The Movie Waffler Interview - HOME ALONE Star & Comedy Legend Catherine O'Hara | The Movie Waffler

Interview - HOME ALONE Star & Comedy Legend Catherine O'Hara

catherine o'hara home alone
With Home Alone back in cinemas, we chatted with its star, Catherine O'Hara.

Interview by Eric Hillis

Home Alone is back in cinemas this Christmas, playing in over 200 venues across the UK and Ireland, and for many people it's one of the go-to movies for the holiday season. When you made the film did you have any idea it would have such lasting appeal?

I had no idea Home Alone would have such a long life in the hearts and minds of movie goers. I’m so happy it will again play on big screens this December in England and Ireland.

As a writer, John Hughes seemed to crack the elusive formula for appealing to a mass audience, both young and old. I'm guessing his script was a big draw for you taking the role of Kate McCallister?

Yes, I read the script and had a wonderful meeting with Chris Columbus and John Hughes. John Hughes wrote about families in a way that was so far beyond most "family fare." He wrote from every character’s point of view. It wasn’t one voice but it was clearly his unique perception of the joys and heartaches of parenting, growing up, friendship, and work, and of all the stupid, terrible, beautiful, kind, and profound things people who love each other will say and do to each other. And he always made it funny.

Sadly, as with Hughes, your Home Alone co-star John Heard is no longer with us. I've always felt he was an actor who deserved more recognition. What are your memories of working with him?

John Heard was not concerned with celebrity. He was just a great actor. I had a lovely time with him on both Home Alone movies. His character had to hold down the fort while my character went looking for our son. He made Peter a strong, loving Father and husband.

You initially rose to prominence as a member of the Canadian comedy troupe The Second City, which spawned some of North America's most famous comedy performers. Who were you performing alongside during your time with the troupe?

I was very fortunate to get into Second City Theatre in Toronto. Gilda Radner (God bless her) dated my brother and she introduced me to Second City, where I auditioned and got to understudy Gilda before she went off to do National Lampoon, then SNL. I joined Eugene Levy, Dan Aykroyd, John Candy (God bless him) and Rosemary Radcliffe in the cast. Andrea Martin later replaced Rosemary. Joe Flaherty was our director. Lucky me!

You've worked several times with Tim Burton. What can you tell us about his unique approach to filmmaking?

Tim is obviously seriously creative. He’s also really fun to work with. He takes his art seriously but with a great sense of humour. He has a gentle way of directing, of getting what he wants out of you. I’ve said too many times that he directs through osmosis, but, like all great directors, he makes you feel like you were already going in that direction. He’s both very challenging and encouraging. And he introduced me to my husband (Beetlejuice Production Designer Bo Welch) so I’ll always love him for that.

Another frequent collaborator of yours is filmmaker Christopher Guest, known for his series of 'mockumentary' films. Does his method of working allow you to draw on your improv background or are his films more tightly scripted than they appear?

I did four films with Chris Guest and I loved every one of them. Chris and Eugene Levy wrote the scripts, which were scene outlines. They also included some great jokes and running gags (like my character’s running into ex-lovers in Best in Show) to inspire the actors. I believe the Waiting for Guffman script was a tight 15 pages long because our characters were together in most scenes. The scripts got longer with each film as our characters led separate lives. In all cases, we worked from the outline. All dialogue was improvised. It was acting for thrill-seekers. And it was so much fun to watch everyone. The cast was made up of actor/writers. We brought our characters to play, and trusted each other to serve the story outline. We also trusted Chris to edit the film. He gave us total freedom to improvise the dialogue - we would shoot close to a hundred hours - but it was up to him to edit it down to 93 minutes.

Speaking of improv, one of my favourite performances of yours is as the crazy sister of Funkhauser in Curb Your Enthusiasm. I imagine for a comic performer, that show must be a joy to take part in?

Yes, it was fun playing Funkhauser’s sister. I hope you know my strange voice in that was an attempt to imitate Bob Einstein. Ha! The dialogue on Curb is also improvised but with stricter parameters than I was used to. That made it all the more challenging and I was happy with the episode...until my child’s Catholic school teacher said she had watched it! Actually, she said she loved the show but all I could think of was the foul-mouthed off camera sex scene.

Home Alone is playing in UK/ROI cinemas over the holiday season. Find your nearest screening here.