data, the group’s gadget inventor. Jeff Cohen was cast as Chunk, though it wasn’t the part he originally tried out for.
Watch 'The Goonies' Trailer
“I actually first auditioned for the role of Mouth,” Cohen explained in the documentary The Goonies: Making of a Cult Classic. “I was a little fat kid and I was a little clown. So I tried out for Mouth, and they said that ‘You sound like a Mouth, but you look like a Chunk.’”
The part of Mouth was eventually filled by Corey Feldman, arguably the most recognizable name in the cast. Still, the role nearly went to a different '80s child star.
“Sitting in the waiting room at Amblin the day that I had to go in and read for Steven and [co-producer] Kathleen Kennedy and all of them was Corey Haim,” Feldman recalled. “And that was the first time we met.”
Watch the 'Truffle Shuffle' From 'The Goonies'
The plot centered on a band of friends attempting to save their homes from foreclosure by embarking on a treasure hunt, searching for the long-lost gold of pirate One-Eyed Willy. Also searching for the gold was a crime family called the Fratellis.
Filling out the cast of teen characters were Josh Brolin (Brand), Kerri Green (Andy) and Martha Plimpton (Stef). Antagonists the Fratellis were played by Joe Pantoliano (Francis), Robert Davi (Jake) and Anne Ramsey (Mama). Sloth, the lovable giant, was played by former NFL player John Matusak.
Having so many child actors in the cast proved both exciting and exhausting for Donner.
“It is the most difficult thing I ever thought I was going to get into, I never anticipated what it was going to be like,” the director admitted in behind-the-scenes footage shot during production. “Because individually, [the kids are] wonderful. They’re nuts. They’re the warmest, craziest little things that have come into my life. But in a composite form, you get them all together and it's mind blowing.”
Watch Chunk and Sloth in 'The Goonies'
Most of the film was shot in Astoria, Ore., a town filmmakers discovered while searching for the perfect location.
“We all jumped in a van and we started driving up the West Coast,” Donner explained. “We got all the way up to Astoria. It was pissing down with rain. And we went into a motel. It was real early. We wanted everybody to change their clothes, shower. We go back out, we got in this van, we started to drive and it was like the sun came out. I mean, oh my god, this place is unbelievable.”
The director and his team quickly fell in love with Astoria: “It was like time stood still. It was a town that needed the Goonies to save it.”
Watch Mikey's Speech From 'The Goonies'
While most of The Goonies was filmed in the small Oregon town, a few scenes had to be shot on a soundstage in Burbank, Calif., including the climactic discovery of One-Eyed Willy’s pirate ship.
"I never let the kids see this boat," Donner remembered, noting that he banned his young actors from the soundstage until the day they shot the ship's revelation. "I brought them all in, not blindfolded, but with their backs to the camera. They all knew what they were going to see, but they had no idea what it was going to look like."
So, when the young stars "turn and see the boat for the first time," the reaction was completely genuine.
Watch the Goonies Discover One-Eyed Willie's Pirate Ship
While the film tied together stories of friendship, pirate treasure and murderous mafiosi, it could have had included even more plot points. An original subplot included two gorillas that escaped their cage and took a convertible for a joyride through Astoria. Spielberg, who loved the storyline, shot the scenes himself, but they were eventually cut.
Also edited out was a battle between the Goonies and a killer octopus.
“It looked so fake,” laughed Pantoliano, recalling his reaction to watching the scene. “I forget who the kid was, but I guess he was told to put the octopus thing around his neck to look like he was being strangled. And it was just like this limp thing. It was hysterical.”
“I was genuinely scared doing that scene,” admitted Quan during a 2015 Goonies reunion for Empire. “In the final scene, I ad-libbed the line, ‘Oh, the octopus was really scary!’ But in the film there was no octopus and they kept that line. So the audience was wondering, ‘What the hell is he talking about?!’”
Watch the Deleted Octopus Scene From 'The Goonies'
The Goonies grossed $9 million at the U.S. box office in its opening weekend, good for second place behind Rambo: First Blood Part II. The movie would go on to be one of the biggest hits of the year, earning more than $120 million worldwide. More than three decades later, it continues to be a hit among generations of fans.
“It's like a song or a smell that takes people right back to where they were in 1985,” Astin opined of the movie’s legacy. Co-star Brolin added that The Goonies “captures the point of view of a kid better than any other movie. So when kids watch it, they go, ‘Oh, this is a movie that some other kid made.’"
A sequel to the film has long been rumored, but Spielberg doesn’t see it happening. “Every couple of years, we come up with an idea, but then it doesn’t hold water,” the iconic filmmaker explained during a 2020 virtual reunion. “The problem is the bar that [the original cast] raised on this genre. I don’t think we’ve really successfully been able to find an idea that is better than The Goonies that we all made in the '80s.”