Home Alone Facts: 16 Things You Didn't Know
It turned Macaulay Culkin into the most famous kid on the planet, created a new toy and became the highest-grossing live-action comedy film ever made – at least until 2011 when The Hangover Part II edged into the lead.
We are of course referring to Christopher Columbus' 1990 smash hit Home Alone, a festive favourite that's become a national tradition in Poland, where the film is broadcast every single year to ever-growing audiences.
But how much do you know about Home Alone really? We went digging and came up with a bunch of Home Alone facts you may not know...
1. Uncle Frank was behind the whole thing
Everyone who has seen home alone knows that Kevin's uncle, Frank McCallister, is a total jerk. But a few years ago somebody came up with the theory that it was Uncle Frank who was behind the robbery, employing Marv and Harry – aka The Wet Bandits – to knock off his own brother's house while he enjoyed himself on a holiday paid for by the very same brother. In fact, an early draft of the script did indeed pitch Frank as the mastermind behind the whole caper, but this was one of several changes made because Hughes wanted to inject more sentimentality into the film, along with the introduction of Kevin's neighbour, Old Man Marley.
2. The role of Frank was originally written for Kelsey Grammer
John Hughes reportedly had Kelsey Grammer in mind when he wrote the role of Frank, but the Frasier star declined to take on the part. It's just as well, we can't really imagine Kelsey Grammer being anything like as detestable as the guy portrayed by Gerry Bamman.
3. Macaulay Culkin's stunt double was a 30-year old man
The star of the film was only nine years old when the film was made and so obviously wasn't able to perform the many stunts involved himself, but where do you find somebody who can convincingly pass as a child, yet still be insurable? Step forward Larry Nicholas, the Hollywood stuntman of rather small stature who had previously worked on everything from Lost Boys to Baywatch. It's him you see performing the film's most dangerous stunts, and he was 30 years old at the time.
4. John Candy's scenes were shot in one day and were largely improvised
It's fair to say that without Uncle Buck, there would be no Home Alone. John Hughes originally came across Macaulay Culkin while making Uncle Buck with John Candy and was determined to wedge Candy into the new film somehow, but Candy had a busy schedule. Even so, he agreed to take the part of Gus Polinski - 'the polka king of the midwest' – filming his whole part in just one gruelling 23-hour day. He also improvised most of the lines himself on the spot.
5. Madonna was considered for the role of Kevin's mum, Kate McCallister
Actually, the material girl was one of many, many actresses considered for the part before director Chris Columbus finally settled on Catherine O'Hara. Others included Sigourney Weaver, Diane Keaton, Jamie Lee Curtis, Helen Hunt, Meg Ryan, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daryl Hannah and Carrie Fisher.
6. The 'Talkboy' was just a prop, but later became a real toy
Originally created as a non-working prop for the purposes of the film, the 'Talkboy' cassette recorder Kevin uses in the film eventually became a toy manufactured by Tiger Electronics, the result of a massive letter-writing campaign from the film's fans who wanted one for themselves. Spotting an opportunity, Tiger developed the product and it was on the shelves in Toys R Us just in time for the arrival of the film's sequel.
7. Joe Pesci's character is named in homage to Orson Welles
Fans of Orson Welles may have noticed that Joe Pesci's character's full name is Harry Lime, named after Welles' character in Carol Reed's 1949 film The Third Man.
8. Chris Columbus had to suggest some alternative swearwords for Pesci
More used to playing hardened gangsters in films intended for an adult audience, Pesci reportedly had a tendency to forget he was making a family film and kept dropping F-bombs on camera. To get around the problem, Columbus suggested that Pesci try and use the word 'fridge' instead.
9. The actress playing Kevin's sister represented the U.S.A. at the Olympics, twice
Hilary Wolf plays Kevin's sister Megan McCallister in the film and although she featured briefly in the film's 1992 sequel Home Alone: Lost in New York, it was to be her final film when she gave up acting to pursue a career as a Judoka, competing for her country in both the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games. Unfortunately she failed to get a medal on either occasion, but she did manage to win the junior world title in 1994, competing at the event held in Cairo.
10. Macaulay Culkin has a scar from the scene in which Joe Pesci bites his finger
Although it wasn't intentional, Joe Pesci actually ended up sinking in his teeth into Culkin's finger so badly that he needed stitches. The former child star still has the scar to prove it.
11. Robert De Niro was offered the role of Harry Lime, but turned it down
De Niro and Pesci have become known as something of a cinematic double act thanks to their roles together in a string of Martin Scorsese's films including Raging Bull, Goodfellas and Casino, but if Pesci seemed like a coup in casting terms for director Chris Columbus, he was initially aiming higher. De Niro was by this time already a well-established A-lister and was the director's first choice for the role of Harry, but De Niro declined and Pesci stepped in.
12. Most of the main actors thought the film was going to be a flop
Neither Joe Pesci or Daniel Stern though that Home Alone would be a hit, so they figured that it wouldn't matter too much if their performances were a little over the top. John Heard was even more critical; according to Columbus, Heard was unhappy working on the film and thought it would be “terrible”. It wasn't until the film's success led to a sequel and Heard agreed to come back that he apologised to Columbus. Right before his first take on Home Alone 2, Heard broke character to apologise to the director, who says he still has Heard's apology on tape because the cameras were already rolling for his scene.
13. The studio wasn't too confident either
The film's initial release was relatively small and, Columbus says, this probably helped its performance at the box office in the long run: “It opened in a smaller amount of theaters, so it created this story of momentum that people couldn’t get in to see the movie. It wasn’t like there was another show playing; a lot of people were turned away that first weekend... and it ended up being No. 1 weekend after weekend after weekend. Which doesn’t happen anymore.”
14. Greg Beeman's 1995 comedy Bushwhacked was originally intended as a Home Alone spin-off
Beeman's film stars Daniel Stern as a delivery driver who discovers that his employer has been using him to ferry illicit cash around, and winds up on the run from the police when his employer turns up dead and he finds himself in the frame for his murder. Originally, Stern's protagonist was named Marv Merchants – the very same Marv he played in Home Alone – but while the idea of a spin-off was eventually scrapped, the central premise for the film remained intact and instead the character's name was changed to Max Grabelski.
15. John Williams wasn't even first choice to score the film
Williams is probably one of the best-known film composers on the planet thanks to his iconic work on films such as Star Wars and the Indiana Jones films, but he wasn't Chris Columbus' first choice – not because Columbus didn't rate his work, but because the director didn't imagine he'd be able to get one of the world's most in-demand composers to work on a film with such a modest budget. Bruce Broughton was selected to write the film's music instead and the early promo posters even featured Broughton's name, but as filming was winding to a close Broughton called Columbus to say he was under deadline on another film and wouldn't be able to do the job. Left without a composer, Columbus called his friend Steven Spielberg, who gave him the number of Williams' agent. Williams agreed to a screening, fell in love with the film, and the rest is history. His work earned Home Alone its only two Oscar nominations.
16. Warner Bros. missed out on the biggest-grossing comedy of all time over just $700,000
Although the film was eventually produced by 20th Century Fox, it was Warner Bros. who originally held the rights to the script. However, Hughes had budgeted the film for $14.7 million, but Warners would only agree to stump up $14 million. So, Fox agreed to take on the project, upped the budget to $17 million and ended up bagging the biggest live-action comedy to date.
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