Holiday classic Home Alone held the title of the highest-grossing live-action comedy for 21 years after its original release, yet John Candy was only paid $414 for his supporting role.
The 1990 Chris Columbus hit shows a young Macaulay Culkin starring as Kevin McCallister, a boy who gets what he wants when he wishes away his family for Christmas. After a chaotic rush to the Chicago airport sends his parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins to Paris without him, he’s left to protect his home from a duo of thieves on his own.
Meanwhile, his mother, Kate (Catherine O’Hara), goes above and beyond to travel back to Chicago to reunite with Kevin. During her odyssey, she meets Gus Polinski, a kind polka musician who lets Kate hitch a ride back to the Midwest in his band’s van. Gus, of course, was played by the late John Candy.
While Candy’s role wasn’t large, it took up a significant portion of the film. At that time, he was also a major celebrity with Spaceballs, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, and Uncle Buck under his belt. So his meager pay wasn’t on par with his other projects.
But John Candy wasn’t looking to earn riches off Home Alone. He was only looking to help out his good friend, writer and producer John Hughes. While the film ended up grossing $ 476.7 million, it only had an $18 million budget. The cast was already filled with A-listers, and paying Candy his worth would have been impossible. So, he basically did it for free.
John Candy Improvised His ‘Home Alone’ Scenes
In total, Candy only worked 23 hours to earn his $414. Hughes was so appreciative of the comedian’s favor that he allowed him to improvise his scenes, which worked well.
“He was in the movie for only one day, but it resulted in so much great improvisation,” Columbus told Insider in 2020. “None of that stuff was in the script. The funeral parlor story – that was all improvised at 4:30 in the morning. We could barely keep a straight face on set just listening to John.”
Columbus admitted that Candy wasn’t happy with Fox during or after the movie. He alluded that the favor came when the studio refused to pay up. But he didn’t let that ill will hinder his performance.
“There was certainly a little resentment on John’s part,” he continued. “It was a deal between him and John Hughes at the time. I never met John Candy before he came into the movie. I don’t know if John ever got any kind of compensation from Fox. We did a movie together after that, Only the Lonely, and there were a couple of times on set when he would make a cutting remark about Fox and what he was paid.”
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