No family reunion is ever complete without the black sheep. But in the case of National Lampoon’s Vacation, getting him there would have required filing extradition papers with Canada. Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Dana Barron, and Anthony Michael Hall — who played the Griswolds, a quintessential nuclear family whose road trip leads to a meltdown — were all relatively easy to find. But Randy Quaid, the film’s beer-swilling, Hamburger Helper-loving Cousin Eddie, was another story.
Quaid and his wife, Evi, fled felony burglary charges associated with illegal squatting in California in 2010, and were later arrested on suspicion of immigration violations in Vancouver before being released. (Turns out she’s Canadian, with every right to take refuge there.) U.S. prosecutors decided not to pursue extradition, so Quaid remains on the loose, presumably still hiding from the cabal of ”star whackers” he publicly claimed were trying to assassinate him.
”He called me from Canada, saying he’s in jail,” says Chase, reporting that his former costar wanted ”20 grand” to help bail him out. The actor insists he’s not joking, although that exchange closely mirrors a scene from Vacation in which Cousin Eddie asks Clark Griswold for some cash. ”How much you need?” Clark asks, withdrawing a few bills from his wallet. ”About $52,000,” Eddie replies, as his cousin-in-law casually tucks the money back into his billfold.
So did Chase help him with the bail? ”Nooooo!” the 68-year-old comedian says, before turning sincere: ”There are funny people, and God knows he’s one of them. I don’t know what’s happened, but I pray for him.”
The rest of the Griswold family has stayed close — the by-product of having spent so much time cooped up in that pea green station wagon, traveling from state to state as they filmed around the American Southwest. ”We were isolated in the middle of nowhere,” says D’Angelo, 60. ”It sparked the great friendship I have with Chevy to this day. He calls me his second wife.” Although the kids were replaced by different actors in each of the sequels (European Vacation, Christmas Vacation, and Vegas Vacation), Barron, 46, says the original bunch still gets together. ”It’s the best rapport of actors I’ve ever seen,” says the actress, who was a teenager when she played the uptight Audrey. About a year and a half ago, the group gathered for a pool party. ”Beverly and her twins hung out with my kid and swam. And Chevy has literally, every year for over 30 years, sent me a Christmas card with Jayni, his wife,” says Barron. ”Michael and I text and email all the time.”
While Audrey gets Christmas cards, the actor who played Rusty gets something less sentimental from his movie dad: a hard time. ”Chevy doles it out. He gives s— to everybody,” says Hall, 44. Case in point: The film’s original ending had the Griswolds finding Walley World closed and storming the home of Walt Disney-esque Roy Walley (Eddie Bracken), who was forced at gunpoint to entertain them with a song-and-dance number. Test audiences wanted to see the family actually get into the park, so a new ending was written featuring John Candy as a security guard who’s held hostage while Clark and the family enjoy the rides. ”We wound up shooting that ending six or eight months later at Six Flags, but in that eight months puberty kicked in hard,” Hall recalls. ”Chevy didn’t make it a smooth transition for me. He immediately [joked about] the huge pimple I had.”
When Hall guest-starred in two episodes of Chase’s TV series Community, ”I felt like Rusty all over again,” Hall admits. Chase’s signature joke was to pretend like he didn’t recognize the actor and demand a cup of coffee, like he was some lowly on-set intern. Hall indulged him every time: ”That’s Chevy’s sense of humor.”
The actors often reminisce about the Griswolds and friends no longer with them, such as Bracken, Candy, and Imogene Coca, who played sour Aunt Edna. ”She was so nervous about being too mean,” Barron recalls. ”Every take she’d be like, ‘Was that too mean? Was that too awful?’ We were like, ‘It was great!’ It was sweet seeing a woman play so crabby yet not want to be crabby.”
The core clan will reunite again soon to play the Griswolds in an Old Navy commercial, and Warner Bros. has toyed with the idea of reviving the Vacation franchise again, possibly focusing on grown-up son Rusty. So far none of the principal players have been contacted, but D’Angelo says she and Chase are game to reprise the characters. ”We have this standing thing, like ‘We gotta go into Warner Bros. and pitch another movie!’ ‘Yeah, let’s do it!’ And then we’ll go — ‘Who’s the head of Warner Bros. now?’ ‘I don’t know. What are you doing on Saturday?’ And then it goes away.” Chase has a few ideas in mind for another big-screen Griswold adventure, including one bizarre favorite that crosses the threshold from fantasy to reality. ”Of course, it’ll never happen,” he concedes. ”But the title of it is: Clark and Ellen Save Randy. Instead of Cousin Eddie, it’s just Randy now.” If there’s anything that could save him from the ”star whackers,” maybe it’s a road trip.
Update: The Vacation Cast
Chase currently stars on NBC’s cult comedy Community, but he doesn’t think it will continue beyond the 13-episode run this season. What’s next for him? ”Death,” the 68-year-old actor jokes. ”But I hope not. Why limit your options?”
”I’ll be in a movie called A White Trash Christmas Carol, which is what you think it is,” the actress says with a laugh. ”I play the mother and also the Ghost of Christmas Past.” After that, D’Angelo, 60, will turn up in an action film called Bounty Killer. ”I was totally steampunked out,” she says. ”It’s apocalyptic sci-fi.”
Barron, 46, reprised the part of Audrey in the 2003 TV movie Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie’s Island Adventure. Her recent films include 2011’s happythankyoumore please, and she also wrapped a movie for the Hallmark Channel called Naughty or Nice. ”I play a very bizarre, Christmas-sweater-obsessed character,” she says.
Anthony Michael Hall
The 44-year-old, who starred for six seasons on USA’s The Dead Zone, will next appear in the supernatural Western Dead in Tombstone, opposite Danny Trejo and Mickey Rourke. He’ll also star in the thriller Friend Request, about a detective pursuing a murderous Facebook stalker. And he’s planning to direct and star in an indie drama called The Lost Shield next year.