Due to its borderline extreme violence, the Christmas classic Home Alone from director Chris Columbus has been jokingly referred to as a Martin Scorsese movie for kids and even, in a wild fan theory, the prequel to Saw where Kevin McCallister embodies the infantile version of Jigsaw. Such references are hard to shake too, particularly with the inclusion of the Goodfellas star Joe Pesci in one of the lead roles.
As one of the villainous ‘Wet Bandits’ who tries to invade the home of the young Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin), Joe Pesci’s character undergoes several moments of brutal pain alongside his fictional accomplice, Marv (Daniel Stern). Such moments have become iconic in their own right, played out for cartoon laughs as Pesci’s Harry is hit in the face with a high-flying iron and Marv is tricked with a hairy tarantula.
Devilishly playful with its creative ways of inflicting pain, director Chris Columbus recalls how many of the stunts looked just as painful as they were for the participating actors. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly about the classic film, the filmmaker remembered: “Every time the stunt guys did one of those stunts it wasn’t funny. We’d watch it, and I would just pray that the guys were alive”.
Whilst Macaulay Culkin was brought onto the project thanks to his work on Uncle Buck that the Home Alone screenwriter, John Hughes, directed back in 1989, though the casting of the two Wet Bandits proved a little trickier. With actors finding the physical roles of the villainous characters fairly unappealing, Jon Lovitz and fellow Scorsese actor Robert De Niro both turned down the role of Harry before Joe Pesci accepted the position.
Once he’d secured the role, Pesci donned his method acting hat and sought to get the most authentic possible performance from Macaulay Culkin, avoiding the young boy on set so he would be more afraid of him come to the shooting of the film.
Pesci took this to extremes in one particular scene where he hangs Culkin’s Kevin McCallister on a coat hook, “and Pesci says, ‘I’m gonna bite all your fingers off, one at a time,’” Culkin told Rule Forty Two. Taking his villainous role perhaps a little too seriously, the actor added, “During one of the rehearsals, he bit me, and it broke the skin”.
Though Joe Pesci is not known for his prevalent method acting, he has worked with Robert De Niro many times throughout his career, an actor who no doubt rubbed off on Pesci thanks to his own radical take on performing. In a return to the gangster genre for director Martin Scorsese, Pesci starred alongside De Niro and Al Pacino in The Irishman in 2019.