In the 80s and early 90s, John Candy was one of the most popular comedians working in Hollywood. A true funnyman with real screen presence, as soon as Candy was on screen you instantly smiled – because you always knew that something good was going to happen.
A veteran of improv and the stage by the time he made it big in movies, Candy had perfect comedy timing and proved he could work with the best Hollywood had to offer.
In his time, Candy enjoyed some fantastic screen pairings with greats like Steve Martin and Dan Aykroyd, and starred in such comedy classics as The Blues Brothers, Splash, Home Alone and Cool Runnings.
Let’s take a look back at this Hollywood funny man with some facts about John Candy you may not have known…
40. John Candy was his actual name
Many actors will change their name when going in to Hollywood, or will take on a pseudonym for their acting careers.
However, Candy was born John Franklin Candy and he decided to roll with it.
The name is actually quite fitting for a Hollywood star and in keeping with his fun, playful demeanour.
Candy was born to parents James and Evangeline Candy and was raised in a working-class, Roman Catholic household.
His father was of Scottish and English descent, whilst his mother had Polish and Ukrainian roots.
39. He passed his talent on to his children
Candy met his wife, Rosemary, in 1979 after meeting on a blind date.
Together the couple had two children, Jennifer and Christopher Candy, born in 1980 and 1984 respectively.
Both of his kids followed in Candy’s footsteps, with Jennifer making a name for herself as an actor and producer, perhaps best known for In Vino and Liv and Maddie.
Her brother, Chris, is also an actor and the pair actually worked together on Where’s This Party?
They have both spoken openly about the impact of their father’s life and death.
38. He was larger than life
It is clear from his work that John Candy was a large actor, but sometimes it’s hard to get a sense of scale on the screen.
Candy actually weighed in excess of 300 pounds (or 21 stone) for most of his adult life.
He also had a rather strapping physique, standing at 6’2″.
Candy was rather sensitive about his size, and tried to lose weight and ditch his smoking habit in the early 90s.
He was also hyper-aware of his family’s history of heart attacks at a young age, with his father passing away at the age of just 35.
37. He turned down Saturday Night Live
Candy got his big break on Canadian TV comedy series SCTV – but for much of his career, he was heavily sought after by Saturday Night Live.
He turned down repeated offers from the high-profile rival comedy show due to his devotion to his fellow SCTV members, who he respected greatly.
He did come close to appearing on SNL once, being poised to appear as a guest host of the show in 1985.
He actually got so far as to shoot a promo for the episode, alongside Eugene Levy and Billy Crystal.
However, the episode never actually went ahead due to a writers’ strike.
36. He appeared in films with SNL stars more than any other actor
Candy co-starred in more movies alongside Saturday Night Live stars than any other actor who was not a member themselves of SNL at the time.
At the time of his death, he had appeared in ten films alongside various stars of the show.
These included Stripes with Bill Murray, Brewster’s Millions with Richard Pryor and Planes, Trains and Automobiles with Steve Martin.
However, this record has since been surpassed by Nick Swardson, who as of 2016 had appeared in 18 movies with SNL cast members.
Candy was also described as ‘the most-burned potential host’, due to him being asked to take part several times before plans fell through.
35. He turned down the Rick Moranis role in Ghostbusters
Candy was offered the role of Louis Tully in Ghostbusters alongside Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray.
However, he turned the role down due to conflict over how the character would be portrayed.
Instead, the role of Louis Tully was given to Candy’s SCTV colleague Rick Moranis.
Candy still managed to be involved in the hit supernatural comedy, albeit in a minor way.
He was amongst the many celebs who can be seen chanting ‘ghostbusters’ in the official music video for Ray Parker’s hit single.
34. He made more John Hughes movies than any other actor
Candy appeared in more John Hughes films that any other actor, starring or having cameos in seven of his movies.
Most famously he appeared in Hughes’ Planes, Trains and Automobiles, in which he co-starred with his good friend Steve Martin.
Candy also made appearances in National Lampoon’s Vacation (written, although not directed by Hughes) and She’s Having a Baby.
Candy also played the title character in Uncle Buck, which introduced the world to child actor Macaulay Culkin.
This wasn’t the last time Candy appeared in the same film as Culkin, as he also appeared in Home Alone, alongside his friend Catherine O’Hara.
33. His best friends included Steve Martin and Catherine O’Hara
Candy had many good friends in Hollywood, including Steve Martin, Eugene Levy to name just a few.
He often referred to Catherine O’Hara as his closest friend, and the pair would work together on several projects including Home Alone.
Other actors who had worked with Candy have praised his incredible talents and business-minded approach.
They would also talk of how much fun Candy was on set, recalling times they broke down in laughter as Candy would make a face or do something hilarious from behind the camera.
Amy Madigan, who worked with Candy on Uncle Buck, commented that “he was really just an incredibly generous person.”
32. He predicted his own death
According to Catherine O’Hara, Candy contacted her on his way to Mexico to film Wagons East saying he felt something terrible was going to happen in Mexico.
After a late-night meal of lasagne, Candy turned in for the night and sadly would never wake up.
He is presumed to have suffered a heart attack whilst sleeping, although no autopsy took place to confirm this.
As well as his hefty weight, Candy was a heavy drinker and smoker until just a few months prior to his death.
He was also said to be under a significant amount of stress during the filming of Wagons East, which may have further contributed to his heart attack.
31. His funeral was a Hollywood who’s-who
Candy’s funeral was packed with friends and family including many Hollywood stars like Tom Hanks, Bill Murray, Rick Moranis, Catherine O’Hara and Dan Aykroyd, who delivered the eulogy.
The service was held at a Catholic church in Los Angeles, which was at full capacity during the funeral.
His crypt was located just above fellow actor Fred MacMurray.
A special memorial for Candy was broadcast across Canada on March 18th, 1994, and was viewed by millions.
The memorial was produced by the improvisation troupe he had previously been a part of.
30. He was a keen sports enthusiast
Back in 1989, Candy in attendance at Miami’s Joe Robbie Stadium for the legendary Super Bowl XXIII.
The game was between the Cincinnati Bengals and the San Francisco 49ers, and was a huge deal at the time.
As legend has it, towards the end of the game, Joe Montana turned to tackle Harris Barton and spotted a familiar face in the stands.
“Hey, look over there,” the quarterback is said to have exclaimed. “Is that John Candy?”
Montana was of course correct: the comedy legend was in the crowd, and the moment made sporting history.
29. The LAPD shut down the busiest freeway in the world to make way for Candy’s funeral procession
John Candy was clearly loved by all that knew him personally, and by many millions more who didn’t.
This was nowhere more apparent than at his funeral, when Eugene Levy was following the procession heading to the cemetery.
He soon noticed the lack of traffic on the 405 freeway, and that police officers were holding traffic.
After asking an officer what was going on, he was informed that the LAPD had made the unusual decision to close the road.
The only time this has happened previously was in honour of the President and the Pope.
28. He didn’t only play the funny man
After a spat of highly successful movies in the 1980s, Candy’s career was in decline.
He decided that in order to revive it, he would try his hand at some more serious roles, and was cast in JFK in 1991.
Candy’s portrayal of Dean Andrews was critically acclaimed, and believed by many to be his best work.
In the movie, the sheen of sweat on Candy’s face is noticeable, and he revealed that this was in fact a genuine reaction.
This was because he was so nervous at the prospect of working alongside high-brow actors such as Donald Sutherland and Gary Oldman.
27. He plays an annoying passenger in two movies
Candy appears in two films in which he gets on the nerves of the passengers surrounding him.
These movies were Volunteers and, of course, Planes, Trains and Automobiles.
In both films, he can be seen in the window seat on the right side of the plane, with an annoyed fellow passenger located to his left.
He also bursts into spontaneous song in both films, leading everyone in rousing renditions of Puff the Magic Dragon and The Flintstones.
We don’t know about you, but this sounds a lot more exciting than any regular flight!
26. There were strange circumstances surrounding his death
The night before their father’s death, Candy’s children spoke to him over the phone.
His daughter, Jen, recalls being distracted with homework and was not fully engaged in the conversation, telling her father she loved him before hanging up.
Jen and her brother, Chris, were at Mass where they were informed of the heart-breaking news, both breaking down into floods of tears.
On the day of his death, the children noticed that the giant amethyst their father had given them was shattered into pieces.
They were comforted by their mother, who told them it was their father’s way of saying goodbye.
25. He was a huge animal lover
Although Candy was devoted to his family, he also had a passion for animals.
He would constantly bring home strays, and was a regular at the local pet shelter.
This was despite the fact that his wife was actually allergic to animals. What a trooper!
Candy also owned a farm, where he kept herds containing a variety of cow breeds.
The family also cared for four Clydesdale horses, named Peaches, Cream, Uncle Buck and Harry Crumb.
24. He loved to help people
I think we can all firmly agree that Candy helped people with his hilarious onscreen appearances alone.
However, Candy wanted to take this further, by helping people in real need, which he felt was his duty.
According to his daughter, he was constantly working with some sort of charity, including Make a Wish and Paediatric AIDS Foundation.
“He liked to make people laugh and feel good,” explained his daughter.
In particular, he loved to work with children, and his Uncle Buck co-stars would remark on how comfortable Candy was around kids, and vice versa.
23. He worked hard to perfect his roles
As previously mentioned, Candy took on the role of Dean Andrews in JFK.
This was in an attempt to branch out and play a more serious character.
His children took note of his dedication to the film, recalling the time they were having a water fight when he yelled at them for being too loud.
He even had a dialect coach in an attempt to perfect the accent.
He worked day and night on the script, determined to portray the character to the best of his ability.
22. He rarely watched his own work
Some actors revel in their roles and love to watch their characters’ lives play out onscreen, whilst others are more reserved in their approach.
Candy definitely seems to fall into the latter of these categories.
Candy had great respect for the film industry, and loved working with such talented professionals.
However, he was often reluctant to view the final product, despite the passion he had invested in it.
He would even refuse to attend premieres, instead sending his wife along and asking her to report back on the scenes that received the most laughs.
21. He owned a football team
As well as an actor, Candy was also regarded as a successful businessman.
In 1991, he became a shareholder of the iconic football team, the Toronto Argonauts.
As a Canadian himself, this had been a dream of Candy’s since he was a child.
The high point of this venture saw the team winning the 1991 Grey Cup, bringing victory to the city.
Sadly, after this, the group’s popularity began to wane, and the team was sold off in 1994.
20. He turned down a multi-million-dollar deal for Home Alone
When John Hughes was directing and producing the 1990 classic Home Alone, he offered the part of Gus Polinski, a travelling polka musician, to his old friend John Candy.
What’s more, Hughes offered a generous reward to Candy: he promised to give him a share of Home Alone’s profits.
Candy turned down the offer, but still took the part of Gus, viewing it as a favour to Hughes.
Pocketing only $414 for his work, Candy filmed as Gus for 22 hours, slipping some hilarious improvisations into his performance.
But no one could have guessed that Candy would miss out on millions of dollars for refusing a share in the film.
Grossing $477 million, Home Alone broke the record for the highest-grossing live action comedy, surpassed only by The Hangover Part II in 2011.
19. He was considered for the ‘cursed’ lead role in Atuk, just like John Belushi and Chris Farley, before he died
Before his untimely death, Candy was considering starring in Atuk, a new comedy about an Inuit hunter who moves to a modern city.
This still unfilmed movie is based on the novel The Incomparable Atuk, written by Candy’s fellow Canadian Mordecai Richler.
Candy died while he was still working through the script. The same fate befell John Belushi and Chris Farley, who were both interested in taking the lead role, in 1982 and 1997 respectively.
This coincidence has led many to speculate that the Atuk script is cursed – though all three actors shared health issues as a result of their weight.
Atuk’s screenwriter, Tod Carroll, dismissed the idea of a curse in an interview with the LA Times in 1997.
“No matter what anybody’s impression was, I think it’s either coincidence or practical explanation,” Carroll said. “I’m not a superstitious person, and it doesn’t have any meaning to me.”
18. He turned down the part of Wayne Szalinski in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids
Candy was a major Hollywood star by the late 80s, when he was offered the lead role of Wayne in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.
Deep down, Candy knew Wayne Szalinski wasn’t right for him – but he suspected his friend Rick Moranis would be perfect for the part.
The pair had previously worked together on Little Shop of Horrors and the comedy series Second City TV.
Candy passed on his recommendation to the producers of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, and soon after, Moranis took the role of Wayne – which would end up being one of his best-loved performances.
After turning down Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Candy chose to star in Who’s Harry Crumb?, Speed Zone and Uncle Buck in 1989.
While Who’s Harry Crumb? And Speed Zone received terrible reviews and flopped at the box office, Uncle Buck was a hit, grossing $79.2 million.
17. He lived in the notorious Whidden Hall at university
Before his rise to fame, Candy studied journalism and took up theatre classes at Centennial College in Toronto.
He joined McMaster University as an undergraduate, where he reportedly lived in Whidden Hall.
This hall of residence was notorious for being the epicentre to some of the wildest student pranks and antics.
In fact, it is rumoured that National Lampoon’s Animal House, a comedy starring several of John Candy’s close friends, was based on Whidden Hall.
Ivan Reitman, who produced National Lampoon’s Animal House, was an alumnus of the Hall.
Reitman would later direct Candy in Stripes, the 1981 war comedy about a cab driver who joins the US Army.
16. He sang in a band called Northern Lights for a charity single
Celebrity charity singles were all the rage in 1984 and 1985, including Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas?, USA for Africa’s We Are The World and the Latin American song Cantaré, cantarás.
Canadian celebrities were bitten by the charity single bug, too. Candy, Joni Mitchell, Bryan Adams and many other Canadian stars formed a supergroup called Northern Lights.
Their single Tears Are Not Enough was released in 1985 to raise money for relief efforts amid the Ethiopian famine of 1983-85.
It was issued by Columbia Records, and it swiftly reached the number one spot in Canada’s Top 40 chart.
Candy can be heard in the chorus of this song, thanks to the efforts of the famous band manager Bruce Allen.
Within five years, the song had amassed $3.2 million for famine relief, with a 10% portion set aside for Canadian food banks.
15. He was meant to play a talking turkey in Pocahontas when he died
The 1995 Disney movie Pocahontas had a star-studded voice cast, with Billy Connolly, Christian Bale and Mel Gibson among its actors.
One part, however, was intended specifically for John Candy – and when he died, the producers got rid of the role altogether.
Among Pocahontas’ animal companions, Candy would have provided the voice for Redfeather, a talking turkey.
Following Candy’s death, Pocahontas’ producers in fact decided that all the animal characters should be mute.
Redfeather’s intended role as Pocahontas’ sidekick was largely replaced by Meeko, Pocahontas’ beloved pet racoon.
Critic Peter Travers noted that Pocahontas could have been far more entertaining if it had retained its wise-cracking animals, in the style of The Lion King’s Pumbaa and Timon.
14. The rock band Ween dedicated an album to him
Amid the outpouring of grief over Candy’s death, the rock band Ween decided to pay homage to the comedy legend.
The stars of the duo, Dean and Gene Ween (Mickey Melchiondo and Aaron Freeman) were in the middle of producing the album Chocolate and Cheese when Candy died.
This album, which was Ween’s first to be assembled in a professional recording studio, was “dedicated in loving memory to John Candy.”
In a 1995 interview with Rolling Stone, Gene noted, “We always dedicate our records to one person.”
“When we were getting this together, there was so much going on about Kurt Cobain, and nobody mentioned John Candy at all,” he recalled.
“I have a special little spot in my heart for him,” he said of the beloved comedian.
13. One of his first TV appearances was on the children’s TV show Cucumber
Candy made his name in comedy films for adults – but his TV origins were in much more child-friendly programming.
One of his earliest appearances on the small screen was in a Canadian kids’ show called Cucumber.
This series, which stands for Children’s Underground Club of United Moose and Beaver for Enthusiastic Reporters, saw Candy play The Weatherman.
This character is a meteorologist who dresses up as a superhero for his side-gig as a children’s party entertainer.
The show was part-educational, part-comedy. Sections of Cucumber were based on Ontario’s primary school curriculum, so the show could be used in classrooms as a teaching resource.
Candy’s other children’s TV credits include Dr. Zonk and the Zunkins and Coming Up Rosie.
12. His face features on Canadian stamps
Hollywood found many ways to commemorate John Candy after his death. His last two films, Wagons East and Canadian Bacon, were both dedicated to him.
But in his homeland of Canada, Candy was honoured with a postage stamp bearing an illustration of him stroking his chin in thought.
The stamps, set at 51 cents, were created in 2006 as part of the new Canadians in Hollywood series.
Other stars who graced the postage art were Fay Wray, Lorne Greene and Mary Pickford.
Like Candy, the pioneering actress Mary Pickford lived in Toronto and rose to fame in comedy films – though hers were silent, as she was born in 1892.
Candy also features in the Toronto-based Canada’s Walk of Fame, alongside his fellow Second City star Martin Short.
11. He won two Emmys for his writing
The Toronto branch of the improv-comedy troupe Second City kickstarted Candy’s film career.
He was a cast member on their popular television show Second City Television from 1976 to 1979.
Thanks to his work on Second City TV Network 90 in 1982-83, Candy – along with the rest of the team – was nominated for no less than nine Primetime Emmy Awards.
He won two of these, including the Emmy for Outstanding Writing in a Variety or Music Program in 1982.
He scooped the same award in the following year, for the episodes The Energy Ball and Sweeps Week.
Posthumously, Candy won a 1995 Gemini Award, the Canadian equivalent of an Emmy, for his lifetime contributions to show business.
10. He was supposed to star opposite Sylvester Stallone in a John Hughes warring neighbours movie
No, John Candy was never asked to step into the ring with Rocky Balboa, although that probably would’ve been better than Rocky V.
The comedy star did come close to teaming up with the action icon in a movie written and directed by John Hughes, though.
The movie was entitled Bartholomew vs. Neff, and it would have cast Stallone and Candy as warring next-door neighbours.
The script was written, and Bartholomew vs. Neff was originally planned to be directed by Hughes in 1992.
However, when Hughes’ 1991 movie Curly Sue bombed at the box office, Bartholomew vs. Neff fell apart.
The film was never made, and Curly Sue wound up being the last movie that Hughes ever directed.
9. He caused trouble by showing up drunk to work more than once
Everyone seems to agree that Candy was one of the nicest guys in the business, but he could still be a little naughty.
It’s well known that the comedy star enjoyed a drink – and at times, he enjoyed a drink not long before he was due to work.
One occasion when this proved to be a particular problem was during production on Splash.
Director Ron Howard says that Candy showed up drunk for work one morning, having been up all night after meeting Jack Nicholson at a bar.
Howard recalls a star-struck Candy exclaiming, “Jack Nicholson knew my name, Ron!” To make matters worse, it was a physically demanding morning shoot on a racquetball court.
Years later, a similar incident on Uncle Buck angered director John Hughes, who learned that a hungover Candy had been at a bar all night after hearing a caller on local radio talking about meeting the actor there.
8. The devil suit in Planes, Trains and Automobiles was his idea
One of the most memorable moments in Planes, Trains and Automobiles sees Candy’s character Wayne unwittingly driving the wrong way down the highway at night.
This leads to a surreal moment in which Steve Martin’s Neal first envisages both of them as screaming skeletons, then envisages Wayne as the Devil.
This surreal twist of cartoonish humour in the scene was added at the suggestion of Candy himself.
Reportedly, when executives from the studio turned up to see the day’s filming, they were not impressed.
Knowing that the film was a fairly down-to-earth comedy, they were confused to see Candy in such an outlandish costume.
Candy’s son Chris recalls, “They were really over-budget and over-schedule, and Paramount was coming down to get everything going…”
“So [the Paramount execs] finally get on set and Dad is walking around in this devil costume, and they’re like ‘What the hell does this have to do with anything?!'”
7. His Cool Runnings character didn’t actually exist in real life
The last John Candy movie to hit screens before his untimely demise was the 1993 sports comedy Cool Runnings.
The film was based on the true story of the first ever Jamaican bobsleigh team to compete in the Winter Olympics.
However, although it was based around real events, Cool Runnings took some significant liberties with the facts.
Most significantly, the film casts Candy as coach Irv Blitzer, a disgraced Olympic bobsled contender who was disqualified in the 70s.
Irv Blitzer is actually an entirely fictional character. No such man was hired to train the Jamaican bobsleigh team.
In reality, the team had a number of coaches, and none of them had ever been caught up in any cheating scandals.
6. The death of John Belushi plunged him into depression
As a successful, heavy-set funnyman with an indulgent lifestyle, John Candy had a lot in common with John Belushi.
Because of this, it hit Candy very hard when Belushi unexpectedly passed away in March 1982.
In biography Laughing on the Outside: The Life of John Candy, friends recall that Candy locked himself away at home and wouldn’t even answer the phone after Belushi died.
According to actor Dan Hennessey, “John knew it was time to go home, clean up, and get his career in order.”
Candy endeavoured to take better care of himself, and stopped using drugs – but he couldn’t kick the drinking, smoking and over-eating.
Candy died on 4th March 1992, the day before the twelfth anniversary of Belushi’s death.
5. There was a campaign to name the Canadian Screen Awards the Candys in his honour
In 2013, the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television began a new annual awards ceremony.
The official title of the ceremony is the Canadian Screen Awards – but there have been calls for it to have an official nickname.
Much as how America’s Academy Awards is known as the Oscars, some feel the Canadian Screen Awards needs something similarly snappy.
One suggestion which proved popular around the time the awards were introduced was the Candys.
It was felt that this would be fitting both in honour of John Candy, and as ‘Candy’ is suggestive of Canadian.
Other nicknames suggested for the show include the Pickfords (in honour of Mary Pickford) or the Normans (in honour of director Norman Jewison) – but none has been officially adopted to date.
4. A crystal he bought his children shattered on the day he died
Candy’s death was not ruled suspicious, but some surprising phenomena occurred at the time.
First, Candy himself seemed to foretell his own death, as we mentioned earlier. Secondly, he died the very night he completed shooting his final role.
Then on the day that he passed away, as his wife and children were reeling from the shock, something strange happened at home.
Candy was shooting in Mexico when he died, and he’d given his family a large piece of amethyst he’d bought there.
On the day of his death, the amethyst – usually a very sturdy crystal – suddenly shattered where it stood.
Jen and Chris Candy recall their mother telling them that this was simply their father’s way of saying goodbye.
3. He dropped out of hosting an awards show when they made jokes about his weight
There’s no avoiding that Candy was physically a very big man, and towards the end of his life he was tired of being reminded of it.
In 1992, Candy was all set to serve as the host on the Canadian Genie Awards before having a sudden change of heart.
Candy saw a TV promo that had been prepared for the show, which joked, ‘we got the biggest star we could find.’
Candy, who had been making efforts to lose weight at the time, promptly dropped out of the show in offence.
Friends of Candy have remarked that the actor was subsequently sent into a downward spiral of heavy drinking, eating and smoking.
His good friend Eugene Levy recalled it got hard to call Candy out on his self-destructive ways: “you stop being a friend and start being an irritant.”
2. Halloween 2020 was dubbed ‘John Candy Day’ in Toronto
Candy was born in Newmarket, Ontario on 31st October – Halloween itself – in 1950.
Because of this, the city of Toronto decided to make Halloween 2020 a little more special.
The holiday was dubbed John Candy Day by the Mayor of Toronto, on what would have been Candy’s 70th birthday.
Mayor John Tory explained, “It’s our way of remembering a beloved actor and comedian with roots in Toronto.”
Tomorrow will be John Candy Day in Toronto. It’s our way of remembering a beloved actor and comedian with roots in Toronto. Proud to help honour the legacy of John Candy on what would have been his 70th birthday. pic.twitter.com/vGqVhIn36B
— John Tory (@JohnTory) October 30, 2020
While Candy was not born in Toronto, he spent a great deal of his life there and made a big impact on the city.
Candy’s children Chris and Jen were moved by the gesture, declaring it to be “such an honour.”
1. He appeared in his own animated kids’ TV show
As well as being well-loved by adult audiences around the world, John Candy had a big following among children as well.
For this reason, a kid-friendly animated TV series was created based around the big screen funnyman.
The series was entitled Camp Candy, and was set at a fictitious summer camp run by Candy himself.
Candy voiced himself and also sang the theme song, which was written for the show by famed singer-songwriter Harry Nilsson.
Candy’s children also voiced characters on the show, which proved popular enough to spawn its own Marvel comic book series.
Camp Candy premiered in September 1989, and came to an end in 1992 after three seasons, with 40 episodes made in total.