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an Interview with Randell Widner !

April 26th, 2015 | by Fred
an Interview with Randell Widner !
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I had the pleasure to do an interview with Randell Widner, alias Sgt Rock (why ? You’ll discover it in the interview !).
Randell was the Sloth stuntman on the Goonies, I’m sure you’ll recognize his scenes :

 

Fred – Could you please introduce yourself and what was your job on the Goonies ?goonies-sloth-randell-widner-02-logo

Randell Widner – After a 30 year career in the entertainment industry as an Actor, Stuntman, Stunt Coordinator, 2nd Unit Director, Director, Script Doctor, and Script Writer, my wife I retired to our Horse Rescue Ranch in the foothills of the California Central Valley.
I didn’t start out wanting a career in the film industry, in fact that was the furthest occupation from my mind when I joined the Marine Corps in 1965.  After being wounded twice in Vietnam and spending 6 months in Oakland Naval Hospital, the Marine Corps sent me to Stanford University to become an Officer and to study Civil Engineering with a double major in Political Science. During the late 60s & early 70s life on the Palo Alto campus for was very difficult & confrontational for a wounded combat Marine. Not my best years to say the least, but the experience I gleaned during the heated debates in the quad has shaped my political philosophy.
During my summer vacation months, I was stationed at the American Embassy in Madrid, and as the only decorated combat Marine on station I was given total freedom. Within weeks in my first tour, I was recruited into the exploding Spanish/Italian film industry. Being a 6’5” American who has ridden horses most of my life, I fit right into the Eastwood spaghetti westerns genre, which were in vogue.  I worked first as an actor (which I hated), then the wrangler Corky Randall ask if I would double Jack Palance doing his horse stunts in “The Horsemen”; I loved the excitement and challenges of the stunt world.
During this time I met Anne (my one true love), who was a dancer touring with an English ballet company and we were married within weeks; that was 44 years ago. We have 2 adult children, both in very successful careers. My daughter and her husband are attorneys in Fresno, and our son is a gaming programmer in Los Angeles.
My wife Anne has an MBA, and until our retirement in 1997, ran small to medium companies.
My career started in 1967 in Spain, and lasted for 30 years during which time I worked on 127 films, television, videos & commercials. We finally retired in 1997 on our Horse Ranch and other than writing an occasional screenplay, we have completely retired from the film industry.

 

F – How many days have your worked on the movie ?goonies-sloth-randell-widner-01-logo

RW – I was hired by Steven Spielberg during pre-production, and I stayed on the film until the last day of principle photography, I was also brought back for a couple of weeks for pick up shots.

 

F – How was your relation with John Matuszak on the set ?

RW – I knew John long before we worked together on the Goonies. We met first when he was traded to the Raiders football team. When he got an opportunity to work on North Dallas Forty, I was called to stand by… Then I worked a couple of days doubling him on Ice Pirates…

John was both a good guy and a spoiled man child, that didn’t understand moderation… It was not unusual for John to drink a bottle of wine and a half dozen beers, then take a dozen painkillers. I can’t count the number of times that the 2nd ADs called me in the middle of the night to pull him out of a bar or restaurant…

John & I got along, and he always listened to me… So I could control him when he was drunk & stoned…

 

F – What do you think of the Craig Reardon’s Sloth, compared to the Burmans one ?

RW – Craig Reardon was a very talented young man that was not afraid to push the limits of his art. He had the idea to make the Sloth mask out of a soft plastic that could be reused. The problem was that it wrinkled at the mouth when we talked and after delaying the production while waiting for him to fix the problem; Steven was forced to replace him with Tom & Sonny Burman.

Over the years I’ve worked with best special effects makeup artist including Rick Baker, & Stan Winston; Tom & Sonny are at the same level of artistic talent. As people Tom & Sonny were an absolute pleasure to work with.

 

goonies-sloth-randell-widner-04-logoF –  Do you have anecdotes about the movie ?

RW – I have hundreds of stories, as does everyone who worked on this film. The kids were always up to some mischief… Or Davi & Joey’s daily pranks… Or just talking to Jeffery over lunch… Every day was another reason to share a laugh with my friends & family…

 

F – What are your best memories ?

RW – I have dozens of great memories, so I could not narrowed it down just one.

 We had New Year’s Eve off to celebrate the start of 1985, and upon returning to work at Warner Bros. lot we found a giant cardboard birthday cake blocking the roll up doors of stage 16. When the crew had gathered to speculate about the meaning of this oddity, out pops up Jeffery dressed in a diaper and a sash with 1985 on it… It was the funniest thing I’d seen on any set…

  The first day that Michael Jackson arrived on set. (you already have that story)

– During the production I was teaching martial arts to some of the kids, Michael Jackson decided that he wanted to take the lessons as well. Sherman Oaks Karate my dojo, was on Ventura Blvd next to a Tower Records. When he showed up, and within a half hour we had hundreds of fans trying join our class.

 Steven’s big event the first time I cut the sail, with a dozen of the greatest stunt professional of all time. Not to mention Clint Eastwood and the biggest stars in the film industry, and the studio moguls.

 While we were on the Goat Rock location, I was able to take the whole crew to my High School friend’s restaurant. It was a great pay day for them…

 

F – Did you have fun on the set ? 
 


RW – Every day on the Goonies !

 

F – How was your relation with the actors ? 
 


RW – There are a lot of different personalities, but I never heard an argument while shooting the Goonies. Most of the kids had either a parent or guardian on set with them and I became good friends with them. Cory lived with his Grandparents, and they always left early so I would drive him home most evenings. Jeff’s mom and his sister were great fun. Davi & Joey were crazy… But Anne & Logan Ramsey were everyone’s favorite. 
 
9/ How was your relation with Dick and Steve ? 
 
Dick was a pleasure, hip hop hip hop he always had a smile and a sense of humor. 
 
Steven was still a new director, so he knew what he wanted while filming but he was a little awkward with the stunt crew. 
 
One morning he drove up with a new Mercedes and seemed embarrassed that we might think he was showing off, so we kidded him all day long. 
 
While we were at Warner Bros, the studio executives showed up to present Steven with a giant check for $40+ million which was for one quarters receipts of Gremlin’s.
 
Steven had a nick name for everyone, mine was Sgt Rock…

 

F – What do you think of the movie? Do you have a favorite character?

RW – Of the 127 films I worked on during my 30 year career; The Goonies was the best film experience I ever had… for a dozen reasons, but the cast and crew were the best of the best.

 

F – The set design was amazing, Michael Riva did a wonderful work. Did you have fun on the waterslides off camera?

RW – John & I were not allowed on the slide as we were too big.

 

F – Back in 1985, did you think the film would became so popular?

RW – I think the crew knew that Spielberg had made some great kids film, ET, Gremlins and Close Encounters… so most of us thought it would be a good film, but none of us expected it to be the cult film that has become…

 

F – Can you explain why Sloth and Chunk are probably the most loved characters of the movie?

RW – There are a few reasons Sloth and Chunk became so popular; Jeff is a very special person, with a true compassion and sense of fun that everyone wish they had. The relationship that developed between them was very special… but I think that neither of them were perfect, and maybe that is something which everyone can identify. The rest of the cast were cute and popular, but Chunk nor Sloth fit into that mold. Their imperfections and their relationship is what everyone loves.

 

goonies-sloth-randell-widner-06-logoF – Have you kept something from the set?

RW – I found a few things that turned up in an old stunt bag, nothing large, just little things that were given to the cast & crew. My Goonies film crew Jacket was stolen out of my gym locker during the filming, which I should have had replaced. Many of the things we were given have been duplicated and are now sold on eBay… You’ve seen my swords, and some odds & ends that I’ll bring to Astoria

 

 


 

Thank you Randell ! 

Don’t miss the opportunity to meet Randell during the Goonies 30th anniversary event in Astoria !!! The Sloth mask Randell used during the filming will be at the Oregon Film Museum ! 

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