We found out, long ago, it’s a long way down the holiday road.
It’s just difficult to believe how long ago that was.
Nearly 30 years have passed since National Lampoon’s Vacation sent Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Dana Barron and Anthony Michael Hall on the Griswold family’s ill-fated trek to Wally World. The kids were replaced for each of the sequels, but now the original clan is back together for EW’s annual Reunions issue.
Cousin Eddie, unfortunately, remains at large.
Check out video of the dysfunctional movie-family’s reunion.
The Griswold clan may be strange, but it turns out they’ve never been estranged.
“It’s the best family and rapport of actors I’ve ever seen,” says Barron, 46, who was about 16 when she played uptight daughter Audrey. All these years later, she says the cast who spent all that time in the pea-green Family Truckster station wagon have always remained in touch and still get together from time to time.
D’Angelo, 60, has co-starred with Chase, not only in the Vacation sequels, but also some commercials and a Star Wars-themed episode of Family Guy, where they once again played Clark and Ellen Griswold. She says the 1983 film “sparked the great friendship I have with Chevy to this day. He calls me his second wife.”
At this video shoot for Good Morning America during the EW photo session, Barron and Anthony Michael Hall (who goes by his middle name) once again felt like kids trapped in the backseat. “Michael and I had the funniest time. [Chase and D’Angelo] were going on and on, and they tried to do the Mockingbird song from the movie, trying to remember the words. Michael and I were just doing bunny ears behind them and rolling our eyes when they got to bickering. I felt all of a sudden like we’re brother and sister again, dealing with our parents and their issues.”
Hall, 44, who was only 14 when he played Rusty, continues to endure the torment of every kid whose dad fancies himself a comedian.
“Going back to 1983, a hundred years ago, he would always rip you and give you s–t,” says Hall, who made a guest appearance with Chase on Community in 2009. (Nonetheless, Chase likes to pretend that he mistakes his long-ago movie son for a production assistant.) “When he pulled up for the Entertainment Weekly shoot I was outside with Beverly, and Chevy pulls up in his Benz. As he slowly starts to open his car door, he looked at me and said, ‘Can I get a coffee?'”
They all went on to their own projects over the years. Chase, now 68, had Fletch, Spies Like Us and Community. D’Angelo had American History X and Entourage. Hall went on to a series of classic comedies by John Hughes (incidentally, the screenwriter for Vacation) and the TV series The Dead Zone, and Barron won a 1989 Daytime Emmy for the after-school special No Means No, before going on to a recurring role on the original Beverly Hills 90210.
But for each of them, Vacation was a defining moment.
Until then, Chase had been the too-cool-for-school comic, like his character Ty Webb from Caddyshack — sarcastic and knowing, while remaining slightly aloof and above whatever was happening around him. In Vacation, he dimmed the lights a bit and created a character that almost every dad can relate to, albeit reluctantly.
We used to get Father Knows Best and The Andy Griffith Show, with the upright, all-knowing man of the house never going astray. After Clark Griswold, we can see the echoes of Chase’s character in everyone from Homer Simpson to Ty Burrell’s Phil Dunphy on Modern Family.
“It wasn’t presenting the nuclear family as perfect and it wasn’t presenting America as perfect either,” D’Angelo says. “It was presenting it as funny. But it wasn’t like a damning indictment.”
For Chase, the defining moment was a scene at the beginning of Vacation, when Clark is being ripped off by a car dealer (Eugene Levy) who has given him the bulky station wagon instead of the sporty car he had originally bought for the road trip. When Clark objects and demands his old car back, he finds it already flattened — but tries to get in anyway.
“It was: How smart is Clark? I thought I could settle it right there at the beginning of the film,” Chase says. “How much does he really pay attention? Clearly he’s not going to get into this wreck, but he’s already in a tizzy, and therefore: ‘I’m getting into my car and driving home!'”
By the time we meet Cousin Eddie, played by Randy Quaid, Clark starts to look like a genius.
And what of Quaid, whose real-life shenanigans have started to make Cousin Eddie look not-so-bad in comparison? “I heard from him when he called me from Canada, saying he’s in jail,” Chase recalls.
What did Quaid want? “Twenty grand!” Chase answers. “To get out.”
This time, Chase promises — no joke.
Other reunions in the annual double issue, on stands this week (or available to buy online), include Clueless, Arrested Development, Breaking Away, and Melrose Place, and E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.
Entertainment Weekly and some of the stars featured in the Reunions Issue have teamed up with charitybuzz.com — the global leader in online celebrity auctions — to raise money for a variety of great causes. Fans can bid on memorabilia, meet-and-greets, and more; all proceeds go to charity. Visit ew.com/reunions and charitybuzz/ewreunion for more information.