In the 30 years since its release, Home Alone has become a seminal holiday movie, a rare contemporary Christmas classic. And in the 28 years since its release — and especially over the past four years — the sequel Home Alone 2: Lost in New York has become best remembered for one single moment: the scene in which future President Donald Trump cameos as himself to give a yet-again-deserted Kevin McAllister (Macaulay Culkin) directions.
Culkin himself called attention to the cameo in a 2018 Reddit AMA when he was asked which Home Alone he prefers. “The first one was more fun because we didn’t know what we were walking into and it was a lot less flying all over the place; it was all in Chicago,” Culkin replied. “Also it had 100 percent less Trump.”
In a new interview with Yahoo Entertainment, Home Alone and Home Alone 2 director Chris Columbus explained how that cameo came to be when the script called for scenes at New York’s famous Plaza Hotel, which Trump purchased in 1988.
“Well, it's very similar to what's going on today,” says Columbus, whose next film The Christmas Chronicles 2 hits Netflix Nov. 26. “We wanted to shoot in The Plaza Hotel. We had to shoot in The Plaza Hotel, a large [percentage] of the movie takes place in The Plaza Hotel. Every other location in New York, you pay a location fee, you get to use the location. So we approached The Plaza. The owner of the hotel is not the person who usually deals with this. Let me just be clear. It's someone [else], usually a manager, that deals with it.
“We got wind back that the only way we could get into The Plaza Hotel was if Donald Trump had a cameo in the movie. I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ He said, ‘No, he wants a cameo. He wants a line.’ So we devise this thing cause we needed to shoot in the Plaza. My producers were like, ‘You can cut it. We'll shoot it. And we'll cut it later where this is the only way we get in the Plaza.’”
In 2017, actor Matt Damon blew the lid off the secret behind the self-promoting businessman-turned-reality TV star-turned president’s long list of Hollywood cameos, while explaining how a similar maneuver was used for his 1992 film Scent of a Woman. The movie includes a scene shot at The Plaza Hotel’s now-defunct Oak Room bar and restaurant.
"The deal was that if you wanted to shoot in one of his buildings, you had to write him in a part,” Damon told The Hollywood Reporter. “[Director] Martin Brest had to write something in Scent of a Woman — and the whole crew was in on it. You have to waste an hour of your day with a bulls**t shot: Donald Trump walks in and Al Pacino’s like, 'Hello, Mr. Trump!' — you had to call him by name — and then he exits.
"You waste a little time so that you can get the permit, and then you can cut the scene out. But I guess in Home Alone 2 they left it in."
Columbus explained to Yahoo why the cameo remained in the movie.
“We previewed the movie for the first time in Chicago. And when that moment came up, it [got] the loudest laughter and cheers. Get this, cheers back in 1992 when they saw him. Weird moment. … That was literally a high point for the audience. I mean, no one had a crystal ball. They couldn’t know what was going to happen today.”
Costars Daniel Stern and Joe Pesci, who played hapless robbers Marv and Harry, at least benefitted from Trump’s involvement in the sequel. In a 2018 interview with Yahoo, Stern said they were drinking at one of the hotel’s bars while filming when Trump approached and offered to pick up their tab. They responded by running up a $5,000 tab.
Columbus, meanwhile, couldn’t help but draw comparisons between his experience with Trump and current events, with the president refusing to concede an election that has been called by all major media outlets and in which he trails by 73 electoral votes and more than 5 million popular votes.
“What I'm saying is why there’s a comparison to what's going on today is, he still wouldn't leave his house,” Columbus cracks. “He still refused to let us inside.”
The Plaza Hotel filed for bankruptcy under Trump in 1992, the same year Lost in New York was released. Trump sold the property at an $83 million loss in 1995.
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