Steven Spielberg has paid tribute to his longtime collaborator and friend Richard Donner, who died Monday at age 91.
Donner had directed “The Goonies,” which Spielberg wrote and contains much of Spielberg’s style and influence. And in his statement he referred to Donner as “the greatest Goonie of all.”
“Dick had such a powerful command of his movies, and was so gifted across so many genres,” Spielberg said. “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.”
Though Donner had his fair share of blockbusters including “Superman,” “The Omen” and “Lethal Weapon,” 1985’s “The Goonies” was yet another of his post-Superman hits that grossed $63 million worldwide and was released in the golden era of Spielberg’s Amblin. Sean Astin in his book “There and Back Again” described Donner and Spielberg as almost “co-directors,” working closely on the film despite their sometimes contrasting directing styles. And Spielberg even famously surprised Donner and the cast with a trip to Maui after the film wrapped production.
And though Donner sometimes struggled working with a cast of so many young, child actors, he reveled in the challenge and found ways to coax authentic performances out of them. In the documentary about the making of “The Goonies,” Donner revealed that he restricted the production designer from showing the cast the scale model of One-Eyed Willy’s ship with the intention of getting their real first reaction to seeing it.
“I think the unique thing about working with the kids on this picture is that every night I’m contemplating suicide,” Donner said in an interview (via Indiewire). Individually, they’re wonderful, the warmest little things that have come into my life. But in composite form you get them together and it’s mind-blowing.”
Donner did reunite with the cast and some of the filmmaking team of “The Goonies” during the pandemic when actor Josh Gad hosted a YouTube special through Zoom. And though the idea of a sequel and some TV spinoff specials never quite materialized, the film has retained its legacy as a staple of ’80s kids classics.
See more tributes to Richard Donner from some of his peers and collaborators such as Danny Glover, Mel Gibson, Astin, Edgar Wright and many more here.