The Goonies.
Image via Amblin Entertainment, Inc.

Who played Sloth in ‘The Goonies’ and where is he now?

Find out about the man beneath the makeup and the behind-the-scenes addiction that led to a devastating conclusion.

The Goonies is arguably one of the most beloved and recognized films of all time, and with good reason. An iconic representation of the 1980s and with a cast featuring Sean Astin, Josh Brolin, Corey Feldman, and Martha Plimpton, it’s no wonder this tale of mischievous childhood misadventure remains a fan favorite. Yet although every single member of the Goonies gang holds a special place in our hearts, none possibly more so than the loveable, yet odd, character the crew finds in the basement, Sloth.

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Despite the film’s many stars, including “ Chunk” played by Jeff Cohen, Sloth steals the show. Despite his jarring appearance and immense stature, Sloth had a heart of gold that gave him an undeniably endearing quality. His lopsided face, cone-shaped head, and the small tuft of hair that sits atop it are certainly an example of cinematic prosthetic magic. Yet we had to wonder–who was behind the misshapen mask?

Who is John Matuszak?

Underneath all that makeup (reportedly 5 hours a day’s worth, in fact) is two-time Super Bowl champion John Matuszak, also known as “The Tooz.” Knowing Matuszak was a football player makes so much sense as Sloth is portrayed as a gentle giant, with emphasis on the giant. He is quite an imposing figure, standing at 6’8 and towering over the actors both on and off the set. Although apparently, Sloth and Matuszak’s similarities don’t end there.

Matuszak was known for his wildman antics both on and off the field, so much so that in 2005, Sports Illustrated named him one of the top five NFL “bad boys” of all time. He had an interesting and extensive NFL career with The Oakland Raiders before stepping onto the Hollywood scene. You may even notice in one of the scenes of the Goonies Sloth is wearing an Oakland Raiders shirt! Matuszak also had other Hollywood roles in Caveman, The Ice Pirates, Ghost Writer, and Down The Drain though none quite as memorable as his role in The Goonies.

Before playing the loveable monster we all know as Sloth, apparently, Matuszak was a monster on the field too, his giant stature intimidating almost every player he faced. The Wisconsin native was an imposing figure but many reported off the field, that Matuszak was the complete opposite of his usual game-day persona. 

Like the gentle giant he portrayed he was reportedly kind, gentle, and a “joy” to interact with. He was certainly a hit with the ladies, often described as a “hunk” and even posing for Playgirl magazine! Yet not all of his off-field behavior was positive. Despite his successful career in both the NFL and Hollywood, the star had his own demons to face. His excessive partying was well known and, in his autobiography, he admitted that he abused both drugs and alcohol, even during his time as a professional football player.

What happened to the actor who played Sloth?

Matuszak’s volatile lifestyle reportedly had roots in his early childhood, as he lost two younger brothers to cystic fibrosis and had a difficult time following their deaths. Other childhood tragedies seemed to follow him into adulthood and many felt his partying lifestyle was an attempt to ease some of the lingering pain. His long-time girlfriend Stephanie Cozart told the LA Times “The man was in a lot of emotional pain. He had a lot of childhood stuff to deal with.”

While there was a lot of emotional pain in Matuszak’s life, there was also physical pain, the result of several football injuries that his parents felt introduced him to the world of addictive narcotics due to chronic, ongoing pain.

In his memoir Cruisin’ with The Tooz, he revealed the depth of his addictions and admitted to hitting rock bottom, but then getting clean after realizing how close he had come to death.

Unfortunately, his recovery was not lifelong, and his relapse into ongoing drinking and drug use led to his accidental overdose and death on June 17, 1989. He was 38 years old. Matuszak had been using the prescription drug Darvocet for pain and took too much.

Looper put together a wonderfully in-depth look at the life and death of John Matuszak that can be viewed below.

Although Matuszak may no longer be with the Goonies crew in body, as Ke Huy Quan (Data) reminds us “Goonies never say die.” Sloth will forever hold a place in the hearts of Goonies fans everywhere. The warmth and compassion he portrayed continue to teach us all a lesson in seeing beneath the exterior, to the person below the surface (or the five hours of makeup). We can all learn something from Sloth and the Goonies family, and we will always have Matuszak to thank for that.


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Bethany Nicole
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