James Hughes is a Chicago-based writer and editor whose work has appeared in The Atlantic, The Believer, and Grantland. He’s also the son of the late filmmaker John Hughes, which gives him a certain insider’s edge when it comes to pieces like this remembrance of John Hughes’ hockey fandom (why else did you think Cameron Frye wore a Gordie Howe jersey?), or Chicago magazine’s newly published oral history of the John Hughes-penned Home Alone. Commemorating the holiday staple’s 25th anniversary, the younger Hughes compiles the memories of several people involved with the production, including director Chris Columbus, stars Catherine O’Hara and Daniel Stern, and former 20th Century Fox chair Joe Roth. As told in “Holy Cow, Home Alone Is 25!” Roth picked up the tale of Kevin McCallister and his defense of the family home after the penny-pinching Uncle Franks at Warner Bros. refused to cough up an additional $700,000 to make the film. And look what they did, those little jerks: Home Alone went on to make $286 million at the U.S. box office, the highest-grossing live-action comedy of all time.
The article is full of great little showbiz tidbits like that—George Lucas predicted the film’s success based on the theatrical trailer; production couldn’t find a stunt person of Joe Pesci’s dimensions because of the Tom Cruise racing picture Days Of Thunder—but it’s the stories from the Chicagoland shooting locations that truly stand out. Actor Ken Hudson Campbell recalls Chris Farley auditioning for the role of the film’s off-duty Santa Claus (which eventually went to Campbell), while stunt coordinator Freddie Hice reveals the “cows don’t look like cows on film”-esque movie magic behind one of the Wet Bandits’ wilder pratfalls: a piece of plywood painted to look like steps. Elsewhere, O’Hara offers an account of John Candy’s whirlwind day on set, an unscripted marathon session between the SCTV alums that made up all the screentime for Gus Polinski, Polka King of the Midwest:
“I remember being on that stage. John Hughes was there, and I swear we worked for 21 hours straight, improvising. Candy would start a bit. John Hughes would start a bit, and Candy would pick up on it, and we would just go with it. It was all in the moment. We’d start a ridiculous conversation and go as far as we could. Chris told me later how we couldn’t use most of it. He laughed and said, “You’re supposed to be looking for your kid, and you’re just having a good time with these guys in a truck.”
You can read the rest at Chicago’s website. And if you want Macaulay Culkin’s take on the subject, you’ll have to track him down at that coffeeshop from The Jim Gaffigan Show. Just don’t tell him to keep the change, you filthy animal.