For a generation of film fans, John Heard will always be known as Macaulay Culkin‘s father in the smash-hit comedy Home Alone. His career, though, is much more than that. From theatre to the big screen via television, John Heard appeared in over 100 movies and TV projects so it is sad that today we heard of his sudden death at the age of 72.
If there’s one thing you can say about John Heard it’s that he worked. A lot. Establishing himself in the late 70s and early 80s, he quickly found himself taking the lead role in Cutter’s Way in which he co-starred with Jeff Bridges.
It was thought that he would land bigger roles throughout his career but he ended up in more supporting roles which he said, when asked in 2008, that he had no regrets:
“I think I could have done more with my career than I did, and I sort of got sidetracked. But that’s OK, that’s all right, that’s the way it is. No sour grapes. I mean, I don’t have any regrets. Except that I could have played some bigger parts”
I first came across his work when I saw Home Alone for the first time on VHS. It’s one of my favourite films of all time and a firm favourite to watch at Christmas (and sometimes out of season, too!). I began to follow the careers of some of the stars of the film, including Heard, Catherine O’Hara and Joe Pesci and soon found Deceived, a thriller in which he co-starred with Goldie Hawn. I have a special place in my heart for this film and I can remember watching it with my mum. There’s a scene towards the end of the film in which Heard, as Jack Saunders, husband to Goldie Hawn, crashed through a window at a very tense moment. Mum spilt her drink all over herself at the shock and I don’t think she ever forgave him for that!
Heard’s career saw him appear in dozens of movies over the years, starring alongside established names and future stars. In Big, he played an arrogant businessman who took a disliking to Tom Hanks‘ character and showed just how much he despised him during a famous squash game. He also co-starred with Bette Midler in the drama Beaches; Awakenings with Robert De Niro and Robin Williams and The Pelican Brief with Denzel Washington and Julia Roberts.
But, ultimately, it will be as Peter McCallister in the first two Home Alone movies that he will be most fondly remembered. Playing the father who inadvertently leaves his young son at home during a Christmas holiday showed Heard in a lighter, more comedic role next to Catherine O’Hara who played his wife, Kate. I suppose, if you’re going to be remembered for just one thing, Home Alone isn’t such a bad movie for that.
I was only watching one of his supporting performances the other night. It was a blink-and-you-miss-it part in In The Line Of Fire with Clint Eastwood that, although small, was a vital part of the bigger picture. And that is how I like to think of John Heard’s work, it wasn’t always big and up-front but it was important and worthwhile and he will be sadly missed.
JOHN HEARD 1945-2017