Kids who grew up in and around the ’80s have fond memories of The Goonies. From the wacky characters to the action-packed plot to Richard Donner’s fantastic direction, it’s well-earned its status as a cult classic. While plenty of the film’s stars went on to do big things as adult celebrities (Josh Brolin comes to mind), one of the lead kids in The Goonies, Jeff Cohen, sort of vanished from acting not too long after it came out. The story of why is kind of tragic, but while Cohen didn’t make it as a movie star, what he’s got going on now isn’t too bad, either.
Jeff Cohen played Chunk in ‘The Goonies’
The Goonies that the movie is named after are a group of friends from Astoria, Ore. Among them is the chubby klutz known as Lawrence “Chunk” Cohen, played by actor Jeff Cohen. Despite being the butt of most of the group’s jokes and always being undervalued, Chunk ultimately ends up saving the day by the end of the film due to befriending the villains’ abused son named Sloth. Even so, he’s still mostly remembered for the scene in which he does the “Truffle Shuffle” early in the movie.
Cohen couldn’t find work after he grew older
The iconic nature of Chunk’s dance served as a double-edged sword for Cohen as his career went on. Like many actors before him, he’d been typecast because of his work on The Goonies. Based on what he’s said in an interview with the Daily Mail, casting directors saw him as the funny fat kid, and the funny fat kid was what he needed to be to get roles.
This became a problem for Cohen as he entered puberty, though. “I was transforming from Chunk to hunk and I couldn’t get roles anymore,” he said in the interview. As he lost weight, he was no longer recognizable as his role in the movie that made him famous, so no one wanted to hire him. Even now, he’s still justifiably a bit upset by this, saying: “I didn’t give up acting. Acting gave me up.”
Cohen has found success outside of acting
Outside of a handful of roles in film and television throughout the rest of the ’80s, The Goonies was about all the acting world would get to see of Cohen. As a result, he had to find something else to do with his life, considering the callbacks became fewer and fewer. That turned out to be the law.
After The Goonies, Donner (who’s spoken highly of Cohen in interviews and on the film’s DVD commentary) recommended the young actor for work behind the scenes in Hollywood. What started out as a few summer jobs awakened a new passion in Cohen, who came to appreciate how much work went into making movies outside of the acting. After he found out that many of these people he admired held law degrees, he decided to earn one himself once he got older.
Graduating from both UC Berkeley and the UCLA School of Law, Cohen would go on to become a founding partner of Cohen & Gardner, LLP in Los Angeles, where he still works today. His specialization is entertainment law, meaning he’s still involved with the making of movies, just in a different way. Over the years, he’s been profiled in both Variety and The Hollywood Performer for his work in the legal field. He occasionally writes on a variety of topics for The Huffington Post and CNBC, too.
Despite being forced to retire from acting prematurely, Cohen seems to have found his niche in life because of it. Though he looks back fondly on The Goonies in interviews, he also seems fine having left all of that behind. He’s still more than happy to meet fans of his work, though, but don’t expect him to do the Truffle Shuffle without a few drinks if you do.
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