Tributes to filmmaker Richard Donner have been pouring in all week following the director’s passing July 5. One of Donner’s most iconic movies is “The Goonies,” and cast member Jeff Cohen revealed in a tribute post that Donner paid for his college tuition in the aftermath of Cohen’s career in Hollywood puttering out. Cohen starred in “The Goonies” as Chunk, a fan favorite character.
“The story is when my acting career started to peter out, I still loved show business, and Dick let me be a production assistant for him,” Cohen wrote in a tribute published by Variety. “I worked for him at Warner Bros. When I was applying to college, I said, ‘Hey Dick, can you write me a letter of recommendation for college?’ And he said, ‘Sure kid.” He called everybody kid. If you were seven years old he called you kid. If you were 50 years old he called you kid. He asked me to put some notes together to give him an indication of what he should say. In the note to him, I told him about my life and some of the struggles that I went through as a kid — my father not being there and other issues that I dealt with.”
Cohen continued, “And he called me on the phone and instead of merely writing a letter of recommendation to college, he told me that he and [his wife Lauren Shuler Donner] had read my letter and they were going to pay for my college. I was absolutely flabbergasted. I was shocked. I had to sit down, because, for me, paying for college was going to be a problem. That changed my life. Not only economically, but it showed that Dick and Lauren believed in me. They believed in me. They thought I could do something. They thought I could make something of myself. That is Dick Donner — being kind, being empathetic, and not because he wanted anything in return.”
Steven Spielberg came up with the story for “The Goonies,” and he also shared a tribute for the late Donner with Variety. “Dick had such a powerful command of his movies, and was so gifted across so many genres,” the director wrote. “Being in his circle was akin to hanging out with your favorite coach, smartest professor, fiercest motivator, most endearing friend, staunchest ally, and — of course — the greatest Goonie of all. He was all kid. All heart. All the time. I can’t believe he’s gone, but his husky, hearty laugh will stay with me always.”