Chris Columbus directed Home Alone and Home Alone 2, which John Hughes wrote and produced.
John was probably one of the two people who had the most influence on my career – the other being Steven Spielberg. When I desperately needed a job as a director, John sent the script Home Alone for me to consider. John had faith in me at a time when not a lot of other people did. [Editor’s Note: At the time, Columbus’s previous film, Heartbreak Hotel, had just flopped, grossing $5.5 million total.] Home Alone completely changed the course of my life and career. I’ll be forever grateful to him for that.
My four years working with John really shaped my abilities as a screenwriter. He taught me about scene structure and characterization. To this day, I’ve never read anyone who could write dialogue like John Hughes. He had the keen observational power and wit I associate with places like New York and London, yet that was tempered with a certain mid-western warmth. John could be a bitter satirist – he had a deep, dark sense of humor – but at the same time he had a real sense of emotional pathos. The way he combined those two elements made him unique in terms of pure screenwriting.
We had lost touch over the years, but there were a couple of Christmas Eves where he would call me out of nowhere. I had just gotten back from London shooting [the second] Harry Potter and I got a phone call from John telling me how much he enjoyed the movies and how he wanted to reconnect, because he felt that we had a strong working relationship. I said, basically, “Send me a script, and I’ll direct it.” But he stopped writing for a while. I heard he was doing some ghostwriting in Hollywood.
John sort of shaped the way I wanted to live my life, which was to stay away from Hollywood and only spend time there when you absolutely need to. He managed to do that by staying in Lake Forest, Illinois, where he could walk to the corner store, see people in a movie theater. People thought it was cool that he was a director, but it wasn’t this constant obsession with box office grosses and everything. John turned his back on all that, even when he was at his most prolific. I think he had had enough of it. He certainly had had enough success. He wanted to spend time with his family and live the life he deserved to live. Unfortunately, it was much shorter than he deserved.
John’s films, although they were a product of the ‘80s, will continue to be watched by people for the next several decades because they deal with feelings and emotions that are never going to change. Those are the cornerstones of movies that last forever. That’s what John’s done, and that is a true legacy.
PHOTO CREDIT: Everett Collection
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