Joe Pesci invented a language to stop himself from swearing, John Candy was paid less than the pizza boy, and more fun tidbits about the Christmas classic.
Home Alone is one of the most beloved Christmas films and one of the highest-grossing comedies of all time, raking in more than $476 million at the worldwide box office. Netflix’s new series The Movies That Made Us offers a look at how director Chris Columbus and co. pulled this Christmas magic off with a budget of just under $15 million. Below are eight fun facts about the 1990 holiday classic from the series.
The movie got scrapped — then saved
When Columbus and writer John Hughes presented the Home Alone script to Warner Bros., it seemed like a holiday hit in the making, but the actual making of the movie was halted due to the production going over the initial $10 million budget. The studio pulled the plug on the movie altogether, and all seemed lost until Hughes convinced 20th Century Fox to pick up the film. Secret meetings between Hughes and Fox execs may have been ethically questionable, but hey, they needed a Christmas miracle.
It wasn’t supposed to be Columbus’ first Christmas rodeo
Before Hughes gave Columbus the script for Home Alone, the prolific screenwriter/director who defined the ‘80s tasked the Adventures in Babysitting helmer with directing National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Unfortunately, Columbus and star Chevy Chase did not get along very well causing Columbus to leave the film project. He had the exact opposite experience on Home Alone, developing a close relationship with star Macaulay Culkin. Clearly, Columbus enjoyed working with children, since he went on to direct the first two films in the Harry Potter franchise.
Home Alone was not shot in an actual home, but a high school
That brick manor that the McCallisters called home? Just an establishing shot. The crew actually built a prototype of the Chicago abode on the grounds of New Trier Township High School, an abandoned school where two other Hughes movies, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Uncle Buck, also filmed.
The role of Marv was tossed from one Daniel to another — and back
Marv, one of the two Wet Bandits, was originally offered to Daniel Stern, but he turned it down because the pay was not up to his standard, so actor Daniel Roebuck was the next Dan up. The only problem was he and Joe Pesci, who played the other bandit, Harry, did not screen test very well together so they went back to convince their first choice to take the role. Stern recalls “what an idiot I was, to let that almost get away. Thank God they came back to me.” It turned out Stern and Pesci, who had worked together on I’m Dancing as Fast as I Can eight years prior, made perfect partners in crime.
Joe Pesci could barely get through the script without swearing
The Martin Scorcese favorite actor is known for playing characters that have a way with certain words. Unfortunately, such language wasn’t allowed in a family-friendly Christmas movie and Pesci was having a hard time with it. For this reason, he developed a muttering gibberish that took the place of swear words whenever his character, Harry, blew a fuse. The results became iconic.
The stunts were inspired by cartoons
To create booby traps that a kid would set, Home Alone cinematographer Julio Macat had to think like a kid. So, he watched cartoons like Roadrunner and Bugs Bunny to bring the Wet Bandit falls and injuries to life. As Stern points out, there was no CGI at the time the film was made, so stunt doubles like Troy Brown had their work cut out for them. Those stair falls, shovel hits, and iron drops were the real deal. That’s why, Macat explains, future film stunts of that grandeur were dubbed “The Home Alone.”
Bringing on John Williams as a composer started as a joke
When Columbus saw a rough cut of the film, he wasn’t the biggest fan of the music. He joked about possibly getting Oscar-winning Star Wars and Jaws composer John Williams to score their low budget Christmas movie, but the joke was on them. Williams saw the rough cut and liked it so much he agreed to do it. And as Potterheads know, this wasn’t the last time Williams and Columbus worked on a film together.
John Candy was paid less than the pizza boy
The Uncle Buck star was not paid the big bucks on this film. Hughes loved John Candy so much that he allowed the star to take creative liberties with the script when no one else could. That polka scene? Completely improvised! But the love did not have a monetary value. Candy shot all of his scenes over one 23-hour period and did it for scale, making less than the actor who played “the pizza boy” (Dan Charles).
The Movies That Made Us is streaming now on Netflix.