This year the classic holiday comedy Home Alone celebrates its 25th anniversary. Written by John Hughes and directed by Chris Columbus, Home Alone is still the highest-grossing live-action comedy of all time, and a pillar in people's catalog of Christmas movies.
In honor of the film's milestone, Chicago Magazine put together an oral history of how Home Alone came to be and its lasting effect on the industry. The article is filled with fascinating behind-the-scenes facts. One of the most interesting nuggets of information is in just how Chris Columbus came to direct the film.
If you're a fan of the comedy world, chances are you've heard rumors that Chevy Chase is one of the most difficult people to work with in the industry. Whether it's a brawl with Bill Murray on the set of Caddyshack or making misogynistic comments to female SNL interns, Chase shares notorious parallels with his removed, self-aggrandizing Community character. It was just such behavior that helped Home Alone come to be the movie we know today.
In his interview with Chicago Magazine, Columbus recounts finding work with John Hughes. Initially, Hughes propositioned the young director work on his screenplay for Christmas Vacation. However, after meeting the proposed lead and finding him less than pleasant to be around, he had to refuse, even if it meant not taking a job he desperately needed.
In 1989, I directed Heartbreak Hotel, and it was a disaster. It opened on a Friday, and by Wednesday it was only playing at two o’clock in the afternoon. Around that time, John Hughes sent me the script for Christmas Vacation. I love Christmas, so to do a Christmas comedy had been a dream. I went out to dinner with Chevy Chase [the movie’s star].
To be completely honest, Chevy treated me like dirt. But I stuck it out and even went as far as to shoot second unit [collecting establishing shots and special sequences, usually without principal actors]. Some of my shots of downtown Chicago are still in the movie. Then I had another meeting with Chevy, and it was worse. I called John [who was producing the film] and said, “There’s no way I can do this movie. I know I need to work, but I can’t do it with this guy.” John was very understanding.
What could have been a bump in the pair's working relationship ended up being a blessing in disguise. While planning a family trip to Europe, Hughes came up with the premise for Home Alone, and came back to Columbus with the idea. This time, Chevy Chase would not be involved.
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. I thought, Wow, this guy is really supporting me when no one else in Hollywood was going to. John was my savior.
Although Christmas Vacation, directed by Jeremiah Chechik, ended up being a great holiday film in its own right, there's nothing quite like the magic of watching little Kevin McCallister being left to his own devices. The movie was such a success that Hughes and Columbus decided to travel to New York to do it all again for Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.
In short, we shouldn't expect to see Chevy Chase work in any Chris Columbus projects anytime soon.
(Source: Chicago Magazine)