The Goonies Live: How They're Making This '80s Classic Less Problematic

Cast members from the Goonies: Live. (Courtesy the Goonies: Live)

Everyone knows The Goonies — the '80s fable from the mind of Steven Spielberg has a fond place in many a heart. And because Goonies never say die, it's coming to the stage in a live staged reading, filled with stars and seen through a 2018 lens.

The Goonies: Live brings actors like Gina Rodriguez, Brittany Snow, and Haley Joel Osment together for a one-time-only event this Saturday night at the Montalbán Theatre.

The partially gender and ethnically swapped casting includes Jane The Virgin star Rodriguez as the boisterous Mouth, SNL alum Noël Wells as quiet leader Mikey, and actress/comedian Nicole Byer as Chunk. Wells was always on Goonies: Live producer/director Molly Shalgos's shortlist for the part — part of the effort to bring the production into the present.

"I thought it was important because, if we're updating it for 2018, I wanted to make sure it's not just a bunch of white guys on the stage," Shalgos said.

The script isn't being changed, so it retains some of its problematic pre-woke nature. But there are attempts being made in the casting to counteract that, Shalgos said, including Rodriguez playing the formerly white Mouth.

"Because the joke in the movie is, like, Mouth being just a crappy kid to Rosalita," Shalgos said. "And it's funny, but it's one of those jokes that hasn't aged well, because now it's just a s——- white kid making fun of the housekeeper."

Now it's recontextualized to being a kid playing a prank, without the racially tinged vibe behind it. That's not to say that there aren't still some problematic aspects, such as the Sloth character and some of the racial elements behind a character like Data. But Shalgos said she hopes to steer away from that in the direction.

"Hopefully the way that we're going to direct it, the way I'm going to talk to Joel [who plays Data] and Haley Joel [who plays Sloth], and the way I'm going to talk to Frankie [Quinones], who's reading Rosalita, we're going to be able to find some nuance and some sensitivity around that," Shalgos said.

Shalgos said she hopes the casting choices make the show a must-see.

"I wanted the cast to be unexpected, but also to make people go, 'Oh my God, I never would have thought of that, but now that you've suggested it, I can't imagine it any other way,'" Shalgos said. "Literally everyone we've got [cast], I've just stood up and done a little fist-punch at my office. My bosses think I'm going crazy."

The show came about thanks to Shalgos's efforts — she's an aspiring writer who's worked as a Hollywood assistant. The Goonies: Live is serving as a fundraiser for immigrant legal services nonprofit RAICES. Shalgos was inspired to raise money for the organization after seeing the news earlier this year about children being separated from parents at the border.

"You can get butts in seats with something like the Goonies, but also I did feel like it was thematically relevant," Shalgos said. "At its heart, it's about kids watching their parents get destroyed by this outside force that they have no control over, and it's about fighting back and not giving up even when the foreclosure papers are about to be signed. And I just felt like that was the kind of the shout of hopeful optimism that I wanted to have when we were highlighting this cause."

Shalgos still has more work to do bringing all the pieces together. When we spoke with her Thursday, she was still trying to lock down someone to play Brand, the older brother brought to life by Josh Brolin in the original film. (Maybe they can have him reprise it if he's not too busy being a supervillain at the moment?) They also had to deal with their narrator, the Good Place's Marc Evan Jackson, dropping out of the production — but in a stroke of luck, they landed original Goonie Sean Astin as the replacement.

The show is bringing together all the actors for one run-through — then it's showtime. So if you're not attending Shalgos's archenemy, the Beyoncé concert taking place the same night ("We're up against a frickin' Beyoncé concert that night," Shalgos said), you can see 2018's Goonies trying to show everyone that they're good enough.

The Goonies: Live hits the Montalbán Theatre's stage Saturday night at 8 p.m.


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This story has been updated.