John Candy was offered a slice of the Home Alone profits for his cameo in the film – but he chose to turn it down.
Throughout the 1980s, the much-missed pairing of writer/producer/director John Hughes and star John Candy brought us much-loved movies such as Planes, Trains & Automobiles and Uncle Buck. Hughes in fact was a catalyst for Candy’s film career, casting him in National Lampoon’s Vacation and the two became very close friends. In the 80s, they also made The Great Outdoors as well, and it always felt like they were rocket fuel for one another.
But a key moment in Hughes’ career came with 1990’s Home Alone, the movie that he wrote and produced, that Chris Columbus – another frequent Hughes collaborator – would direct. This was, as you more than likely know, a huge hit out of nowhere. A genuine sleeper success, that launched the career of Macaulay Culkin.
It’s a film in which Candy has a small cameo role in too, in the role of Gus. He wasn’t on set to film it for long, either. Filming would run from February through to May of 1990, and the movie would become the most successful of Hughes’ career, grossing $476m off its $18m budget. But John Candy’s take home from that? Under $500. And to a degree, that was his own fault.
For Hughes, when he offered the role of Gus to Candy, suggested that the actor took a small slice of the film’s profit. Martin Knelman wrote about this in his book, Laughing On The Outside: The Life Of John Candy, where he revealed that Candy turned Hughes’ generous offer down. He instead told Hughes that he would do the role in the film as a favour to his friend. That decision cost him millions (although, given that nobody was expecting Home Alone to do the numbers it did, he wasn’t to know that. Still, it would have nonetheless made him a little bit if change even if it did badly).
Candy duly turned up to shoot his role, and did it in a concentrated 22 hour stint. He was the one person on set allowed to improvise and go off script, which he duly did, providing take after take after take for Columbus to ultimately choose from. Here’s how it ended up…
Candy would be paid $414 for his work on the film, one of the lowest paid people on the movie period. In theory, he could have made millions from his 22 hours.
But he also figured that he had a future making more films with Hughes. That duly happened, but only twice more. Candy’s next film, in fact, would be Only The Lonely, that Hughes wrote and Columbus again directed. He would also appear, uncredited, in 1991’s romantic comedy Career Opportunities, that Hughes wrote and produced. That film pretty much came and went, though.
1992’s Home Alone 2: Lost In New York, however, wouldn’t include Candy. Negotiations took place for him to return in the film, but terms couldn’t be agreed. Likewise, negotiations fell apart for a subsequent Hughes-backed film, Dennis, that ultimately went ahead without the actor.
The two firm friends were drifting apart. As Knelman notes in his book, Hughes stopped returning Candy’s calls. And Candy was upset. His movie career would take an upward turn with 1993’s Cool Runnings, but he wouldn’t work with John Hughes again. And sadly, they wouldn’t get a chance for a proper reconciliation. Candy, tragically, would be taken from us on March 4th 1994, at the age of just 42.
Hughes would take this news badly, and as the story goes, the loss of Candy was apparently what dissuaded him from directing movies himself again. Curly Sue would be his final directorial effort, before he too was taken from us way too soon back in 2009, at the age of just 59. His last decade would see him pretty much withdrawing from the movie industry.
Hughes and Candy, though, both left us with a terrific legacy of films, Home Alone amongst them. And it goes to the sheer generosity of spirit at the heart of Candy that he wouldn’t take what would have been a hugely lucrative slice of the profits in exchange for appearing in the film, simply because he just wanted to help his friend. Rest in peace, both.
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