Home Alone: 21 Behind-The-Scenes Facts You Probably Never Knew

Including the inanimate object used as a stand-in for Macaulay Culkin and the misconceptions about that spider scene.
Home Alone was released in 1990
Home Alone was released in 1990

Somewhat incredibly, it is now 32 years since the release of one of the most beloved Christmas films of all time – Home Alone.

Starring Macaulay Culkin, it might not have been an immediate critical success, but the slapstick festive comedy stormed the box office, spawned various spin-off films and a recent TV series, and still holds a special place in the hearts of millions across the globe.

However, no matter how many times you’ve seen it in the ensuing years, there’s plenty we bet you still don’t know about it, so have these 21 behind-the-scenes secrets from the set, ya filthy animal…

1. Home Alone was written in just over a week

Screenwriter John Hughes knocked out the first draft of the script in just nine days after a family holiday to Europe.

He was inspired by his own worries whilst traveling, telling Time magazine in 1990: “I was going away on vacation 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?’”

2. But it took much longer to find the right Home Alone house

The Home Alone house
The Home Alone house
Nam Y Huh/AP/Shutterstock

Director Chris Columbus said the team “drove around for several weeks” in the Wilmette, Winnetka, Glencoe, Lake Forest areas of North Shore.

Eventually, the right house was found in 671 Lincoln Avenue in Winnetka, Illinois, which funnily enough had previously been scouted as a potential location for 1989’s Uncle Buck, but was never used.

The house itself – which was sold for $1.585 million in 2012 – has since become a major tourist attraction.

3. Some interior scenes were filmed in the real house, while others were shot on sets

The hallway and staircase were all real, while the kitchen and dining room and other first-floor rooms were built and shot in a studio. The attic bedroom was also a real feature.

4. The family who lived in the house remained there during filming

It took about five months to setup, shoot and derig for scenes in the house, during which time the then-owners, the Abendshien family, continued living there, despite having access to an apartment that had been paid for as part of the deal.

Cynthia Abendshien explained to Chicago Magazine that the location manager had told them “that, under the contract, if they needed to knock down a wall when we weren’t home, they could do it. So she told us it was best if we remained on the premises”.

John Abendshien added: “In that house, there’s a master bedroom suite with four rooms. Basically, we just moved into that. We put a hot plate up there to cook. We didn’t have to cook that much, because we had full access to the food truck that the crew used.”

5. Kevin’s treehouse was specially built in the house’s garden for the film

The owners reportedly turned down a chance to keep Kevin’s treehouse in the backyard once filming was over.

6. The flooded basement scene was filmed in a school swimming pool

The production made use of the pool at New Trier Township High School in Winnetka, Illinois, to film the scene where Kevin runs through a flooded basement, director Chris Columbus told Entertainment Weekly.

The school’s basketball hall was also used to construct the plane set, on which the Macallister family were seen traveling to Paris, while the kitchen set was also built on site there, too.

Scenes for Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Uncle Buck had previously been shot in the same school.

7. The Macallister family never actually made it to Paris

John Heard and Catherine O'Hara in Home Alone
John Heard and Catherine O'Hara in Home Alone

While the plot of the film sees the Macallister family leaving Kevin behind as they head to Paris for Christmas, all scenes were shot in the US.

Scenes where the family are seen at Paris Orly Airport were actually shot at O’Hare International Airport.

8. The airport scenes were particularly “nail biting” for the director

“We had to move fast. We only had two or three takes of the entire family running down the terminal,” Chris told Chicago Magazine.

9. The adult actors didn’t always act opposite Macaulay Culkin

A lot of the film was shot at night, but due to Macaulay’s age at the time, he wasn’t able to be on set after 10pm.

This meant that Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern – aka Harry and Marv – acted opposite director Chris Columbus standing in as Kevin behind the camera.

“I was Kevin McCallister from about 10 at night to 6 in the morning,” Chris told Entertainment Weekly.

Catherine O’Hara also recalled having to act opposite a tennis ball for some scenes.

She told Chicago Magazine: “We’d shoot a scene with one of the kids; then, as late as one in the morning, we’d shoot my close-ups.

They’d have a tennis ball on a stand, the height of the kid’s head, and the script supervisor would read the children’s lines.”

10. Joe Pesci even did his best not to interact with Macaulay when the cameras weren’t rolling

Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern as Kevin, Harry and Marv
Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern as Kevin, Harry and Marv

The actor went quite method in his approach to the character of Harry, as he avoided Macaulay on set so that the child star would be afraid of him.

He told People he “intentionally limited my interactions with him to preserve the dynamic” between the characters.

Joe explained he did not want “it to come across on the screen that we were in any way friendly”.

“I wanted to maintain the integrity of the adversarial relationship,” he added.

11. The film was written with Macaulay in mind to play Kevin

Screenwriter John Hughes imagined Macaulay in the leading role when creating the film due to his performance in 1989’s Uncle Buck, but director Chris Columbus told Entertainment Weekly he still met with “hundreds” of other young actors out of “directorial responsibility” to ensure they had the right person.

In the end, Chris was charmed by Macaualy, who he said was “really funny” and had “a great voice that was not annoying”.

Macaulay Culkin was just 10 years old when he filmed Home Alone
Macaulay Culkin was just 10 years old when he filmed Home Alone

12. Robert De Niro was considered for the role of Harry

While some outlets have reported the screen legend “turned down’ the chance to appear in the film, Chris told Insider that Robert never seriously considered it.

“It was talked about a little internally, but when [Joe] Pesci said yes, I was stunned,” he said.

It has also been claimed Jon Lovitz was considered for the part.

13. Filming the stunt sequences was not as funny as it looks on screen

Chris said the team had a constant fear the stunt performers had injured themselves while acting out some of the slapstick sequences.

He told Entertainment Weekly: “I really thought Troy, our stunt man, had broken his back on that first take [of walking up the stairs of the front of the house and doing a back flip]. Until we knew those guys were alive and okay, none of that stuff was funny, so I was surprised once we put the film together how well it actually worked for an audience.”

Stunt doubles stood in for Daniel Stern and Joe Pesci
Stunt doubles stood in for Daniel Stern and Joe Pesci

14. However, the stunts were not the hardest part of the shoot

Chris said that was actually making the gangster movie Angels With Filthy Souls – the one Kevin plays in the film and uses to scare off Harry and Marv – which you might not even have realised isn’t a real film.

“It’s not easy to recreate the look and the feel and the sound of those movies,” he told EW. “It was kind of a painstaking task to get it right. And we had to find actors that felt like they lived in that particular time period, as well, which was an interesting thing.”

15. One actor was unhappy with the amount he was paid for the film

John Candy, who was a huge comedy personality in the US when Home Alone came out, made a brief appearance as Gus Polinski, but reportedly received just $414 for a day’s work of shooting.

Director Chris Columbus said there was “certainly a little resentment on John’s part” about the amount he was paid.

He told Insider: “It was a deal between him and John Hughes at the time. I never met John Candy before he came on the movie. I don’t know if John ever got any kind of compensation from Fox.”

John Candy in Home Alone
John Candy in Home Alone

16. When there was a snowstorm early on into filming, the schedule was readjusted to capitalise on it

According to an episode of The Movies That Made Us, a snowstorm happened on the second day on set, so the team quickly seized the moment to shoot the scene where Kevin is reunited with his family on Christmas morning.

The flurries were enhanced with potato flakes to make it look like it was snowing more than it was at that moment in time.

Kevin was reunited with his mum Kate on Christmas morning
Kevin was reunited with his mum Kate on Christmas morning

17. They had to bring in snow machines for the rest of the film, which proved expensive

After the snow storm, the team had to bring in snow machines to match it for the rest of the movie. However, associate producer Mark Radcliffe told Chicago magazine that whenever the snow melted, “we were spraying ice, and then they had problems with ice. The next thing, they were literally laying bags of ice to try and create snow.”

18. This caused some problems for the location team

James Giovannetti Jr, second assistant director, added: “We had refrigerated semitrucks of shaved ice coming to the set. There must’ve been about 15 guys dumping tons of ice in the yard every day. We may have even got water in the house, because when it started melting, it started seeping into the basement.”

19. Some of the film was improvised – including one iconic moment

Kevin’s reaction after putting on the aftershave gave the film an instantly iconic moment that has been used on promotional material ever since.

However, Macaulay didn’t act the moment out as originally intended by the director.

The famous Home Alone scream was never intended to turn out the way it did
The famous Home Alone scream was never intended to turn out the way it did

Chris Columbus told Insider: “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.

“It’s funny, the iconic moment from Home Alone was an accident.”

John Candy, who played Gus Polinski, also loved to improvise and Chris said he took his cameo appearance “and ran” with the scenes.

He told Entertainment Weekly: “We’d do a couple scripted takes and then we would improvise about four or five other takes, and a lot of the improvisation ended up in the film.”

Such examples included the moment where Gus is seen talking to Kate about being left in the funeral home alone with the corpse all night.

20. The tarantula on Marv’s face was actually real

Actor Daniel Stern recalled how the crew initially told him they had a rubber tarantula that they could use, but they also had a real one that “was real nice and showed it walking across the trainer’s arm”.

He asked if the crew could remove the spider’s “stinger,” to which he was told it would die.

“And I said yeah, but if you don’t take it out, I’ll die,’” he recalled to The Hollywood Reporter. “But everyone seemed cool with it, so I just had them put the friggin‘ tarantula on my face.”

The spider used in this scene was real
The spider used in this scene was real

21. However, his scream wasn’t dubbed, as many people believe

Many reports over the years have claimed Daniel was asked to mime the scream that Marv lets out upon seeing the spider so as to not scare the creature, with it then later dubbed into the film in the edit.

However, Daniel revealed that actually wasn’t the case, as he did the scream there and then, take after take.

“I asked if that would spook the spider, but I guess tarantulas can’t hear,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “Again, I was committed fully to that movie … I wanted to hit a home run in every scene.”

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