Behind The Scenes Stories From 'Christmas Vacation'

There are few families in the world of cinema who have made as much of an amusing and perplexing contribution to pop culture as the Griswolds of the National Lampoon’s Vacation franchise. It would make sense that Christmas Vacation behind the scenes would be an equally unique story of ups and downs to continue on the legacy. From last-minute crew changes, to untimely animal demises, to accidental strokes of genius, there was never a dull moment during the production of the third Vacation film. Read on to find out just how Christmas Vacation turned out to be one of the most unlikely success stories in modern movie making, and a cult hit that would change Christmas for years to come.

  • Chevy Chase Drove Director Chris Columbus To Quit Production

    Not every match made in Hollywood is meant to work out. In the case of Christmas Vacation, it was the relationship between its star and director that almost doomed the project from the start. Chris Columbus, who had previously helmed Adventures In Babysitting, was set to direct Christmas Vacation after writer John Hughes sent him the script to look over. He even shot a few second unit scenes during the pre-production phase, but unfortunately, after a few meetings with Chevy Chase, it became clear that they weren’t going to work out as a professional pair.

    “To be completely honest, Chevy treated me like dirt,” Columbus confessed in 2015. Hughes didn’t take the pass personally though, and would eventually help Columbus land the directing gig for Home Alone.

  • The Director Got Hired Because Of A Joke Made By Stanley Kubrick

    Christmas Vacation was director Jeremiah Chechik's first feature film gig, and the events that brought him to the point of helming the next installment of the Vacation franchise was almost as outlandish as the film itself. After developing a name for himself in the fashion photography world, Chechik decided he wanted to branch out and turned to directing commercials. His style was so unique that it piqued the interest of director Stanley Kubrick, who jokingly referred to Chechik’s work as his “favourite American filmmaking."

    This spawned a chain reaction of phone calls and meetings that would eventually lead Chechik to the offices of Warner Bros. where he chose Christmas Vacation out of a pile of scripts to be his first project.

  • They Ordered A Ton Of Fake Snow For Exterior Scenes Just Before A Real Life Snow Storm

    When the cast and crew of Christmas Vacation arrived in Colorado to film exterior scenes for the movie, they were surprised to find that there wasn’t any snow to be found. In an attempt to stay on schedule, a horde of artificial snow was shipped out to try to make some movie magic and create the winter wonderland they were looking for. In a strange twist of fate, a large amount of real snowfall descended on the area just as the artificial snow arrived to set.

  • The Squirrel Passed Suddenly, And Its Replacement Was A Nightmare

    For the scene in which a rogue squirrel wreaks havoc inside the Griswold family home, a professionally trained animal was brought in to run through the set in a safe and systematic manner. However, the squirrel passed on before its big debut. An untrained replacement was brought in which resulted in a week-long struggle to get the shots they needed.

    Actress Diane Ladd recalls being warned by the trainer that their “claws are like razor blades,” and to steer clear at all costs despite what was called for in the scene.

  • The Cat Electrocution Scene Almost Got Cut By The Studio

    In perhaps one of the most memorable gags and greatest examples of slapstick humor in Christmas Vacation, Aunt Bethany’s feline re-gift met a tragic end after chowing down on a few too many Christmas tree lights in the living room. While it proved to be a fan favorite moment for audiences, Warner Bros. was not too keen on keeping the scene in the final cut.

    “The studio was really against electrifying the cat. They really didn’t want to do it,” director Jeremiah Chechik admitted to Rolling Stone before confessing that he ran interference with writer John Hughes in order to keep the scene in the film.

  • Clark’s Final Rant Required A Slew Of Cue Cards Worn By His Cast Mates

    Chevy Chase had proven himself as a master improviser many times over in his films prior to Christmas Vacation, but when it came to the rage-fueled, expletive packed word vomit that was Clark Griswold’s reaction to his Jelly of the Month Club Christmas bonus, filmmakers knew that he would need a clearly set path to get it just right. According to Beverly D’Angelo in a 2015 interview, the lines of Clark’s rant were all written on cue cards worn around the necks of the castmates facing him so that he could rattle it off without having to worry about missing a single jab. D’Angelo also admitted that it was a bit amusing to watch his eyes dart back and forth in the scene because the cards weren’t arranged in any exact order.