Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: Albany Daily News. Posted by Lexi Schwartz
Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Lexi Schwartz
Currently Known For:
1983 - 1991
June 25, 1974
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The 1980s seemed to have a lot of coming of age movies that still resonate to this day, even though the times have changed dramatically. If you ask people who grew up in that era what their favorite film was (and even many outside of the 1980s), there’s a good chance that they might say “The Goonies”. One of the more popular characters from the film was Chunk, who was played by Jeff Cohen. If you wondered what happened to the former child actor, don’t worry, he’s not one of those tragic stories. Instead, he’s held a fine career outside of acting, now working as an attorney.Advertisements:
Cohen was born on June 25, 1974 in Los Angeles with the last name McMahon, but took on his mother’s last name when he started working as an actor. Being near Hollywood, Cohen was able to appear in various programs, including making his debut on a game show before getting into acting. In 1983, he made his debut on an episode of the series “Tales from the Darkside”, and also appeared in an episode of the show “Webster”. That same year, Cohen had his first movie (though it was made for television) with “Little Shots”.
Before his big breakout, Cohen added a handful of other guest appearances on TV, popping up on the shows “The Facts of Life”, “Kids Incorporated” and “Family Ties”. Then, the role of a lifetime came. “The Goonies”, which was produced by none other than Steven Spielberg and directed by “Superman” head Richard Donner had cast Cohen as Lawrence, but was mainly referred to as Chunk. Along with his eventual friendship with Sloth, Chunk was also known for doing the “Truffle Shuffle,” a dance that required the then-overweight child to shake his stomach around while his peers picked on him.
The dance itself wasn’t actually planned by Donner, and it was Cohen himself that created the memorable scene. “There was no direction,” Donner said. “I don’t take any credit for that, it was just Jeff. He had to stand on that stump and be ridiculed by his friends so he could come in the house; and he did it as best as that character could do it.” However, Donner said that “It was a painful scene” to shoot since it was ridiculing a child for his weight.
“The Goonies” went on to become a massive success, receiving praise from critics while also making over $60 million at the box office on a budget of under $20 million, and is still a beloved movie to this day. For Cohen, though, it was the beginning of the end of his career. Shortly after “The Goonies”, Cohen decided to change his appearance. He was no longer the chubby kid that was being ridiculed, but instead a very fit teenager.
Donner said that he helped Cohen, who had been a bit insecure about his weight, get a gym membership and a trainer that helped him get into shape for his teenage years. While he was in high school, Cohen became quite the athlete, and it can all be traced back to that scene that people still reference today. Not looking the same that he did in “The Goonies”, Cohen didn’t land many roles afterward.
He had appeared in guest spots for various television shows, making his final appearance on the show “She’s the Sheriff” in 1987, two years after his most famous role. Meanwhile, he didn’t have another big screen feature. The only two movies that he was in were 1988’s “Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School” as a voice actor, and his most recent role was in a 1991 TV film called “Perfect Harmony”.
Cohen had been working behind the scenes on movie sets instead of acting by the 1990s, and decided to go to college instead of continuing his performing career. He went to the University of California’s main campus in Berkeley, earning a business degree. Cohen decided that he wanted to use his newly found business acumen to also learn more about law. He headed back to Los Angeles to attend UCLA, earning his juris doctor in 2000. Since then, Cohen has been working as a lawyer with his own firm in the L.A. area.
If you saw him now (or maybe had to hire him as a lawyer), you likely wouldn’t know that Cohen was in Chunk if it weren’t for his name. He says that he became a lawyer “for the same reason everyone does. I had no discernible skill set or other options,” as a joke. “Actually, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to be a lawyer but I was sure that I wanted a legal education.”
“I was always fascinated by the entertainment industry...A legal background seemed to be a unique tool to help me make an impact in (law and business) once I figured out what to do.” As a lawyer, Cohen has certainly been a success, and it can be argued that he’s making more money than a lot of Hollywood actors these days, becoming a major success story despite being fairly anonymous on a national scale these days.
Cohen says that it was his acting career that helped him to become a successful lawyer in the first place. “Having experience on the talent side makes me a more empathetic advocated for my clients.” Now, Cohen wants to “continue to grow my firm’s capabilities in the worlds of media, technology and entertainment. And learn to take a vacation once in a while. Been trying to work on that.”