November 16, 2020 Home Alone Celebrates 30 Years
From a mother’s panicked shriek of “KEVIN!” to “Merry Christmas Ya Filthy Animal,” we can all offer up a slew of quotes from the 1990 classic Home Alone. In the weeks leading up to its release, the box office had been owned by the likes of Graveyard Shift, Jacob’s Ladder, and Child’s Play 2; for seven weeks the top billing had been occupied by either a Horror or Thriller film. So when the Family Comedy offering arrived on Friday, November 16, 1990, it, much like its audacious young lead, was definitely the black sheep of the family.
Written and produced by John Hughes (The Breakfast Club 1985, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles 1987), the titan of the ‘80s Teen flick, Home Alone tells the story of Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin: My Girl 1991, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York 1992), an eight year-old boy who is accidentally left behind when his family flies to Paris for the holidays. If that’s not bad enough, a pair of bumbling burglars—The Wet Bandits, Harry (Joe Pesci: Raging Bull 1980, Goodfellas 1990) and Marv (Daniel Stern: The Wonder Years series, City Slickers 1991)—are lurking on the streets of the McCallister family’s posh neighborhood looking for a score. But you know the story, right?
Initially released on Nov 10th in Chicago, Home Alone taught us all about the power and ingenuity of eight year-olds hellbent on protecting themselves and their homes. And it certainly reminded parents to pay a lot more attention the next time they left the house with their kids. Though many audience goers then and now have questioned the believability of the film’s quirky premise, it still managed to gross $476.7 million—$17 million in its opening weekend alone—garnering Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations, and earning the title of the highest-grossing live-action Comedy ever—an impressive record that lasted for 21 years until, in 2011, The Hangover Part II took home the gold (and a tiger).
Directed by Chris Columbus (Mrs. Doubtfire 1993, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone 2001), the Family Comedy featured a splendid cast. Actors such as John Heard (Big 1988, Awakenings 1990), Catherine O’Hara (Best in Show 2000, Frankenweenie 2012), John Candy (Planes, Trains and Automobiles 1987, Spaceballs 1987), Roberts Blossom (Close Encounters of the Third Kind 1977, Escape from Alcatraz 1979), and more, joined forces to bring this tale of seasonally appropriate mayhem to life.
For director Columbus, the film was pivotal. Though he had sold Steven Spielberg the screenplays for two hugely popular films, 1984’s Gremlins and 1985’s The Goonies, his own career in directing was still fighting an upward trajectory after the releases of 1987’s Adventures in Babysitting and 1988’s Heartbreak Hotel. His biggest break as a director could have been when he was enlisted to helm 1989’s National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, but a massive personality conflict with lead actor Chevy Chase led Columbus to walk away from the project. Thankfully, Hughes, the screenwriter of Christmas Vacation, offered the director a ‘consolation prize,’ if you will. The rest is history, with Columbus going on to direct Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, as well as Mrs. Doubtfire, and even the first two Harry Potter films.
As with many films that succeed commercially and alter the course of pop culture, the list of actors who were supposedly considered for the varying roles is nearly endless. Everyone from Jeff Goldblum to Tom Hanks, Robin Williams to Christopher Reeve, John Travolta to Arnold Schwarzenegger was reportedly considered for the role of Peter McCallister, while some suggest that the likes of River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves were considered for the role of Kevin’s brutish brother Buzz. The list of those considered for the role of Harry is also never-ending, containing such names as Robert De Niro, Jon Lovitz, Tommy Lee Jones, John Stamos, and Dudley Moore. His sidekick Marv? Actors such as Michael Richards, Jeremy Irons, and Christopher Lloyd have been mentioned as possibilities at one time or another. In fact, these lists encompass nearly every actor of note in the late ‘80s.
Clearly the most important role, however, would be that of the little blonde firecracker, Kevin McCallister. Reportedly John Hughes was set on the 9-year-old Culkin for the role, and had written the film with the Uncle Buck star in mind, but Columbus had to be convinced. Thankfully, after a series of failed auditions and the director meeting with the child star, he was charmed and the lovable little actor was in. Beloved by moviegoers and his fellow castmates, in 2014 O’Hara let it be known that to this day her co-star still refers to her as “Mom.”
Despite this heartwarming fact, Home Alone was not one big, happy family behind the scenes. Reports suggest that several of the actors had projected the film’s failure, and therefore over-acted intentionally, feeling that the entire production would quickly be forgotten. Some were difficult to get along with and copped attitudes, as they felt that the end result would be beneath their acting skills. In fact, Columbus has gone on to note that one of his stars (Heard) even apologized for his earlier behavior on camera during the filming of Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. Others, like the jovial Candy, merely appeared in the film as a favor and were paid minimum wage for their roles.
Whatever it was about the ensemble cast or the sheer ridiculousness of Culkin’s on-screen antics, Home Alone was unstoppable. It remained a top ten draw at theaters until April 1991, setting the stage for a direct sequel, 1992’s Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, with much of the original cast returning to reprise their roles. However, by 1997 and Home Alone 3, much of the magic had faded. Though the film was written by Hughes, the original cast— perhaps most notably, Culkin—was absent. By the time 2002’s Home Alone 4: Taking Back the House and 2012’s Home Alone: The Holiday Heist appeared, fans had lost their taste for singed burglars, shaving eight-year-olds, and all the humor that made the original what it was.
However, in August 2019, The Walt Disney Company announced the seemingly impossible: Home Alone would be remade for Disney+. Although, in truth, this information is not 100% correct: the Home Alone that is currently in post-production features a different story, one involving a couple who are trying to steal a valuable family heirloom. With a cast that features Archie Yates (Jojo Rabbit 2019, Paper Birds short 2020), Ellie Kemper (Bridesmaids 2011, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt series), and Rob Delaney (Catastrophe series, Deadpool 2 2018), along with Director Dan Mazer (Da Ali G Show series, Dirty Grandpa 2016) and writers Mikey Day (Robot Chicken series, Saturday Night Live series) and Streeter Seidell (Maya & Marty series, Saturday Night Live series), fans are still not entirely certain what to expect. How will they use the thirty-year-old classic and its over-the-top, comedic violence for inspiration? Will the house at 671 Lincoln Avenue in Winnetka, Illinois play a starring role? Will the film within the film, Angels with Filthy Souls, make a comeback?
All we can do for now is wait patiently, and when it arrives if it doesn’t live up to its original forebear, let us all slap our cheeks and scream in unity. But for now, let’s celebrate three decades of running hog wild with “KEVIN!” and Home Alone.