The beloved holiday classic “Home Alone,” which celebrated its 33rd anniversary in November, almost had a very different face among its cast. Oscar-winner Robert De Niro was initially considered for the role of Harry Lyme, the notorious Wet Bandit, eventually played by Joe Pesci. This surprising casting detail adds an intriguing layer to the film’s history.
“Home Alone,” which has become a staple of holiday movie marathons, features the story of eight-year-old Kevin McCallister, portrayed by Macaulay Culkin, who is accidentally left behind while his family goes on a Christmas trip to Paris. The film, which was the highest-grossing movie of 1990, earning $285 million on an $18 million budget, is well-known for its humor, heart, and ingenious traps set by Kevin.
Director Chris Columbus, in a 2020 interview with Insider, confirmed that De Niro was approached for the role of Harry Lyme. However, De Niro, renowned for his dramatic roles, didn’t seriously consider the part. When Joe Pesci accepted the role, Columbus was reportedly stunned, as Pesci’s casting was unexpected given his prominent dramatic performances.
Despite being best known for his dramatic roles, De Niro is no stranger to comedy. He starred as Rupert Pupkin in Martin Scorsese’s “The King of Comedy” in 1978 and has appeared in comedic roles in movies like “Analyze This” and “The Comedian.” Nonetheless, De Niro admitted in 2020 to CinemaBlend that he had never watched “Home Alone,” though he expressed a casual interest in possibly viewing it with his kids.
Interestingly, just two months before “Home Alone” was released, both De Niro and Pesci starred in “Goodfellas,” with Pesci winning an Oscar for his role as Tommy DeVito. While “Goodfellas” is often cited as one of the greatest films of all time, “Home Alone” remains a more universally beloved classic.
Columbus also shared an anecdote about running into Martin Scorsese, director of “Goodfellas” and “The Irishman,” who commented on the enduring popularity of Pesci’s role in “Home Alone.” According to Columbus, Scorsese found it amusing and somewhat remarkable that, despite Pesci’s acclaimed dramatic work, his role in a family comedy continued to resonate so strongly with audiences.