From director Dan Mazer (Dirty Grandpa), the Disney+ original film Home Sweet Home Alone continues the beloved film franchise by following Max Mercer (Archie Yates), a young boy who has been left home alone when his family leaves for the holidays in Japan. At the same time, parents Jeff (Rob Delaney) and Pam McKenzie (Ellie Kemper) believe that Max has a priceless but unusual family heirloom of theirs and that they must do whatever it takes to get it back from the Mercer home, if only they can survive everything that Max puts them through to keep them out.
At the virtual junket for the film, Collider got to chat with co-stars Delaney and Kemper for this interview, which you can both watch and read, about their reaction to learning about all of the wild stunts they’d need to do for the film, the crazy pool scene, playing characters motivated by a creepy doll, bonding as actors, and their most-watched John Hughes movies.
Collider: When you guys got this script and you read it and you realized just what it was going to put you through, what was your reaction to that? How did you feel about everything you might have to endure to make this movie?
ELLIE KEMPER: I thought the script was so laugh out loud funny that it didn’t totally land with me that I would be the one doing the stunts, along with Rob [Delaney]. I thought, “This is hilarious. I can’t wait to see this,” without realizing, “Oh, wait, I will have to do these stunts that are so funny.” So, it was a wake up call to the world of stunt work, which was a welcome call but it was harder than I thought it would be.
ROB DELANEY: I felt like it was like filling out like a college application or something. I knew the stunts were gonna happen, but I hadn’t yet said yes. I remember doing some thoughtful poses and being like, “I think it’s time. It’s gonna be hard, but I think it’s time.” That’s what I felt like.
KEMPER: I do remember reading the pool scene, when we fall through the pool, and absolutely believing we would be outside in Montreal in February at night.
DELANEY: Or that we would get killed doing it.
KEMPER: All of the above. And I thought, “Well, this is how I’m gonna go.”
How did the reality of the pool scene compare to what you thought it would be?
DELANEY: We genuinely got soaking wet. We genuinely had to climb out of it. There were safety features in place to prevent us from either drowning or being asphyxiated by a wet plastic pool cover. I never thought that would be the one where we would be laughing the whole time.
KEMPER: Me either. To be honest, I thought it would be a labor of love. I thought it would be awful. I’m glad that we did it, and it wasn’t awful. It was a lot of fun.
DELANEY: It was a lot of fun, whereas a lot of the other stunts, you wouldn’t get hurt, but they might be very physically uncomfortable or repetitive. With that one, when they were like, “Okay, we’re gonna do it again,” I was like, “Oh, goodie!”
KEMPER: Yeah. I wish we’d been able to do more with that because that was the shortest day. We did two takes. I was very disappointed.
Everything these characters do in this centers around getting back a family heirloom. What was it like to know that they got put through all of this and had to do all of this, over what is quite possibly the weirdest, oddest, ugliest, creepiest doll?
DELANEY: Big, big kudos to the screenwriters, Mikey Day and Streeter Seidell, for having the central MacGuffin in the film be that weird and upsetting and ugly. I really want to congratulate them for taking almost a sketch idea and putting it in a two-hour film. I applaud them for making the doll genuinely scary and unsettling.
KEMPER: Especially when it’s flying through the air. That’s when I’d say, “Little children, just know this is pretend.”
DELANEY: It’s too scary to look at.
I would imagine that having to go through all of this torture with each other bonded you together, as actors. What did you enjoy about working together and having to rely on each other through all of that? Did it also help you find those comedy rhythms?
DELANEY: Definitely, yeah. I know this is boring, but I really can’t say enough positive stuff about Ellie [Kemper]. To do a proper two-hander movie together, where we’re always on screen together, just about most of the time, and just feeling like I had such a dependable partner was really gratifying and made it easier to do really funny stuff and the more tender stuff. It just was, “You’re the best.”
KEMPER: Sam situation, right back at you. I knew that Rob was doing the movie and it was a no-brainer, for that reason. It was a unique set of circumstances, just as a real world check-in, with the pandemic going on and scary things going on. It felt like, “Oh, what a blessing. What a gift to be able to work together.” He was dependable and there were no surprises or antics. It was a nice, steady experience.
As the writer of the original characters, John Hughes is the one responsible for creating the Home Alone franchise. As actors, what does the legacy of John Hughes and his movies mean to you? Do you have a favorite John Hughes movie? Is there one that you’ve watched more than all the others?
KEMPER: Honestly, for me, it might be Home Alone. It’s an interesting and maybe not expected pick, but that’s what resonated with me, at that time. I think I was eight and I just watched it, over and over again, as soon as it was available to rent.
DELANEY: For me, Weird Science and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off are the ones that I’ve seen the most. In terms of his ability to get heart and humor and danger into most of his scripts, in equal measure, he was just fearless.
KEMPER: It’s like a magic trick. I don’t know how you do that, and yet he did it, again and again.
Home Sweet Home Alone is available to stream at Disney+.
She also talks about why the experience of making the movie felt a bit like live theater.
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