‘Home Alone’: Macaulay Culkin Improvised One of the Film’s Most Iconic Scenes

Macaulay Culkin was 11-years-old when he portrayed Kevin Mcalister in Home Alone. But the young actor brought more than just talent and charm to the role. According to director Chris Columbus, Culkin completely improvised the film’s most iconic scene.

Macaulay Culkin
Macaulay Culkin | Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

Macaulay Culkin started his career at the age of 4

Culkin started acting at the age of 4. Before taking on his breakthrough Home Alone role, he appeared in several popular TV and film projects.

The young actor was featured on an episode of The Equalizer in 1988. And he had small roles in films like Rocket Gibraltar, See You In The Morning, and Jacob’s Ladder

In 1989, he starred in Uncle Buck opposite John Candy. The film was written, produced, and directed by Home Alone creator John Hughes. 

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John Hughes insisted Macaulay Culkin was perfect for ‘Home Alone’

After working with Culkin on Uncle Buck, Hughes felt he would be an excellent fit for the lead role in Home Alone. In an interview with EW, Chris Columbus revealed he auditioned dozens of other kids, but ultimately cast Culkin because of his charm and comedic timing.

“I met a lot of kids — hundreds and hundreds of kids, hundreds of casting tapes,” said Columbus. “And I think one of the final meetings — if not the final meeting — was with Macaulay.”

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“We read a couple of the scenes together, and I called John and said, ‘He’s amazing,’” he continued. “Because he’s a real kid. He doesn’t look like one of these Hollywood-perfect kids. His ear is bent a little bit. He had a great voice that was not annoying, it was just charming, and he was really funny.”

He improvised the most iconic scene in ‘Home Alone’

Home Alone is chock-full of hilarious scenes. But it’s most iconic is undoubtedly the one in which Kevin slaps aftershave on his face and screams. 

According to Columbus, in the scene, Culkin was supposed to move his hands off of his face.  “He wasn’t supposed to do that,” Columbus recently told Insider. “If you put something on your face that burns, most people move their hands right away.” 

“So my direction to him was when you pat your face, move your hands and scream,” he continued. “And I think it was the first take, he kept his hands on his cheeks. We all started laughing hysterically.”

Columbus noted that he reshot the scene in the way it was written, But during the editing process, he decided to use Culkin’s spontaneous moment.

“We did it a couple more times with his hands off his face, but my editor, Raja Gosnell, he cut that take into the first cut that I saw, and it was in there forever,” added Columbus. “It’s funny, the iconic moment from Home Alone was an accident.”

It’s been 30 years since Home Alone premiered, and Culkin continues to deliver the laughs. He currently runs a satirical pop culture podcast and web magazine called Bunny Ears, for which he regularly creates humorous content.