Chris Columbus directed holiday favorite Home Alone, but only after leaving his role as director on Christmas Vacation due to Chevy Chase. Two iconic Christmas movies, Home Alone, and Christmas Vacation, were both written by John Hughes and released within a year.
Meanwhile, Chris Columbus had already built a solid holiday film resume before being slated to helm Christmas Vacation. After all, he wrote the holiday horror classic Gremlins back in 1984. He had also directed 1987’s Adventures in Babysitting, proving he could handle ensemble comedies.
Eventually, John Hughes sent Columbus the script for National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Columbus, who loved Christmas, considered making a Christmas comedy “a dream.”
Chevy Chase’s Poor Treatment of Chris Columbus Led the Young Director to ‘Home Alone’
However, Chris Columbus had not anticipated diva behavior from Chevy Chase. Chris Columbus claimed that early meetings for Christmas Vacation with Chevy Chase were tense. The SNL alum treated the young director “like dirt”, as he told Chicago Magazine.
Despite Chase mistreating the young director initially, Columbus persevered until he had the chance to work on establishing shots and sequences for the second unit. Following another unpleasant encounter with Chevy Chase before principal filming, Columbus reached out to Hughes and expressed his inability to collaborate with Chase on Christmas Vacation.
“I went out to dinner with Chevy Chase,” Columbus recalled. “To be completely honest, Chevy treated me like dirt. But I stuck it out and even went as far as to shoot second unit [collecting establishing shots and special sequences, usually without principal actors]. Some of my shots of downtown Chicago are still in the movie. Then I had another meeting with Chevy, and it was worse. I called John [Hughes, producer] and said, ‘There’s no way I can do this movie. I know I need to work, but I can’t do it with this guy.’”
Chris Columbus was upset about losing work due to Chevy Chase, but Hughes understood and still believed in him. Two weeks later, he received the script for Home Alone, penned by Hughes.
‘Home Alone’ Went on to Become a Christmas Classic
Columbus vividly remembered the profound sense of disappointment he felt after letting Hughes down, despite the incredible opportunity bestowed upon him with Christmas Vacation. His latest film, Heartbreak Hotel, had suffered both commercially and critically, leaving Columbus anxious about his future as a director. However, to his delightful surprise, Hughes approached him again to direct another Christmas comedy, one that resonated with Columbus on an even deeper level.
Directing the original Home Alone starring Macaulay Culkin, was a gift to Chris Columbus from Hughes after escaping Chevy Chase. Of course, Columbus went on to helm several iconic films. He directed Mrs. Doubtfire and two installments of the Harry Potter franchise. In fact, Columbus’ anxieties about his future in the industry were ultimately disproven by his own success.
Home Alone owes its unparalleled success to Columbus’s exceptional direction. He managed a breakout performance from Macaulay Culkin, which leaves one to wonder what he might have done for Chevy Chase. In 2020, Columbus returned to his roots in family Christmas movies, directing Netflix’s The Christmas Chronicles 2.
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