It’s 30 years since Steve Martin and John Candy combined to perfect comedic effect in writer/director John Hughes’ Planes, Trains and Automobiles, a movie that remains as enjoyable to watch today as it did way back in 1987.
The premise could not be simpler: Martin plays Neal Page, a marketing executive eager to get back to Chicago in time to spend Thanksgiving with his wife and kids. Along the way he encounters Candy’s Del Griffith, a well-intentioned if slightly annoying shower curtain ring salesman who is also on the road.
Together, the pair experience a series of mishaps, each more amusing than the last while learning a few lessons about themselves along the way – this is a movie by the guy that brought us The Breakfast Club, after all.
It’s a movie that hits all the right notes in pulling on the heartstrings while also touching the funny bone. It’s also a film with a fair bit of fascinating trivia behind it. Here are just seven amusing things you may not have been aware of.
It Was Based On A True Story (Sort Of)
Long before Hughes became a screenwriter, he worked as a copywriter for an advertising agency in Chicago. On one particular day, he was due to give an 11am presentation in New York before returning home to Chicago on a 5pm flight.
Unfortunately for Hughes, winter winds ended up grounding all flights that dal. A snowstorm the following day delayed his trip further. When he did finally get a flight out of Chicago it ended up being diverted to Denver, then Phoenix.
Hughes didn’t get home until Monday – he had originally been due to return the previous Wednesday. The experience did at least inspire him to write the script for Planes, Trains And Automobiles.
John Candy Brought A Ton Of Exercise Equipment On Set
The late, great John Candy appeared eager to shed some excess pounds during filming for Planes Trains and Automobiles. The story goes that Candy had the film’s crew bring treadmills, weights and other assorted exercise equipment to his hotel for him to use during breaks in filming.
Those plans soon went out of the window though with co-star Steve Martin claiming Candy never ended up using any of the gear.
The First Cut Of The Movie Was Over Four Hours Long
Steve Martin, who was a screenwriter himself by the mid-1980s, had reservations about the film, or more specifically the film’s script. He felt that, at 145 pages, it was a little too long for a comedy.
Much of that script ended up being filmed though, with Martin claiming in a behind-the-scenes interview ahead of the release of Planes, Trains And Automobiles that the first cut of the film was over four and a half hours long. In the end, just over two hours were cut out.
Steve Martin Says The F-word 18 Times In One Scene
The F-word only features in one scene in the film, when Steve Martin’s Neal returns to the Marathon Car Rental depot to inform the customer service representative that his car is not in its designated space.
Over the course of the 60-second scene, Neal uses the F-word a whopping 18 times. That’s one f-word every 3.3333* seconds.
Elton John Wrote A Song For The Film
It’s a little known fact that Elton John wrote a song for the soundtrack to Planes, Trains and Automobiles. It’s little known because no one actually ended up hearing the song.
John collaborated with lyricist Gary Osborne on the track and the pair were almost finished writing what would have been the movie’s main theme when a disagreement between Paramount and the singer’s record company over ownership of the recording master saw the plans scrapped. The song has never seen the light of day.
A Strip Club Scene Was Filmed And Cut
The original cut of Planes, Trains And Automobiles included a scene where Neal and Del visit a strip club – because every 80s movie had to have at least one scene in a strip club back then. The scene took place just after their car blew up, following that memorable scene on the freeway, with the pair visiting the club in order to use the phone.
While in the club, John Candy’s Del ends up getting distracted by the dancers. Interestingly, most of the dancers that feature in the scene were not aware the scene was cut until they went to the premiere.
The Movie’s Ending Was Changed
The original ending of Planes, Trains and Automobiles had Del follow Neal all the way home to Chicago. However, Hughes had a change of heart during the editing process, deciding that John Candy’s character would take the more noble approach of allowing Steve Martin’s Neal to head home to his family, alone.
Hughes then decided to have Martin’s character experience a change of heart before inviting Del home with him. To create the moment Neal realises the truth about Del, Hughes and editor Paul Hirsch used footage of Martin, filmed in between takes and without his knowledge, thinking about his next lines, to set up the film’s emotional finale.
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