The History of Home Alone


Logan Elliot, Staff Writer, Co-Editor-in-Chief

As Christmas draws nearer, families around the world begin to celebrate this most popular holiday of the year. Many cozy up on the couch and watch Christmas movies. One of the perennial (although initially hated by critics) classics is Home Alone. After being accidentally left at home by his family, star Macaulay Culkin defends his home from two burglars. Although many people love the iconic film, today we will delve into the story behind.

Famous for 80s classics such as the Breakfast Club, Sixteen Handles, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the late John Hughes was inspired to create a Christmas comedy centered around the child actor Macaulay Culkin whom he first met when creating Uncle Buck. Under director Chris Columbus, who heavily edited Hughes’ original script, the new film was greenlighted by Warner Brothers with a budget of $10 million dollars. Although this may seem like a lot, in the movie-making industry it’s a tight budget. The Home Alone team stuck to casting smaller stars for a smaller budget. Even Macaulay’s own brother was cast as the bed-wetting cousin Fuller. Like many other Hughes films, Home Alone was mostly filmed in the same old abandoned high school (New Trier Township High School, Chicago, Illinois); in fact, the entire interior of “Kevin’s” home was set up in the old gym. For the scene in which the house is flooding, the set was built in the school’s old pool. Although trying to stick to the budget, the movie had an estimated need for a $14.7 million dollar budget. This caused Warner Brothers to shut the film down. When all hope was lost, it had turned out that John Hughes had been secretly meeting with and illegally showing parts of the film to Tom Jacobson, a creative executive for 20th Century Fox and the president of 20th Century Fox, Joe Roth.

Now that the film could continue, the team focused on creating that movie magic. Decorating the house, the set designers loaded the set with Christmas colors. Next time you watch the film you may notice most set pieces were green and red. Another example was during the scene where Kevin slides across the ice rink. Because it was a particularly warm year in Chicago, the ice was made of frozen coils of glycol. And then, as if a Christmas miracle, it began to snow. The cast rushed to film while they could. This lucky snowfall is seen at the very end of the movie on Christmas day. Although the scene takes place at the end of the movie, it was one of the first shots to be filmed. As the snow started to melt, the set designers used potato flakes that could be blown in the wind. Funnily enough, the potatoes rotted and the noxious fumes began to stink up the set.

Another film secret is in regards to the head burglar Joe Pesci. Joe Pesci was known for obscene language in films for adults. In an attempt to avoid swearing, Pesci began speaking his new language of cartoon balderdash. Although he wasn’t swearing, he still was not … angelic. In fact, Joe Pesci tried not interact with Macaulay outside of filming, causing Macaulay to be very afraid of him. In one of the takes where Pesci says, “I’m gonna bite all of your fingers off, one at a time,” he actually bite Culkin, accidentally leaving a scar on the child’s hand. 

Yet another classic scene is with Macaulay’s costar, the irreplaceable John Candy. Highly respected on set, Candy was one of the few exceptions for improvisation; most of his lines were completely improvised. Acting on a favor, Candy only made $414 dollars a day for his one 23-hour-day (less than the pizza boy in the film). One of the other examples of improvisation was the classic scene in which Kevin keeps his hands on his face (unlike what was scripted) and screams after putting on aftershave. 

For the score, Home Alone scored John Williams, who wrote the music from Jaws, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, E.T, and Superman. All these aspects created a perfect Christmas movie. By pushing through hardships, the team was able to put out a film they believed in. Although the movie was originally bashed by critics, this underdog film stayed on the charts for many months, became the highest grossing live-action-comedy for 27 years and is the highest grossing Christmas film of all-time.