Article: 25 Facts You Might Not Know About "Home Alone," Ya Filthy Animal: HowStuffWorks
25 Facts You Might Not Know About "Home Alone," Ya Filthy Animal
By: Teresa McGlothlin
Image: Hughes Entertainment
About This Article
Both director Chris Columbus and writer John Hughes knew they had a hit on their hands when they were making 1990's "Home Alone." But not all the actors on set agreed! At least one of them thought it was going to be a total flop. Given the fact that the film held a Guinness World Record for 25 years, it seems that the naysayers got "home aloned!"
When little Kevin McCallister is left behind on a family holiday trip, he has to fend for himself. What starts off as every nine-year old's dream ends up being a Christmastime nightmare when Harry Lime and Marv Merchants decide to burgle the seemingly empty home. No matter how many times we watch the hijinx that takes place, the film manages to steal our hearts. Could you say you know everything there is to know about it, though?
Take a look at the 25 obscure facts about the filming of the movie, and you'll love it even more the next time you watch it. From the writer's perspective to the painstaking process of casting the film, the making of "Home Alone" is almost as delightful as the laughs you let out when you watch it. You might even get to see Elvis, "ya filthy animal."
A fake movie in a movie
Even back in 1990, people were looking for Easter eggs! The "Home Alone" release had fans scouring Blockbuster shelves for a film named "Angels With Filthy Souls" — the film that Kevin watches and records with his Talkboy. This time, the joke was on the audience. There has never been a film named "Angels with Filthy Souls." There's no sequel called "Angels with Filthier Souls," either.
Macaulay Culkin wasn't the only Culkin in "Home Alone." Appearing as Fuller McCallister, Kieran Culkin played Kevin's younger cousin. This was their first time working together. Kieran Culkin went on to star in other critically acclaimed films like "The Cider House Rules" and "Igby Goes Down." And '90s movie fans surely recognize him as the little brother in the "Father of the Bride" remake. He's still acting and even received a Golden Globe nomination for the hit HBO series "Succession."
Adult stunt double
One of the reasons everyone loves "Home Alone" so much is all the action. While the more dangerous moments come off beautifully on screen, they were far too dangerous for a nine-year-old to pull off. Instead of risking Macaulay Culkin's safety, a stunt double was brought in for the more physical scenes. You'll never know it by watching the film, but the double was 30 years old — 21 years older than the star!
Glass ornaments and rubber feet
Marv Merchants may have looked like a true tough guy stepping all over those glass ornaments in his bare feet. The special effects team should get all the credit, though. To make the scene realistic, they made the ornaments from sugar. The ornaments should have crushed easily beneath actor Daniel Stern's feet, but as an extra measure, the team made him a set of rubber feet to wear, too.
Red and green
John and Cynthia Abendshien had only recently purchased the house in Winnetka, Illinois before "Home Alone" was filmed there. Set designers revamped the 4,200-square-foot space to reflect the holiday mood felt throughout the movie. In addition to standard Christmas decorations, red and green were peppered throughout each room. Designers believed that using traditional colors would lend holiday spirit to every shot.
Mashed potato snow
The weather in Illinois where the "Home Alone" house sits wasn't cooperating when the snowy scenes were shot. Special effects crews scrambled for a solution and came up with two different solutions. The snow on the ground and on the house was artificial snow that was later donated to the Lyric Opera in Chicago. The snow you see blowing around on camera came straight off of grocery-store shelves.
"The Scream" 😱
To say that Kevin's first experience with aftershave wasn't pleasant is an understatement! As with many true comedic moments, the scream let out by Culkin was 100% real and improvised. The shot was so iconic that it was placed on the film's cover. It both captures the moment and mirrors the horror seen in the face of the figure in Edvard Munch's "The Scream."
Written in only nine days
John Hughes didn't take long at all to write "Home Alone." After working with Macaulay Culkin on the set of "Uncle Buck," he was inspired to write the script in only nine days. While filming, Hughes used a lot of the same techniques that he used while filming "The Breakfast Club." Many of the scenes in both films are completely improvised to fill in the script. It leads to a real sense of authenticity!
"You guys give up, or are you thirsty for more?"
With all the other improvisations taking place in the film, Culkin didn't want to be left out. At only nine years old, Culkin managed to keep up older professionals like Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern and John Candy. When Kevin says, "You guys give up, or are you thirsty for more?", he completely made up the line on the spot! The director was so delightfully surprised that he left it in the scene.
The Godfather was almost a Wet Bandit
Before Joe Pesci filled the iconic role of Harry Lime, it was offered to a few other Hollywood giants. Robert De Niro, Jon Lovitz and Christopher Lloyd were also considered for the part, but they turned down the role. Did you know that Pesci's Harry Lime isn't the only iconic Harry Lime in film history? The character was loosely based on Orson Welles' character in "The Third Man" from 1949.
Is that you, Elvis?
Many die-hard fans of "Home Alone" once swore that Elvis Presley appeared as an extra. As Kate McCallister pleads with a ticket agent, a bearded gentleman appears behind her in line. Some claim that it was the King, but the rumors have long since been debunked. The extra was actually a man named Gary Grott.
Guinness World Record
From 1990 to 2017, "Home Alone" held the Guinness World Record as being the top-grossing comedy of all time. In the United States, the movie grossed almost $287 million, and it held onto the top slot for 12 straight weeks. Not everyone was convinced the film would be a success, though. Actor John Heard did not feel that the film would make a mark, but he apologized to the film's director after the opening weekend's huge profit.
When Daniel Stern agreed to play Marv Merchants in "Home Alone," he got eight legs more than he bargained for. The tarantula that Kevin McCallister placed on Marv's face was 100%, very much authentic. Stern did not like the idea and would only allow the giant spider to be placed on his face for one take. It led to an unforgettable scene with very real facial expressions.
John Candy filmed in one day
You wouldn't know it by his amazing performance as Gus Polinski, but John Candy improvised all of his lines. To make it even more amazing, he also filmed his scenes in one day. Over the course of 23 hours, Candy flew by the seat of his pants and added a new scene to the movie. The part about Gus forgetting his son at the funeral home was entirely made up.
Joe Pesci scarred Culkin
Throughout the filming of "Home Alone," Joe Pesci did his best to remain in character on the set. Believing having Culkin fear him would make the film more authentic, Pesci never tried to win the kid over. No one knows if it was intentional or not, but during the scene where Harry Lime is hanging on a coat hook, Pesci bit Culkin's finger so hard that he still bears the scar.
The "Home Alone" house
The house from "Home Alone" is located 20 miles from Chicago in Winnetka, Illinois. In 2015, the home sold for almost $1.6 million, but it was lacking one key feature. The sale of the home did not include Kevin's treehouse because it was torn down before the home went on the market. You cannot tour the house, but the owners don't mind if you drive by.
Kevin was Culkin from day one
John Hughes always knew that he wrote the part of Kevin McCallister for Macaulay Culkin. His performance in "Uncle Buck" had inspired the writer. Director Chris Columbus wanted to be sure, though. Before officially offering the part to Culkin, Columbus auditioned over 100 other actors. In the end, he agreed with Hughes, and the rest is box-office history!
"Home Alone" set so many box office records that other films simply could not compete. In fact, the film's success saw the title become a popular catchphrase around Hollywood. Getting "home aloned" was another way of saying that a cinematic endeavor once had a chance of succeeding but got sidelined because of a more successful, better-selling movie.
The furnace in "Home Alone" was Kevin's biggest fear. It's not as scary as director Chris Columbus wanted it to be, though. He imagined the furnace coming to life and chasing Kevin around the house! Unfortunately, the budget wouldn't allow for such a huge special-effects expense, and the team was forced to find a cheaper alternative. When you see it come to life and talk to Kevin in the film, you are seeing the use of flashlights and manual labor. It's completely DIY.
Known as "Kevin Sam w Domu" in Poland, "Home Alone" is one of the country's favorite films. Released shortly after the nation's exit from communist control, the film became a symbol of freedom. Every year, nearly 5 million of the 40 million people living in Poland gather around the television to watch Kevin survive his holiday ordeal. When it wasn't programmed into the 2010 lineup, Poland was so upset that it demanded the movie's return.
Merchandising and a sequel
"Home Alone" was such a box office success that it led to a goldmine of merchandise. Not only did the studio put out retail merchandise like shirts and posters, but they also spun the first film off into a sequel. "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York" was released two years after the original, and it spawned a little merchandise of its own. The Talkboy that Kevin was seen using in the film was picked up, produced and sold by Hasbro.
Kevin's sister is an Olympian
If the actors were judged on their real-life merit, Kevin's sister Megan might have been better equipped to handle Marv and Harry. Hilary Wolf, the actress who played Megan, is an olympian. And not just any Olympian! She competed in Judo matches in both 1992 and 1996. Maybe she taught Kevin a thing or two before she left with her parents!
Throughout the film, little Kevin has the upper hand. From blow torches to strategically placed glass ornaments, the punishment he doled out on Marv and Harry was brutal! In fact, experts have analyzed the film to find out how much damage Kevin might have inflicted. They agree that the duo probably wouldn't have survived Kevin's clever defenses.
Practice for Harry Potter
When Chris Columbus agreed to direct "Home Alone," it was the first time he had worked with child actors. Though Macaulay Culkin was usually the only child on set, it was good practice for films that would come later. He went on to direct "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York" and the first two Harry Potter films. You can also thank him for the film "Pixels."
Neither Joe Pesci nor Daniel Stern was all that comfortable working on family-friendly movies. They were great at it, but removing obscenities from their vocabularies was a little bit more challenging. Stern only let one curse word slip on camera, but Pesci was a different matter. His penchant for dropping the F-bomb saw Chris Columbus asking him to try to replace it with the word "fridge."
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