Several days after the death of beloved director Richard Donner, the stars of the filmmaker’s many classic works are sharing tributes. One, in particular, though, has a more personal remembrance of the director. Jeff Cohen, who played Chunk in Donner’s 1985 adventure film The Goonies, says the director not only provided the actor with both emotional support after the cameras stopped rolling, but also financial support. More specifically, Donner paid for his college tuition, Cohen says.
In a tribute to Donner, Cohen, who is now an entertainment lawyer, told Variety:
As a human being, Dick was so kind to me. I’m an entertainment attorney, and I have a firm out here in Los Angeles. None of that would have happened for me without Dick Donner helping me when there was nothing I could do for him. To me, that’s a unique thing in our business. Dick Donner and Lauren Shuler Donner, because they were kind, paid for my college when I went to Berkeley.
The story is when my acting career started to peter out, I still loved show business, and Dick let me be a production assistant for him. I worked for him at Warner Bros. When I was applying to college, I said, ‘hey Dick, can you write me a letter of recommendation for college?’ And he said, ‘sure kid.” He called everybody kid. If you were seven years old he called you kid. If you were 50 years old he called you kid. He asked me to put some notes together to give him an indication of what he should say. In the note to him, I told him about my life and some of the struggles that I went through as a kid—my father not being there and other issues that I dealt with. And he called me on the phone and instead of merely writing a letter of recommendation to college, he told me that he and Lauren had read my letter and they were going to pay for my college. I was absolutely flabbergasted. I was shocked. I had to sit down, because, for me, paying for college was going to be a problem. That changed my life. Not only economically, but it showed that Dick and Lauren believed in me. They believed in me. They thought I could do something. They thought I could make something of myself. That is Dick Donner—being kind, being empathetic, and not because he wanted anything in return.
Richard Donner died on Monday at the age of 91. He directed several influential and classic films, including Superman, The Omen, and the four Lethal Weapon films. His last movie, 16 Blocks, was released in 2006.