CHICAGO (CBS) — Normally, Thanksgiving is a big release time for Hollywood blockbusters.
But with most movie theaters shut down, we can only cherish our film treasures from the past this year.
It may be hard to believe, but this marks the 30th anniversary of the now classic “Home Alone.”
So as you perhaps watch it for the 19th time, here’s a look back on the Macaulay Culkin comedy (for a little time reference, Macaulay Culkin is 40 now), through the eyes of Chicago polka musician Eddie Korosa Jr. He and his real-life polka band make a cameo in the movie.
What does a Chicago polka band leader have to do with a Christmas flick? Here are 10 fascinating things we learned about “Home Alone” from our chat with Korosa.
1. The movie mom (played by actress Catherine O’Hara) meets the Kenosha Kickers polka band at the Scranton Airport. John Candy plays Gus Polinski, the Polka King of the Midwest. While that scene was supposed to take place in Scranton, Korosa tells us it was actually filmed at Meigs Field. For anyone younger than a younger age, that’s what we now know as Northerly Island. Former Mayor Richard M. Daley destroyed the airport during the dark of night to turn it into parkland in 2003.
2. John Candy and the Kenosha Kickers offer O’Hara a ride in a rented moving truck. It appears the scene was shot while driving on real streets. Korosa says that scene too was shot at a Meigs Field warehouse. There were even several stagehands jostling the truck from the outside, to make it look like the truck was rambling down the road.
3. Eddie Korosa Jr. had to convince the members of his real band (called The Boys from Illinois) to appear in the movie. Korosa got the call late one afternoon and all of them had to pile into his truck to head to the audition. They sat in bad traffic and then had to play for movie producer John Hughes. Korosa says his bandmates were “pissy” at the time, but that changed when Hughes hired them on the spot to appear in the movie. “I told them they’re all gonna be movie stars,” Korosa says, before bursting into laughter.
4. The shoot itself took about 18 hours, all at Meigs Field. Korosa and the band shared breakfast, lunch and dinner with John Candy there. Korosa describes the late Candy as “funny and polite.” He hung with the band much of the day, but did spend some time in his limo. Korosa also remembers that a stand-in for Candy sat in the rental truck for a couple hours until the lighting was perfected. Then, the funnyman took over. Candy’s lines? Mostly adlibbed. Korosa tells us Culkin was at Meigs Field that day, even though his character did not appear on screen with the Kenosha Kickers.
5. John Candy – evoking his famous SCTV character Yosh Shmenge – is a clarinet player in the movie. However, Korosa says the real clarinet player in the band recorded the part in a studio and then Candy “played” the clarinet, which meant he held the instrument and fake-played it.
6. Korosa remembers each band member got paid a couple thousand dollars for appearing in the movie. In addition to the long day at Meigs Field, they also had to record the music in a studio. It was recently reported that John Candy only earned $414 for his appearance.
7. Speaking of money, Korosa estimates he still gets $2,000-$3,000 in royalties every year from “Home Alone.” Some of the checks break down the payments by country, such as viewings in places like Germany, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and Canada. Korosa tells us: “Of course Canada. John Candy’s big in Canada,” as the late actor was born in Ontario. The checks come quarterly. “The one I’ll get in December is always a little higher. It’s still a top Christmas movie,” he says. The stubs also outline the source of the money: Pay TV, Free TV, Internet Rental, and DVD/Video.
8. In the movie, each member of the Kenosha Kickers wore a bright satiny jacket with the band’s name. Korosa says the band did not get to keep the jackets.They wound up being auctioned off for charity after the movie became a hit, and Korosa recalls each jacket going for about $3,000 each. Replicas are for sale on the Internet now, going for under $100 on Amazon.
9. There were seven members of the band in the movie, including Candy. Five have since died. Korosa is one of only two remaining. The other, Frank Cernugel, is retired and living in Joliet.
10. “Home Alone” hit theaters for Thanksgiving 1990. Korosa had a daughter, Lauren, in December 1990. He said: “You think of classic movies and you think how time flies. And to think I was part of something big. That will carry on forever. This time of year you see it more on TV. People text and call, I just saw your part on ‘Home Alone.’ We never thought it would be this big.”
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