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Show Business with Jeff Cohen

Client: Jeff B. Cohen, Esq. - Partner Date: 01/11/2021

It’s hard to see Chunk in Jeff Cohen anymore. Thirty years after playing the mop-topped, chubby, Hawaiian-shirt-wearing kid in the Spielberg-produced classic The Goonies, Cohen is now 41 and lean, keeps his hair shorn and wears sharp suits. Only when he smiles can you see it, but somewhere inside him, the 10-year-old kid lives on.

Sitting in the Beverly Hills office of Cohen Gardner LLP, the law firm he started at age 27, he’s so removed from his past you wouldn’t make the connection unless you spotted the E.T. poster in the reception area, inscribed by the director: “To Jeff (“Chunk”) Cohen, you are my favorite Goonie! Steven Spielberg.”

Cohen smiles and says, “I’m in no position to disagree. If Steven thinks I’m his favorite Goonie, sorry dudes; it is what it is. Although he probably writes that on everyone else’s poster — Sean [Astin; who played Mikey], Martha [Plimpton; Stef], Josh Brolin’s [Brand] got one and so on, but I’m believing I’m the only one, so I’ll take that as a win.”

Cohen insists that he doesn’t dwell on his time as “a failed child actor.” But given that last year was the 30th anniversary of the beloved film (rumors of a sequel persist), the powerful entertainment attorney is happy to reminisce. He’s also happy to discuss his book which was released last year, The Dealmaker’s Ten Commandments: Ten Essential Tools for Business Forged in the Trenches of Hollywood.

“The big idea is that success is [living] life on your own terms, and throughout the book I have exercises for the reader to determine what those terms are and how you get them,” Cohen says. “It’s my 10 commandments for negotiating your own deals, time management and handling crisis at the highest level without losing your soul.”

Recently, Cohen offered a very different kind of advice to Goonies director (and longtime mentor) Richard Donner. Namely that, if a sequel of the film were to be made, his character should go “from Chunk to hunk” and be played by Chris Pine or Brad Pitt. He would have no interest in reprising the role himself. “It was a long time ago,” he says. “I had a lot more hair back then.”

When asked how The Goonies prepared him for his subsequent career, Cohen smiles and recalls how he hid the fact that he had chicken pox during filming, afraid he might get dropped from the part, a subterfuge that was only revealed when he lifted his shirt to do the infamous “Truffle Shuffle” belly dance. “By that point it was too late; I was already on film and no one was going anywhere,” he says. “So being a liar kind of prepared me for my current career as a lawyer. It was good training.”


L.A. Law

Jeff Cohen on how to make it in the entertainment industry
No Pig Wrestling 
“Combat is honor. Choose your enemies and battles wisely. If combat is thrust upon you, choose to define your enemy and the conditions for victory.”

Try the Three “D’s”  
Do It: “If an activity is worth doing and you are the only person who can effectively perform the task, do it.”

Delete It: “If the activity wastes your time (i.e., doesn’t propel you toward your goals, is not necessary for infrastructure/deal management/client development), then delete it. Forget it. Who cares?”

Delegate It: “If an activity is worth doing and you have a colleague, collaborator or automated system that can perform the task effectively, delegate it.”

Don’t Panic, Stop the Bleeding, Don’t Compound the Error 
“Train yourself to calmly and effectively handle emergencies. Then, fix the problem, analyze the error and improve the algorithm.”

Be a Deal-Maker  
“Deal-makers make deals. Know your role, get paid and remember your ABCs. Always be closing.”