From Uncle Buck and Planes, Trains and Automobiles to Home Alone and Cool Runnings, the irrepressible John Candy appeared in some of the best-loved comedies of the 1980s and early 1990s. And it turns out that the larger-than-life star was just as amiable, kind-hearted and downright hilarious away from the cameras, too. Here’s a look at 20 things you may not know about the star who remains sorely missed.
20. He didn’t like watching himself on camera
Audiences may have flocked to the cinema whenever a new John Candy film was released. However, the actor had little interest in watching himself on the big screen. His son Chris told the Hollywood Reporter in 2016, “He put a lot of effort and love into everything he did, but he didn’t like going to the premieres. He had a hard time watching the final product.”
But although Candy didn’t enjoy seeing the fruits of his labor, he still wanted to know what other people thought. And the star often asked his family to give him an insight. Daughter Jen told the same publication, “He would send Mom [to screenings] and she would come back and tell him where [the audience] laughed, what they laughed at.”
19. He co-owned a football team
Candy had initially dreamed of becoming a footballer before an injury forced him to have a rethink. However, he was still able to become a part of his favorite Canadian Football League team later on in life. The actor was appointed as a minority shareholder after investing in the Toronto Argonauts. And he appeared to spur the franchise on to victory in his first season on the board.
Indeed, 1991 was also the year that the Argonauts triumphed over the Calgary Stampeders to lift the Grey Cup. Sadly for Candy, the team failed to sustain this level of success over the next few years. And in 1994 Wayne Gretzky and Bruce McNall, the Argonauts’ co-owners, decided to put the franchise on the market.
18. He was a keen animal lover
Candy loved animals and often brought home strays despite the fact that his wife had an allergy to cats and dogs. Daughter Jen recalled how much the family home resembled a zoo in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter. She also described her mother as a trooper for suffering to keep the star happy.
Jen said, “He’d go to shelters and rescue them. We had [on the farm in Queensville, just outside of Newmarket] four Clydesdales: Peaches and Cream, Uncle Buck and Harry Crumb. We had cows. The farm, for him, was creating something where he could just go and escape and not be bothered, and be with his family.”
17. He had his own animated series
Candy had become so popular in the 1980s that he was even given his own animated Saturday morning TV series. Yes, Camp Candy premiered in 1989 on NBC and saw the actor lend his voice to a summer camp leader. Candy also appeared in front of the camera for the live-action scenes that would bookend the show.
Entertaining kids at the weekend for three seasons, Camp Candy was something of a family affair. Indeed, both Candy’s daughter Jen and son Chris would gain their first acting credits on the cartoon. Furthermore, it spawned a comic book adaptation, with six volumes published by none other than Marvel in 1990.
16. He had his own radio show
At the height of his popularity Candy enjoyed a stint as a DJ on KNX-FM, a radio station based in Los Angeles. The star hosted Radio Kandy, a 120-minute mix of comedy and chart music which invited several of his former Second City colleagues to join in with the fun. Candy had previously worked on Canadian radio while rising to fame.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Candy revealed his passion for radio. He said, “I love the medium and, since I can’t play an instrument, I can at least play records. Two years ago I did That Radio Show for about 100 stations in Canada. They were 90-minute shows that ran weekly through the summer – kind of an oldies rock-and-roll and comedy show.”
15. His kids have followed in his showbiz footsteps
Both of Candy’s children have pursued a career in showbiz.Yes, daughter Jen has appeared in the likes of Disney Channel show Liv and Maddie and feature-length comedy In Vino. Meanwhile, son Chris has more than two dozen acting credits in various movies, TV shows and short films. However, the pair told the Hollywood Reporter that they’ve never been interested in trading on their famous surname.
Jen said, “It took a while for us to even use the name. I wanted to develop who I was as a person, develop what I wanted to do. We have had people say, ‘Call so and so and have them do this for you,’ and I have said, ‘No, I don’t want to do that.’” Meanwhile, Chris admitted that he often gets mistaken for Candy’s brother rather than his son once the casting team makes the connection.
14. He turned down Saturday Night Live
It may seem baffling that Candy was never a member of the Saturday Night Live team. But it sure wasn’t for the want of trying. Producers repeatedly invited the actor to join the comedy institution. However, Candy felt it would be an act of disloyalty to SCTV, the show that helped launch him in his native Canada, if he jumped ship.
Still, Candy did grace the SNL set from time to time. Yes, in 1983 he served as host for the episode which also featured music from Aussie outfit Men at Work. And he was due to return in the same role two years later alongside friend Eugene Levy before a writer’s strike got in the way.
13. He appeared to predict his own death
Candy left the world in mourning in 1994 when he passed away from a heart attack at the age of 43. And according to longtime friend Catherine O’Hara, the star appeared to predict that something ominous would happen shortly before his death. Candy had contacted his fellow SCTV alum while traveling to Mexico to shoot Wagons East.
The stress of filming what would sadly become his final movie may well have been a factor in Candy’s untimely passing. But a heavy alcohol and tobacco consumption, not to mention his hefty size, was also deemed to have played a part in the star’s untimely passing. Furthermore, there was a history of heart problems in his family.
12. He lost his father at age four
Candy experienced tragedy from a young age having lost his father at the age of just four. Indeed, car salesman Sidney Candy passed away in 1954 from a heart attack in his mid-30s, leaving wife Evangeline to raise the star and his older sibling Jim. The family then relocated to the borough in Toronto known as East York to stay with Evangeline’s sister and parents.
According to Frank Hober, Candy’s brother-in-law, this early tragedy weighed heavily on the star’s mind throughout his life. In fact, Hober told People in 1994 that the entire Candy family were worried that the actor would suffer the same fate as his father. However, no one ever spoke up about their concerns.
11. He appeared in more John Hughes films than anyone else
Candy memorably played the leading man in Uncle Buck and shared top billing with Steve Martin in Planes, Trains and Automobiles. But the star also popped up in another six movies either helmed, produced or penned by John Hughes. He first aligned himself with the hugely popular filmmaker playing a water park guard in National Lampoon’s Vacation.
Then there was a brief cameo in romantic comedy She’s Having a Baby and a supporting turn in the Christmas classic Home Alone. Candy’s other Hughes collaborations include The Great Outdoors, Only the Lonely and Career Opportunities. This means the funnyman appeared in more Hughes films than any other actor.
10. Steve Martin comforted Candy’s family after his death
Odd couple comedy Planes, Trains and Automobiles famously ends in heartwarming style. Steve Martin’s Neal invites Candy’s Del over to his family home for Thanksgiving despite the fact he’s made the previous few days a living hell. And Martin also lent a helping hand to Candy’s real life family in the wake of his untimely death.
Yes, Martin reportedly revealed in 2004 that he’d moved in with Candy’s family to help them cope with their sudden loss. The star of several other 1980s’ classics, including Roxanne, Parenthood and Little Shop of Horrors, was also going through a turbulent period at the time. He’d just divorced his first wife Victoria Tennant.
9. He appeared in Canada’s answer to Band Aid
The United Kingdom gave us Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas.” America gave us USA for Africa’s “We Are The World.” And you may not know that Canada also helped to raise money for the Ethiopian famine with their own musical effort, Northern Lights’ “Tears Are Not Enough.” The song boasted one of the country’s biggest comedic exports, too.
Yes, John Candy briefly added recording artist to his list of talents in 1985 when he appeared in the chorus for the track. The star was joined by several other friendly faces including Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara. But the main vocal duties went to those with slightly more musical experience, including Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and Bryan Adams.
8. He showed up in Home Alone as a favor
In 1990 Candy shared the screen with Uncle Buck co-star Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone. Only this time around, the actor was very much a supporting character. In fact, Candy spent just one full day on the set of the festive classic as a favor to his regular collaborator, the film’s writer John Hughes.
And Candy also only took home the acting equivalent of the minimum wage when he played polka musician Gus Polinski. Unfortunately, most of the footage he shot ended up on the cutting room floor. In 2015 co-star Catherine O’Hara explained to Chicago magazine that Candy’s improvised scenes were simply too funny for a situation in which a mother is desperately searching for her child.
7. Dan Aykroyd encouraged him to pursue comedy
Candy always had ambitions to be a performer. You see, he studied acting at Toronto’s Centennial Community College and shortly after began to pursue a career in the profession. However, one of his friends, and a future Hollywood star, believed that Candy would be better off focusing on his funny bones.
Dan Aykroyd, who would later star alongside Candy in 1988 family comedy The Great Outdoors, made a suggestion that would change his friend’s life. Yes, he persuaded him to audition for Toronto’s Second City, the comedy troupe famously first established in Chicago. To little surprise, Candy was accepted and the rest is history.
6. His favorite character was Yosh Schmenge
Candy played several iconic characters during his career including Uncle Buck, Del in Planes, Trains and Automobiles and Cool Runnings’ coach Irving Blitzer. However, the star’s all-time favorite would only be familiar to viewers of Canadian sketch show SCTV. Indeed, according to his children, Candy most enjoyed appearing alongside Eugene Levy as the Schmenge brothers.
However, it’s a different story when it comes to which character most reflected Candy. Daughter Jen told the Hollywood Reporter, “Johnny LaRue was most him. And the reason I say that is Johnny LaRue was a business guy, he was lovable, but Dad was not smarmy. You mix that with Uncle Buck and Del Griffith [from Planes, Trains and Automobiles] and you’ve got my dad. He brought a little bit of himself to his characters.”
5. He met his wife on a blind date
In 1979 Candy walked down the aisle with the future mother of his two children, Rosemary Hobor. Their daughter Jen recalled the interesting way her parents first connected to the Hollywood Reporter. She said, “They went out on a [blind] date and enjoyed each other, and then my dad reached out to mom asking if she could help him type out a script.”
But although Candy’s two kids are happy to discuss the late star, his abstract painter and ceramicist widow prefers to keep her memories private. Chris told the same entertainment publication, “It’s just not her thing. My father was the one who was in front of the cameras.”
4. He worked the hardest on JFK
Candy was determined to prove he could cut it as a serious actor when he was cast as nervy attorney Dean Andrews in the 1991 biopic JFK. Daughter Jen told the Hollywood Reporter, “He worked so hard on that. He had a dialect coach, and he worked night and day on that script. He was so worried about it, getting that accent down.”
Furthermore, Jen recalled that she and her brother didn’t exactly make it easy for their father to get into character. She said, “We were having water fights with our cousin while Dad was trying to learn lines, and we did get yelled at because we were being too loud. It was a ‘dad’ yell. He never yelled.”
3. He created one of Planes, Trains and Automobiles’ most memorable scenes
One of the most memorable scenes in Planes, Trains and Automobiles is when Neal imagines Del as none other than Beelzebub during a particularly hair-raising drive down the freeway. And it turns out that Candy was responsible for this striking image making it into the classic comedy. Although as son Chris recalled to the Hollywood Reporter, the studio bosses had their reservations.
Chris said, “They were really over budget and overschedule, and Paramount was coming down to get everything going. Well, that was the day they were filming the scene with the devil costume. So [the Paramount execs] finally get on set and Dad is walking around in this devil costume, and they’re like ‘What the hell does this have to do with anything?!’”
2. He once got on the wrong side of John Hughes
Candy may have been Hughes go-to guy for many of his films. But the director wasn’t afraid to put his regular collaborator in his place. On one particular day shoot for Uncle Buck, Hughes took umbrage with Candy’s activities the night before and decided the best course of action was to send everyone home.
So what had caused Hughes to act so drastically? Well, he got cross when he heard a radio station caller discuss his meeting with Candy and the music supervisor on Uncle Buck Tarquin Gotch at a local bar. The funnyman tried to placate Hughes by insisting that his hungover state was in keeping with his character. But unsurprisingly, the filmmaker didn’t buy it.
1. He was given his own postage stamp
In 1996 the Canada Post service revealed that Candy was being honored with his very own postage stamp. But just days later the star’s brother-in-law Patrick Duco told Entertainment Weekly that this was too soon. He said, “We’re asking for a postponement. We consider it a great honor. However, we feel that John’s passing was so recent, the family is still in the grieving process.”
we feel that John’s passing was so recent, the family is still in the grieving process.”
A whole ten years later, philatelists were finally able to get their hands on a stamp bearing Candy’s face. And several other famous faces were given the same honor as part of a series dubbed “Canadians in Hollywood” in 2006. These included three stars from the golden age of cinema, Lorne Greene, Fay Wray and Mary Pickford.