If you tried to describe the violent holiday classic ‘Home Alone’ to someone who had never seen it, they might wonder why it’s considered a “must watch” at Christmas time. Watching the precocious, sadistic Kevin McAllister (played by Macaulay Culkin) find new and unique ways to commit assault and battery against two hapless burglars doesn’t sound like something that would teach an impressionable child about why the holidays are important.
This slapstick classic may have become a big box office draw for its ability to turn Micro Machines and Christmas ornaments into dangerous weapons, but it certainly didn’t impress many critics. However, any child of the 1990s knows that behind all the carnage and flying paint cans lies a sweet tale of family, togetherness and forgiveness. So here’s a deep look back at this black and blue Christmas classic.
1. Macaulay Culkin scored the Kevin McAllister role thanks to his performance in ‘Uncle Buck’
Culkin grew up in an acting family and his notorious father, Kit, actually worked as his abrasive and sometimes abusive manager. Macaulay started acting at age 6 and got his first big screen break in 1989 with John Hughes’ ‘Uncle Buck,’ starring John Candy in the title role. His performance as Buck’s wise-cracking, precocious nephew scored him the role that would make him a superstar.
John Hughes loved Macaulay’s “angelic brattiness” and wanted to use him in another movie with a bigger part. That film became ‘Home Alone.’ Director Chris Columbus auditioned other kids for the main role out of fairness, but it ultimately went to Macaulay, who earned $100,000 for his performance. The movie quickly became one of the top grossing comedies of all time. So when Fox wanted a sequel, little Mac’s paycheck was bumped up to $5 million and 5 percent of the movie’s profits.
2. The McAllisters’ home was filmed in a real house outside Chicago
The massive, two-story home that served as Kevin’s funhouse of pain for the “Wet Bandits” wasn’t remade on a sound stage -- it was all filmed in a real house in Winnetka, Illinois.
The home’s original owners, John and Cynthia Abendshien, said Columbus chose their historic, 4,250 square foot home while scouting locations near his home town of River Forest, Illinois.
The studio put the family up in a studio apartment as they were shooting but the family chose to spend as much time as they could in the house since they knew the carnage it would contain. However, they actually have many happy memories of the film and the friendships they developed with Macaulay, his younger brother Kieran, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern and Catherine O’Hara, who played Kevin’s frantic mother.
The only major problem the homeowners recalled was when they learned one of the fir trees in their backyard had been cut in half. They didn’t realize it until after they attended the movie’s premiere when they saw Kevin saw off the top of the tree to make a Christmas tree. The moment gave them a good laugh, John said. (The couple sold the home back in March of 2012 for $1.5 million.)
3. The "Old Man Marley" plot wasn’t in the original version of the script
Hughes originally wrote 'Home Alone' as a straight, 'Three Stooges'-style action comedy but Columbus felt it needed something to make it softer and more emotional in between the comedic screams and slaps.
Columbus came up with the story about the creepy neighbor played by the late character actor Roberts Blossom after Hughes submitted the first script draft. He felt it needed a more sentimental side beyond just Kevin being separated from his family. So he brought in a character that terrified Kevin at first, but ended up saving him. The fact that Kevin also helped reunite his neighbor with his estranged family helped further drive home the movie's thesis about the importance of family and forgiveness. See, it's not all about grievous injuries.
4. Joe Pesci had trouble watching his language
One of the biggest surprises in the movie (other than the fact that the “Wet Bandits” are somehow still alive after being beaten senseless for 30 straight minutes) is that Joe Pesci accepted the role.
Columbus was flabbergasted that Pesci, a tough guy actor who regularly appeared in Martin Scorsese movies like 'Raging Bull' and 'Goodfellas,' signed on as the slightly smarter burglar after being sent a copy of the script. Unfortunately, Pesci wasn’t used to acting in family movies. Columbus wanted his cast to improvise as much as they could, but Pesci often had a hard time controlling his language during some of his angrier scenes. Columbus suggested that Pesci use the word "fridge" in place of a certain other F-word to avoid having so many reshoots.
5. An earlier script draft included an elaborate dream sequence in which Kevin’s house comes to life
A big element of the movie’s plot deals with Kevin’s fear of being alone, whether it’s having a rumored snow-shovel murderer as a next door neighbor or a spooky basement furnace.
Columbus wanted to expand on the furnace bit by turning the whole house against Kevin. He storyboarded a long, scary dream sequence in which Kevin thinks the house is trying to attack him after he makes his family disappear. Some of the sights included the furnace and several toy nutcrackers chasing Kevin through the house and trying to eat him. Unfortunately, the budget didn’t have room for such elaborate special effects so the idea was abandoned.
6. The actor who played the gangster in both 'Angels With Filthy Souls' movies played his final role in ‘Home Alone 2’
Kevin gets to some much needed "R&R" in both 'Home Alone' and 'Home Alone 2: Lost in New York' by watching a very adult gangster movie from the fictional 'Angels with Filthy Souls' series.
Both of these movies within a movie are later used to trick Kevin's victims (a pizza guy and the Wet Bandits in the first movie and the staff of Plaza hotel in the second) into believing they are conversing with a trigger happy maniac. These movies-within-a-movie serve as the final roles for the actor Ralph Foody who played the vicious gangster Johnny.
The Chicago actor had a fairly prolific career in theater, TV and film and scored some memorable screen time in smaller roles such as the police dispatcher in 'The Blues Brothers' and a heckler in 'The Babe.' He retired soon after 'Home Alone 2' and passed away in 1999.
7. Daniel Stern didn’t actually scream when the tarantula was on his face
One of the more memorable moments from Kevin's final showdown with the Wet Bandits came courtesy of his overbearing brother Buzz and his tarantula.
After Kevin raids Buzz's room to find some money for food and look through a few of his Playboys, he accidentally destroys the shelves and sets his pet tarantula loose. Later, just as Marv catches Kevin by his pants leg, Kevin spots the loose tarantula and places it on Marv's face, giving him a chance to escape. Marv lets out a ridiculous, girly, high-pitched scream to the delight of the audience. Of course, as they were shooting the actual scene, Stern didn’t want to scream at all with a spider on his face. He was worried it would startle the spider into biting him. Instead, he mimed the moment and recorded the scream in post-production.
8. The basement flooded by the Wet Bandits had to be filmed in a swimming pool
The majority of the movie takes place in an Illinois neighborhood but one of the trickier scenes to film was a neighbor's basement that had been flooded by the Wet Bandits' watery calling card.
Towards the end of the film, Kevin successfully beats the living heck out of Marv and Harry and tries to flee for help by ducking through a neighbor's basement. The basement is filled with water after Marv leaves the water running in the kitchen sink, which eventually tells the police how many houses they hit after their arrests. The scene was also filmed in the same neighborhood but not in one of the houses. The crew actually built a fake basement in a local high school's massive swimming pool for Macaulay to run through for the film's climactic scene. The crew also built the basement for Kevin's home in the school's gymnasium.
9. Pesci actually bit Culkin in one of the movie's final scenes
When Harry and Marv manage to outwit that little sadist Kevin, they hang him from his sweater by a coat hook and begin to enact their revenge. Fortunately, "Old Man Marley" and his trusty snow shovel show up just in time to save him.
Just before Marv gets a face full of shovel, he starts to bite Kevin's fingers off "one at a time." Macaulay remarked years later that Pesci actually did bite one of his fingers. Of course, it was an accident but the nine-year-old was more than a little mad at Pesci. He claims he remarked, "I don’t care how many Oscars you have or whatever, don’t go biting a 9-year-old!" He also recently discovered that the bite left a permanent scar on his finger.
10. A French director claimed the original 'Home Alone' was based on his movie
'Home Alone,' of course, is no exception. French filmmaker Rene Manzor claimed that Hughes ripped off the idea of his jarring thriller '3615 Code Pere Noel' (or 'Game Over' in America) about a kid who defends his home and feeble grandfather from a deranged lunatic dressed as Santa by turning his toys and home appliances into deadly weapons. Manzor tried to reach a settlement with Fox and threatened to sue over the two film’s similarities. Now that we think about it, 'Game Over' sounds ripe for an American remake. Get on it, Fox.