Beloved Actors of the 'Christmas Vacation' Movie Then and Now
The third installment from the National Lampoon’s “Vacation” film series premiered 30 Christmases ago and is considered the best of all sequels to the original comedy classic. Here is what the cast of the film went on to do. We'll also uncover some fun facts about the comedic masterpiece, from a squirrel's unforgettable real-life scene to onset fighting between the actors! When it comes to laughing, we bet most agree that “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” has no competition so stay tuned for all the juicy details it has to offer!
The 76-year-old actor played Chicago head of family Clark W. “Sparky” Griswold, Jr., who tries to give his nuclear family and visitors the best Christmas holiday only to fail every time. Luckily, nothing seems to break this family’s Christmas spirit. Chase reprised his role twice, once in “Vegas Vacation” (1997).
The second time was in the 2015 reboot “Vacation.” In 1992, he played a more dramatic role in “Memoirs of an Invisible Man.” In the small screen, he starred in the comedy series “Community” (2009-2014). In his last film role to date, he played a retired talent manager in 2019’s “The Last Laugh.”
The 68-year-old actress played Ellen Griswold, Clark’s wife and the mother of his two children, who incredibly puts up with her inept and unlucky husband and seals the disastrous holiday season with a lovely kiss. Apart from reprising her role in “Vegas Vacation” (1997) like her onscreen husband, D’Angelo continued leading a prolific and successful career.
Her career actually went beyond comedy. After starring in the neo-nazi themed drama “American History X,” the actress has mostly worked on TV, with roles in “Law & Order: SUV” (2003-2008), “Entourage” (2005-2011), “Shooter” (2017-2018), and “Insatiable” (2018-2019).
The 44-year-old actor played Russ Griswold, Clark’s trusty son, who is willing to almost anything to help his father deliver, even though he has much more common sense than his old man. Galecki went on to become a huge TV star thanks to being cast in two of the most successful sitcoms of all time. First, he portrayed David Healy in “Roseanne” (1992-1997).
He then became a familiar face in every American home. In 2006, Galecki’s fame rocketed after brilliantly opposing Jim Parson’s Sheldon with his Leonard Hofstadter in “The Big Bang Theory,” which arrived at its finale this 2019. More recently, he returned for the spinoff series “The Conners.”
The 46-year-old actress played Audrey Griswold, Clark and Ellen’s teenage daughter whose Christmas holiday is ruined because she is forced to share a bed with her little brother when the extended family crashes the celebration. Following her role in the film, Lewis caught attention in the industry with her Academy-Award nominated performance in Martin Scorsese’s “Cape Fear” (1991).
She later starred in “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” (1993) and “Natural Born Killers” (1994). In the small screen, she has worked in “Free for All” (2003), “The Firm” (2012), “Secrets and Lies” (2015-2016), “Sacred Lies” (2018) and “Camping” (2018). Lewis is also a longtime rock singer.
The 69-year-old actor played Cousin Eddie Johnson, Ellen’s cousin, a broken hillbilly that arrives unexpectedly with his wife and children since they don’t have a place to spend the holiday. After reprising the role in “Vegas Vacation” (1997), Quaid starred as Eddie once again in his own spinoff TV film “Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie’s Island Adventure” (2003).
He is most famous for his comedic roles in “Kingpin” (1996), and “Independence Day” (1996). In 2005, he earned an Emmy Award nomination for playing Elvis Presley’s manager in the Miniseries “Elvis.” In 2018, he returned with “Weight.”
The 67-year-old actress played Cousin Catherine Johnson, Cousin Eddie’s wife, who loves her husband blindly despite his troubling behavior and bad drinking. Apart from appearing in almost all installments of the franchise, Flynn is mostly famous for her work as a voice-over artist, with roles in “DuckTales” (1989-1990) and “The Simpson” (1990).
As well as “Taz-Mania” (1991-1995), “The Tick” (1994-1995), “Casper” (1996-1997) and “The Land Before Time” (2016). Her last role to date was in the comedy/thriller film “Extracurricular Activities” (2019), playing Mrs. Reed. She surely had a ger voice all over the place and it is recognized by millions because of it.
The 36-year-old actor played Rocky Johnson, Cousin Eddie and Cousin Catherine’s bully son. Following his debut role in the film, at age 5, Burger appeared in just a few other films and a couple of TV series before retiring from acting in 1995. His credits include “Anything But Love” (1990), and “Home Improvement” (1991). He currently works as a Network Engineer in Florida.
The 39-year-old actress played Ruby Sue Johnson, Cousin Eddie and Cousin Catherine’s youngest child. After playing her most famous character, Latzen only appeared in three additional productions, namely “ABC Afterschool Specials” (1990) “Alkali, Iowa” (1995), and “Boys Life 2” (1997). She attended California College of Arts and Crafts in San Francisco.
The 58-year-old actress played Margo Chester, one half of the couple next door to Clark and family’s home, whose Christmas is also sabotaged, however involuntarily, by this chaotic bunch. Right after playing this minor role in the film, Louis-Dreyfus landed her breakout role as Elaine Benes in the hit sitcom “Seinfeld” (1990-1998).
She also ended up becoming the most successful alum to come out of the series. From 2006 to 2010, she starred “The New Adventures of Old Christine,” from 2006 to 2010, which earned her a second Emmy. Recently, she starred in the political satire “Veep,” winning a record-breaking six Emmy awards for her performance.
The 64-year-old actor played Todd Chester, Margo’s husband, also affected by the havoc created by their neighbors. Guest has continued working in movies and TV series and has more than 190 acting credits behind him, his most recent role to date being that of President Salnikov in “Madam Secretary” (2016-2019).
He has a prolific career as a voice artist with roles in “Animaniacs” (1993), “The Land Before Time III” (1995) “The Mummy” (2001-2003), “Justice League” (2003), “Astroboy” (2009), “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” (2009-2011), and “MacGyver” (2017-2018).
THINGS YOU DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT THE SHOW
The show had a few secrets up its sleeve. One is that Chevy Chase helped write the script. Along with director Harold Ramis, they dramatically shifted the POV of the original, so that it was told from Clark's viewpoint rather than from the kids'. They also played into what his comedic abilities were.
It's fairly common knowledge that the original Vacation was inspired by a short story John Hughes wrote while he was on the staff of National Lampoon magazine. What ended up onscreen was very different from what was on the page, but the basic idea remained similar. Once he got into movies, Hughes was generally averse to sequels.
On another note, the movie set plays a big role, they can work or fail dismally. Put a bunch of creative people, all with strong individual opinions on set, in the same room and you can get magic. Or a disaster. Christmas Vacation offered both.
Interviewed for the biography I'm Chevy Chase...and You're Not, written by Rena Fruchter, Beverly D'Angelo revealed that she and Jeremiah Chechik didn't get along. She said: "I felt like he kept trying to talk to me like I was an idiot about filmmaking, and it bothered me."
Things got worse when D'Angelo's stand-in claimed to have heard the director blaming the actress for a delay on the set that really didn't involve her at all. She was so angry about the incident that she walked off for the day. Chechik confirms the strife, telling Rolling Stone that he and D'Angelo "fought like hell" on set. Thankfully, those issues were resolved.
One of the best moments in the movie involves Clark discovering that a squirrel is hiding in the Christmas tree he cut down by himself. The frightened animal leaps from within the tree and runs around crazily. Everyone frantically tries to catch it. Despite the best filmmaking preparations, the scene involved letting a real squirrel run wild.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Chechik explained that an animal trainer spent months training a squirrel and the dog that would be chasing it for the scene. It was hard work, as squirrels aren't very conducive to training. On the day the scene was scheduled to be filmed, he arrived on set and was informed that the squirrel had died!
This was a real treat on our TV screens. It filled the holiday with fun and laughter and it seems the real actors had just as much fun. Did you know all these cool facts about the show and its star-studded cast? Stay tuned for more fun celebrity news.
Sources: Screen Rant