Before becoming one of the highest-paid actors on TV thanks to The Big Bang Theory, Johnny Galecki played Rusty Griswold in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
While filming the popular holiday movie the then-14-year-old actor convinced the director not to include a heart-to-heart moment between Rusty and his dad, Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase). Now 45, Galecki says he’s regretted it ever since.
Johnny Galecki didn’t have much prior movie experience
In 2014, Galecki got together with some of his fellow Christmas Vacation stars to discuss the movie with Rolling Stone. Recounting his audition process, the actor said even if he hadn’t been cast as Rusty he would’ve been happy just getting to audition with Chase.
Auditioning for “industrial films and regional theater” at the time, Galecki sent in an audition tape. Soon he was being flown out to Los Angeles, California, to meet with Chase and Christmas Vacation director Jeremiah S. Chechik.
“I read with Chevy and Jeremiah — and that alone would have been enough for me,” he said. “I could have been given my walking papers and sent home on the next flight and it still would have been a dream come true.”
Galecki didn’t have to wait long to find out if he’d been cast in the movie because as he recalled, “Chevy told me right there in the room that I had gotten the role.”
He rounded out the cast for the immediate Griswold family along with Beverly D’Angelo as Ellen Griswold and Juliette Lewis as Rusty’s sister, Audrey Griswold.
The actor didn’t see ‘any point’ in a ‘man-to-man scene’ in ‘Christmas Vacation’
There’d already been two National Lampoon’s movies about the Griswold family before Christmas Vacation. In each one there’d been a touching moment between Clark and his son. John Hughes, who wrote the screenplay for Christmas Vacation, didn’t have one in the script for the holiday movie.
Initially, he’d included a father-son moment but he got rid of it. Asked for his thoughts on including the scene, Galecki said it should stay out of the movie.
“One day John Hughes, Jeremiah, Chevy and I were sitting around waiting for a scene to be set up, and Chevy said, ‘There’s always been kind of a man-to-man scene between Clark and Russ in the previous films — a coming-of-age scene. But there isn’t in this one,’” Galecki remembered.
“John mentioned that he had something like that in an initial draft, and Chevy said, ‘We should consider putting that back in,’” he added.
“So they asked what I thought and I said, ‘I don’t think there’s any point. Somebody thought it was worth taking out at some point, so even if we shoot it, it’ll probably get taken out again,’” Galecki recalled.
So Christmas Vacation went on without it. Now an adult, the actor sees he made a huge mistake.
“I literally talked myself out of what could have been a classic scene with Chevy Chase. Now that I’m a jaded Hollywood f**k, I realize the error of my ways,” he said before adding, “I still kick myself in the a** for this every day.”
Johnny Galecki got comedy tips from Chevy Chase on the set
Even though he lost out on another scene with Chase, Galecki walked away from the movie having learned about comedic timing from the former Saturday Night Live cast member.
“Chevy worked like a puppet master for me in some scenes since I was was young and had never done comedy before,” Galecki said. “He’d almost cue me for my timing. He would nod, point, or wave a finger.”
“That took a patience and consideration because the movie would have been funny enough without Rusty having that specific timing,” he added.
Christmas Vacation is now a go-to Christmas movie come December sans what could’ve been a touching scene between Clark and Rusty had it not been for Galecki’s comments.