How Steven Spielberg’s gorilla-heavy subplot was cut from ‘The Goonies’

It’s the lost Steven Spielberg short film we’ll never see… and it’s hidden amongst the deleted material from one of his most popular movies. Thirty-five years ago, the Raiders of the Lost Ark director partnered with Richard Donner to make another relic hunting favorite, The Goonies, which premiered in theaters on June 7, 1985. Although Donner was the designated director, Spielberg came up with the story and was a frequent presence on set, helming individual shots and even entire sequences. One of those sequences became a minor storyline that was cut from the theatrical version, along with the movie’s original ending. To this day, none of that material has been seen. “They couldn’t find the footage,” Donner said of the missing Spielberg sequences in the 2010 making-of documentary, The Making of a Cult Classic: The Unauthorized Story of ‘The Goonies.’

So what have Spielberg fans missed out on all these years? The adventures of Bonzo and Bertha, two gorillas who escape from the Astoria, Ore. zoo while the titular treasure hunters — Mikey (Sean Astin), Brand (Josh Brolin), Chunk (Jeff Cohen), Mouth (Corey Feldman), Data (Ke Huy Quan), Andy (Kerri Green) and Stef (Martha Plimpton) — are on their subterranean quest to locate long-lost pirate booty before the Fratelli crime family gets to it first. In fact, the Goonies are inadvertently responsible for this primate jailbreak. As scripted by screenwriter, Chris Columbus, and seen in the finished film, one sequence requires the kids to bang on underground pipes, causing havoc in the country club above them.

Steven Spielberg on the set of The Goonies in 1984. (Photo: Warner Bros./YouTube)

What we don’t see is that their underground vandalism also frees several zoo animals, including Bonzo and Bertha. “Steven loved the gorillas,” Donner explained in The Making of a Cult Classic. “And I said, ‘You know, if you love them that much, you shoot it.” Once freed from the zoo grounds, Bonzo and Bertha periodically popped up throughout the rest of the film, at one point stealing the red Mustang owned by town bully Troy Perkins (played by Steve Antin), whose real estate mogul father, Elgin, is planning to force the Goonies’ families out of their homes. Surviving storyboards of that scene show the gorillas driving around in a golf cart before upgrading to the Mustang, which is the car they’re driving when they show up for the grand finale, originally set to take place at Mikey and Brand’s house instead of on the beach by One-Eyed Willy’s booby-trap laden pirate caves.

Local filmmaker Michael Alderman was Donner’s guest on set while The Goonies was being filmed on location in Astoria, and describes the alternate ending in his 2010 book, Three Weeks With The Goonies. “The final scene of The Goonies was originally two separate sequences,” Alderman writes. “The first took place at the beach, more or less the way it appeared in the final film, and ends with the kids’ reunion with their parents and the capture of the Fratellis. The second took place at the Walsh house and ends with the foreclosure of the Goon Docks by Elgin Perkins. As everyone knows, the rewritten ending ultimately combined these two events.” 

A storyboard for a deleted scene from The Goonies involving a pair of troublemaking gorillas. (Photo: The Donners’s Company/YouTube)

In Columbus’s script, Bonzo and Bertha pull up in the Mustang while the Perkins are crowing over their victory, and crash into Elgin’s Cadillac. Meanwhile, housekeeper Rosalita (Lupe Ontiveros), discovers One-Eyed Willy’s gems in Mikey’s jacket pocket and the Goon Docks are safe again. In his book, Alderman remembers seeing the two gorillas behind the wheel of Troy’s car, and temporarily forgetting they were a bit of movie magic. Instead of actual simians, Spielberg and Donner had cast two stunt performers, Rick Brown and Kent Hays, and put them inside a pair of gorilla suits made by special effects master, Rick Baker, for the 1984 film, Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan. (Hays had prior experience in ape costumes having performed stunts for the 1968 classic, Planet of the Apes.) “They were ultra realistic, highly-detailed suits,” Alderman writes. “If I hadn’t known there were actors inside I might easily have mistaken them for real primates.” 

Bonzo and Bertha before they upgrade their ride in storyboards from The Goonies. (Photo: The Donners’s Company/YouTube)

Other members of The Goonies family weren’t quite as convinced, though. “I don’t think the gorilla suits really worked as we would have liked,” Donner admitted in the 2010 documentary. So Bonzo and Bertha hit the cutting room floor along with the previously shot ending. Donner later re-filmed the final scene hundreds of miles away from Astoria at California’s Bodega Bay. Even as other deleted scenes have been included as bonus features on various DVD and Blu-ray editions of The Goonies, the Oregon-based ending and Spielberg’s beloved gorillas have remained lost to history. “Steven shot that whole thing, and we can’t find it anywhere,” Donners’s Company producer, Derek Hoffman, said in The Making of a Cult Classic. “We searched [Spielberg’s] collection, our collection, the Warner Bros. collection… nobody knows where it is.” Paging Indiana Jones — we’ve got a new mission for you. 

In honor of the 35th anniversary of The Goonies, here are some other behind-the-scenes secrets from a movie that never says die. 

The Goonies vs. the leeches

While Spielberg took charge of those gorilla scenes, other storyboarded sequences were never filmed at all. In outtakes from The Making of a Cult Classic, director Ron Fugelseth runs through some of the material that neither Spielberg nor Donner ever shot. When Mikey and Andy share a kiss in the cave, for example, the semi-romantic moment was supposed to be interrupted by another One-Eyed Willy trap — a scythe-carrying Angel of Death on a cart. Another never-filmed scene begins with Stef and Andy officially taking the Goony vow while the whole group is in an underground pool. Suddenly, they discover that their arms and legs are covered with leeches.

The Goonies are attacked by leeches in a never-filmed sequence from The Goonies. (Photo: The Donners’s Company/YouTube)

While the others writhe around shaking them off, the ever-resourceful Data pulls out a car battery he’s been lugging around and electrocutes the bloodsuckers. Interestingly, Feldman had a close encounter with leeches in the Rob Reiner classic, Stand By Me, which started production right after the release of The Goonies in the summer of 1985. Maybe Mouth’s loss was Teddy’s gain?   

Data solves the leech problem in a never-shot scene from The Goonies. (Photo: The Donners’s Company/YouTube)

When Feldman met Haim

Corey Feldman and Corey Haim in License to Drive. The two teen icons first met while auditioning for The Goonies. (Photo: 20th Century Fox Film Corp./Courtesy: Everett Collection)

The Chrises may rule Hollywood now, but back in the ‘80s it was all about the two Coreys. Corey Feldman and Corey Haim were teen movie icons who became friends and colleagues on and off-screen until Haim’s death in 2010. But in the very beginning, they were competing against each other for the same role: Mouth. At first, Feldman believed he had the role sewn up, having befriended Spielberg before the director made his 1982 classic, E.T. “I was cast in the role of Elliott’s best friend, which was later written out,” the actor remembers in outtakes of The Making of a Cult Classic. But Spielberg did cast Feldman in the 1984 hit, Gremlins, which he executive produced and also brought him in to audition for The Goonies. When Feldman arrived to read for the role, though, he met his fellow Corey. “Sitting in the waiting room at Amblin… was Corey Haim. That was the first time we met, unofficially. He was reading for the part of Mouth, which he did not get, obviously!”

A sequel could still happen… one day

Thirty-five years later, the cast is still open for a Goonies sequel. (Photo: Warner Bros./courtesy Everett Collection)

Despite being one of the highest-grossing movies of 1985, Donner and Spielberg never figured out how to sequelize The Goonies. Over the past 35 years, various follow-ups have been rumored, but none has ever come to fruition. And it sounds like the gang is still searching for the right idea. Earlier this year, Josh Gad hosted a Goonies reunion as part of his Reunited Apart web series, and Spielberg Zoom-bombed the party. “[We’ve] had a lot of conversations about [a sequel]; every couple of years we come up with an idea, but then it doesn’t hold water,” the director said. “I don’t think we’ve really successfully been able to find an idea that is better than The Goonies we all made in the ‘80s.”

Back in 2010, though, Donner sounded bullish on at least one idea, which would bring together the old Goonies, while also introducing a new cast. “In our story, the new Goonies were being introduced to who they were by Data,” the director said in outtakes from The Making of a Cult Classic. “So these kids are raised knowing about the Goonies. It’ll happen — enough of you write in and complain… you’ll see it, I promise.”

The Goonies is currently available to rent or purchase on Amazon and Vudu.

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