When you think of the pillars of 90s pop culture, you can’t possibly forget Shaun Weiss. Weiss is immortalized for his role as Goldberg in The Mighty Ducks movies, as well as Josh in the cult-classic, Heavyweights. I was fortunate to interview him ahead of his appearance at Temple of Aaron’s TAXY (young professionals group) on Thursday. Bear in mind, readers, I was having a 90’s-gasm this entire time.
Max Leibowitz: First off, I have to say, a lot of people have said that Julie The Cat was a better goalie than Goldberg-
Shaun Weiss: Well, those people would be DELUSIONAL.
ML: I agree. But shouldn’t she be in a separate league anyways, like in the women’s Junior championships? Not to say she wasn’t talented, but there’s not a lot of co-ed hockey teams.
SW: Could it have been that the international rules were co-ed?
ML: I suppose, but I can’t imagine the Russians being super-feminist.
SW: When this Julie The Cat girl showed up, obviously myself and the character wanted to get her out of there. But let’s be honest: if it weren’t for Julie the Cat, Goldberg would have never scored the winning goal in D3.
ML: Do you still keep in touch with the other Mighty Ducks?
SW: You know, Max, I get this question a lot, and it’s a bit of a strange question. When people ask me that, I kind of want to ask, “Did you ever play Little League Baseball?” People always go, “Yeah.” And I want to ask, “Do you still keep in touch with the kids that were on your team?” But to answer your question, yes, we see each other quite a bit. In fact, we recently had our 20th reunion, which is hard to believe.
ML: Recently, I was watching the movie and realized how many scenes are actually in places I know in Minneapolis! And Mall of America! Do you have fond memories of shooting the movies here?
SW: Dude, I have nothing but awesome memories of shooting in Minnesota. I fell in love with that place in the same way you did. Everyone was so welcoming; and by the second movie, people gathered to watch us shoot. We spent a lot of time just enjoying the city, and people would invite us into their homes… This one guy had a mansion on a lake, with an airplane in the back.
ML: Oh, you went all the way out to Wayzata?
SW: I don’t exactly remember exactly, but I also had never had a cheese curd before I got to Minnesota, so that was a singular experience.
ML: The movie I really want to ask you about is Heavyweights. As a fat kid growing up in the 90s, that movie played a seminal role in my childhood. I recently found out that Judd Apatow wrote it?
SW: I’m pretty sure it was his first movie. It was Apatow and Jack Giarraputo, who actually now runs Adam Sandler’s company, Happy Madison. So this was the first movie for some up-and-coming producers. But yes, Heavyweights is an Apatow movie, which is why it’s so funny!
ML: I know! I watched it again recently, and there’s a lot of jokes you don’t get when you’re 12 that are now hilarious.
SW: It’s true, a lot of the jokes are for adults! They don’t make Disney movies like that anymore.
ML: Which actually brings me to my next question: The Mighty Ducks, Heavyweights, The Sandlot, Camp Nowhere, Little Giants…what happened? Kids movies now seem to be Hunger Games and Harry Potter. Why don’t they make Disney movies like they used to?
SW: I think a lot of it has to do with the sensibility of the filmmakers. Keep in mind, the director of Heavyweights, Steven Brill, was also the writer of The Mighty Ducks. And, interestingly, they got the green light for Heavyweights because they figured–Goldberg was a funny fat kid, let’s just have 14 Goldbergs in a movie, and it’ll be even funnier!
ML: That makes complete sense looking back on it now.
SW: But to really answer your question, during that period in the 90s, the focus of those children’s movies was really on the funny. Maybe now there’s just a more cash-generating purpose going on, and whether the movie’s funny is not of the utmost importance. It’s a matter of how they can package and sell it. Also, back then we just had a bunch of kids who were really funny. But now, the sensibility has definitely changed.
ML: Do you remember hanging out with Ben Stiller on the set?
SW: Of course I do. Stiller was a really intense person. The memory that sticks out was that we had been working on this movie for three months, and saw each other every day. And on the final day of shooting, I walked up to him and shook his hand and said, “Ben, what a pleasure it’s been to work with you, I’ve learned so much, and it’s been a wonderful experience. And he said, “Same here. What was your name again?”
ML: And he certainly gave an intense performance in Heavyweights!
SW: The hardest part about working with Ben was that he would improvise take after take; and it was so funny that it was hard not to laugh. He would just stare at you dead in your eyes. It was difficult not to crack up when he was doing his thing.
ML: I wanted to ask about the character of Goldberg, in particular the Jewish aspects to the character. He’s definitely Jewish, but that’s not really discussed in the movies.
SW: There’s the one line before they strap me to the goal-posts, and I said, “Listen, I’d like to live to be bar mitzvahed.”
ML: That’s right! But no other Jewish aspects to the character?
SW: The only thing I can say is that Michael Eisner, who was the CEO of Disney at the time and Jewish, would say that Goldberg was one of his favorite characters.
ML: That’s so cool. All the way at the top!
SW: So Max, I haven’t been to Minnesota in a while: Are there any Jews playing hockey?
ML: Jews playing hockey? I’m not sure. The real question is “How many Jews did you inspire to play hockey?” That’s what I want to know.
SW: I thought you were gonna say, how many Jews does it take to stop a hockey puck?
Want the answer? Find out at TAXY’s 2nd Annual Celebrity Event with Shaun, TONIGHT at 7pm at Billy’s On Grand in St. Paul.
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