‘Home Alone’ Initially Had a Different Actor Playing One of Its Villains


The Big Picture

  • Daniel Stern initially turned down the role of Marv in Home Alone due to a lack of pay increase for extended filming time.
  • Daniel Roebuck was cast as Marv alongside Joe Pesci but was ultimately fired due to a lack of chemistry with Pesci.
  • Home Alone‘s success relied on the casting of Daniel Stern as Marv, who brought a comedic and sympathetic quality to the character that was crucial for the film’s humor and dynamic with Joe Pesci.

When Home Alone came out in 1990, no one knew just how huge of a movie it was going to be. It easily became not only the biggest theatrical release of 1990, but it turned Macaulay Culkin into a megastar child actor who now has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Home Alone is a staple for families to watch every holiday season, 33 years and counting after its initial release.

Culkin as Kevin McCallister was the star, but he wasn’t the only one to make Home Alone work so well. None of it would have been possible without the accomplished actors behind the home invading thieves he had to stop. Joe Pesci, who played Harry, was already a cinema icon, and Daniel Stern, who played Marv, was on his way up, but when director Chris Columbus first turned to Stern for the role, he said no, forcing Home Alone to begin with another actor with the first name of Daniel, this time Daniel Roebuck, playing one of the Wet Bandits.

Home Alone

An eight-year-old troublemaker, mistakenly left home alone, must defend his home against a pair of burglars on Christmas eve. 

Release Date
November 16, 1990

Main Genre

John Hughes

Daniel Stern Said No To Playing Marv in ‘Home Alone’

Throughout the late 70s and early 80s, Daniel Stern was making a name for himself as a dependable character actor, thanks to esteemed films like Breaking Away and Diner, and small but cult favorite films like the 1984 horror movie C.H.U.D., which co-starred another future Home Alone name, John Heard. When he was offered the role of Marv in Home Alone, it would have been his biggest role to date, a sign that Stern had truly made it to the top, but surprisingly, he turned it down.

Stern talked about what happened in the 2019 Netflix documentary The Moves That Made Us. He said Home Alone was initially supposed to film for six weeks. Later, however, that changed to eight weeks, but without a pay increase for the extra two weeks. Daniel Stern wasn’t happy with this and decided to turn the role down. He added, “I said ‘for my pride, no, I’m quitting.'”

Daniel Roebuck Was Cast To Play Marv Alongside Joe Pesci

Daniel Stern was out, but Joe Pesci was in. He wasn’t an up-and-comer like his soon-to-be co-star was. Pesci was already known for big dramatic and comedic roles, with parts in movies such as Raging Bull, Once Upon a Time in America, and Lethal Weapon 2. 1990 might have been the best year of his career. Not only was there Home Alone, but his memorable part as Tommy DeVito in Goodfellas, for which he won a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award.

As good of an actor as Pesci was, he still needed a partner in crime for Home Alone. With Daniel Stern out, another Daniel was offered the role in the form of actor Daniel Roebuck. Roebuck was still early in his career, but he’d received a lot of attention a few years before in 1986’s River’s Edge, where he held his own alongside Keanu Reeves. His time in Home Alone, though, was very short.


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On the What A Character! podcast, Roebuck spoke about losing the role of Marv. He said the whole point of hiring him was to get Stern to lower his salary demands. Roebuck did rehearse with Pesci for several days, but director Chris Columbus decided that the two had no chemistry and fired him. “They clearly didn’t want me to be there, it was all so obvious. And I was only there for like four days.” Roebuck said it was disappointing to not be in Home Alone, but the positive side was that he wasn’t forever known as just the guy from Home Alone. “That’s fine,” he said, “but then what?” Daniel Roebuck also claims to have had a better career than Stern since then.

‘Home Alone’ Isn’t a Success Without Daniel Stern

With Daniel Roebuck out, Columbus and writer John Hughes went back to Stern, who this time said yes. “What an idiot I was to let that almost get away,” he said with a laugh on The Movies That Made Us. “I would have been like ‘ooh I missed it, why? Oh, because of my pigheadedness.’ Thank god they came back to me!”

Stern’s career took off in the 90s after Home Alone. There was obviously his return as Marv in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, as well as roles in the two City Slicker films, Rookie of the Year, Celtic Pride, and Very Bad Things.

Roebuck does have a case to make that his career has been a little bit better. Sadly, Stern’s career of big roles died off after the 90s. While Roebuck never became an A-lister, he’s worked steadily over the decades, from a long-time role alongside Andy Griffith in Matlock, to working repeatedly with director Rob Zombie, including in last year’s The Munsters. Still, Daniel Stern was the ideal Marv. He brought a simple-mindedness to the character that made him hilarious to watch, whether it be from a goofy line or a pratfall, while also being sympathetic. His chemistry with Joe Pesci was perfect. Home Alone would have suffered without him.

Home Alone is available to stream on Disney+.

Watch on Disney+


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