It’s Christmas, which means that Elf, Love Actually and Home Alone are now mandatory viewing before the big day rolls around.
Home Alone was the highest-grossing Christmas film of all time worldwide until last year’s The Grinch knocked it off the top spot (really!?), and that’s just one of the many behind-the-scenes facts
1. John Hughes came up with the concept while shooting Uncle Buck
Ever heard of the film Uncle Buck? You should be thankful for it – teen movie scribe John Hughes came up with Home Alone while shooting Uncle Buck, during a scene in which Macaulay Culkin’s character interrogates a potential babysitter through a letterbox. Culkin does the same thing in Home Alone during with the help of an old movie.
2. The picture of Buzz’s girlfriend was a boy
Director Chris Columbus thought it would be too cruel to make fun of an actual girl like that, so the picture is instead the art director’s son dressed as a girl.
3. The tarantula was real
Filmed just before the days where CGI was widespread and affordable, the shot where a tarantula crawls across burglar Marv’s face was real. Actor Daniel Stern agreed as long as the scene was done in one take – we hardly blame him. Unsurprisingly, the scream was captured fully on set with no need to dub later.
4. The role was written specifically for Macaulay Culkin
Even before he was a household name and the most sought-after child actor around, Culkin had the honour of having a script written with him in mind by John Hughes. Chris Columbus wasn’t convinced and auditioned over 100 other kids for the part, but none proved as good as Culkin.
5. Macaulay Culkin’s brother is in the film
Yes, Macauley Culkin has a brother, and yes he did a spot of child acting too. Macauley’s younger brother plays Fuller, the bedwetting cousin who Kevin refuses to share a bed with. Unlike his older brother, Kieran is still in the acting game – as Chief Operating Officer Roman Roy in Succession of all places. We doubt that character wets the bed.
6. Joe Pesci wouldn’t stop swearing on set
Joe Pesci is best known for starring in slightly more adult fare than Home Alone, so had trouble keeping his language suitable for a family film. Chris Columbus advised him to use the word “fridge” rather than another slightly stronger word.
7. It was VERY successful
Home Alone was the number one film in the US for 12 weeks straight and stayed in the top 10 until June the following year. With over £476million worldwide it was the most successful live-action comedy of all time for over 20 years until The Hangover Part II’s release, and it even spawned a new verb: “to be Home Aloned” means to have a film’s potential box office reduced by the unexpected long success of Home Alone.
8. The McCallister house sold for over $1.5million
The ridiculously large McCallister house used for exterior shots is a real building in Illinois, and in 2015 the 4,250-square-foot property sold for $1.585 million. The owners clearly knew how iconic their place was – the original asking price was $2.4million.
9. The cast improvised some of the most iconic lines
“You guys give up, or are you thirsty for more?” was improvised by Macaulay Culkin himself, while Daniel Stern came up with the lines “Why the hell are you dressed like a chicken?” and “Maybe he committed suicide”. John Candy’s whole performance was essentially improvised, a trademark of John Hughes films.
10. Poland loves Home Alone
Home alone has become a phenomenon in Poland, where millions of people traditionally watch it on national television every year. When Polstar TV did not list the film in their Christmas schedule in 2010 over 90,000 people protested on Facebook.
11. The Wet Bandits had little faith in the movie
The Wet Bandits themselves Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern felt pretty indifferent to the movie, so intentionally gave over-the-top performances. Little did they know just how phenomenally successful the film would become.
12. Joe Pesci really bit Macaulay Culkin
During a rehearsal for the scene where the wet bandits threaten to bite Kevin’s fingers off, Joe Pesci accidentally bit Macauley Culkin and broke the skin. He still bears the scar to this day.
13. Kevin’s flooded basement was actually a swimming pool
Yes, the flooded “basement” that Kevin runs through is actually the swimming pool of a high school. Much of the film was actually shot in a school – most of the sets were built on the basketball court of the very same school.
14. Robert De Niro turned down a bandit role
Before Joe Pesci was cast, the role of Harry was initially offered to his The Irishman co-star Robert De Niro. Pesci wasn’t even second choice, however – Saturday Night Live comedian Jon Lovitz also passed on the part.
15. Macaulay Culkin actually drew the map planning his traps
A multi-talented child star, Macaulay Culkin drew the suitably childlike map that details Kevin’s many traps. We doubt he actually set the traps up himself, however.
16. Joe Pesci avoided Macaulay Culkin on set
As if his on-screen character wasn’t mean enough, Pesci avoided the child star on set so that he would be authentically afraid of him. Actually biting his finger probably did the trick too.
17. There’s a rumour that Elvis made a cameo
Yes, that Elvis, who died at Graceland 13 years before the film came out. Long before internet conspiracies, Home Alone was the subject of an urban legend that the King was in the movie – specifically sporting a beard and a turtleneck in the background while Kevin’s mum argues with the airport ticket agent. It could of course just have been a similar-looking extra, but if Donald Trump of all people could appear in the sequel then who knows…
18. The film Kevin watches isn’t real
Movie buffs will know this one – the film Kevin uses when collecting his pizza delivery is not real, with the scenes made especially for Home Alone. The movie-within-a-movie is called Angels With Filthy Souls, a reference to Humphrey Bogart classic Angels with Dirty Faces.
19. There’s a secret swear in the film
Though Joe Pesci managed to keep his swearing out of the film, Daniel Stern was not so lucky – if you listen closely while Marv retrieves his shoe through the doggie door, there’s a very suspicious sounding word that seems to have gotten through the censors.
20. Old Man Marley wasn’t originally in the film
Named after A Christmas Carol’s first ghost, the presumed serial killer-turned-saviour was only added to John Hughes’ script after Christopher Columbus thought the movie could use some more heart.
21. The burglars definitely would have died in real life
It’s long been common knowledge that both bandits, in reality, would’ve met a beyond brutal end at the hands of Kevin McCalister, but a doctor has confirmed just how badly.
22. John Candy filmed his part in one day
Not only was his part as“Polka King of the Midwest” Gus Polinski entirely improvised, but was filmed in one, 23-hour long day.
23. Macaulay Culkin’s stunt double was a very short 30-year-old man
The stunts were a tad dangerous for the 10-year-old child actor, so the slightly older – but no taller – Larry Nicolas was brought in in his place.
24. The iconic scream was an accident
When Kevin tries on the aftershave, Macaulay Culkin was supposed to take his hands away and then scream. However, on the first take, Culkin forgot, resulting in the Edward Munch homage that appears all over the advertising.
25. Daniel Stern really stepped on those ornaments
However, they weren’t real Christmas ornaments – they were made of candy glass.
26. The near car-crash was shot in reverse
Remember when the wet bandits stop their van centimetres away from Kevin? Funnily enough, that was too dangerous to shoot properly, and the scene was shot with the van reversing away from Macaulay Culkin and then played backwards.
27. Kevin’s dad threw out Kevin’s plane ticket
In a neat bit of foreshadowing, when Kevin’s dad cleans the milk from the passports, if you look closely he accidentally throws away Kevin’s ticket. John Hughes thought it unrealistic that a family would forget a child, and covered all possible instances – including the lack of an unclaimed ticket at the airport.
28. Kevin’s older sister is now a judo champion
Actress Hilary Wolf returned for Home Alone 2, before going on to represent the US at the 1996 and 2000 summer Olympics. Sounds like she’d be useful against those bandits.
29. Macaulay Culkin starred in a sequel in 2018 (sort of)
In an advert for Google Assistant, Culkin recreated his iconic role with a very modern twist. Former child stars returning to iconic roles for an ad is all the rage these days, with E.T.’s Elliott also reprising his role for a Comcast Xfinity promo earlier this year.
30. It’s being rebooted on Disney Plus
Following Disney’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox earlier this year, Disney now appropriately own the rights the family film and have wasted no time in rebooting the franchise. The new Home Alone will debut exclusively on their new streaming service Disney+ and – shock horror – won’t feature Kevin McCallister as the lead character.