Actor Daniel Stern did a splendid job in Home Alone and made the movie immortal, Home Alone will stay in our hearts for a little while long. He is best known as bungling burglar Marv in the first two Home Alone movies. What a brilliant set of movies!
He seems to know that too, because his official Facebook page is a glorious repository of trivia, pictures, and behind-the-scenes stories from Home Alone and Home Alone 2: Lost In New York.
The caption for the picture reads:
Holy Moley it’s only 4 days until Christmas! …. so I figured why not pull a few out of the personal collection to share with you guys…Harry and Marv were always intended to be a classic comic duo. John Hughes wrote it that way, and Chris Columbus directed it that way…
Joe and I bought into that into that idea from the very beginning. We had already done one other movie together called I’m Dancing As Fast As I Can, so we were already friends, so when we got together for the first rehearsal we were already talking about what our comic duo was going to be.
I think we both started with some of our favourite cartoon characters: Wile E Coyote, Bugs Bunny, and other classic cartoons. Our physical types were as different as Laurel and Hardy, and we set about making our own version of those guys.
You’ll notice Joe even invented his own cartoon language that he spews when he gets really frustrated. The evolution of the characters and chemistry came from the love that we all had for the classic comic duos and from the brilliance of my dear friend and partner in crime, Joe Pesci.
Stern has also been sharing stories about the making of the two Christmas movie classics. For example, he goes into detail about filming of this famous scene from the second movie.
One of my favourite scenes from Home Alone 2 is when I get electrocuted at the water spigots. The reason it is so dear to me is because when I shot that scene we hadn’t yet rehearsed, so I didn’t really know what to expect.
Our director, Chris Columbus, had given me the basic blocking: to walk into the basement, make my way to the sink, grab hold of the spigots, and then act like I was being electrocuted. From the corner of the basement they would be running two cameras, a wide shot and a closer angle, at the same time.
Take one began, and I went over and grabbed the spigots and started shaking violently. I wiggled and screamed and shook, and did everything else I could think of to be electrocuted in the funniest ways I knew how.
But the director didn’t say “cut”. I figured I wasn’t giving him what he wanted so I just kept going, getting sillier and sillier, my voice travelling octaves above my normal voice. And still no “cut”. I was out of moves, so I decided to abandon ship by shivering and shaking my way out of frame and onto the floor. I figured Chris would have to end the shot now. But still no “cut”!
Now on the floor, I writhed and squirmed and spasmed, hoping that I wasn’t completely humiliating myself, but figuring there is always the forgiving “take two”. With a final flourish of my ridiculous ‘death scene’, I finally lay still on the floor. And still no “cut” from Chris.
Exhausted and out of ideas of what to do next, I wondered for a second if the crew had all gone to lunch or something. I broke character and rolled on my side to see what the heck was going on. And that is when I saw Chris Columbus, my fearless leader, lying on the floor as well. He was underneath the camera, howling with laughter, unable to say “cut” because he was going through his own spasms.
To make Chris laugh that hard was one of the greatest accomplishments of my acting life and I will never forget the feeling of locking eyes with him, both of us rolling around on the floor, kids making each other laugh on the funnest playground ever invented.
His caption says:
So a few weeks after Home Alone opened, I get a call from my parents telling me that they had seen the film. The film had opened to incredible reviews, lines at the movie theatres, and #1 box office hit, but I knew that would have no effect on my parents’ reaction.
The first time they ever saw me in a play in high school, I asked them what they thought and their reaction was, “It was incredibly sad to see that, for some reason, you feel the need to show off this way in front of people. Are you sure everything is okay with you?” Not what I expected. When I told them that I landed my first movie role in Breaking Away, their first words were, “Why would they pick you?” Again, hoping for something a little more positive, but my parents are the most humble people on this earth and wary of the ego or self-aggrandizing traps of showbusiness, as am I.
I had so enjoyed the making of Home Alone and the audiences were howling with laughter, and my parents loved it too. They went on about the little boy and the mother and the neighbour and the music… everyone but me. Okay, I’ll bite. “What about me? Did you think it was funny?”
Their reaction was thus: “Cape Cod. It is the same stuff you have been doing since Cape Cod”. And they were right.
When I was very little, maybe age 3-7, we shared a beach house with another family on Cape Cod for a few summers. My bossy big sister and the bossy big sister of our dear family friends would insist on ‘putting on a show’ almost every night for the entertainment of our parents. The girls would do all of the big stuff – songs, scenes, romance – and the littler kids would get the scraps – changing ‘sets’, background players, etc.
My job was to entertain the crowd between those various acts. I was pretty shy and not a very verbal kid (I didn’t speak or walk until way past the point of parental concern), so my act, every time, consisted of stuffing a pillow up my shirt, falling down and rolling around on the floor. I would mix it up a little by standing up and bumping into a door or a table and then fall down and roll around again.
The parents would howl with laughter, and my sister and Debbie would get really mad at me because I was “ruining the show”. But I was hooked. I had gotten my first high of getting laughs, of making my sister mad and applause. But mostly, I was hooked on how fun it is to do physical comedy.
My favorite cartoons, Laurel and Hardy, The Three Stooges, the Marx Brothers, Dick Van Dyke Show, early Woody Allen movies. I had eaten all of it up my whole life and loved making my friends and family laugh. I got to play many kinds of parts in my acting life, but nothing like Marv. The opportunity to do all of the fall-down-with-a-pillow-in-my-shirt silliness in Home Alone touched a very primal part of who I am and have always been.
Maybe that is one of the things the audience enjoys when they watch the film – watching a grown man having the chance to step back to the magical time when his three year old self was awakened to joy of making people laugh, especially the grown ups. And as usual, my parents saw right through me.
So blessed to still have them both in my life.