No holiday season would be complete without multiple viewings of Home Alone and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. There’s just something about Kevin McCallister, Harry and Marv that screams Christmas cheer. But no matter how many times you’ve seen these ’90s classics, and how much of the script you know by heart, there are still some things we’re sure you don’t know about the classic films. We’ve rounded up 15 of our favorite tidbits about the Home Alone franchise below. So scroll down in one, two… ten!
It’s undeniable—Home Alone would have been a much different movie without Macaulay Culkin. There’s just something the mischievous child actor brought to the role that it seems no one else could have. Of course, it’s easy for us to say that now. The movies have become such classics that Kevin McCallister and Macaulay Culkin seem as inseparable as Princess Leia and Carrie Fisher. But it wasn’t always that way. While Christopher Columbus did write the role with Culkin in mind, he also auditioned over 200 other boys for the part. It seems that while he thought Culkin could pull the role off, he wasn’t totally convinced that it should go to him until he saw that dozens of other young actors didn’t have the spark that would bring the character to life.
14. Vacation nightmares
John Hughes is a Hollywood legend. He has close to 50 movies to his name, including classics like The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Sixteen Candles. With that kind of resume, it seems clear that he’s never had too many professional worries, but that doesn’t mean his entire life has been worry free. Case in point: Hughes’ idea for Home Alone came on the eve of his family’s first trip to Europe. Worried that someone would get left behind in all of the commotion, he jotted his fears down in a journal. After a successful trip, and the safe return of every single one of his children, he re-visited the journal entry and ended up writing the entire script for the holiday film over the next nine days. Talk about a successful method of channeling your anxiety into your work!
13. A home-grown affair
Most movies are shot on sound stages, or on locations that just bear a passing resemblance to where the action is supposedly passing. But in a rare move, much of Home Alone was actually shot in the Chicago area. No matter that that McCallister family was supposed to be on vacation in Paris for the majority of the movie. The scenes of Paris-Orly Airport were actually shot in Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. The hotel room scenes with the view of the Eiffel Tower? Local sound stages and green screens. And the first class cabin the family settles into for their international flight? The basketball court of a local high school (which also sacrificed other rooms and it’s swimming pool for some of the more destructive, burglar-catching scenes in the film).
12. Elvis is in the building
Surprise, surprise! Elvis is in Home Alone. When the movie first came out in 1990, conspiracy theorists everywhere had a conniption, claiming that they’d spotted the legendary rocker in the film. The scene in question is the one where Catherine O’Hara is stuck in the Scranton airport, right before she agrees to ride home with John Candy and his gang. Eagle-eyed viewers swear that the bearded man behind her (who apparently looks identical to Elvis in his 1969 film Charro!) is the king himself. He also cocks his head in a manner that’s eerily similar to some of Elvis’ onstage mannerisms, which they claimed was an indication to die-hard fans that it was really him. Adding fuel to the theorists’ fire, immediately prior to Home Alone, Columbus had just made Heartbreak Hotel, about a group of kids trying to kidnap Elvis, which, according to them, made him sympathetic with Elvis’ secret and made his film the perfect opportunity to reappear. Culkin has laughed about the theory, but there’s still no word on who that extra was.
11. Angels with Filthy Souls
“Merry Christmas, ya filthy animal!” The movie’s most iconic and quotable line comes from Kevin’s favorite movie, Angels With Filthy Souls. While we’re sure Mr. and Mrs. McCallister wouldn’t have approved of their progeny watching such a violent gangster movie, he sure gets his fill of it after they’ve left, and even uses it for inspiration for his attack of the house burglars. If you’ve ever been curious about the black and white film, and thought about trying to find it online to watch more of the old classic, don’t bother. Angels With Filthy Souls (and its sequel Angels With Even Filthier Souls, which Kevin watches in Home Alone 2) isn’t a real movie. Columbus made it specifically for his Christmas romp, hiring real actor Ralph Foody to play the mobster. All that exists of the noir thriller is the one scene you see in the Home Alone films.
10. Call an ambulance, please!
Have you ever wondered if Marv and Harry would have made it through all of Kevin’s booby traps in one piece? It seems like getting your hair singed off by a blow torch or taking a paint can to the face would leave injuries way more serious than just a burn mark or bruise or two. Well, in 2012 magazine The Week went ahead and answered that question for us. According to their estimation, there is no way Marv and Harry would not have walked away from those injuries in one piece. They would have suffered from eye socket fractures, hands that burst into flames (from holding on to the burning doorknobs), lost teeth and burns that would’ve melted away their entire scalps. The gravity of their injuries could have actually had Kevin facing some serious charges—legally, he apparently took things a step or two beyond self defense.
When Kevin first realizes he’s been left behind, he does what any 8-year-old would do—heads into his older brother’s usually off-limits room and begins to snoop through all of his stuff. He finds a few treasures—junk food, Playboys, firecrackers—but he also finds a framed photograph of Buzz’ girlfriend. The scene makes us laugh every time. As adults now, we find ourselves identifying a little bit with the chubby, overexcited girl (we were in the same exact awkward stage when we had our first boyfriends). That being said, when he wrote the scene, Christopher Columbus knew the joke was a ringer, but he was also worried about destroying the self-esteem of whatever girl was unlucky enough to be cast. Not wanting to be “that guy,” he asked the art director’s son to dress up in drag for the photograph, thereby salvaging some preteen’s psyche and ensuring that the girlfriend looked “woof!” enough.
8. Method man
One thing that makes the Home Alone movies so wonderful is that they’re so highly improbable. Like, there’s no way an 8-year-old could outsmart two adult house burglars to defend both his person and his home, yet somehow he does. While most of us are perfectly content to surrender our belief for an hour an a half, not everyone is. Joe Pesci wasn’t. In order to get the most authentic performance out of both himself and Culkin, Pesci really committed to method acting practices to play Harry. He totally avoided Culkin on set, so that the young actor would be afraid of him. He also actually bit Culkin’s fingers as he hung from the coat hook in the kitchen before being knocked out by Old Man Marley, and he bit them so hard that he broke the skin and left Culkin with a permanent scar. Talk about dedication!
7. The Talkboy
There’s a significant amount of product placement in the Home Alone movies. For example, Pepsi had a placement deal in the first one and Coca-Cola won the rights in the second film. But one thing that seems like a very obvious example of product placement actually wasn’t. In Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, Kevin carries around a Talkboy for a big portion of the movie. The handheld cassette player and tape recorder was a pretty advanced piece of technology in 1992—so advanced that it wasn’t real. That’s right, the Talkboy seen in the movie was actually a non-working prop. After early viewers expressed interest in the toy, the movie studio worked with Hasbro Toy Company to quickly create a real-life version that went on sale the same day the movie opened. The Talkboy was an incredibly popular Christmas gift in ’92, and ended up becoming its own entity, spawning spin-off versions for years to come.
6. Room service
As a kid, you were probably ubër jealous of Kevin’s room service feast in The Plaza. What you wouldn’t give to have all the sweets your heart desired delivered to you in bed as you watched your favorite movie. Well, according to the $967.43 room bill delivered to Mr. McCallister, Kevin probably ordered more than he could have ever dreamed of eating: 2 chocolate cakes, 2 chocolate mousses—both with chocolate, vanilla and strawberry ice cream that was topped with M&M’s—chocolate sprinkles, cherries, nuts, marshmallows, caramel, chocolate and strawberry syrup, bananas and whip cream, 6 custard flans, 1 pastry cart, 8 strawberry tarts and 36 chocolate-covered strawberries. After consuming all of that, we’re not sure how the rest of the movie wasn’t just Kevin laying in bed with a sugar-induced stomachache until his parents arrived.
5. Kevin at The Plaza
Speaking of The Plaza—a large portion of Home Alone 2 takes place in the legendary hotel, and the majority of the scenes were actually shot in there. Today, it seems pretty inconceivable that such a landmark location could be shut down for such an extended period of time in order to shoot a low-budget, family friendly movie. But the production team not only shut down portions of the hotel but they even altered it, tearing up the carpet in the lobby so that Kevin could slip and slide on the floor (a look then-owner Donald Trump liked so much he kept). In the end, it was worth it for the NYC beacon. After the movie used the hotel’s real number, calls and reservations went through the roof. The Plaza even began offering a Home Alone 2 package, where families could stay in the “Kevin Suite” (Room 411) for $1,100 a night. One thing you won’t find there? The pool. That actually belongs to The Four Seasons in Chicago.
4. Feed the birds
In an effort to make the films more sentimental, Home Alone had Old Man Marley and Home Alone 2 had the Pigeon Lady. In case you’ve forgotten, the pigeon lady, who never gets a name other than that, is the head bird in charge, ruling the Central Park pigeon roost. When Kevin first happens upon her, she’s actually feeding an entire flock of pigeons from a single bag of feed. If you’ve ever been to the city, then you know that that whole scene is a total fantasy. Pigeons are mean and aggressive, and there’s no way that they’d all be sitting that calmly and nicely without biting anyone’s fingers off. It turns out that the production team knew this and spent twelve weeks training hundreds of pigeons for the movie. One of the pigeons actually flew into Daniel Stern’s mouth during his scream scene. Gross!
3. Home again
As adults, we’ve begun to question exactly what Mr. McCallister did for a living in order to be able to afford to fly his entire family to Paris for the holidays, as well as own such a huge house in an insanely expensive Chicago suburb. We never find out what he did and it’s not clear what the real-life owners did to pay the mortgage on this picture-perfect property. John and Cynthia Abendshien owned the Chicago-area house that was used in the films and sold the 5-bedroom residence for $1.585 million in 2012. Most of the interior shots (except those that took place in the kitchen) were shot on a sound stage, but crew members did make a few alterations, including constructing Kevin’s tree house in the home’s backyard (which they also demolished as soon as filming was over).
2. Home Alone 3
Home Alone 3 was the last of the movies released theatrically. It was wildly unsuccessful compared to the first two installments, which was primarily due to the fact that none of the original cast appeared in it. But that wasn’t due a lack of trying. John Hughes asked Macaulay Culkin to reprise his role, but Culkin denied, having quit acting a couple of years prior. Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern also refused to come back, telling Hughes they were more interested in pursuing other opportunities. In a last-ditch attempt to keep something the same, Hughes pitched the idea that a new set of burglars were targeting Kevin’s cousin Fuller (played Macaulay’s real life little brother, Kieran). The idea was scrapped when Kieran felt that he couldn’t follow in his older brother’s footsteps, and an entirely new cast and storyline were brought to the table.
1. Money maker
It seems that from mid-November until the beginning of January, you can find one of the Home Alone movies on TV at all times. And the closer you get to Christmas, the more frequently cable channels will run Home Alone marathons. If that doesn’t speak volumes about the franchise’s success then I’m not sure what does. And the family-friendly flicks are not just cult classics—they’ve been making serious money since the beginning. When Home Alone was released, it broke box office records (and continues to do so; it’s made over $476.7 million dollars to date!) and held the top spot for a staggering twelve weeks. When Home Alone 2 came out, it made $31.1 million on opening weekend alone. Even Home Alone 3, the straight to VHS step-sibling of the first two movies, did pretty well, bringing in $79 million in its lifetime.
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