Leading a bunch of kids was no easy feat for Richard Donner. After the shooting of the cult film “The Goonies”, the director was not, however, at the end of his troubles, since executive producer Steven Spielberg had organized a little surprise for him …
The Goonies : the treasure hunt of Willy the One-eyed
After Gremlins and the same year as Back to the future, Steven Spielberg produces The Goonies through his company Amblin Entertainment. Based on a script by Chris Columbus based on an idea by the director of Encounters of the Third Kind, this adventure film released in 1985 takes place in Astoria, a small town in Oregon located a few kilometers from the Pacific Ocean which will later serve as the setting for Kindergarten cop.
In this idyllic landscape, a group of friends are about to go their separate ways, while their neighborhood is about to be razed by a promoter and replaced by a golf course. But Mikey (Sean Astin), Choco (Jeff Cohen), Bagou (Corey Feldman) and Data (Jonathan Ke Quan) come across a potential solution. In Mikey’s attic, they get their hands on a map, which could lead them to pirate Willy the One-Eyed treasure.
With Brand (Josh Brolin), Mikey’s big brother, as well as Steph (Martha Plimpton) and Andy (Kerri Green), the Goonies therefore set out in search of the possible loot that would allow them to save their neighborhood. Things get complicated when they meet again chased by the terrible Fratelli brothers (Joe Pantoliano and Robert Davi) and their mother (Anne Ramsey), bandits determined to dig up the jackpot.
An exhausting experience for Richard Donner
When he started out on television, Steven Spielberg could count on the sound advice of Richard Donner. With The Goonies, the tandem finally collaborates in the cinema since the executive producer entrusts the production to the director of The curse, Superman or The lethal Weapon.
If he does not officially officiate behind the camera, Steven Spielberg is very involved in the project and sign multiple sequences. Some of the cast even see him as a co-director, as Sean Astin explains in his autobiography titled There and Back Again: An Actor’s Tale. A situation that Richard Donner sometimes has a hard time according to the editor and friend of the filmmaker Stuart Baird, quoted by IndieWire :
I think it was a difficult time because it’s very complicated to have a producer who is also a director. And I think Dick let Spielberg shoot a lot of stuff. He had known Spielberg for a long time – I think he had been nice to him when he was young, letting him come on sets and watch TV shoots and they always talked about working together. But I guess it wasn’t the warmest or easiest collaboration.
In addition, Richard Donner sometimes struggling to deal with all the young actors of the casting. He also provides with humor:
I think the peculiarity of working with the kids on this film is that every night I envision suicide. Individually, they are wonders, the warmest little things in my life. But when you bring them together, it’s explosive.
“The greatest Goonie of all”
Despite the difficulty in remaining patient, Richard Donner can not resist the urge to laugh at the many pranks of the actors, as well as those of Steven Spielberg. When the shooting almost comes to an end, the director assures his producer that he no longer supports children even if he adores them, and that he has can’t wait to fly to Hawaii in order to enjoy the calm of his property on the archipelago.
A confession that does not fall into oblivion since once the shots are finished, Steven Spielberg organizes a surprise and sends all the children there, as well as the interpreters of the Fratelli family. And then again, Richard Donner can’t help but laugh as he arrives, as the video below reveals:
When the director died at the age of 91 on July 5, 2021, Steven Spielberg paid a tender tribute to Richard Donner. He declares to Variety :
Dick had such a powerful mastery of his films and was so good in so many genres. Being in his circle was akin to spending time with your favorite trainer, the smartest teacher, the fiercest motivator, the most endearing friend, the most loyal ally and – of course – the greatest Goonie of all.