The summer box office for 1989 happened to be a convergence of some astounding films which are widely considered to be some of the best ever made. For some strange reason these films were all released within a 3 month window 25 years ago, and these films still stand the test of time today. 25 years ago today, August 16th, saw the release of a John Hughes comedy film starring John Candy and Amy Madigan, “Uncle Buck”.
As an idle, good-natured bachelor, Uncle Buck is the last person you would think of to watch the kids. However, during a family crisis, he is suddenly left in charge of his nephew and nieces. Unaccustomed to suburban life, fun-loving Uncle Buck soon charms his younger relatives Miles and Maizy with his hefty cooking and his new way of doing the laundry. His carefree style does not impress everyone though – especially his rebellious teenage niece, Tia, and his impatient girlfriend, Chanice. With a little bit of luck and a lot of love, Uncle Buck manages to surprise everyone in this heartwarming family comedy.
Uncle Buck was the first film directed, written, and produced by John Hughes under a multi-picture agreement deal with Universal. Filming began on January 4, 1989 in Chicago. The company decided to keep the production facilities and locations as close as possible. The vacant New Trier High School in Northfield, Illinois was chosen for the production facility. Three of its gyms were converted into sound stages on which several sets were constructed including the two-leveled interior of the Russell House, Buck’s bedroom, a corridor in the elementary school, the boy’s toilets, the principal’s office, a classroom and several smaller sets. The school was also equipped to suit the needs of the cast and crew behind-the-scenes, classrooms for the young actors, offices, dressing rooms, wardrobe department, editing facilities, a special effects shop, equipment storage areas, and a projection booth. Production designer John Corso began designing the sets in October 1988 and within seven weeks his construction crew of twelve carpenters and five painters began work on the two levels of the Russell house. A colonial-style house in Evanston was chosen for the exterior of the Russell house. The exteriors and practical locations were shot in Chicago, Cicero, Skokie, Northbrook, Wilmette, Winnetka, Glencoe, and Riverwoods.
John Candy – Buck Russell
Jean Louisa Kelly – Tia Russell
Gaby Hoffmann – Maizy Russell (as Gaby Hoffman)
Macaulay Culkin – Miles Russell
Amy Madigan – Chanice Kobolowski
Elaine Bromka – Cindy Russell
Garrett M. Brown – Bob Russell
Laurie Metcalf – Marcie Dahlgren-Frost
Jay Underwood – Bug
Uncle Buck received positive reviews from critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes has a given the film a “Fresh” score of 64%, based on 21 reviews, with an average rating of 5.8/10. The film earned $8.8 million on its opening weekend to 1,804 theatres and was placed No. 1 at the box office.
Did You Know?
During Miles’ interrogation of Uncle Buck, John Candy wrote out the script’s dialog and wore it atop his head so Macaulay Culkin could read the lines more quickly and keep the pace of the scene very fast.
One night during filming John Candy went to a bar with Tarquin Gotch and spent most of the night there meeting people. The next day John Hughes heard a caller on a radio talk show describe his evening with Candy. Hughes was upset with Candy and despite Candy’s assertion that Buck was supposed to appear disheveled, Hughes canceled his scenes for the day and told him to get himself together and get some sleep.
The movie was originally intended to be shot in the St. Louis area rather than John Hughes’s traditional Chicago. Filming was about to begin when the decision was made to move the shoot to Chicago.
Danny DeVito was considered for the role of Uncle Buck.
The noise that Buck’s car makes when it backfires is that of a gun shot and a firecracker.
When Buck goes to the party to find Tia he hears the Rap music playing and jokingly says “Who’s That? The Grass Roots?” The Grass Roots were a popular band in the late 1960’s that had a string of hits including “Lets Live For Today”, “Midnight Confessions” and “Temptation Eyes” among others.
Buck’s car (which he called “The Beast”) was a 1975-78 Mercury Marquis coupe.