The name Jeff B. Cohen might not ring a bell. But he’s the actor who portrayed one of the most loved and popular characters from ’80s cinema: Chunk from The Goonies. On July 29, Cohen will come to FirstEnergy Park in Lakewood, N.J., for a Goonies 25th Anniversary Bash. Cohen, who was surprised to hear about Jersey’s undying love for him and the film, spoke with Bill Bodkin over the phone for a piece in Night & Day Magazine.
Bill Bodkin: The Lakewood Blueclaws minor-league baseball team will be hold a 25th Anniversary Bash for The Goonies. What will you be doing at the event and how much are you looking forward to it?
Jeff B. Cohen: I will be throwing out the opening pitch — which I’ve never done before. I didn’t play baseball as a kid, so I’m practicing with my brother-in-law so I don’t embarrass myself. I’ll also be signing some autographs. Then I’ll be hosting some sort of mysterious contest.
BB: I believe it’s a Truffle Shuffle contest.
JC: That’s what I figured. Who better?
BB: It’s the 25th anniversary of The Goonies — what’s your feelings/opinion on how beloved this movie has become? I know you were still young when you made the film, but did you ever believe it would be this cherished by audiences?
JC: No, I didn’t. It’s mind-boggling. I was really excited to do the film working with (director) Dick Donner and (producer) Steven Spielberg. It’s amazing that it’s still holding together.
I actually have a theory: Dick Donner as a director is known for the Superman movies, The Omen, the Lethal Weapon movies, and his overarching ideas as a director is that characters behave as real people in fantastical situations. We were kids acting like kids. The film is ’80s, it’s a bit dated, but the way we behave stands out because that’s how kids behave — they yell, they talk over each other, they fight. There’s something eternal about that.
BB: Why is there so much love for The Chunk character? It seems that when the film is referenced by anyone, you’re the character they always mention.
JC: Chunk broke down barriers in the ’80s. Fat characters either wore Hawaiian shirts or checkered shorts, whereas Chunk wore both. It blew people’s minds. [laughs] Actually, I don’t know. Maybe it was because people could identify with him. He was the biggest loser in a group of losers, and he ends up saving the day. Chunk was the gooniest of The Goonies.
BB: A lot of people wondered, “What happened to Chunk?”
JC: I went away to college in Berkeley to get away from L.A. When I was younger, I was really into The Little Rascals, Abbott & Costello and The Three Stooges. [As I got older,] I became more interested in the behind the scenes people like Jeffrey Katzenberg, Louis B. Mayer, David Geffen. I love entertainment, so I went to law school at UCLA and now I have an entertainment law firm. I represent artists, protect their interests, etc. Yeah, Chunk’s now an entertainment lawyer in Beverley Hills.
BB: Some of your Goonies co-stars like Josh Brolin and Sean Astin have gone onto successful movie careers. Do you miss acting at all?
JC: Sure, I miss it. I loved it as a kid, but then puberty hits and you look different. It was great fun and I do miss it. But there’s a lot of upside to being an entertainment lawyer. I don’t have to audition for work anymore.
BB: Silly question: If you had to guestimate, how many times do you think you’ve been asked to do the Truffle Shuffle? And do you personally still do it on the occasion?
JC: It’s funny, but when I was younger, I would never do it. People would bug me, but I was not going to shake my belly in public. But then there’s the football story, which I’m sure you’ve heard? Well, I was a cheerleader, actually a microphone man at college. I was in the front row, and before I could say anything, from the back row people started yelling “TRUFFLE SHUFFLE!” Then, before you know it, everyone, like 10,000 people, are chanting it. The band is beating to the beat of the chants. If I didn’t do it, I feel like I would’ve been murdered. So I put one hand in the air like Moses, lifted my shirt and did the Truffle Shuffle. It became a tradition at games from then on. Life’s crazy.
BB: Of course, I have to close the interview out with the question every Goonies fan wants to know. Is there any truth to the rumors of The Goonies 2?
JC: They’ve tried, but they haven’t been successful. I’m okay with it. A sequel to a movie that came out 25 years ago could be problematic. If it ever happened, I’d love to be behind the scenes on it.