The John Hughes movie which made a child star of Macaulay Culkin has also inspired plenty of tattoos…
The original budget for Home Alone, the film directed by Chris Columbus which was released in US cinemas on 16th November 1990 was just 18 million dollars. After all, it was only a small family comedy with no delusions of grandeur.
So it kept well within budget. The astonishing thing is that is ended up earning 477 (million dollars, that is), making it one of if not the most successful christmas movie of all time. In Poland, for example, there isn’t a Christmas Day that goes by without it garnering a massive tv audience.
It all started out quite simply, practically by chance. Screenwriter John Hughes (who sadly passed away in 2009 and who will always be remembered as director of The Breakfast Club, a marvellous teen flick that came out in 1985) was on holiday in Europe during the autumn of 1989 together with his family.
At that point a curious thought crossed his mind: what if he had left/forgotten one of his young sons at home alone? Without even a babysitter to keep an eye on him? And what if burglars turned up during the parents’ lengthy absence? Hughes couldn’t stop thinking about it and, so it goes, spent the rest of the holiday jotting down the first draft for the screenplay which kept distracting him from his holiday time.
Back in America, he immediately showed the script to his friend, director Chris Colombus – the guy who would later direct the first two films in the Harry Potter saga – asking him to take a look at it. Columbus didn’t need to be told twice!
In that period, the director from Pennsylvania was having serious problems with Chevy Chase, the Hollywood superstar who was supposed to starin his new Christmas movie (National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation) so he jumped at the chance to work on this new project proposed by Hughes. It just felt like the better option.
The plot was a winner right from the start (a little pest left at home during the Christmas holidays gets the better of two lowlifes who want to burgle his family home) and so all that remained was to find actors to fit the parts of the kid and the bad guys.
Hughes suggested Columbus audition Macaulay Culkin (who was only nine years old at the time) as he had been really happy with him on the set of Uncle Buck (1989). The director was well impressed with the child actor but nonetheless sat though another two hundred auditions before acknowledging that Culkin was the best for the part. The role of Kevin McCallister was all his.
For the bad guys, they initially thought of Robert De Niro who politely declined and left it open for Joe Pesci (as Harry Lyme), playing alongside Daniel Stern (Marv Merchants) as the other hilarious burglar. Poor mugs. These guys would come to grief with tins of paint, clothes irons and a blowtorch!
Even though the story is set in Chicago, filming was hampered by the cold of the winter of ’89-’90 (many of the cameras froze up during outdoor scenes) and it was shot mainly in Winnekta, a village located sixteen miles from the metropolis of Illinois. The house used in the movie really exists and a few years back was sold for a million and a half dollars and is now open to the public and a big draw for the countless fans of Home Alone.
Fans who over the years lost none of their enthusiasm for the first legendary movie and would lap up three sequels in the blockbuster franchise (the first starring the young Culkin who had not grown any taller) which were a mainstream hit worldwide.
The second in the series Lost in New York came out on 20th November 1992 and Macaulay earned the highest fee ever paid until then to a child actor: 4.5 million dollars!
Money well spent, seeing as how the sequel (which cost 28 million to make) broke the box office grossing 359 million dollars. But when you hit on a good Christmas movie, you’re guaranteed a place in the cinema history. Never mind when you get two in a row…