Jump to: Spoilers (4)
John Candy and Steve Martin's favorite film of their own.
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The Marathon Car Rental scene is exactly one minute long from the time Steve Martin starts his tirade, to the time the attendant ends the scene. In that sixty seconds, the word "fucking" is used eighteen times. The film would've easily been rated PG or PG-13 by the MPAA if it weren't for this scene.
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In the airport scene in Wichita, when the airline employee announces that the flight has been cancelled, you can see on the board behind him that the destination of the flight is "nowhere".
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John Hughes, in an interview on the "Those Aren't Pillows" DVD, said he was inspired to write the film's story after an actual flight from New York to Chicago he was on, was diverted to Wichita, Kansas, thus taking him five days to get home.
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Steve Martin was convinced to join the production after favoring two scenes he had read from the script; the seat adjustment-scene in the car, and the F-word tirade at the car rental desk.
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The exterior of their aircraft in flight, is a re-use of the 707 flying through the storm, from the movie Airplane! (1980), also released by Paramount Pictures.
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John Hughes' original choice for the train station and platform was the station in Kankakee, Illinois, sixty miles south of Chicago. The cast and crew were in town for a week waiting for weather cold enough to make snow, and several interior scenes were filmed at an abandoned warehouse using a "cover set".
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John Hughes wrote the first-draft of the screenplay in three days. His average writing time for a screenplay in those days was about three to five days with twenty-some re-writes.
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The movie ends with a freeze frame of John Candy with a tight lipped grin. Uncle Buck ends exactly the same way, a freeze frame of John Candy with the same expression.
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Neal's (Steve Martin's) house was also a set built from scratch, consisting of seven rooms, and taking five months to complete. It ended up costing one hundred thousand dollars, which angered Paramount executives, and caused turmoil on the set.
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Although he receives fourth billing, Michael McKean appears in only one scene, and is on-screen for ninety seconds.
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John Hughes shot over six hundred thousand feet (one hundred eighty thousand meters) of film, almost twice the industry average. The rumored three-hour version of the film does indeed exist, although not in order. Moreover, it's a mess of footage that would take "months, maybe even years" according to Hughes to transform into an actual film. It is locked away in a Paramount vault, and according to Hughes, most of it has probably deteriorated by now.
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At the beginning of the movie, Neal Page (Steve Martin) races a character played by Kevin Bacon for a taxi. Later, Neal phones his wife to tell her that he has been delayed (again). In the background, you can hear the fight from She's Having a Baby (1988) (also directed by John Hughes) between Bacon and Elizabeth McGovern, when she screams that she doesn't like his friend's girlfriend.
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The train used in the movie sits dormant at a small rural station in the Western New York town of Gowanda. The "Contrack" logos are still present on the engine and cars. It's remained unused since the making of the film.
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The name of the railroad, on which the actors ride, is "Contrack", a fictional name. It is a combination of "Conrail" and "Amtrak", two well-known American railroad operations.
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Many of the highway scenes were actually filmed on a stretch of (at the time) unopened highway (U.S. Highway 219) that runs between Buffalo and Springville, New York.
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According to Editor Paul Hirsch, the original cut of this movie was three hours and forty minutes long. He and John Hughes edited it down to two hours. This version was test screened, and it was probably used to edit trailers for the film, which is why they show a lot of deleted scenes. The movie was then edited again down to one hour and thirty-three minutes for theatrical release. According to Hirsch, a two hour version still exists, but he doesn't know where it is.
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John Candy and Steve Martin eat dinner on the plane, in a scene that is not in the theatrical version (though it airs on the televised version). The scene ends with a long-haired passenger in front of Steve Martin letting his or her hair cascade down onto Martin's brownie, completely covering it. Seeing that Martin is no longer hungry, John Candy fishes through the hair to retrieve and eat it.
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After Del "steals" Neal's cab at the beginning of the movie, Neal looks down and sees that the cab is gone. In the puddle on the ground, there are two shower curtain rings.
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A scene that is not included in the movie, but featured in the trailer, shows Del (John Candy) in the bathroom of the first motel he and Neal (Steve Martin) are staying in. In the scene he does, among other things, an impersonation of Elvis Presley in which he sings into his hair brush.
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While riding the bus, John Candy sings the theme song to The Flintstones (1960). The Flintstones (1960) was John Candy's all time favorite cartoon.
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The scenes shot at Lambert Airport in St. Louis were shot during winter, but the weather was uncharacteristically warm (mid eighty degrees Fahrenheit), so all the snow in the scene had to be trucked in.
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The movie She's Having a Baby (1988) is showing on the television in the motel scene in Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987), even though the film hadn't been released yet. Both pictures feature both Kevin Bacon and John Candy in them. Bacon stars in She's Having a Baby (1988) and cameos in Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987), while Candy cameos in She's Having a Baby (1988) and stars in Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987).
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The exterior of the rental car was designed to resemble that of the Griswolds' station wagon, from John Hughes' previous production, National Lampoon's Vacation (1983).
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Director John Hughes was known for staging improvisational moments for his actors in order to capture a genuine reaction. As he was not satisfied with the Owen scene introductions after several takes, he privately instructed Dylan Baker (Owen) to wipe spit in his right hand hand just before shaking hands with Neil Page. Steve Martin, a known germophobe, was not expecting this as his facial expression contorts in disgust having just clutched Baker's saliva slathered hand. The film crew reportedly exploded in laughter as Martin ran off to wash his hands immediately following the encounter. Hughes got the reaction he needed and the footage was kept in the film.
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The scenes at night on the highway were filmed in central California. Fake snow was applied to the sides of the roads to make it appear as a Midwest winter.
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Only rated PG in New Zealand, even though the infamous "eighteen f-words in under a minute" scene remained intact.
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Steve Martin talked in an interview about his late co-star John Candy and his similarities with the character of Del: "Well, he was a very sweet guy. *Very* sweet... and complicated. And so, he was always friendly, always outgoing and you know, funny and nice and polite, but I could tell he had kind of a little broken heart inside him."
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John Hughes originally wanted Tom Hanks for the role of Neal Page and John Travolta for the role of Del Griffith. But Hanks was unavailable as he was busy shooting Big (1988) and Paramount executives did not want Travolta in the movie because he was considered "box office poison" at the time.
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Cast and crew travelled from the Midwest to the East Coast and back in search of snow for many scenes, which seemed to melt whenever they arrived. The shoot was hellish, and according to some who worked on it, John Hughes' grumpy behavior (he was going through rough times) only made it worse.
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Dylan Baker created the Owen character himself. The snorts, facial tics, and twisted expressions are all his own making. Lulie Newcomb, who played his silent wife, said it was extremely difficult to keep a straight face while filming the scene with him.
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Upon receiving the script through his agent, Steve Martin was surprised to discover the script's one hundred forty-five page length, with a comedy typically aiming for ninety pages. When Martin met with John Hughes, he asked if he had any intention of cutting the script. According to Martin, Hughes looked at Martin strangely and said "Cutting?", making Martin realize he had no intention of cutting the script.
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The house used as Neal's family home, is actually in Kenilworth, Illinois, on Warwick. The house used in Home Alone (1990) was on Lincoln Avenue in Winnetka, one town over.
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The second song that both Neil and Dell listen to on the radio while they're on the highway at night is "Mess Around" by Ray Charles. Ray Charles and John Candy both had starring roles in The Blues Brothers (1980). Ray Charles plays a music store owner, and John Candy played a police detective.
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Bill Erwin, who plays the old man sleeping on Steve Martin's shoulder during the plane scene, also appeared in Home Alone (1990) and She's Having a Baby (1988).
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Elton John and lyricist Gary Osborne were commissioned to compose the theme song for the film. They had nearly completed writing it when, just two days before they were to record it, Paramount Pictures issued a last minute demand that the original song master become property of the studio. Elton's record company, Polygram, would not allow this as he was under contractual obligation to give Polygram rights to all his released music. Paramount and Polygram could not reach a deal in the impasse and both composers withdrew from the project. Paramount instead opted to license Paul Young's "Everytime you go away" as the movie's theme song. Elton John's original theme song was never recorded.
Prior to shooting, John Candy arrived with exercise equipment for him to use during production. Crews had installed a treadmill, bench press, weights, and other exercise gear in his hotel suite. Steve Martin said Candy never used any of it.
On instruction from John Hughes, Edie McClurg's role as the St. Louis rental car agent was partially improvised. Hughes told her to simply riff a fake phone conversation with someone about Thanksgiving plans while Steve Martin remains waiting in line staring at her to finish up. McClurg came up with the idea to speak with her sister about who was going to make what adding "You know I can't cook!". Hughes asked her how she came up with those lines so quickly and she replied that, like his scripts, she just drew it from her own life. McClurg claims to this day that random people ask her to tell them they're fucked.
Del and Neal are pulled over by a Wisconsin State Trooper. Driving from St. Louis to Chicago through Wisconsin would be extremely out of the way, which could explain the added time shown for travel, as driving from St. Louis to Chicago would only take about five hours. It also would explain why the truck they are riding in approaches downtown Chicago from the northwest.
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Michael McKean's role as the Wisconsin State Trooper was actually much longer as originally shot. in a 1990's interview, McKean said his character was intended to provide additional exposition. As originally shot, Del pleads with the trooper not to impound the smoldering car as he his getting Neal home for Thanksgiving, specifically mentioning home as Chicago, as well as having driven from St. Louis. The trooper then informs them they had overshot Chicago roughly a hundred miles back, noting they were driving north, and were now in Wisconsin. Upon hearing this news, and realizing he could have been home hours ago, as well as their last mode of transportation now gone, Neal attacks Del and winds up chasing him around the car, which the trooper had to comically break up. As plot points frequently changed during filming, John Hughes discarded most of the scene and re-shot it as just a traffic stop resulting in the burnt out car getting impounded, leaving out any information either about where they were or about the pair being lost. Michael McKean had to return to Buffalo to shoot the shorter version which explains the continuity issue between the sunny and cloudy skies in the scene.
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The taxi scene was filmed on a stretch of road in Madison, Ohio.
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The green convertible is a 1986 Chrysler LeBaron Town and Country, with a 2.2 liter turbo engine. It was modified for the film, including the following Dodge 600 parts: taillights, steering wheel, and owner's manual (that can be seen in the glove compartment when Neil puts his wallet in there). The trunk was off of an older K-car convertible: no third brake light, and the luggage rack that was not offered in 1986 (but was, on older models).
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With the cold weather, it was expected for snow to arrive, as it was conducive to the story. But as weather didn't produce snow, the production waited for several weeks in Illinois, before moving to Buffalo, New York.
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There was a deleted scene where Neal and Del were going to go into a strip club to find a phone after their car caught fire. Actress Debra Lamb, who had been featured in the scene, had no idea her scene was cut until the official screening of the film.
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The name of the book that Del Griffith is seen reading was "The Canadian Mounted". The joke is that while John Candy was Canadian in real-life, he played an American.
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The rural train station, where Neal and Del buy the tickets for their ill-fated train ride, is the same station seen in The Natural (1984). It's located in South Dayton, New York.
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The second of two movies where John Candy plays a passenger who gets on the nerves of a passenger sitting next to him., he did so before in Volunteers (1985). In fact in both movies, he is sitting in a window seat on the right side of the aircraft and his victim was to his left in the aisle seat. And, in this film on the Greyhound bus he led the other passengers into song (The Flintstones (1960) to be exact). In Volunteers he led everyone into song (Puff the Magic Dragon (1978)) on board an airplane.
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The sound effects over the opening title are of planes, trains, and automobiles, and they play specifically in that order as the main title roles across the screen.
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Jeri Ryan was cast, but her part was cut from the final release.
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John Candy uses the same line in two movies. "I know it's not pretty to look at, but it'll get you where you wanna go." He says that about the car to the police officer. He says in Cool Runnings (1993), "I know it's not much to look at but..." He says that when revealing the team's bobsled for the first time.
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In the movie, Neal and Del stay in a hotel called the Braidwood Inn, Wichita, Kansas, the real hotel was actually called the Days Inn, located in Braidwood, Illinois, when Owen stopped by to pick them up the next day, right in front of the hotel is Interstate Highway 55, you see a Jay's Potato Chip truck drive by in the background. They are a local potato chip company out of Chicago, Illinois.
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When Del Griffith (John Candy) clears his sinuses in the motel room, his nose is whistling sounds out the final chords to "Shave and a Haircut".
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Film debut of Dylan Baker.
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Del Griffith's friend at the railroad, Bert Dingman, is a direct reference to Robert O. Dingman, Jr., President of the New York and Lake Erie Railroad, where the train scenes were filmed.
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When Neal and Del check into the motel in Wichita, Gus, the clerk, has two flags on his counter. It's the American flag crossing the flag of the United States Air Force. Charles Tyner, who played Gus, served in the Army Air Forces, the predecessor of the U.S.A.F. in World War II. Also, in real-life, McConnell Air Force Base is located in Wichita, Kansas.
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The interior of the Wichita airport sequence was shot on a studio soundstage in Hollywood. This scene was also the final one featuring extras during filming.
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In the famous "those aren't pillows!!" scene, after jumping out of bed in horror, Neal asks Del "did you see that Bears game last week?" to which Del replies "hell of a game, hell of a game...Bears got a great team this year...gonna go all the way." In 1987, Thanksgiving fell on November 26th, meaning the previous Bears game would have been Sunday, November 22nd. In that game, the Bears did indeed post an impressive 30-10 win over division rival Detroit. At the assumed point that scene happened, the Bears were 8-2, and en route to an 11-4 season (a week 3 game against Detroit was cancelled, due to a player's strike). Unfortunately, they didn't go "all the way", as they would lose 21-17 in the Divisional Round to the Washington Redskins.
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Del Griffith's large trunk (footlocker) contains a pillow, and a picture of his wife.
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Although they appeared in television movies and shows prior to this film, this was Olivia Burnette's and Matthew Lawrence's feature film debut.
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When the rental car burns, a sign is visible behind Martin and Candy that reads "Chicago - 102 Miles". This is a nod to the John Landis film The Blues Brothers (1980), which features at its climax the line "It's one hundred six miles to Chicago...".
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John Candy does a Jamaican impression in the hotel room when they're drinking the different types of alcohol. In Cool Runnings (1993), his character does a Jamaican impression to the Olympic qualifying judge after they tell him the qualifying time just got shorter.
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When Neal tells the motel clerk that he has "been wearing the same underwear since Tuesday," Del's reply "I can vouch for that" is a reference to The Out-of-Towners (1970), an earlier film comedy about the difficulties of traveling. Steve Martin would later go on to play the male lead in the remake The Out-of-Towners (1999).
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At the beginning of the movie, Steve Martin (Neal Page) races Kevin Bacon (taxi racer), which is a direct reference to the scene in the movie Quicksilver (1986), in which the character played by Bacon, is racing someone on a bicycle.
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Although it's not included in the theatrical or the network cuts, a shot of Del Griffith brushing his teeth was included on ads for the network version.
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Dylan Baker, John Candy, and Susan Isaacs were reunited in Delirious (1991). In both films, the character played by Isaacs, is called Marie.
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Movie critic Roger Ebert gave this movie a very good review and he watched it almost every Thanksgiving.
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John Goodman was considered for Del Griffiths.
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Future "Star Trek Voyager" star Jeri Ryan was a featured extra in the bus scene. John Hughes decided to dismiss her from the film because, through several takes, she couldn't stop laughing at Martin and Candy's antics. Ryan had no lines in the scene but her uncontrolled laughter became too much of a distraction. After Ryan was removed Hughes re-shot the scene without her.
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In Del (John Candy) and Neal's (Steve Martin) room at the Braidwood Inn, above the bed, you can see two perfect handprints on either side of the framed picture above the bed.
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The owner of the former Braidwood Inn featured in this film (now called the Sun Motel) was arrested in March 2019 on charges of promoting prostitution on the premises; the motel had also recently been the site of two drug overdose-related deaths.
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The El Rancho hotel is located on U.S. Highway 41 in Gurnee, Illinois, ; however, it now operates under a different name.
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A 2017 Nespresso commercial features George Clooney hitching rides with Kermit and Fozzie in The Muppet Movie (1979), with Janet Leigh in Psycho (1960), with Burt Reynolds in Smokey and the Bandit (1977), with John Candy in this film, as well as riding Peter Fonda's motorcycle from Easy Rider (1969), and the eponymous horse from Seabiscuit (2003). The thirty-second version omits Leigh, Candy, and Fonda.
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According to the biographical book "John Hughes: A Life in Film", one actor, who played a truck driver, was only supposed to have one line and work for one day. Because of the weather-related delays during production Hughes chose to keep him on standby. The actor ended up working enough days while the crew waited for the snow to come that he earned enough money to make a down payment on a house. It's very possible this was Troy Evans, who was uncredited, as the shy truck driver in the movie. He went on to appear, credited, on ER for the show's final five seasons as Frank Martin.
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Debra Lamb's role was cut from the final finished version of the film.
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Larry Hankin, Edie McClurg, and Carol Bruce have all appeared on at least one episode of WKRP in Cincinnati (1978), though none of them together.
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The speech John Candy gives is parodied in the Family Guy episode "Baby Not On Board" in season seven.
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The trunk Steve Martin trips over is stamped: "Del O. Griffith C/O American Light Fixtures Shower Curtain Ring Division P.O. Box 60608 Chicago, IL" 60608 is also a zip code for Chicago.
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On Del's trunk it shows Del's name as Del O. Griffith, meaning that Del's initials spell out the word DOG. Five months before the release of Planes, Trains & Automobiles, John Candy appeared in Spaceballs (1987) playing a character named Barf who was half man and half dog.
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No transportation company wanted to appear inept or deficient in any way, so crews had to rent twenty miles of train track and refurbish old railroad cars, construct a set that looked like an airline terminal, design a rent-a-car company logo and uniforms, and rent two hundred fifty cars for the infamous Rent-a-Car sequence.
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After the credits, Neal's boss is still at his desk analyzing the ads, his Thanksgiving dinner sitting on his desk.
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In the original story, Del actually follows Neal all the way home. During the editing process, John Hughes decided to change the ending so that Del would "take the hint" and allow Neal to return home alone before Neal, realizing that Del is homeless, returns to the station to look for him. . In order to get the new ending, Hughes and editor Paul Hirsch found footage of Neal on the Chicago train that had been earlier decided as unusable. All of this footage was shot without Martin ever knowing the camera was on. His laughter and facial expressions perfectly matched what Hughes was looking for in the flashback scenes with Del. However, in the raw footage, Martin is only thinking about his lines in the next scene. Hughes remarked that Martin had a "beautiful expression" in those unguarded moments.
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Had Neal and Del just stayed at the airport, they probably would've made it back to Chicago just in time. A scene played shortly after shows Neal's wife watching the news and the news said that O'Hare is clearing up.
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