While the original “Home Alone” introduced the world to the precocious and inventive Kevin McCallister, it wasn’t until filming the mega hit’s sequel that comedian Rob Schneider got to meet Kevin’s real-life counterpart, Macaulay Culkin.
“I loved him! I didn’t like him, I loved him,” Schneider recalled of working with Culkin a quarter-century ago. “I thought he was such a sweet, endearing kid.”
“Home Alone 2: Lost in New York” gave Schneider, then in his late 20s and working for “Saturday Night Live,” one of his first major film roles. The 1992 film followed Kevin’s madcap adventures in the big city sans parents, hitting many of the same notes as the original: thwarting the Wet Bandits, befriending an eccentric stranger, pausing and playing mobster movie dialogue for comedic effect. Schneider was the smarmy hotel bellhop Cedric, who helps Kevin with his bags and makes no effort to hide his expectation of tip money. (Kevin famously tips him with a stick of gum.)
“When the limo pulled up and Macaulay Culkin got out, it was like, ‘Wow, that’s a kid who’s a superstar. This is a real Hollywood movie,’” Schneider told HuffPost. Culkin, who had also starred in “Uncle Buck” before he began shooting “Home Alone 2,” would become one of the defining child stars of the 1990s.
Schneider described becoming “instant friends” with Culkin after telling him a good joke. When the pair exited the trailer, which was across the street from The Plaza hotel, he remembers paparazzi swarming the child actor.
“We go to leave, and I walk out of the trailer and he comes out. And before they leave the trailer, they had to put him — literally his face — into the back of this 6-foot-3 security guard, and there’s three other guys right around him,” Schneider said. “Literally, his face next to them. There’s a hundred paparazzi outside, cameras on sticks ... trying to get any pictures that they could of him as they walked toward The Plaza. I went, like, ‘Wow, that’s a lot of pressure for an 11-year-old.’”
Culkin would temporarily quit acting at the age of 14, taking a nearly decadelong break between 1994′s “Richie Rich” and 2003′s “Party Monster.” He told Larry King in 2004 that, while acting was natural for him and he enjoyed “the attention that came while being onstage,” he didn’t love all the fame.
“I was going crazy by that point,” Culkin told King of his decision to step back. “I knew it was, you know, if I just kept on doing it, I’d go nuts.”
Thinking back on what the young actor was dealing with, Schneider said, “I just wanted to make the time that I was with him fun, you know? ’Cos I knew that there was a lot of pressure on him. If show business isn’t particularly healthy for adults, I can’t imagine what it’s like for kids — having to get lines in a specific way and to do a real job. It’s not like he could just say, ‘Hey, I’m gonna go to the park for a couple hours and chill.’”
But Schneider has nothing but positive memories of Culkin himself. He recalled a pleasant atmosphere on the film set — more fun than “SNL,” he said — even though taking the job cut into his sleeping schedule.
“I didn’t tell ‘Saturday Night Live’ that I was doing that movie,” Schneider said, describing how he got set up with a room at The Plaza so he could sleep between scenes.
“I didn’t remember those weeks, because I was completely asleep,” he added. “I remember watching a replay of me on ‘Saturday Night Live,’ and I was doing a sketch and my eyes were basically closed from being up for 24 hours.”
Schneider said he first met Chris Columbus in the director’s office, where he offered the comedian the “Home Alone 2” role. During their chat, Schneider spied the sled from the original “Home Alone,” although he thought he’d seen the same one, signed by the director and Culkin, in a Planet Hollywood restaurant.
“I went, ‘Uh, hey, dude, I thought that was the original sled in Planet Hollywood.’ He said, ’Nah, nah, I gave ’em the one we never use. I said, ‘Oh my God, the world is all fake! It’s all pretend!’”
At the time of Schneider’s meeting with Columbus, his bellhop character was in the script, but didn’t have a name. He finally gained his moniker out of practicality: They found a Plaza staff pin with the name Cedric already on it. Schneider snagged that bit of memorabilia for himself after filming ended.
A quarter-century later, Schneider is now planning to show his on-screen turn as Cedric to his 5-year-old daughter for the first time.
“[There’s] a quaint innocence to this film,” he said. “You can watch this with your kids and your grandkids, and everyone could have a good time. It has a wholesomeness to it, which is like missing in modern comedy.”
The comedian even sees the movie as analogous to “It’s a Wonderful Life” for viewers in their 20s and 30s — a heartfelt film that evokes a seemingly simpler time.
“No way do I think it’s a better film,” Schneider clarified. “I think it has that quality in a similar vein to it. Of a different time, of the wholesomeness, of the family message.”
“At the time, I thought it was gonna be a fun film, I knew it was gonna be a hit, but you never know what movie you make is gonna last 25 years later,” he said.
A 25th anniversary edition of “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York” is available on Digital, Blu-ray and DVD from Fox Home Entertainment.