For the better part of his career, Joe Pesci starred in movies that were strictly adult fare, and it wasn't until he took the role of burglar Harry Lime in 1990’s Home Alone that a younger generation discovered his acting talents. In Home Alone, Pesci was one half of the comedic, bumbling criminal duo known as the Wet Bandits, and he and his partner in crime Marv (Daniel Stern) are consistently bested by nine-year-old Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) as they attempted to rob his home.
Audiences lapped up Home Alone. It was a massive hit and even set a record for “the biggest single-territory total for a live-action comedy” that lasted for 27 years! In addition to earning a place among the best ‘90s comedies, many now consider the film a non-traditional Christmas classic.
But what of Joe Pesci? He hasn't been seen much in the 21st century. In 1999, he announced his retirement from acting to pursue music. Flash forward a couple decades, and you’ll find he made a small comeback in a 2019 Google commercial where he revisits his Home Alone character. On top of that, he's back in front of the cameras in Martin Scorsese's The Irishman, part of Netflix’s fall 2019 programming block.
Take a step back in time to the Home Alone set and check out Pesci's work as Harry
Pesci Really Bit Macaulay Culkin During Rehearsal
In the scene where Kevin is hung from the back of a door by his collar, Harry threatens him by saying, "‘I’m gonna bite all your fingers off, one at a time." During rehearsal, according to Culkin, “[Pesci] actually bit me. He broke the skin and everything!
Culkin still has a scar from the bite which he didn't realize he had until adulthood, but he’s quite proud of it today and calls it "my little Home Alone battle wound."
Pesci Stayed Away From Macaulay Culkin While Shooting 'Home Alone'
During filming, Pesci avoided Macaulay Culkin because he wanted the boy to fear him. Pesci continued the tradition in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.
During the making of the sequel, Pesci reiterated a story in which Culkin asked him why he never smiled. He told the boy to shut up and said, “He’s pampered a lot by a lot of people, but not me. And I think he likes that.”
He Sings A Christmas Carol In A Deleted SceneVideo: YouTube
In a deleted scene from the first Home Alone movie, the Wet Bandits sing "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" with lyrics that describe how they'll rob the McCallister house. In real life, Pesci is a vocalist (he largely retired from acting to pursue this passion).
Pesci released a naughty album in 1998, Vincent LaGuardia Gambini Sings Just for You, singing as his character from My Cousin Vinny. The album includes “If It Doesn’t Snow For Christmas," a song about a Santa who is too obese for his sleigh.
Pesci's Head Wasn't Really On FireVideo: YouTube
One of the booby traps set for the Wet Bandits is a blowtorch rigged to light with the opening of a door. When Harry steps into the McCallister kitchen, he's met with a blaze that burns his hair through his hat. He puts the fire out by burying his head in the snow outside. In reality, Pesci was not close to any flames when shooting the scene.
Production designer John Muto used a 19th-century illusion called Pepper's ghost to create the effect. He pointed his camera at a piece of angled glass - behind him sat a mannequin head with the blowtorch on it. Pesci stepped in front of the camera at the mark where the mannequin head was reflected on the glass.
Muto says if you freeze the movie you can see that Pesci was a little off his mark - there's a slight matte line around his head.