One of the greatest Christmas—and Chicago—films ever made turns 25 this year. Home Alone returns to theaters to celebrate its silver anniversary, and in honor of the occasion, director John Hughes’s son James has produced an oral history of the film for Chicago magazine.
The story is full of great nuggets about the casting process, the stunts in the film, and more. Here are 10 things you probably didn’t know about the film until now.
1. Chris Farley went out for the role of Santa.
“Chris Farley was already [at New Trier, where the stages were]; he was auditioning, too,” says Ken Hudson Campbell, who ultimately landed the role. “It was 9 a.m. Apparently, he was out all night and had just been dropped off after a night of shenanigans, shall we say… He walked in and walked right out. ” Farley’s audition may not have lasted long, but he bounced back quickly—SNL cast the Chicago comedian in the spring of 1990.
2. John Candy filmed all of his scenes in one day.
“Candy came in for 24 hours,” says director Chris Columbus. “It was amazing that he had that kind of energy and enthusiasm on a movie that he probably did for scale, if he got paid anything. He did it as a favor to John.” The day went long, though—Catherine O’Hara and Candy had too much fun improvising in the truck, which is not how a mother trying to find her son should behave, Columbus told O’Hara. They nixed a lot of the footage and used what they could. The shortened take is also why you never see a farewell between the two characters.
3. A Chicago actor made “filthy animals” a thing.
You won’t be able to find the Angels with Filthy Souls, the mock-noir gangster film Kevin watched, on Netflix—Hughes wrote it just for the movie. Veteran Chicago actor Ralph Foody starred in the scene audiences saw, wielding a machine gun before shouting the famous line “Keep the change, you filthy animal.” Foody, who died in 1999, reprised the role in Home Alone 2 for the fake sequel Angels with Even Filthier Souls.
4. The O’Hare scene took only three takes.
That was all the time the team had in the terminal. Not only that, but the scene used only 200 extras. The rest of the people around the McCallisters just happened to be traveling that day.
5. That tarantula scream never happened.
Remember the moment when Kevin puts Buzz’s tarantula on Marv the robber’s face, and Marv releases a high-pitched scream? “He couldn’t actually physically scream when there was a tarantula on his face—he didn’t want to freak it out,” says Raja Gosnell, the film’s editor. Later, Daniel Stern, who played Marv, recorded a voice-over scream that was “like a little girl.”
6. Speaking of the traps, the stunt team got very creative.
In the days before CGI, the stunt team and sound editors conspired to make the various pranks and falls look and sound as realistic as possible. “We took a frozen roast beef and hit it against the ground to get the sound of a body hitting the ground,” says Michael Wilhoit, the supervising sound editor. “We’d put a soldering iron onto chicken skin to make the flesh bubble and sizzle. Everything was handmade.”
7. John Williams was not the original composer.
The original posters teased Bruce Broughton as the film’s composer, but when John Williams saw a finished print, he decided to lend his scoring ability to Hughes’s film, leading to some truly memorable music:
8. The film spent an astounding 12 weeks at No. 1 in the Box Office.
Long enough that Billy Crystal, then filming City Slickers with Daniel Stern, freaked out: “What the fuck is going on with this movie? Twelve weeks?!”
9. A Japanese ambassador once visited the house for a picture with it.
John and Cynthia Abendshien, who owned the house used in the film, remember a few notable visits from fans over the years, including a Japanese ambassador. “When he came, I was just blown away,” Cynthia says. “Ahead of him, several limousines stopped and geishas got out and lined up on the sidewalk to have their picture in front of the Home Alone house as well.”
10. Daniel Stern will forever be the “Home Alone dude.”
“In 2003, I went to visit troops in Iraq. I was at a base camp, and they wanted to take me into Baghdad, to a jewelry store that they’d secured,” Stern recounts. “So we go in these cars into Baghdad, and as I’m walking into the jewelry store, we get surrounded by kids going, ‘Marv! Marv!’”
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