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It took several weeks for the director Chris Columbus and his crew to find the McCallister house for “Home Alone,” according to Entertainment Weekly.
Ultimately, they chose a house in Winnetka, Illinois, because they thought it was both warm and menacing.
“I took some pictures and sent them over to John, and I remember John saying: ‘This is perfect. This is exactly how I imagined the house,'” he told the publication.
Though the film was ultimately produced by Hughes Entertainment and presented by 20th Century Fox, Warner Brothers initially had rights to the project.
According to Chicago magazine, a budget dispute occurred three weeks before the production of “Home Alone” was set to start.
“The question was, ‘Do we lay everyone off?'” the associate producer Mark Radcliffe told the publication. “John [Hughes] said to just hold tight.”
Luckily, 20th Century Fox acquired the rights to the film and production continued as planned.
Per Us Weekly, during a 2015 interview on “Watch What Happens Live,” Catherine O’Hara told Andy Cohen that she and Culkin had a sweet interaction at an art event.
“I haven’t seen him for years and years, but I saw him two years ago — a year and a half ago? — at a Martin Mull art opening, and he was coming out, and he went, ‘Mommy!’ And I said, ‘Baby!'” she recalled.
She added that her husband made them take a picture and that she was happy to see him.
Forbes reported that until 2017, “Home Alone” had the highest single-territory total for a live-action comedy, with $285.7 million.
The film held this impressive record for 27 years, until the Chinese film “Never Say Die” surpassed it in 2017 (without accounting for inflation).
Regardless, “Home Alone” is still one of the highest-grossing live-action comedies in the US.
In his first acting credit, Culkin’s younger brother Kieran appeared as Kevin’s cousin, Fuller, in “Home Alone.”
The brothers appeared together on-screen again in “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.”
John Hughes, who also wrote 1980s blockbusters like “The Breakfast Club,” “Pretty in Pink,” and “Sixteen Candles,” crafted the first draft of the screenplay for “Home Alone” in just nine days.
According to the same Chicago magazine article — which was written by his son, James — the film was written after a family trip to Europe in response to his father’s severe traveler’s anxiety.
“I was going away on vacation,'” Hughes told Time magazine in 1990, “and making a list of everything I didn’t want to forget. I thought, ‘Well, I’d better not forget my kids.’ Then I thought, ‘What if I left my 10-year-old son at home? What would he do?'”
In a 2018 interview with Ellen DeGeneres, Culkin said he couldn’t watch “Home Alone” without remembering a bunch of personal context.
“When I’m watching it, I’m seeing like — I’m remembering that day on set. You know, like, how I was hiding my Pepsi behind the couch,” he said. “I can’t watch it the same way other people can.”
In the same interview, he referred to the film as “background radiation at Christmastime.”
According to Chicago magazine, Columbus was originally working on “Christmas Vacation” — which was also written by Hughes — but he eventually called the writer to tell him he couldn’t work with the actor Chevy Chase.
“John was very understanding. About two weeks later, I got two scripts at my in-laws’ house in River Forest. One was ‘Home Alone,’ with a note from John asking if I wanted to direct,” he told the publication. “I thought, ‘Wow, this guy is really supporting me when no one else in Hollywood was going to.'”
Columbus told Insider’s Jason Guerrasio in 2020 that the legendary comedic actor John Candy came on set ready to improvise.
“He was on the movie for only one day, but it resulted in so much great improvisation. None of that stuff was in the script,” he said. “The funeral-parlor story, that was all improvised at 4:30 in the morning. We could barely keep a straight face on set just listening to John.”
Beyond Candy’s cameo, Hughes didn’t allow for a ton of improvisation or tweaks to his script, but Columbus had a sweet vision for the character of Old Man Marley that he was able to sneak into the film.
Though the scene in the church was always in the script, the director added to the conversation between Kevin and Marley.
“I added the moment when Marley talked about not being able to see his granddaughter. I also added the very end of the movie when Kevin sees that Marley is reunited with his granddaughter,” Columbus told Insider. “That is probably my proudest addition to the movie.”
Before Joe Pesci took on the role of Harry in “Home Alone,” the production team had its eyes on Robert De Niro.
But according to Columbus, the actor never seriously considered taking the role.
“It was talked about a little internally, but when Pesci said yes, I was stunned,” he told Insider.
Kevin’s reaction to putting on aftershave is arguably one of the best-known scenes of the film — and it’s since become one of the most iconic moments in movie history.
But Culkin apparently didn’t do it the way Columbus told him to.
“If you put something on your face that burns, most people move their hands right away. So my direction to him was when you pat your face, move your hands and scream. And I think it was the first take, he kept his hands on his cheeks,” the director told Insider.
He added, “It’s funny, the iconic moment from ‘Home Alone’ was an accident.”
When “Home Alone” came out in 1990, CGI wasn’t the norm on film sets. And since the movie was already working on a tight budget, the production team had to get creative when it came to special effects.
During the scene in which Kevin shoots Marv in the head with a BB gun, the pellet was actually animated.
“We paid a guy living in his mother’s basement in Chicago $600 to hand-paint that BB going into Marv’s head. So that was an animated effect. A guy with a paintbrush in a basement for six frames hand-painted a BB,” Columbus told Insider.
He continued: “This was an $18 million film, so, for our budget, I’m pretty happy how it turned out.”
Kevin uses a black-and-white movie called “Angels With Filthy Souls” to aid in his defense plan against the Wet Bandits, and many people — including Seth Rogen and Chris Evans — were shocked when they learned it wasn’t a real film.
The scene was created specifically for “Home Alone,” but there’s a reason it looks so real.
“‘Home Alone’ is one of the last films shot with an old carbon-arc lighting system that was popular back in the 1940s through 1960s for Technicolor films,” Columbus told Insider.
He explained that they used the same technique for “Angels With Filthy Souls.”
“That richness of black and white made it look like a movie from that era, and I think that’s why some people think it’s a real movie,” he added.
A year before “Home Alone,” Culkin starred alongside Candy in Hughes’ “Uncle Buck.”
According to the “Home Alone” episode of Netflix’s “The Movies That Made Us,” after watching the actor play Miles Russell, Hughes was inspired to write a film with a young boy at its helm.
Once the idea started taking shape, he thought Culkin would be great in the role.
On the same episode of “The Movies That Made Us,” the production team shared stories about working at New Trier Township High School in Winnetka, Illinois.
Hughes liked to make his movies in the Chicagoland area, so they set up their production offices in the same building where some of his other classics, such as “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and “Uncle Buck,” were shot.
They also ended up building the interior sets for the McCallisters’ house in the school’s gym, and they inventively built the set for the Murphys’ house — which floods at the end of the film — in the swimming pool.
Candy filmed all his scenes during one 23-hour day on set, but he didn’t get much in return as far as compensation.
According to the episode of “The Movies That Made Us,” the actor did the cameo as a favor to Hughes, and he received “scale” pay — the minimum pay rate that a studio agrees to.
In the end, Candy ended up making less than Danny Warhol (aka Dan Charles Zukoski), who played the pizza boy.
“Home Alone” was shot in Chicago in February, and the crew was hoping for snow, according to the same episode of “The Movies That Made Us.”
Fake snow can eat away at a budget, so when a snowstorm rolled in on the second day on set, everyone jumped at the chance to film the “money shot” where Kevin wakes up on Christmas morning and reunites with his family.
To enhance the natural flurries, the crew used potato flakes to make it look as if snow was blowing around — which was said to be effective but left them with a whole heap of rotting starch when the snow melted a few days later.
Though Culkin, Pesci, and Daniel Stern weren’t responsible for all of the falls and hits their characters took throughout the film, their stunt doubles did them for real.
They didn’t use any special-effect tricks, and there weren’t any pads built into the ground, according to the episode of “The Movies That Made Us,” so the film crew was under a lot of pressure to get the shots right on the first take.
Pesci’s stunt double for the film, Troy Brown, said on the docuseries that for his first fall on the icy stairs, he “just launched myself as far and as high as I could.”
The film’s wild stunts had a long-lasting impact.
“Now when someone does a fall where they get a lot of air, and they fall on their back, they’d call it the ‘Home Alone,'” the director of photography Julio Macat said on the episode.
“Home Alone” was only the third feature-length film that Columbus directed, but he’s since gone on to direct popular movies like “Mrs. Doubtfire,” “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” and “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.”
In addition to taking on some fantasy classics, Columbus recently directed Netflix’s “The Christmas Chronicles 2,” marking his return to holiday films.
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