When it comes to nostalgic Christmas films, Home Alone certainly comes to mind. It’s hard to believe it’s been almost 30 years since it was released. The phenomenal success of the movie was unexpected, to say the least. But the John Hughes’ brainchild became a classic and launched Macaulay Culkin into massive stardom. The movie surprised everyone, and the little eight-year-old’s screaming face is now an iconic staple in pop culture.
The movie held the number one spot until the first weekend of February, long after Christmas was over. Even though we have all seen it, there may be some things you never knew about the movie. For example: Did you know that there were four more sequels after Home Alone 2? Neither did we. To be fair, Macaulay Culkin’s iconic charm was missing since he wasn’t in them.
From the audition process to the unimaginable success, here are some behind-the-scenes facts about Home Alone.
Auditions for Kevin McCallister
John Hughes cast the young and talented Macaulay Culkin in the 1989 flick Uncle Buck, where the adorable child proved to be a real scene-stealer. That’s why when he wrote the part of Kevin McCallister, he already had Culkin in mind. During pre-production on Home Alone, Hughes hyped up the young actor’s talents to director Chris Columbus and told him he would be the perfect Kevin.
But Columbus felt like he needed to conduct a traditional audition process. He saw hundreds of kids who came in to audition or sent him audition tapes. After seeing them all, he concluded that Culkin was the right choice for the Christmas comedy.
Kevin’s Famous Scream
One of the most iconic photos of Home Alone is the image of Macaulay Culkin screaming with his hands on his cheeks. It ended up being featured as the movie poster and other marketing materials. But what you may not know is that this scream wasn’t meant to become as prominent as it is.
Director Chris Columbus revealed to Entertainment Weekly that Culkin was supposed to just slap on a little cologne and scream. Instead, he didn’t move his hands from his face when he screamed, making him resemble the famous Edvard Munch painting “The Scream.” Culkin’s improve was perfect, so it made it to the final cut of the film.
A Future Avenger
It’s always funny to watch an old movie and realized that a now mega-star played in it as a youngster. That’s exactly what happened in the utterly forgettable Home Alone 3, which gave an early scream to a future Avenger.
The reason this movie was so unmemorable is that there are no McCallisters! Instead of Kevin, it focuses on another little boy, Alex Pruitt. The kid ends up in possession of a computer chip and is followed by criminals who want it back. What you probably didn’t notice is that Alex’s big sister, Molly, is played by the Black Widow herself, Scarlett Johansson. It was one of her earliest movie roles.
The Tarantula Was Poisonous
Nowadays, if there is a movie scene with a tarantula crawling across someone’s face, it could easily be done through the magic of CGI. But back in 1990, the technology wasn’t quite there yet. So, for the scene where Marv ends up in that scenario, they put a real tarantula on Daniel Stern’s face.
The actor asked the wrangler if the stinger was removed, and the answer was no because that would have destroyed it. So, not only did he have a tarantula on his face, but it was poisonous and dangerous – and could have fatally wounded him. No wonder that fearful shriek was so convincing.
The Home Alone 2 Hotel Bill
In Home Alone 2, Kevin stays in a luxury Manhattan hotel for a couple of nights, where he orders a ton of food from room service. He orders some cakes, different types of ice cream, a pastry cart, and delicious looking strawberry tarts. As you can imagine, room service at a 4-star hotel doesn’t come cheap. So much do you think this vacation would have cost?
Even back in 1992, a room at the Plaza would have cost at least $1,000 a night. Add all that luxurious food, the car ride from the airport, and renting a pay-per-view movie, the grand total would have added up at about $2,200! That’s one way to spend a vacation.
Kevin’s Mom Thought She Was Too Mean
Catherine O’Hara made a name for herself on the Canadian sketch comedy series CSTV. After that, she started getting movie roles. The most memorable was arguably Kate McCallister, Kevin’s mom.
O’Hara enjoyed her role in the movie, but she did have a problem with one of the lines her character says to Kevin. She told him that he’ll be sorry if he wakes up and his family is gone. She felt like it was so mean for a mother to say that to her kid. After arguing with the director, she finally agreed to say the line! She only later realized how crucial it was for the storyline.
Joe Pesci Bit Macaulay Culkin
Joe Pesci hilariously portrayed bad guy Harry Line, a character who is actually named after the villain from Orson Welles’ 1949 drama, The Third Man. Harry is the main reason we find ourselves cracking up in the first two Home Alone movies. Over the years, Macaulay Culkin revealed that Pesci tried to act like his unfriendly character off-screen.
In one case, it led to an injury. While rehearsing for the scene where Harry hangs Kevin on a coat hook and says he’ll bite his fingers off, Pesci bit the young actor for real. He broke the skin and left a permanent scar. Considering what Kevin put the villains through, this seems like a rather minor injury.
Connection to Friends
Trivia question: What does Home Alone have in common with Friends? This may be surprising, but do you remember in the last season of the sitcom, Monica and Chandler buy a house in the suburbs? Some Internet sloths noticed the view from that house’s window.
The houses across the street are the exact same ones across from the McCallister’s house in Home Alone. As it turned out, the set designers working on Friends used some stock footage from Home Alone for the background. So, basically, I’m saying Monica and Chandler bought the McCallister’s house.
Macaulay Culkin’s Record Payday
When the first Home Alone movie was released, Macaulay Culkin was not a star; he was just “that kid from Uncle Buck.” His paycheck for the movie was $100,000. Sure, that’s a lot of money for a kid, but in Hollywood, that’s pocket change.
Once Home Alone became a massive success, that little boy was suddenly a household name. Of course, the studio wanted a sequel, and realistically, it wouldn’t be possible without him. This put the 9-year-old in a powerful position. His management commanded (and received) a whopping $4.5 million salary for the youngster. That was a record-breaking paycheck for a child performer.
Lighting Heads on Fire
One of Kevin’s more devious tricks was rigging the door so that when Harry walked through it, his head would light on fire. It looks really realistic, but obviously, they couldn’t burn actor Joe Pesci. This visual was accomplished using an old magic trick.
They painted a dummy’s head black, and the fire was blown on to that. The camera was pointed at a piece of glass put at a 45-degree angle. When Pesci hit a very specific mark on the set, he blocked out the reflection of the dummy’s house but not the flame, making it look like his scalp was burning. Tricky, tricky.
Another Culkin Cameo
Obviously, Macaulay Culkin’s adorable face is front and center in Home Alone. He is in basically every scene and the whole plot revolves around his character. What you probably missed, though, is that he is not the only Culkin kid to be featured in the movie. Macaulay’s little brother, Kieran, plays Fuller McCallister, Kevin’s cousin.
He was the one with oversized glasses who loved Pepsi. This role was Kieran’s on-screen debut. He went on to appear in several other notable movies, including She’s All That, Father of the Bride, The Cider House Rules, and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.
Macaulay Culkin Turned Down Home Alone 3
The third Home Alone movie had a very different premise than the first two. The main character isn’t even Kevin. It’s some kid named Alex who defends his house from criminals trying to get a hold of the computer chip inside his toy car. The original appeal wasn’t really there…
Home Alone 3 was initially supposed to focus on teenage Kevin McCallister. Unfortunately, Culkin temporarily retired from acting by 1997 and refused to return for the third movie. John Hughes and the studio had no choice but to reboot the Home Alone franchise. Needless to say, without Macaulay, the third installment was rather forgettable.
30-Year-Old Stunt Double
Kevin McCallister does some crazy things in Home Alone. He rides a sled down the stairs and shoots out the front door; he climbs a wall of shelves that end up collapsing on him. He even rides a zip line from his window to his treehouse. Despite his high energy, these stunts were way too dangerous for little Macaulay to do on his own.
Instead, Larry Nicholas performed them. The 30-year-old stuntman was conveniently the same height as your average 9-year-old boy. He is wearing Kevin’s clothes during the scenes, but you could tell it’s a stunt double if you pay attention in the zip-line scene.
The Director Did Home Alone Instead of Christmas Vacation
Director Chris Columbus created the biggest hit of his career because of an unfortunate professional situation. He was originally hired by writer and producer John Hughes to direct the sequel National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Columbus went to dinner with the star, Chevy Chase, but quickly realized their personalities didn’t mesh. Chase later told Chicago Magazine that Columbus “treated me like dirt.”
The second meeting didn’t go any better. That’s when Columbus called Hughes and backed out of the film. Feeling a little guilty over the whole situation, Hughes compensated him by offering him another Christmas film to direct: Home Alone.
John Candy Had One Day on Set
John Candy was pretty friendly with John Hughes. They had already worked together on Planes, Trains & Automobiles, and Uncle Buck. Both were massive hits. That’s why the producer wanted the actor to appear in Home Alone. He signed on to play polka musician Gus Polinski.
Since he was such an in-demand comedy star, he had a pretty hectic schedule. He was only able to come to set on one day. All his scenes, which were mostly improvised, were completed within a 24-hour time span. The marathon shooting session was exhausting, but the outcome was worth it.
The Elvis Presley Conspiracy
Elvis Presley died back in 1977, but to this day, there are people who believe that he is still alive and just hiding out somewhere. Now, some of these same conspiracy theorists also believe he appeared in Home Alone as an extra.
In the airport scene, when Kevin’s mom argues with an airline employee, there is a man behind her wearing a turtleneck sweater and a sports jacket. The guy shares a striking resemblance to the King of Rock and Roll and this led some people to believe Elvis was actually alive. Realistically, Elvis would have been way older in 1990 than the man in the background. I’m sorry, but Elvis is dead!
A Bellhop Named Cedric
Saturday Night Live comedian Rob Schneider has a notable supporting role, playing the bellhop at the Plaza Hotel in Home Alone 2. His character is frustrated with little Kevin, who never left him a tip. The bellhop’s name is Cedric… but that wasn’t always the case…
Schneider said that in the original script, the character didn’t have a name. But during filming, someone found a name tag from the Plaza that said “Cedric” on it. They gave it to him to wear, so he went with that name. Schneider admitted that once filming wrapped, he kept the name tag.
The McCallister House
Unlike most movies that film on a studio lot, Home Alone filmed the house exteriors at a real home. You can visit that actual house in Winnetka, Illinois, slightly north of Chicago. The beautiful home was only partly chosen because of its look. The other reason was that production needed a house that had certain components to pull off some stunts, like the front steps.
Since Home Alone came out, the house has naturally become a popular tourist attraction. Since it was used in the hit movie, its value spiked up. The house was sold for $1.5 million in 2012.
A French Filmmaker Claims It Ripped Off His Movie
When a movie becomes a huge blockbuster, everyone wants to take credit. After the success of Home Alone, it wasn’t shocking when someone came out of the woodwork claiming the movie ripped off of his idea.
A French filmmaker named René Manzor sued 20th Century Fox accusing the film of copying his 1989 film, Père Noel. His version was a thriller about a boy who has to fight for survival when an intruder breaks into the house after he was left there alone on Christmas Eve. The studio tried to reach a settlement, but their attempt was unsuccessful. It should be noted that John Hughes said he never saw or heard of Manzor’s film.
Harry and Marv Were Inspired By…
The two burglars who are repeatedly outsmarted by Kevin McCallister are Harry and Marv. The hilarious actors who portrayed them are Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern. The two stars had already worked together in a drama called I’m Dancing As Fast As I Can, back in 1982.
So, their incredible chemistry was no accident. In a 2015 social media post, Stern explained that he and Pesci found inspiration from various sources. Their performances were actually influenced by cartoon characters Wile E. Coyote, Bugs Bunny, and the classic comedy duo Laurel and Hardy.
In Home Alone 2, Kevin has a device called a “Talkboy,” some sort of variation of a tape recorder. In one particular scene, you can see him use a function to make his voice slow down and sound deeper so that he could impersonate his father on the phone. As it turns out, that toy didn’t actually exist; it was just a prop for the film.
But after the movie came out, kids began requesting Talkboys. That’s when the toy company Tiger Electronics jumped in and secured the rights to make the product for real. Unsurprisingly, they were a massive success. Talkboys immediately flew off the shelves, and the company could barely make them fast enough to meet demand.
In both Home Alone movies, Daniel Stern and Joe Pesci take quite the beating. Despite all the safety precautions, there were still a few injuries on set. The stunt that caused the most damage to Stern will probably come as a surprise.
The actor said that a scene from the second Home Alone film required him to climb a tower of TV sets, which bruised him up pretty bad: “It wasn’t a big laugh or a big stunt, but all those angles beat the [stuffing] out of me. My legs were black-and-blue from the weird angles I’d get snagged on.”
The Idea Came From Real-Life Travel Anxiety
A family going on vacation and forgetting one of their children behind isn’t a new concept, but the storyline seems very unlikely. I mean, the family would have to be astonishingly clueless not to notice they were missing someone. However, the Home Alone storyline stems from travel anxiety that John Hughes suffered from in real life.
The writer was getting ready to go on vacation and made a list of all the things he didn’t want to forget to pack. He jokingly thought to himself that hopefully, he wouldn’t forget his children. This got him thinking about what would happen in a scenario like that. He saw the comedic potential in the idea and turned it into a script.
Home Alone’s 27 Year World Record
We all know Home Alone was an unexpectedly successful blockbuster. To put the immense achievement into perspective, consider that the success is literally in the record books. It was the highest-grossing movie ever for a live-action comedy in a single release territory, making an astonishing $285.7 million.
Home Alone held on to that amazing record for an impressive twenty-seven years. In 2017, a Chinese movie finally beat it. The film was called Never Say Die and earned a hefty $286 million in its homeland. But … if you adjust for inflation and all that, Home Alone still comes out on top!
More Forgettable Sequels
Macaulay Culkin is a star and made the first two Home Alone movies as memorable as they are. Some people remember Home Alone 3, even though it wasn’t nearly as successful as the Culkin movies. What you may not know is that there are two more sequels after that.
Home Alone 4: Taking Back the House was released in 2002, but it was a straight-to-video film. Child actor Michael Weinberg took over the role of Kevin, and Marv was played by French Stewart. Then, there was Home Alone: The Holiday Heist, which was made for the ABC Family Channel and aired in 2012. Without Culkin’s charm, both films disappeared into obscurity.
Cousin Fuller Is Now a Succession Sibling
If you’ve watched Home Alone in recent years, you probably remember that Kevin didn’t want to share a bed with his cousin Fuller (played by Kieran Culkin) because he was worried that Fuller would “pee all over” him.
As it turns out, the notorious bed-wetter was destined to grow up to become Roman Roy: the snarkiest member of Succession’s first family. That’s right, that little boy with a love for Pepsi is now the Chief Operating Officer of Waystar Royce. See kids, dream big!
The Script Was Written in Less Than 10 Days
According to James Hughes, his father wrote the script to Home Alone in less than 10 days. He came up with the idea from travel anxiety: “Two weeks later, after returning home, he revisited the premise: What if one of the kids had accidentally been left behind.”
In an article for Chicago magazine, James elaborated: “Over the next nine days, he completed the first draft of Home Alone.” James added that in just eight hours, his dad knocked out the final 44 pages of the screenplay. “Before finishing, he’s expressed concerns in the marginalia of his journal that he was working too slowly.”
They Wanted Robert de Niro
It’s hard to imagine anyone other than Joe Pesci playing Harry Lyme, the hilariously dumb burglar. But it may be a surprise that he wasn’t the first choice to play the movie’s villain. The role was offered to another movie star – Robert De Niro. Pesci wasn’t even second in line.
After De Niro turned down the part, casting directors wanted to give it to Jon Lovitz from Saturday Night Live, but he also passed on it. At that point, the role of Harry went to Pesci. I guess De Niro and Lovitz didn’t realize how successful the movie would be. Either way, Pesci was the perfect choice!
The Truth About Buzz’s Girlfriend
When Kevin went through Buzz’s things, he found a framed picture of his girlfriend. But before you feel too bad for that girl, according to Devin Ratray, the girlfriend was a boy wearing a costume! Casting a girl for the role would have been evil, so they just went with a boy.
“They decided it would be unkind to put a girl in that role of just being funny-looking,” he explained and then revealed how they found the perfect man for the job. “The art director had a son who was more than willing to volunteer for the part. I think if he had known it would become the highest-grossing family comedy of all time, he might have had second thoughts about it.”
Old Man Marley
Kevin’s neighbor, Old Man Marley, is a seemingly creepy old man who has a small but important role in the film since he ultimately saved Kevin from the Wet Bandits. However, the character was not included in the original script.
Hughes added the character, whose name is a nod to Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol after Columbus told him that the story needed a little more heart. The character that Kevin believed was a serial killer ended up bringing holiday warmth into the classic Christmas film.
Dominated the Theaters
As we know, Home Alone was the highest-grossing family comedy. Culkin himself revealed that he can’t leave the house during the holiday season so many years later because people immediately recognize him. Although it’s still a beloved movie today, when it first came out, it seriously dominated the theaters.
It opened at No. 1 and stayed there for a remarkable 12 weeks. The Julia Roberts hit Sleeping with the Enemy finally took its spot, but that wasn’t until February 10th, 1991, long after most people had already taken down their Christmas decorations. Very impressive.
After its unprecedented success, Home Alone become a verb in the Hollywood lexicon. Don’t get confused here, though. To be “Home Aloned” doesn’t mean that you were forgotten at home when the rest of your family went on vacation.
According to The Big Picture, William Goldman’s 2001 collection of essays, “to be Home Aloned” is an expression that is used when a movie suffers because of a different film’s successful run. One could say, “My movie would have made more money, but it got Home Aloned.”
A Christmas Miracle
Believe it or not, fake snow was not in the budget for Home Alone. It seems strange for a holiday movie, but then there was a Christmas miracle, a blizzard! Mark Radcliffe, an associate producer, explained to Chicago Magazine that the snowstorm on the second day of shooting meant the rest of the movie would have to have snow in the background.
Radcliffe said, “I remember that whenever the snow melted, we were spraying ice, and then they had problems with ice. The next thing, they were literally laying bags of ice trying to create snow.” They reportedly also used mashed potatoes to create snow. Luckily, everything turned out great! It sure looks like snow to me.
Joe Pesci’s “F-Bombs”
Harry, Joe Pesci’s character, is the brains behind the low-level crook operations done by the two burglars. He and Daniel Stern’s character Marv were hilarious on-screen. but sometimes Pesci forgot he was in a family movie with children on set.
Given the surprising violence in Home Alone, he didn’t always remember the type of film it was. This meant that during some of his angry rants, he would drop the F-bomb. He didn’t mean to, but the F-word would naturally come out. Finally, Chris Columbus suggested he used the word “fridge” instead. But there is one scene where you can hear him say the word sh*t.
The Spooky Furnace
In the movie, little Kevin McCallister is scared of going into the basement because there was a terrifying furnace in there. Kevin saw the furnace as some kind of monster that was evil and scary, but it seems unconnected to the plot. That’s because it was initially meant to be part of a longer dream sequence.
Kevin was supposed to be tormented by several parts of the house, including the scary furnace during a dream sequence. However, it ended up being too expensive. Therefore, the menacing furnace scene ended up just being two guys with a finishing line and flashlights.
Working With Kids
If there was one valuable lesson that Chris Columbus learned while directing Home Alone, it’s that when you agree to work with a child actor, you agree to work with their family too. As you probably know, Macaulay Culkin’s dad was very demanding and borderline abusive when it came to his son’s career.
“We didn’t know that much about the family at the beginning; as we were shooting, we learned a little more. The stories are hair-raising. I was casting a kid who truly had a troubled family life,” Columbus said. Since then, Columbus went on to direct another massively successful movie filled with child actors: Harry Potter.
Would Have Made a Great Souvenir
Kevin’s treehouse is a memorable part of the movie. Everyone remembers the little prankster zip lining from the house into the treehouse. But you may be disappointed to find out that the treehouse wasn’t part of the actual property, and it doesn’t even exist anymore.
It was built specifically for the movie, and the homeowners requested it be demolished once filming wrapped. They could have had an iconic treehouse in their backyard! They probably regretted it after losing almost $800K on the sale price. Plus, it would have made a great souvenir.
Kevin McAllister, the Psychopath
So, obviously, this is just a funny movie, and what makes all the scenarios so hysterical is that these situations wouldn’t occur in real life. However, imagine if this story really happened. Who is the real victim here?
One doctor explained that considering all the violence and tricks that Wet Bandits suffered at the hands of an eight-year-old, the two burglars would have needed serious medical attention, assuming they survived. Kevin should have just called the cops, but he reacted extremely violently, especially for a child. In real life, a kid like that would probably end up being a psychopath as an adult.
Everyone wants to take credit when something becomes successful, and Home Alone is the perfect example. Initially, John Heard thought that the movie was going to be terrible, and he was not happy to be a part of the film.
But once he saw the completed film and its incredible success, he was proud and happy to have worked on it. He also knows how to say sorry and admit he’s wrong. During his first take in Home Alone 2, he actually broke character in order to apologize to Columbus.
Joe Pesci really wanted little Kevin to be scared of his character, so he decided not to be very friendly with eight-year-old Macaulay Culkin. He avoided the little kid on set and pretty much ignored him to make sure the child didn’t find him too familiar.
It also didn’t help when Pesci actually broke skin when his character threatened to bite off all of Culkin’s fingers. But, at the end of the day, the plan worked. Culkin looked uncomfortable in front of Pesci’s character, but maybe that’s because the eight-year-old was a talented star.
Finding the Perfect House
Chris Columbus spent a week trying to find the ideal house for the film. Once he found it, John Hughes called the winning house “perfect” for Home Alone, and it was. The house has become iconic, and the success of the movie has only made its value go up.
They chose the Winnetka, Illinois home become they felt like it was both warm and menacing, which was spot on for a Christmas comedy. “I took some pictures and send them over to John and I remember him saying, ‘this is perfect. This is exactly how I imagined the house,” Columbus told Entertainment Weekly.
Warner Brothers Originally Had the Rights
At one point, production for the film was stalled. Even though the movie was produced by Hughes Entertainment and presented by 20th Century Fox, Warner Brothers originally had the rights to the project. Chicago Magazine reported that a budget dispute took place three weeks before production was set to start.
Mark Radcliffe told the publication, “The question was, ‘Do we lay everyone off?’ John [Hughes] said to just hold tight.” Thankfully, 20th Century Fox attained the rights to the movie, and production continued as planned. That was a close one!
Mother and Son Relationship
Catherine O’Hara played Kevin’s mom in Home Alone. The actress told Andy Cohen during her 2015 appearance on Watch What Happens Live that she shared a sweet interaction with Macaulay Culkin at an art event.
“I haven’t seen him for years and years, but I saw him two years ago – a year and a half ago? – at a Martin Mull art opening, and he was coming out, and he went, ‘Mommy!’ and I said, ‘Baby!’ she revealed. That’s both adorable and a little creepy at the same time. She was happy to see him, and her husband made them take a picture together.
Not the Same
Macaulay told Ellen DeGeneres in a 2018 interview that it’s difficult for him to watch the movie without remembering a bunch of personal contexts, which is understandable. I mean, imagine starring in a movie; it only makes sense that the actors who get the behind-the-scenes scoops look at things differently.
“When I’m watching it, I’m seeing like – I’m remembering that day on set. You know, like, how I was hiding my Pepsi behind the couch,” he revealed. “I can’t watch it the same way other people can.” He also referred to the film as “background radiation at Christmastime” during that same interview.
John Candy Improvised Most of His Lines
Gus Polinski was definitely a memorable character, and that is likely because of the actor who portrayed him. John Candy was available for one day of shooting – 23 hours to be exact. The legendary comedic actor got to set ready to improvise.
“He was on the movie for only one day, but it resulted in so much great improvisation. None of that stuff was in the script,” he said. “The funeral-parlor story, that was all improvised at 4:30 in the morning. We could barely keep a straight face on set just listening to John.”
Production Took Place at a Familiar High School
Hughes likes to make his movies in the Chicagoland area, so naturally, they set their production offices up in the same high school as some of their other classics, including Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Uncle Buck.
They also used the building’s gym for the interior shots of the McCallister’s house. Yes, the flooded basement at the end of the film is actually the high school’s swimming pool. Most of the sets were built on the school’s basketball court.
John Candy Made Less Than the Pizza Boy!
As we mentioned, Candy was only available to film for one 23-hour day, and he didn’t get much compensation for it. Reportedly, the actor chose to make a cameo as a favor to Hughes and earned “scale” pay – the lowest pay rate the studio agrees to.
Despite the fact that he was in such high demand (which is why he didn’t have much availability), the comedic actor earned only $414 for his appearance. He ended up making less than Danny Warhol, who played Charles Zukoski – the pizza boy.