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Jason Wiese

25 Fun Facts About John Candy And The Comedian’s Legendary Career

John Candy in The Blues Brothers

There are few comedy icons as widely beloved as John Candy. The late Canadian actor starred in many acclaimed films such as Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Spaceballs, and plenty more classics made all the better, and funnier, by his talent and his warm and charming presence. You might assume there could not be anymore reasons to love the guy until you read some of these interesting stories behind his impressive filmography and from his personal life.

(Image credit: Universal)

John Candy And Dan Aykroyd Were Friends Before Both Pursuing Comedy Careers

John Candy has multiple movie credits in common with Dan Aykroyd — such as the funny summer movie favorite, The Great Outdoors, from 1988 — but their connection to each other dates back to before they were famous. While speaking to Bobbie Wygant to promote 1980’s The Blues Brothers, Candy recalled that he and the musical comedy’s star and writer were friends in Toronto back when Aykroyd made a living as mail truck driver and Candy was a paper napkins salesman.

(Image credit: CBC)

He Based SCTV’s Johnny LaRue On People He’d Seen On TV, Met In Real Life

Candy’s rise to stardom began when he joined the ensemble of SCTV — which is, essentially, the Canadian equivalent to SNL, and featured many other comedy icons from the Great White North, like Schitt’s Creek cast members Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara. One of Candy’s most popular characters on the sketch comedy series was the rude and crude Johnny LaRue, whom — as he revealed during a 1981 interview with Bobbie Wygant — was actually inspired by people he knew or had seen on TV that he “always wanted to get back at in some way.”

(Image credit: NBC)

John Candy Turned Down Offers To Join SNL

Some SCTV veterans would go on to join the SNL cast (such as Martin Short and the late Tony Rosato), but Candy — who hosted the show in 1983 — is not one of them. According to Doug Hill and Jeff Weingrad’s book, Saturday Night (via The List), he did not want to be “caught in the middle of a tug of war” between the two sketch comedy series. 

(Image credit: Disney)

Jack Nicholson Got John Candy Drunk Before He Had To Show Up To The Splash Set

One of the most memorably funny scenes from 1984’s fantasy rom-com, Splash — a racquetball match between Allen Bauer (Tom Hanks) and his brother, Freddie (John Candy) — is only made funnier when you learn Candy was inebriated during the filming of it. Director Ron Howard revealed on Josh Gad’s Reunited Apart that the actor arrived late and immediately confessed to his condition after a long night of drinking with none other than Jack Nicholson.

(Image credit: Sony)

Armed And Dangerous Was Almost John Candy’s Third Movie With Tom Hanks

Candy and future two-time Oscar winner Hanks were practically a comedy duo after a two-movie streak (1984’s Splash and the following year’s Volunteers) that almost became three before Hanks dropped out of the 1986 action-comedy, Armed and Dangerous. According to Vulture, Candy recommended his friend and SCTV co-star Eugene Levy for the part of a fellow disgraced security guard desperate to clear their names of a robbery.

(Image credit: Columbia Pictures)

His Refusal To Insult Meg Ryan’s Character Caused Armed And Dangerous’ Director To Quit

Brian Grazer, the producer of Armed and Dangerous, revealed to Marc Maron on his WTF podcast that Candy’s character, Frank Dooley, was originally supposed to call Meg Ryan’s Maggie Cavanaugh a “bitch” before he confronted the film’s original director about his issue with the insult. After Candy stepped in to show he was also against it, the director quit on the spot, leaving Grazer to take over for the day.

(Image credit: Columbia Pictures)

John Candy Was Offered Rick Moranis’ Ghostbusters Role

Before fellow comedy icon and SCTV vet Rick Moranis was cast in 1984’s Ghostbusters as Louis Tully, the part was originally intended for John Candy, who ended up turning it down. In a retrospective interview with director Ivan Reitman and star/co-writer Dan Aykroyd, Reitman said he and Candy did not see eye to eye with some of the actor’s ideas for the role, which included giving him a German accent.

(Image credit: Paralax Productions)

Ghostbusters Producers Crashed The Brewster’s Millions Set To Film John Candy’s Music Video Cameo

While Candy never starred in the 1984 horror-comedy classic, Ghostbusters, he does make an appearance in the music video for Ray Parker Jr.’s Academy Award-nominated theme song, which he actually shot while he was filming Brewster’s Millions with Richard Pryor. According to producer Joe Medjuck’s words to ScreenCrush, he and director Reitman managed to access the movie’s set somewhat dishonestly — “… I remember them stopping us, trying to not let us in. And I said, 'No, no, I'm the producer.' I didn't say the producer of what!” — and quickly shot Candy’s cameo on the spot.

(Image credit: Netflix)

Conan O’Brien Was John Candy’s Escort When He Visited Harvard

Before becoming one of the kings of late night TV, then-Harvard undergraduate Conan O’Brien had the pleasure of meeting John Candy when he was put in charge of showing him around campus during a 1984 visit. He told Howard Stern that he was tasked with keeping tabs on the comedian's eating habits (he was on the Pritikin diet), but was unable to keep Candy from ordering some, as he called them, “Pritikin eclairs” from a local pastry shop.

(Image credit: MGM)

The Actor’s Barf Costume Caused Problems For Him On The Spaceballs Set

When playing “half-man, half-dog” Barf in Mel Brooks’ beloved spoof movie, Spaceballs, Candy’s costume was far less immersive than that of the Star Wars character he was poking fun at, Chewbacca, but still proved challenging for him on set. Actor Bill Pullman recalled to THR that his co-star often had to deal with mechanical issues while wearing his movable faux ears and tail.

(Image credit: Paramount)

He Brought Exercise Equipment To The Planes, Trains & Automobiles Set

Arguably the most iconic of Candy’s performances was as Del Griffith in 1987’s Planes, Trains & Automobiles, which is also regarded as one of Steve Martin’s best movies. When asked by entertainment reporter JC Corcoran about a fond memory from making writer and director John Hughes’ classic road comedy, Martin recalled that Candy brought various kinds of exercise equipment to set… all of which went completely unused.

(Image credit: Universal)

John Candy’s Own Parenting Methods Inspired His Uncle Buck Performance

Candy was a frequent collaborator of John Hughes, who cast him as the title character of the 1989 family comedy, Uncle Buck — a role that the actor put a lot of himself into. When Canadian TV personality Brian Linehan asked Candy if his own relationship with his family influenced his performance, he said that Buck’s equal treatment of Macaulay Culkin and Gaby Hoffman’s characters reflected how treated his own children. His daughter, Jennifer, can vouch for that, based on her words to The Canadian Press in 2018.

(Image credit: 20th Century Studios)

John Candy Hosted His Own Radio Show

In 1989, the star added radio personality to his resume. That year, the LA Times ran a story about his syndicated, two-hour program, Radio Kandy, which included rock music and comedy sketches featuring some of his former SCTV co-stars, such future Freaks and Geeks cast member Joe Flaherty.

(Image credit: Paramount)

John Candy Turned Down Multiple Offers To Play Fatty Arbuckle

As he told Brian Linehan in a 1989 interview, he had been asked to play Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle in a biopic on five different occasions by his count. However, the actor was adamant in expressing his disinterest in dramatizing the devastating story of the iconic silent film era comedian whose career was ruined by a false murder accusation, according to

(Image credit: Fox)

Much Of John Candy’s Home Alone Dialogue Was Improvised

The comedian had a profound effect on even the films he did not lead, such as when he made an uncredited cameo as the Polka King of the Midwest in the classic holiday comedy, Home Alone. Director Chris Columbus told Insider that a lot of his dialogue — such as a funny funeral parlor story — was improvised.

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Kevin Costner Prevented John Candy’s JFK Role From Being Cut

The talent made a rare, but impressive, dramatic turn as New Orleans attorney Dean Andrews in Oliver Stone’s 1991 conspiracy drama, JFK, which almost didn't make it into the final cut. Luckily — according to Martin Knelman’s book, Laughing on the Outside: The Life of John Candy — star Kevin Costner was able to persuade Stone into keeping Candy’s part in, and, later the actor received handwritten apology from the filmmaker for the original decision.

(Image credit: NBC)

John Candy Bought The Toronto Argonauts Football Team With Wayne Gretzky

In 1991, Candy could add to his resume the title of “sports team owner” -- one he shared with fellow Canadian Wayne Gretzky. Along with Los Angeles Kings owner Bruce McNall, they partnered to purchase the Toronto Argonauts, according to an article from the Canadian Football League team’s official website.

(Image credit: 20th Century Studios)

“One Look” At John Candy Convinced Maureen O’Hara To Star In Only The Lonely

Maureen O’Hara had not acted in nearly two decades before she signed on to play Candy’s onscreen mother in director Chris Columbus’ 1991 rom-com, Only the Lonely. As she revealed to Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show, all it took was “one look” at the comedian’s “gorgeous eyes” to decide that this was a role worth coming out of retirement for.

(Image credit: DIC)

His Camp Candy Role Was Based On Him Before He Was Even Cast

On the cult favorite Saturday morning cartoon, Camp Candy, he, essentially, played an animated version of himself, but that the show was not initially conceived as a vehicle for the actor. In an oral history on Cracked, co-creator Joel Andryc recalled describing the protagonist as a “loveable, bumbling camp counselor (think of John Candy),” which lead NBC executive Phyllis Tucker Vinson Jackson to agree to ordering the show if they got the real Candy.

(Image credit: DIC)

John Candy’s Kids Lent Their Voices To His Animated Series, Camp Candy

Camp Candy — which ran on Saturday mornings from 1989 to 1992 — proved to be a family affair for star, whose own son, Chris, and daughter, Jennifer, joined the voice cast on a few occasions. Jennifer told Macaulay Culkin on his Bunny Ears podcast that she played a Valley girl named Jessica, but could not recall who her brother played.

(Image credit: Disney)

John Candy Improvised Much Of His Dialogue In The Rescuers Down Under

Perhaps Candy’s most famous voice acting role is the heroic albatross, Wilbur, in 1990’s The Rescuers Down Under -- the sequel to Disney’s 1977 family adventure. According to Collider, the actor was able to make the character his own, coming up with a lot of his own lines in the recording studio.

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

He Was Considered To Play Fred In 1994’s The Flintstones

While John Goodman turned out to be a perfect Fred in The Flintstones, Candy may have also been a great choice for the role. According to Vulture, he was considered for the lead in the live-action adaptation, which would have reunited with him Barney actor, Rick Moranis.

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

John’s Daughter, Jennifer, Directed A Theatrical Production Of Little Shop Of Horrors As Her Senior Thesis

Following in her father’s footsteps, Jennifer Candy was a theatre major in college, and directed a version of the twisted musical comedy, Little Shop of Horrors, which she also discussed on Macaulay Culkin’s podcast. As a tribute to her dad, she added his character, Wink Wilkinson — a radio host created for the 1986 movie adaptation — into her play.

(Image credit: Future Park)

John Candy’s Son Received A Lyft Ride From A Former Stuntman Who Once Worked With His Dad 

In 2022, Candy’s son, Chris, told ET Canada an interesting story about how his father’s kind reputation affected the people around him. He once had a ride share driver who was telling stories about the rude celebrities he worked with as a Hollywood stunt double before mentioning that one of nicest stars he knew was Candy. The driver was delighted to learn that his passenger just happened to be the late actor’s son.

(Image credit: MGM)

The LAPD Closed The 405 Freeway For John Candy’s Funeral Procession

On March 4, 1994, John Candy passed away due to a heart attack, and Eugene Levy shared a story with American Cinemateque of when he and others were driving to see him interred in Culver City, California, and noticed that the 405 freeway was unusually clear. Levy later went to talk about it to a police officer, who told him that the LAPD decided to block the busy highway for the beloved actor’s funeral procession — an event typically reserved for visits from U.S. presidents or the Pope. 

John Candy will forever have a place in the hearts of comedy fans and moviegoers who loved his work and the man himself.

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