Donner's adventure story has fervent fanbase

There’s no escaping “The Goonies.” Of all the films Richard Donner (“Dick,” to friends) has directed — including “The Omen,” “Superman” and the entire “Lethal Weapon” franchise — the treasure-hunting kids’ adventure story seems to have the most fervent fanbase. Just ask the cast:

Even before shooting began, Donner told tough guy Robert Davi they were making a film that would rival “The Wizard of Oz” as a family favorite. “I go into a grocery store or Starbucks today and people still recognize me from working on ‘Goonies.’ It truly has become an absolute classic,” says Davi, who believes it was Donner’s trust in his actors and his willingness to let them improvise that created such an iconic film. “The whole aspect of me singing opera, that wasn’t in the script,” he says. “I came to Donner and brought the idea up. He and (Steven) Spielberg loved it so much they kept it in the movie.”

After “Goonies,” Sean Astin has a hard time disappearing into the crowd. Take a recent encounter at a Big Ten football game: “I was walking around Michigan State’s campus during tailgating, and a bunch of college kids still recognized me as a Goonie,” says the actor, who played the movie’s inhaler-toting hero, Mikey Walsh. Though he’s also widely recognized for his roles in “Rudy” and “The Lord of the Rings,” Astin insists the “Goonies” interactions are the most interesting: “I have people with asthma come up to me and say how the film and my character (have) influenced them.”

Now that he’s the respected star of an Oscar-winning movie, Josh Brolin has no problem admitting he may have taken his work on “The Goonies” a little too seriously at the time. During one of the cave scenes, Brolin suddenly felt compelled to climb the tunnel walls, but Donner talked him out of it. “I imagined being back in my mother’s womb and there was suddenly a total breakdown, a regression happening as the stress mounted (mind you, I was reading Stanislavsky at the time), and Dick’s response was, ‘Yeah, you could do that, or you could just say the lines.’ I was young and easily manipulated,” Brolin says.

Jeff Cohen, who immortalized the “Truffle Shuffle,” has long since shed his baby fat, graduating to a career as an entertainment lawyer at Cohen & Gardner. Thinking back to his lone bigscreen role, Cohen recalls, “Toward the end, Dick kept saying, ‘I can’t wait till this is done so I can go home to Hawaii,’ so on the last day of shooting, I dressed up like a Hawaiian tourist to play a little joke on Donner.” The joke went over so well that exec producer Spielberg decided to fly all the Goonies down to Hawaii after shooting had wrapped. “To Dick’s surprise, we were all waiting at his house when he arrived back from Hollywood,” Cohen recalls. “I think that moment might have caused his blood pressure to rise just a bit.”

Mention “Goonies,” and the first thing out of Mouth’s mouth is an immortal line from the movie: “Goonies never say die!” Even so, at one point, Corey Feldman says he actually got tired of fans constantly referring to the film, especially when he was touring with his band. But working with Donner is one of his fondest memories of the project. “When we first started filming, he didn’t want to be around the kids all the time,” Feldman says. “He found a peace of mind and complacency with it — he had to, or he would have ended up killing us all.”

“He came off like your favorite uncle,” says Martha Plimpton, who also remembers driving Donner crazy. “Toward the end of the shoot, he couldn’t get far enough away from us. I mean, even Santa Claus would have had enough of us by then.” All these years later, she’s still impressed with Donner’s setup on the Warner Bros. lot: “His office was so cool. It had a candy dispenser and pinball machine. It was like being in Uncle Vic’s office.”

Rumors have been swirling for years about a “Goonies” sequel, but Richard Donner says his most recent attempt simply didn’t pan out. “We tried really hard, and Steven (Spielberg) said, ‘Let’s do it.’ We had a lot of young writers submit work, but it just didn’t seem to call for it,” he explains.

Lately, Donner has been chasing a different spinoff idea: “I’m in the process of trying to get it done as a musical on Broadway. Wouldn’t that be great?”

The director has already met with former Broadway entertainment attorney John F. Breglio, and Donner seems confident things are moving in the right direction. He’s even figured out where to break for intermission: right after the kids fall through the hole, with the second half unfolding underground.

Jeff Goldsmith contributed to this report.

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