With Robert Zemeckis lured away by Michael Douglas to direct Romancing the Stone, Hollywood producers turned to former Happy Days star-turned-director Ron Howard to direct this beloved sleeper from 1985 about an intergalactic fountain of youth. Howard’s magical touch and an endearing cast transformed Cocoon into one of the biggest hits of the year.

While geriatric casts aren’t always the hottest box office draw, the producers signed on a group of talent whose advancing age was overshadowed by their advanced acting abilities. Former golden gloves boxer Hume Cronyn (who accidentally knocked out an orderly in one scene because of blindness in one eye) and his wife Jessica Tandy signed on as Joseph and Alma Finley. Don Ameche, Jack Gilford, Maureen Stapleton, and Gwen Verdon also came on board. Wilford Brimley, although only fifty years old, had his hair dyed to help him play the cantankerous grandpa, Benjamin Luckett. Bringing a bit of youth to the cast was Police Academy star Steve Guttenberg as the easy-going tour boat captain, Jack Bonner, and Brian Dennehy as the alien leader.

The film involves the intergalactic travels of an alien race known as Antereans, who are forced to leave their outpost on planet Earth after it is sunk by an earthquake. In order to enable the journey back to the home world, twenty stay behind in order to provide the life force necessary for the others to make the trip. Secreted away in their protective cocoons, the twenty wait for ten thousand years.

When the present day arrives, four Antereans return to Earth to retrieve their comrades. Disguising themselves as humans, the four Antereans charge a rented swimming pool with life force intended for their friends. But when a few residents from a nearby retirement home discover that the pool has the power the rejuvenate them, the aliens are compelled to allow a little compromise. Against their wishes, however, the secret soon gets out, and the entire retirement home rushes to the pool to restore some of their lost youth and vigor, causing the pool to lose its miraculous power. Forgiving their original few friends, the aliens extend an invitation to accompany them to their homeworld. Now, with promises of immortality ringing in their aged ears, the friends must decide what is more important: the good life on earth, or endless life in the great beyond.

The cast of has-beens turned out to be a cast of who’s-whos when Cocoon brought home over seventy-five million dollars of domestic box office and was the sixth highest grossing film of 1985, outdistancing cult hits such as The Goonies, A View to a Kill, and The Breakfast Club. Don Ameche brought home an Academy Award for his portrayal of Art Selwyn, giving the film two Oscars total (it also won for Best Visual Effects). The success was enough to bring about a sequel three years later, with Cocoon: The Return.

If you have fond memories of watching this endearing 80s film, we hope you’ll share your memories of Cocoon with us in our comments section below.

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