It’s been a little over 25 years since the release of the Chris Columbus‘s film Home Alone. What seemed to be just a family fun movie about a kid who accidentally got left behind from a family trip only to confront two zany “wet bandits” would eventually become one of the most successful comedy films of all time. It would also become a Christmas tradition for households to watch every holiday season. To this very day, around Christmas time, you can not get past not one movie station that does not play this movie at least twice a day. Even the film’s sequel, Home Alone 2: Lost In New York, is played incessantly. Not only because Tim Curry is in it (he practically makes the movie) but because it has all the original cast members reprising the roles that helped make the original film so memorable; especially former child star Macaulay Culkin as the fun, mischievous Kevin McCallister.
To be frank, if it wasn’t for John Hughes’ magical writing powers and Chris Columbus directing, this film could have been very different if someone else had taken the reins. Or worse never been made. You know all the scenes, you’ve memorized every line, and probably noticed every bit of product placement and advertisement that made it into the film (Pepsi and American Airlines, anyone?). But, how did this classic come to be? What other factors contributed to film’s success?
Here is our list of 15 facts you probably didn’t know about this timeless, comedic film. Happy reading “Ya little jerk!”
15. The Movie Didn’t Budget Snow…Until a Blizzard Happened
Originally there was not going to be snow in Home Alone but everything changed when a blizzard occurred. So the crew had to come up with some solutions. Mark Radcliffe, the associate producer of the film, stated that the shoot was hit with a blizzard around the second day of shooting. This meant that there had to be snow throughout the rest of the film. Radcliffe said, “I remember that whenever the snow melted we were spraying ice and then they had problems with ice. The next thing, they were literally laying bags of ice to try and create snow.”
14. Chris Columbus Rejected Directing Christmas Vacation For Home Alone
Before being handed the script to Home Alone, Columbus set his sights on making another Christmas movie -National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. That is, until he met its star, comedian Chevy Chase. It appears since the beginning the two didn’t get along.
“To be completely honest, Chevy treated me like dirt”, Columbus has stated. He knew he needed a project to work on, and though he wanted the movie, in the end he realized he and Chase couldn’t work together. “I know I need to work, but I can’t do it with this guy,” he said. Thankfully, John Hughes gave him the Home Alone script and the rest was history.
13. The Pepsi Drinking “Cousin Fuller” is Played by Culkin’s Brother
Admit it! It’s hard to not like this character. At the very least, Cousin Fuller made you giggle with his sly smirk whenever he’s caught drinking too much Pepsi…or wetting the bed. What you may not know is that the role was played by Macaulay Culkin’s younger brother Keiran. The silly character was actually his brother’s film debut. Kieran Culkin has gone on to become a bit of an indie film darling, with an impressive film career. His other films include Igby Goes Down, Cider House Rules and more famously (and my personal favorite) Scott Pilgrim Vs The World.
12. John Hughes’ Anxiety Inspired The Movie
Can you imagine being a child who was left behind while on a family vacation? The thought of it sounds terrifying! It is so scary, in fact, it is the exact same thought legendary writer and director John Hughes had. According to people.com, Chicago Magazine published a story about the movie with an introduction written by Hughes’ son James, who explained the film’s origins. It was during a trip to Europe in 1989 when Hughes had a bizarre thought come to mind, “What if one of the kids had been accidentally left behind?” Hughes wrote the script shortly after he and his family returned from their trip.
11. Culkin Landed the Lead because of his performance in Uncle Buck
John Hughes was the director of the 1989 film Uncle Buck. Afterward he thought one of its star, Macaulay Culkin, would be perfect as Kevin McCallister. Home Alone director Chris Columbus said “I think John knew all along that he wanted Macaulay in the movie but I owed it to myself as a director to see other child actors. John said, ‘Okay take your time, do what you need to do.'”
After coming across over 200 kids, once the director auditioned Culkin, they knew he was perfect for the part. There was also a scene in Uncle Buck that may have inspired another scene in Home Alone. In Uncle Buck, Culkin’s character interviews a babysitter candidate and it was done through a door mail slot. In Home Alone, Marv shoves his head through the dog door and there’s Kevin ready to confront him.
10. The Title Has Become A Verb
“Home Aloned”, anybody? Most of us who saw the film as kid in the ’90s probably never thought this would be an actual term. Turns out, it was a real term. Academy Award winning screenwriter William Goldman wrote in his novel “The Big Picture: Who Killed Hollywood?” that because of the success of film, the term “Home Aloned” started to become a thing. The new phrase referred to other films that failed at the box office at the time due to Home Alone’s successful run. Goldman wrote, “More than one executive said to me, ‘My picture did 40, but it would have done 50 if it hadn’t been Home Aloned”.
9. Poland Loves Home Alone
Yes, you read this right. Poland loves Home Alone! The people of Poland love the movie so much it has become a Christmas tradition to watch the film over the holidays. This is not a tradition you’d expect to hear about from overseas but that is what makes this fact so interesting. Ever since the early ’90s, polish national TV has broadcast airings of Home Alone around Christmas Eve. Over five million viewers watched the film back in 2010. So far, it still is the country’s most watched movie on television for the holiday season.
8. The Entire Film Was Shot In Chicago
Though the film is about the McCallisters going to Paris for the holidays (sans Kevin, ahem!) all the scenes were shot in the Chicago area. O Hare International Airport was used as the backdrop for the Paris-Orly Airport. A high school basketball court was used and the crew built seats to replicate the fancy business class seats that the McCallisters were sitting in on the way to Paris. The school was also used for the scene where Kevin is running in the flooded basement. That basement, however, was the school’s gym pool. The shots of Paris, France were just stock footage.
7. Joe Pesci Actually Bit Macaulay Culkin’s Finger
Talk about method acting, which seems to be the case in this scenario. When it came down to the scene when Harry and Marv catch Kevin (and hang him on a coat rack), Pesci wanted to make sure his performance was as authentic as possible. He even avoided the child star so that Culkin would show genuine fear. Well, it worked and Culkin has the scar to prove it. According to the Rule Forty Two website, Culkin recalled “[…]they hung me up on a coat hook, and Pesci says, ‘I’m gonna bite all of your fingers off, one at a time’, and during one of the rehearsals, he bit me, and broke the skin.”
6. Kevin’s Attacks Would Have Killed Harry and Marv in Real Life
Watching Home Alone is almost a thrill ride, particularly the part where Kevin implements his plans, booby trapping his home to fight off the “wet bandits.” The amount of suffering they go through is pure hilarity but ONLY in fiction. Let’s be real, these offenses that Kevin releases on these guys are brutal. For instance, Marv suffers an iron to the face. Dr. Ryan St. Clair from Weill Cornell Medical College spoke to The Week about the possible real life consequences the burglars would experience, and said about the injury that it’s a “blowout fracture” which could end up with disfigurement and double vision if left untreated.
My personal favorite – Harry’s scalp getting blasted with a blowtorch would, realistically speaking, cause his head to “be so damaged and rotted that his skull bone is essentially dying and will likely require a transplant”.
5. Daniel Stern Did Have A Real Tarantula On His Face
Throughout Home Alone, there is a creepy crawly spider (which belongs to Kevin’s brother, Buzz) that appears in certain scenes in the film. Yet, there is one scene in particular that I’m talking about here – that precious moment when Kevin McCallister happily places a hairy tarantula on Marv’s face. And yes, the spider was real. Daniel Stern had agreed to have the crawling little nightmare sitting on his face but only for one take. I don’t blame him. What wasn’t real was his scream. He only opened his mouth and mimed the action. The sound was put in afterwards. Through movie magic, everything came off seamlessly.
4. There Was A Marv Spin off In The Works
Daniel Stern starred in the 1995 comedy Bushwacked, directed by Greg Beeman. In the movie, Stern’s character is a delivery boy on the run for a murder of a millionaire that he didn’t commit. Bushwacked’s script was originally going to be a spinoff of the 1990 comedy. Basically, everything would have been the same except the main character would have been Marv, who had given up his criminal lifestyle, finding himself on the run for the murder. Had the idea not fallen through, maybe the person who framed him was Harry? That would have been an interesting spinoff. Just a thought.
3. Robert De Niro Declined To Play Harry Lime
Joe Pesci’s performance as Harry is so memorable it’s kind of hard to see what other actor would have played him. His Goodfellas co star Robert De Niro was offered the role but turned it down. Comedian Jon Lovitz also turned down the opportunity to play the smarter and more bad tempered bandit. We don’t know the reasons behind their decision but I think we are happy Pesci snagged the role anyway.
2. John Candy Did All His Work In One Day
Though his role in Home Alone wasn’t a lead, John Candy’s appearance as the sweet polka musician who helped Kevin’s mom get a ride back to Chicago is one that many fans remember. What many fans may not know is that Candy shot his scenes in one day, precisely twenty-three very long hours. The late comedic actor and Second City Alum had appeared in other Hughes’ films such as Uncle Buck, along his costar Macaulay Culkin. His character, Gus Polinski, was based off his main role as Del Griffith from another holiday (Thanksgiving) movie Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, opposite Steve Martin.
1. Holds A Guinness World Record
When Home Alone was released in theaters it was met with very unexpected but monumental success, earning $17,081,997 in just over 1,200 movie theaters. The film stayed at the top of the box office at number one for 12 weeks straight. Until the following summer, the movie stayed in the Top 10. The film was eventually knocked off the top spot by Sleeping With The Enemy. Not only did Home Alone became 1990’s highest grossing film of the year, but the Guinness Book of World Records named the film as the “highest grossing live action comedy ever domestically”. Home Alone (at the time) would also become “the third highest grossing film of all time” following E.T and Star Wars.
Hope you enjoyed the list, “Ya filthy animal!”