The Dark Truth Behind The Goonies

August 14, 2018 | Ryan

IMDb – Warner Bros.

The Goonies is an absolute classic. In a time of extreme ’80s nostalgia, there aren’t many movies from that decade held in higher regard than this Steven Spielberg-produced flick. Many of its stars went on to have great careers, from Sean Astin and Corey Feldman to Joe Pantaliano and even a young Josh Brolin. Before helming the project, director Richard Donner had made The Omen and Superman, and somehow The Goonies combines elements of both into an exciting story that people of all ages can enjoy.

IMDb – Warner Bros.

Not all of the cast ended up becoming big Hollywood actors, but they will forever be remembered for their roles in a misfit group of friends who embark on an amazing adventure for a great cause. Kids who saw it when they were young grew up and showed their children. Everyone can quote their favorite memorable lines even decades later. But there’s a lot about this beloved film that its fans don’t know. Read ahead to learn the true story behind The Goonies…

The Goonies

IMDb – Warner Bros.

Set in a small town in Seattle in the 1980s, the story focuses on a group of friends on the verge of having their lives uprooted when real estate developers threaten to tear down their homes in order to build a golf course. The only thing that will save their neighborhood is a lot of money that they, or their parents, don’t have. But when the kids randomly stumble across a pirate’s map, they throw caution to the wind and decide to risk everything, including their lives, to find the treasure.

On the insane quest through their hometown they encounter a family of fugitives and a spooky cavern full of traps and tricks that they have to figure out and overcome to reach their goal. The Goonies is certainly a kids movie, but it deals with some pretty heavy subject matter. The opening scene is a crazy jail break and the plot involves death, murder, crime and other adult themes like kidnapping, violence and perilous danger. While the movie has a happy ending, the story behind the scenes definitely doesn’t…

The Cast

IMDb – Warner Bros.

It’s always tough to cast a bunch of kids in a movie, especially one that requires them to display a variety of complex emotions, as well as pull off difficult stunts and intelligent humor. But Spielberg and Donner, along with their casting director, did a great job. Almost everyone in the crew has their own super specific personality and a catchy nickname, including One-Eyed Willy, the pirate who wrote the treasure map. Even the adults are able to keep up.

There’s Mikey, Brand, Mouth, Data, Chunk, Andy, and Stef rounding out the young friends, and The Fratellis, Jake, Francis and Mama. Over the course of the five month shoot, which was done almost entirely in the actual sequence of the movie, the cast bonded and made the film a hit. As previously mentioned, some went on to be in more big movies and others didn’t, but either way, any actor would be lucky to be involved in something like this. But one member of the cast wasn’t as lucky…


IMDb – Richard Donner

The chemistry between all of the actors, even counting the child heroes and the adult villains, is one of the things that makes the movie work so well. Fans love every single character, but one might be more memorable than all of the rest. The severely disfigured Lotney Fratelli, or Sloth, is truly the heart of the film, but no one knows about his life off screen and how much worse it was than the one in The Goonies…

From Villain To Hero

IMDb – Warner Bros.

Sloth has a more dramatic arc in the story than all of the other characters combined. He starts off as one of the bad guys, and is even scarier than his criminal family because of how he looks and acts. The kids in the movie are as initially terrified of him as the people watching, which makes the fact that he becomes such an important part of the narrative an amazing feat accomplished by everyone involved…

Sloth and Chunk

IMDb – Warner Bros.

Over the course of the movie, Sloth goes from its most horrific element to its biggest hero. He first wins over Chunk, who is trapped with him in the basement of the Fratelli’s hideout. After a few minutes, Chunk and the audience realizes that he isn’t a scary monster, but instead a sweet and lovable guy who’s misunderstood because of how he looks. But his real life wasn’t as happy as his part in The Goonies…

Behind The Scenes

IMDb – Warner Bros.

The movie’s happy ending is what makes the dangerous journey that the kids go through worthwhile and digestible for its young fans. And this wouldn’t have been possible without the character of Sloth. He’s been abused and hidden away by his family, the film’s villains, and accepted by the goonies who, without his help, couldn’t have found the treasure and saved their homes. But audiences have no idea what the real Sloth went through…


Twitter – @filmfest

Younger audiences might have been under the impression that the way Sloth appears in the movie is how the actor who portrays him looks in real life. Instead, thanks to some amazing make-up and special effects, the unique character design is, in fact, not real. But just because the man behind the mask didn’t have to worry about his actual appearance, doesn’t mean he didn’t have plenty of other problems…

The Tooz

Twitter – @MrJerryJarett

This is John Daniel “The Tooz” Matuszak, the actor who portrayed Sloth in The Goonies. He even had a cool nickname in real life. As popular as the movie, and his character, is, fans have no idea who he really was off screen. Before you find out the tragic story of The Tooz, it’s important to learn about his life and how everything ended up going so horribly wrong…

Origin Story


He was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, specifically Oak Creek, on October 25, 1950. His family suffered a lot of tragedy when he was young. His two brothers passed away from cystic fibrosis and he was picked on in high school because he was tall and lanky, similarly to how his character Sloth is ridiculed in The Goonies. Like he does in the movie, the real life Tooz decided to do something about it…


Twitter – @nicholas_leyy

After dealing with teenage bullies throughout his adolescence, and a tragic home life due to the early death of his siblings, John was motivated to make a change in himself and prove everyone wrong. He started working out in preparation to become an athlete, and his training paid off. He became the Wisconsin Class A state champion in the shot put with a throw of 58 feet 11 inches and a defensive lineman in football…

College Athlete

Twitter – @gregaiello

As a college freshman, he played for Iowa’s Fort Dodge Junior College and was recruited to the University of Iowa. Things were going well but he struggled in school due to disciplinary problems and eventually lost his scholarship. He transferred to the University of Tampa and became their team’s star as well as a member of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity. After college he was 1973’s first NFL draft pick, ending up with the Houston Oilers…

Trouble In Houston

Twitter – @kengfunk

Things were going well in Houston as he adjusted to life as professional football player, but his luck would quickly change. While playing his first year with the Oilers, he also joined the Houston Texans of the World Football League. He played only seven games before being served with a restraining order in the middle of a match. His problems off the field continued to hurt his game…


Twitter – @PrepSportsPlus

The Oilers weren’t happy that John had joined the WFL, so he was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs. He played with them until 1975, transferred to the Washington Redskins but was released in the pre-season and signed by the Raiders in 1976. After a difficult first few years in the NFL, it was looking like he finally ended up where he was supposed to be, but…

Off The Field

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Despite his amazing ability as a player, his antics off the field, that started all the way back in college, continued to follow him throughout his professional career. But for a while, he was able to separate the two worlds in a way that allowed him to do awesome things as a player. He was a great leader on the team and over the next half a decade The Tooz accomplished a lot…


Twitter – @LeomonkeyRh

John played in 123 games total and started in 78, most of which were during his time with the Raiders. As a defensive end, he recovered seven fumbles and even managed to score a touchdown, something that most defensive players are never able to experience. He helped the team win two Super Bowl, XI and XV, and became a fan favorite…

Fan Favorite


Raiders fanatics loved The Tooz. He was one of the more essential players on the team and was instrumental in their success. From his youth as a scrawny, bullied teen to his days as a shot put champion and beyond, John achieved a lot of success over the course of his life. But beyond these athletic accomplishments, he wanted something more than just sports…

Restless Player

Twitter – @reidrattlecage

He loved football but there are plenty of downsides that drive players away from the sport, especially those in the more brutal positions. Well before his injuries started to truly change the course of his life, John was dreaming of other things he could do with his big personality. Like some ambitious pro athletes, John began pursuing a completely different path…

Transition To Acting

Instagram – @wuvable_oaf

While he became restless with position as just an NFL player, even being one of the best, he began exploring his options elsewhere. As his injuries and the resulting chronic pain started to push his life in a darker direction, he attempted to break into Hollywood to become an actor. His unique look and personality definitely helped in this tough transition…

Early Roles

Twitter – @GhouliaChilds

After four years with the Raiders, as the ’70s became the ’80s, The Tooz simultaneously played football and acted professionally. He typically played roles that fit his look and personality, either as an athlete, tough guy or gentle giant. He had appeared on television multiple times as himself in things related to the NFL, but then he landed roles in North Dallas Forty and Caveman before…



His first big break came in 1982 when he appeared on the hit television show MASH as Cpl. Elmo Hitalski. This lead to roles in various lesser known movies and television series like Trapper John, M.D., Matt Houston, The Ice Pirates, The Fall Guy and Benson. It was only a couple years before The Tooz made it back to other hit shows…

Popular Shows


In 1982 he had guest roles on The Dukes of Hazard and Silver Spoons. Appearing on these hit shows would play a huge part in getting cast in the movie the changed his life forever. But at this point, he was still playing football and establishing a pretty bad reputation off the field. His hard partying ways were catching up to him…



The Tooz was infamous for his drug use, which began to define him as much as his playing and acting. He later admitted that during his time in the NFL he was taking a lot of painkillers, as well as other narcotics. This behavior often got him in trouble and, despite being one of the best Raiders ever, essentially ruined his athletic career…

Bad Reputation


His performances on the field made him a fan favorite and helped the team win Super Bowls, something that would normally translate to how he was perceived by his peers and other members of the organization. But he wasn’t as popular with his teammates, who had to deal with his volatile actions, and even the owner Al Davis didn’t like him, so in 1982 John decided to…



John announced his retirement from the NFL after spending the entire 1982 season on injured reserve. While the damage to his body certainly helped to explain his addiction to painkillers, he partied hard well before his time as a professional athlete. Without the obligation of playing football, and his new career as an wild and crazy Hollywood actor, things got worse The Tooz. But first…

Becoming Sloth

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The role of his lifetime came about within a couple years of retiring from football when he was cast by Steven Spielberg and Richard Donner as Sloth in The Goonies. Despite all of the negative things that happened towards the end of his NFL career, he was even able to pay homage to his team in the movie that changed his life…

For The Raiders

Twitter – @NanosauR

There a scene at the beginning of The Goonies where Sloth is initially discovered in the basement of the Fratelli’s hideout. It’s the characters introduction early on in the story. At this point in the movie, he’s still perceived as a scary villain, but if you look closer you’ll notice a nice nod to the Raiders on the t-shirt he’s wearing…

Still Struggling

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The movie was huge hit, but John wasn’t able to truly enjoy his success because of the fact that his real face was never seen on screen. He went on the act in dozens more television shows and movies, all with varying degrees of popularity, but his life off screen got worse and worse in a way that he was only able to balance for so long…

Substance Abuse


His roles as an actor showcased all different sides of his personality. Many cast him as a football player, some as a tough guy, and others as a lovable character. Unfortunately, his substance abuse problems, which started over a decade earlier at the start of his college career, started bringing out some of his more negative traits in real life…

Famous Friends

Twitter – @RichGustason

Before he even made it to the Raiders, he was known for his love of vodka and valium, a combination he used to treat his various injuries and party hard at the same time. For a while, this didn’t completely stop him from succeeding as an athlete and actor, and he was able to find others who had similar experiences, especially when he…

The A-Team

Twitter – @JTRipper121

While many of his guest starring roles were on shows that were relatively obscure, he occasionally found himself on hits like Perfect Strangers, Miami Vice and The A-Team. This was when he met and befriended Mr. T, one of the series main cast members. But despite his success, his drug abuse got worse and began to hurt more than his career…

Mr. T

Twitter – @DNeilson19

He was definitely drawn to other athletes and actors who knew the struggles of straddling both careers, but was never able to keep himself together as well as they did. His bad reputation followed him from the NFL into Hollywood, but he sometimes did a good job of hiding it from players and actors. Even when he tried to get better…

Criminal Activity


Before his time with the Raiders, and especially during, John’s life was almost completely out of control. He was involved in a half dozen incidents of illegal activity that led to convictions of serious crimes. He eventually checked himself into rehab and entered recovery but it didn’t work. Close friends remember that he was never able to fully take responsibility for his actions…


Twitter – @IndieMaxTV

John always made excuses for his erratic behavior. Despite his attempts to get clean and sober, his former fiancé said that she collected all of his recovery chips, a sad reflection of his consistent inability to turn his life around. But he was still acting, even landing a recurring role as a version of himself, along with other NFL players, on the HBO series 1st & Ten: The Championship…

Downward Spiral

Twitter – @NFL_Journal

As his life continued to spiral downward, he was able to keep a lot of secrets from a lot of people. While he was out almost every night partying hard and putting himself and others in danger, he used his amazing personality to continue working and do as much good as he possibly could. Even during the dark times he still managed to…

Lots Of Love

Instagram – @sanclemnte

The Tooz was a great guy and often even more lovable than many of his most well known characters. He certainly had a lot of problems that made it tough for anyone who got close to him, but not all the time. He loved his family and friends and even after establishing a bad reputation in the NFL, managed to always…

A Great Man

Instagram – @mrfalcon

He made a lot of friends as a football player and tried to see them whenever he could. He also got engaged and spent a lot of time with his fiancé’s kids, who remember John fondly. But the way he lived his life, regardless of his amazing ability to somehow balance the good and the bad, would eventually catch up to him…

Rest In Peace


Tragically, on June 17, 1989, John “The Tooz” Matuszak passed away at just 38 years old as a result of acute propoxyphene intoxication, an accidental overdose of the prescription drug Darvocet, according to the findings of the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office. This report also revealed that he had an enlarged heart and a chronic lung condition. But this gentle giant’s story was far from over…

We Miss The Tooz


His autobiography, Cruisin’ With The Tooz, lent insight into a lot of what led to his untimely death. His passing was mourned by all of his fans, especially the ones who knew how generous he was in real life. He regularly visited sick children in the hospital and made a positive impact on everyone who knew the real him. But many who love The Goonies never knew about the man behind Sloth…

Remembered Forever


Beyond anything negative that happened during his life and various careers, The Tooz is still celebrated today. His parents hold pharmaceutical companies largely responsible for his overdose, and hopefully anyone who hears his story learns from what he went through. After being exposed to his life and death, The Goonies takes on a bit of a different shape, and it’s easy to see why he was perfect for the most memorable role in the movie.

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