Jeff Cohen is an American attorney and a former child actor. While he is currently better known as one of the founders of the law firm ‘Cohen & Gardner,’ he was previously known for starring in films such as Steven Spielberg’s ‘The Goonies.’ Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, Jeff started his acting career in 1983, appearing in the TV movie ‘Little Shots.’ He had his first major career breakthrough in 1985, when he appeared as ‘Lawrence “Chunk” Cohen’ in the Steven Spielberg-produced hit adventure–comedy film ‘The Goonies.’ Jeff also appeared in small roles in several TV series, such as ‘The Facts of Life,’ ‘Family Ties,’ and ‘Amazing Stories.’ However, as he grew into an adult, he realized that he was more interested in the production and business aspects of Hollywood than acting. He obtained a law degree and became an entertainment lawyer. He is one of the many American former actors who let go of a potentially successful acting career in favor of doing something less glamorous. Currently, he writes about business, politics, and legal matters in publications such as ‘The Huffington Post’ and ‘CNBC.’
Childhood & Early Life
Jeff Cohen was born Jeffrey Bertan McMahon, in Los Angeles, California, on June 25, 1974. He was the second of the two children in the family. He grew up with his older sister, Edie Faye. His mother, Elaine Cohen, was a small-time actor who also appeared in the film ‘The Goonies’ with him.
Ever since he was a kid, Jeff was interested in becoming a film star, an aspiration which came partly due to his mother’s inclination toward acting and the family living in Los Angeles, the center of the American entertainment world.
He started acting when he was 6 years old and continued to act until he reached high school. By the time he entered college, he realized that acting came with its own baggage. Soon, he was more interested in leading a simple life.
However, he became interested in the business aspect of the industry and decided that he wanted to become an entertainment lawyer.
Upon graduating high school, Jeff studied business administration at the ‘University of California, Berkeley’ (UCB) and earned a BS degree from the ‘Haas School of Business.’ He was also interested in politics during his college years and was a resident assistant in the mid-1990s, while he was pursuing his business degree.
He also contested in the race for the presidency of the ‘Associated Students’ and won. During his campaign, he used his poster from ‘The Goonies.’ He also played a lot of football during his college years.
Following his graduation with a BS degree, on the advice of some key business people from Hollywood, such as Richard Donner, Jeff decided to study law. He joined the law school of the ‘University of California, Los Angeles’ (UCLA) and graduated with a law degree in 2000.
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Jeff Cohen made his first on-screen appearance at the age of 6, when he appeared on a children’s show named the ‘Uncle Al Show’ in Cincinnati. He appeared on the local show accidentally, as at that time, he was visiting a family relative in the city with his mother.
He was encouraged to do more on-screen work, and by the time he was 7 years old, his mother started sending his pictures to different TV show creators. He was eventually selected to appear on a game show called ‘Child’s Play,’ which was shot in Los Angeles. He got accustomed to facing the camera. In addition, he was a self-described “natural clown” in the family and started auditioning for TV and film roles.
At the age of 8, he got his first real break in the form of a TV movie named ‘Little Shots,’ in which he played the role of ‘Ralph.’ Working with popular director Ron Howard proved to be good for his self-confidence. The same year, he appeared in a cameo role in the TV series ‘Tales from the Darkside.’
He also appeared in a single episode of the series ‘Webster,’ in which he essayed the role of ‘Dwight.’ He then appeared in small roles in series such as ‘Kids Incorporated,’ ‘Family Ties,’ and ‘The Facts of Life.’ His chubby and cute appearance worked in his favor, and with each performance, his skills improved by leaps and bounds.
In 1985, he was signed to essay to role of ‘Chunk’ in the Steven Spielberg-produced adventure–comedy film ‘The Goonies.’ Directed by Richard Donner, the film was a huge commercial and critical success. The film has become a cult classic over the years.
For the next 2 years, he stayed away from films and appeared in the series ‘Wonderful World of Disney’ and ‘She’s the Sheriff.’ By then, he was a teenager and was slowly becoming disinterested in an acting career.
In 1988, he lent his voice to the character ‘Grunt’ in the made-for-TV film ‘Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School.’ His last acting role was that of ‘Ward’ in the TV film ‘Perfect Harmony.’ Following this, he disappeared from the acting scene and focused on his studies instead.
As he grew up, he became slim and it became hard for him to get the roles he had been getting previously. By then, he had realized that acting was not something he wished to do all his life. He was more interested in the legal aspects of Hollywood. He decided to pursue law and graduated from the ‘UCLA’ law school in 2000. Soon, he started his career as an entertainment lawyer.
Following his graduation from law school in 2000, he started working as a lawyer at a firm named ‘Proskauer Rose LLP.’ He worked in the corporate segment of the firm but wanted to work in the entertainment law sector. He gained valuable experience there and then began pursuing other companies.
He had a friend named Jonathan Gardner. Together, they laid down the blueprint for their own law firm, ‘Cohen & Gardner LLP,’ in 2002. He later said that his past as an actor had helped him greatly in achieving success during the initial stages of his career as a lawyer.
As an entertainment lawyer, his success has been documented by many publications. He was profiled in the ‘Dealmakers Impact Report’ by ‘Variety’ in their 2008 issue and again in their 2013 issue. ‘The Hollywood Reporter’ included him on their list of the ‘Top 35 Executives 35 and Under.’
Jeff also had a brief career in writing, and in 2014, he began writing on issues such as politics, law, and entertainment business matters in ‘The Huffington Post’ and ‘CNBC.’
Family & Personal Life
Jeff Cohen was chubby as a child, and this was one of the reasons for him being selected for the role of ‘Chunk’ in his breakthrough film ‘The Goonies.’ However, he considered himself unfit and slimmed down during his college years. This made him almost unrecognizable. Following this, it became difficult for him to get roles in Hollywood. This is assumed to be one of the biggest reasons responsible for his choice of law as a profession.
Jeff Cohen keeps his private life away from the media and is assumed to be single.
He suffered from chickenpox before he started shooting for ‘The Goonies.’ However, he continued shooting, afraid that he might get replaced.