Jeff Cohen, who portrayed the lovable Chunk in Richard Donner’s The Goonies, paid his respect to the director in Los Angeles earlier this week. The Academy of Motion Picture Art and Sciences held a special ceremony in honor of Donner and his contributions to Hollywood, but a lot of the actors praised more than just his skills as one of Hollywood’s greatest directors. Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige and DC Films president Geoff Johns both worked as unpaid interns for Donner and shared their affection for Donner’s original Superman movie, and Lethal Weapon stars Danny Glover and Mel Gibson shared stories about working with “Dick” Donner.
But one of the most touching moments of the evening came when Jeff Cohen, aka Chunk from The Goonies went up to share his experiences of working with Donner. In a Oscars YouTube video from the night, Cohen says this.
“I was a little chunky kid, but then I met a childhood actor’s greatest nemesis: puberty… I started to thin out and I was less chunky so I couldn’t get work and I was despondent. I just wanted to be an actor and I couldn’t get work.”
Cohen says that he talked to Donner about his troubles and Richard Donner told him that it was going to be ok, “come work with me, kid, there’s a whole other side to show business, kid.” So Cohen began to work for Donner during the summer while he was in high school all the way through until it was time to apply for college.
At this point, you can tell that Cohen is starting to get a little emotional. After high school Cohen discovers that academics was the way that he’d be able to contribute to show business. He told Donner that he was applying for college and asked if Donner could write him a letter of recommendation and Donner agreed to do so after Cohen sent him his personal essay. Cohen says.
“I talk about the ups and downs and growing with my mom and my sister with a single parent household in the Valley. And how I thought academics was the way that I could contribute to the entertainment industry again and make my life better.”
Cohen then recalls getting a phone call from Donner that he’ll never forget. Donner told him that he had read his essay and said “first of all, you’re a great kid, you’re going to get into a great school, but you know Lauren (Donner’s wife) and I read your essay and um we’re gonna pay for college.” After Cohen relays that information there is collective shock in the audience. Cohen went on to describe his shock and having to sit down while taking in the news. Donner and his wife have been like family for Cohen and continue to give him advice about his entertainment law firm to this day.
Richard Donner is a great director and he’s made many movies that have touched people’s lives, but it’s even cooler to hear a story like this. As Cohen reiterates in his story over and over, Donner didn’t see any personal gain from helping him out and he didn’t have to do it. But he did anyway, just like how he helped Feige and Johnson and probably countless other individuals behind and in front of the camera. Check out the heartwarming (for real) video below.