Everyone’s watched a movie at some time or another and wanted to stand exactly where they filmed a particular scene or stand in a particular set, like the seat of a particular Captain’s chair? For me, the setting of the Goonies in Astoria was a character in itself. Hell, the Goonies was already the best “tree fort” movie I had ever seen; even the city was like a giant clubhouse. It even had a similar climate to Vancouver!
It was years later that I found out that Astoria was actually a real place! Not only that, but it was only a six hour road trip away. The kind of spontaneity needed to inspire a trip like this hit in mid November of 09. What the hell, we’d just bought a new truck to replace our van and a road trip seemed like just the thing to break it in.
The drive down was torture. I’d already been up early that morning to attend a press screening of the Road and as tired as I was, I still had a six hour drive ahead of me. Well by the time we were passing through Seattle it was rush hour and a seven lane highway quickly turned into a parking lot. This had the bonus effect of adding another hour to our travel time and we finally rolled into Astoria at nine thirty.
The sun had gone down hours ago and so there wasn’t much to see the night before. We drove around a little scoping out what we could but ended up getting some food at the nearest Safeway and looking for a place to park and sleep. After being kicked out of a college parking lot due to construction that would be taking place in the morning, we headed up to the Column, a large dildo-like monument atop a hill in the centre of town.
Our first night sleeping in the back of our new truck and I thought I was going to freeze to death! Cathy blew up the air mattress and we climbed in and bed down for the night watching -you guessed it, the Goonies on a small portable DVD player.
Woken at a merciless 7:30am by a security guard, (I guess we weren’t supposed to park here either), we headed down the hill for breakfast. Fed and full, we started our tour with the Column we had slept beneath the night before. Around 176 steps to the top. I admit, I didn’t think I was going to make it, not because of the climb, just a small fear of heights! The Column had supposedly been used to film stock shots for the movie but I couldn’t find any in the movie to point out. It is a spectacular view of the bay and the bridge and much of Astoria.
A very nice lady in the gift shop on the hill suggested we seek out a specific store for Goonies merchandise but once we located it, we were pretty disappointed. Not only did they have sweet fuck all from the Goonies, but we learned that in Astoria nobody cares if you open your store a half hour late. I was told that they pretty much “keep their own hours here.” We then headed toward the museum where we were told we’d be able to purchase a map to all of the filming locations in Astoria. They were late openers as well, so we bided our time at the Flavel House where Mikey’s dad works and the local jailhouse Where the Fertellis sprung Jake. These two buildings were almost exactly the same, with the exception of the big stupid dumpster in front of the jail!
We spent the rest of the morning checking out the neighborhood. It turns out that the Goonies wasn’t the only movie filmed in this city. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III and Kindergarten Cop were both filmed here as well, but neither seemed remotely close to just how iconic Goonies is. Of course I wanted to grab a shot of Alley Sheedy’s house from Short Circuit and Cathy wanted a shot of the rocks that the whale leaps over in Free Willy.
We then headed to Mikey’s house. There’s a sign at the bottom of the driveway that tells Goonies fans that if they’d like, they may approach on foot but must leave their cars behind them. I guess this sort of thing happens often! We climb up the drive and take a look. Much has changed and while Cathy recognized both Data and Mikey’s houses at once, I found the view of the Goondocks from here completely iconic and perfect. It took another trip to the car to consult the DVD for me to really see how the shots were set up and understand how the house had changed.
Here’s a little video we made showing you the shots and changes.
After I made Cathy do the truffle shuffle, we were about ready to leave. We had a six hour drive back and it was already noon. We agreed to look for one more location before heading out; the high school field at the beginning of the movie with the cheerleaders. It’s not on the map, but providence put us a block away when we pulled over to ask directions. Despite being given the wrong directions by someone who clearly didn’t even know their own town, both Cathy and I simply looked directly behind our ignorant tour guide and saw a big green field. Ignoring the faulty directions, we headed across the street and there it was! We couldn’t get on the field because it was all locked up, but we snapped a couple photos through the fence.
We had done it! I was all ready to leave but I could tell that Cathy was a little disappointed. She had wanted to see the beach and the famous rock formation that was so quintessential to the Goonies iconography. The problem was that it lie another half hour south of us. By the time we drove down and back, it would likely be almost two and that would have us returning in the dark around eight! Only at the very last minute did I decide, fuck it! After all, what were the chances that we’d come down again? We might as well do it all!
A half hour down the road is Cannon Beach, a nice little town that has such beautiful beach front properties and lo and behold if we didn’t find “Haystack Rock” immediately! It was pretty huge, but it quickly became obvious that we were far closer to it than the movie had shown it. We had come too far and so we began to back track. Using the movie as a guide we made our way back through two coves or inlets until we were the right distance away.
We were burning daylight, but it seemed impossible to get the exact shot I was looking for. One of the shots, when Mikey lines up the rock, lighthouse and the restaurant is already a blue screen composite and we were now searching a coastline for one particular camera set up? Ridiculous!
We knew that the entrance to Ecola Park held the location of a scene where the kids rode their bikes at the start of their journey, so we headed there and kept our eyes open. It took two tries, but eventually it seemed pretty obvious we were standing on the same piece of asphalt. I could even see where Brand flew over the side of the road and off of his little girls bike into the bushes. It was pretty daunting when you think that there’s been twenty-five years of growth!
The last shot we were hoping for at this point was the restaurant. I held out little hope of finding it as I had read that it was built for the movie and was very difficult to locate. This was completely inaccurate. (The difficultly of finding it, not that it was built for the movie.) Once inside Ecola Park you only need to travel down the road until you reach the toll booth. Just beyond that is a parking lot for picnic benches, a look out point that can only be seen briefly in the movie and a clearing that was once home to the Fertelli’s musty and decrepit summer spot. Success! At the spot where the restaurant was built there is almost nothing to see, but Cathy and I ran back and forth to the truck, consulting the DVD to make sure it was right. It was. We had done everything we set out to do and it felt good. The sky was getting even more bleak as the light was starting to fade on us. We walked to the look out point that can only briefly be seen in the movie (in fact, you only see it if you know it’s there) and stood against the cold and violent wind as it whipped ice into our faces. Nothing could take us down; me and my girl. There had been one or two people that we had seen throughout the day, doing exactly what we were doing, but it was pretty unlikely that they had come this far.
We returned to the truck and enjoyed our triumph. Being ever the completest and something of a die hard perfectionist in matters like this, I decided I wanted to go out one more time. Cathy decided to wait for me having just changed her clothes and gotten dry. So I went out one last time.This poor tree is still standing, burnt and almost dead, yet it remains. It was a definitive landmark, if you decide to go looking for the site.
I grabbed a photo of the tree the boys walk under as they count of the steps to the Fertelli’s. Donner had a crane to pan up with, I only had a digital camera that was quickly getting soaked in the rain. I ran to the cliff’s edge and tried to line up the very same camera angle that Donner had twenty years ago as the Goonies pulled their bikes over the rise with the rocks behind them in the surf.
Alone, I confess that I had a beautiful moment to myself. The location was already breathtaking without also being the shooting area for the movie, but I really felt like I was standing in a time machine or a piece of history. I didn’t realize it then, but in hindsight this was my One Eyed Willy scene. (Not a brief Porno, get your mind out of the gutter!) When Sean Astin climbs up into the dining room on the Inferno and he has a brief moment to acknowledge his accomplishment to Willy’s skeleton, an almost spiritual moment; this is what I felt. Cheesy? Sure, but that’s the best way I can describe it and it was a great feeling.
We piled back into the truck, back along the highway, through Astoria proper, back onto the freeway and on our way home. We still had a four hour drive in front of us, but it seemed to go much faster on the way home.