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Tragic story of guy who played Sloth in The Goonies

Tragic story of guy who played Sloth in The Goonies

He had a difficult life - from the very beginning.

The Goonies is nothing short of an eighties classic and features a host of loveable misfits including Sloth, the deformed son of villain Mama Fratelli.

However, what few fans of The Goonies know is that, in real life, the actor who played the iconic character, John Matuszak, had a truly tragic backstory.

Prior to his untimely death at the age of just 38 in 1989, he suffered misfortune after misfortune, despite a seemingly glittering career as a football player.

Before this even began, he lost his two brothers to cystic fibrosis, with one dying two months after birth and another dying at the age of two, when The Goonies star was around 12 or 13 years old.

Just like his on-screen character, Matuszak - who required five hours of prosthetics and makeup to transform into Sloth - was an imposing man with a height of 6ft 8.

He played for the Houston Oilers and Washington Redskins, as well as the Oakland Raiders, with whom he won two Super Bowls during his 1976 to 1982 tenure.

But while sport brought him a lot of success on the surface, it also brought him chronic pain, beginning with an injury that he suffered while playing in college.

This initial injury - a shoulder separation - at the University of Missouri was followed by multiple back injuries that eventually led to surgery in the early eighties.

By this point, the footballer was in so much pain that he was put on the reserve list before his ultimate retirement in 1983.

Chronic pain ended Matuszak's football career.
Alamy / ZUMA Press, Inc.

Like a lot of people with chronic pain, Matuszak resorted to self medicating with drugs and prescription medications, which resulted in addictions.

He found fame as an actor largely after his footballing career ended, with most of his film and TV credits taking place after 1982.

Some of his other memorable roles were in North Dallas Forty, Caveman, The Ice Pirates, One Crazy Summer, Ghost Writer and Down the Drain, which was his final performance and posthumously released in 1990.

During an autobiography published in the eighties, Cruisin' With The Tooz, he admitted that he did get clean at one point.

"I abstain from cocaine, and any other foreign substance, entirely now," he wrote. "I take nothing, not even sleeping pills. I've hit damn near bottom. I don't ever want to go back."

But sadly the actor's sobriety was not to last, and he ultimately passed away from an accidental overdose just four years after starring in The Goonies in 1985.

Matuszak did the majority of his acting after The Goonies.
Alamy / Maximum Film

Marv and Audrey Matuszak, the footballer-turned-actor's parents, said they believed his chronic pain was ultimately a major contributing factor in his death.

They said: "We are not unmindful of the problems our son had in his battle against chronic pain and his resulting use of drugs, both prescription and otherwise."

However, his ex-girlfriend Stephanie Cozart said that he was also motivated to take drugs to help him cope with the grief of losing his brothers.

She told the LA Times in 1989: "The man was in a lot of emotional pain. He had a lot of childhood stuff to deal with.

"He had a lot of present-day stuff. He was a therapist's dream."

If you want to discuss any issues relating to alcohol in confidence, contact Drinkline on 0300 123 1110, 9am–8pm weekdays and 11am–4pm weekends for advice and support

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Featured Image Credit: Warner Bros / ZUMA Press, Inc. / Alamy Stock Photo

Topics: TV and Film, Celebrity