Netflix’s The Movies That Made Us is a four-part series that interviews the directors and industry insiders behind some of Hollywood’s most iconic films. And the episode about Home Alone, which is available to stream on Foxtel, is full of fascinating insights that will delight any child of the ’90s.
Netflix’s The Movies That Made Us is a four-part series that interviews the directors and industry insiders behind some of Hollywood’s most iconic films. And the episode about Home Alone, which is available to stream on Foxtel, is full of fascinating insights that will delight any child of the ’90s.

Home Alone star’s shockingly low pay

It's been almost 30 years since Home Alone was released, but a new Netflix series has revealed some never-before-known facts about arguably the greatest Christmas movie of all time.

Netflix's The Movies That Made Us is a four-part series that interviews the directors and industry insiders behind some of Hollywood's most iconic films.

And the episode about Home Alone, which is available to stream on Foxtel, is full of fascinating insights that will delight any child of the '90s.

Here's what we learnt about the 1990 film, including how much John Candy got paid for his cameo, which actor was fired after three days of filming and the mind-blowing truth about where the interior house scenes were shot.

Joe Pesci, Macaulay Culkin and Daniel Stern in Home Alone.
Joe Pesci, Macaulay Culkin and Daniel Stern in Home Alone.

 

SACKED ACTOR

Daniel Stern revealed in The Movies That Made Us that he quit Home Alone not long after being cast as Marv, one of the Wet Bandits.

"It was six weeks of work," Stern said about the role alongside Joe Pesci, who played Harry. "Then a few weeks later they said, 'We're going to need you for eight weeks.' And I said, 'OK, but do I get a raise?'"

Unfortunately the budget was so tight on the film that they couldn't offer Stern more money for the extra two weeks of work, so he walked away.

"I said, 'For my pride, I'm quitting,'" the actor said in the Netflix show.

As a result, director Chris Columbus hired the much cheaper Daniel Roebuck (best known for playing Dr Artz in Lost) to play Marv, but he didn't last long.

Daniel Roebuck at Lost finale event in 2010. Picture: Alberto E Rodriguez/Getty Images
Daniel Roebuck at Lost finale event in 2010. Picture: Alberto E Rodriguez/Getty Images

 

"I don't think Joe (Pesci) felt like they had chemistry," Home Alone's executive producer Scott Rosenfelt said. "After three days Chris (Columbus) came into our office and said, 'Guys, we have to replace Dan Roebuck, it's not working.'"

Pesci was keen for Stern, whom he had worked with before, to be given the role. So producers approached him again and the actor changed his mind.

"Thank god they came back to me," Stern said.

Roebuck was angry at first that he was fired from the film, but in a 2010 interview he said he now considered it a blessing in disguise.

"Here is the main thing that keeps me sane," Roebuck told Media Mikes. "Home Alone was a huge hit and it was a major blow to my ego that I could not be part of it.

"Now it's more than 20 years later and … what difference has it really made in Daniel Stern's career? I've literally had a hundred more opportunities than he did because perhaps people define him from that movie."

 

The Wet Bandits in Home Alone.
The Wet Bandits in Home Alone.

 

THE MCALLISTERS' HOUSE

Home Alone was filmed in Chicago with the production team setting up offices inside a school. It just so happened to be the same school where writer John Hughes made his other hit films, Uncle Buck and Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

The location manager spent days scouring the streets of Chicago looking for the perfect house to be the McAllisters' family home. They found it, but quickly realised it was only suitable to film the exterior shots of the house, not the interiors.

"We couldn't really shoot in their house," production designer John Muto said. "It was obvious we needed a proper set."

So the production team decided to build the interior of the McAllisters' house inside the school where they'd set up their offices.

"We walked into this gym and we were like, it's got a grid in the ceiling and it's big enough and we could build a house in here," executive producer Scott Rosenfelt said. "The next thing we knew, we built all the sets in the school."

 

The exterior of the McAllisters’ house in Home Alone.
The exterior of the McAllisters’ house in Home Alone.

 

The interior of the McAllister’s house was built in a school gym.
The interior of the McAllister’s house was built in a school gym.

 

The interior of the McAllister’s house was built in a school gym.
The interior of the McAllister’s house was built in a school gym.

 

JOHN CANDY'S CAMEO

"John Candy did that as a favour to us," former studio creative executive Tom Jacobson said of the comedian's cameo as Gus Polinski.

The star only had one day free in his schedule, so he filmed all of his scenes in a marathon 23-hour session and was paid just $414. Even the kid who paid the pizza delivery driver was paid more!

Candy was also the only person who writer John Hughes allowed to tinker with the script, of which he was incredibly protective.

"He (Hughes) encouraged me to let John (Candy) improvise," director Chris Columbus recalled. "When he's talking about his band and the hits and polka, polka, polka - that's all improvisation."

 

John Candy in Home Alone.
John Candy in Home Alone.

 

PESCI'S DUMMY SPIT

Joe Pesci, who played Harry, wasn't exactly a delight to work with while shooting Home Alone.

"Macaulay (Culkin) was better behaved on the set than Joe Pesci," recalled director of photography Julio Macat. "He was critical of some of the dialogue. He felt that some of the things he had to say were not to the level of thespian that he is."

Pesci also took issue at how early he was required on set. Assistant director James Giovannetti said Pesci grabbed him by the collar and yelled at him when he found out he was due on set at 7am one day. The actor flat out refused because he wanted to play nine holes of golf before he started work.

 

Joe Pesci as Harry in Home Alone.
Joe Pesci as Harry in Home Alone.

 

STUDIO SHUTS IT DOWN

A stunning backdoor deal saved Home Alone after the studio, Warner Bros, shut it down after filming had begun.

Hughes initially told Warner Bros he could make Home Alone for just $10 million, which was nothing compared to the $70 million most other movies cost at the time.

But costs quickly spiralled and the budget blew out to $14.7 million.

Hughes didn't think it would be a problem, but it was.

"Unless we could deliver a $13.5 million budget the next day, they (Warner Bros) were gonna pull the plug," former president of Hughes Entertainment, John Heller, recalled.

"The decision was, we'll push back. We'll write a really good memo showing there's nothing left to cut."

It didn't work though, so Warner Bros shut down the production and Home Alone was dead in the water. Or so the studio thought.

Weeks earlier Hughes had secretly met with rival studio 20th Century Fox and he sneakily ensured they got a copy of the Home Alone script, in case Warner Bros got cold feet.

"Legally another studio isn't meant to see a piece of material until it's legally in turnaround, and that didn't exactly happen," executive producer Scott Rosenfelt said. "Basically a screenplay was left somewhere so someone could pick it up. It was clandestinely delivered."

Fox loved it, and said that if there were any issues with Warner Bros, they'd happily cover the bloated budget to make the movie.

"The call came from Warner Bros to tell us to stop working," Rosenfelt said. He immediately called the executives at Fox and said, "'We go the call.' They said, 'You're now a Fox picture. Everything is fine, keep going.'"

The gamble paid off handsomely for 20th Century Fox with Home Alone raking in more than $476 million worldwide, which made it the third-highest-grossing film in history at the time.

 

Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern and Roberts Blossom in Home Alone.
Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern and Roberts Blossom in Home Alone.

 

The Movies That Made Us is available to stream now on Netflix


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