Getting Wasted With Nicholson and Other Moments That Need to Be in the John Candy Documentary
If there’s such a thing as Canadian Comedy Twitter, it went positively crazy earlier in October when Ryan Reynolds dropped this bombshell:
There aren’t many comics bigger, and even fewer more beloved, than Canuck funny man John Candy. Reynolds is clearly a fan, and People confirmed that Candy’s kids, Chris and Jennifer, will be involved in the project, promising plenty of unseen video and photographs.
We can’t wait! And Ryan, not to be backseat producers or anything, but we’ve got a few items that we believe pretty much, almost certainly, kinda, sorta absolutely need to be in the documentary. Today on his birthday, we offer these Candy essentials…
Sweet and Sour Childhood
The boy born on Halloween, not surprisingly, had a taste for actual candy, so much so that his childhood nickname was “Sweet Tooth.” As such, we’re counting on the Candy family to share some pics of John as a boy — unlike other celebrities, there aren’t many childhood Candy images floating around the interwebs.
Then there was his first acting job — a Colgate toothpaste commercial with other kids and the toothy Art Linkletter. We’ve never seen it, but we’re crossing our fingers that someone can unearth that cavity-fighting gem.
Of course, the doc will also have to deal with the tragedy of John’s father, Sidney James Candy, passing away of complications from heart disease when John was only 5 years old. It would seem like overly melodramatic foreshadowing if it wasn’t absolutely true.
First, Second City
Like many of the breakthrough comics of his generation, Candy got started at Second City, although in his case, it was the Toronto version. Amazingly, he made it to the main stage at only 19. If only someone had been there with a film camera the night he knocked himself out on stage colliding with another actor. Either way, everyone loved him, with the Chicago cast dubbing him “Johnny Toronto.”
He also taught classes with Danny Aykroyd at an age when he should have been a student himself. In fact, he and Aykroyd auditioned on the very same day. “As soon as they saw Candy on stage, you know, it didn’t matter what he did,” remembers Aykroyd. “It was just a presence. I think they were more thrilled about getting Candy that day than they were about getting me.”
Can you dig up some archival film, Mr. Reynolds?
SCTV Is on the Air!
Okay, from here on out, video should be plentiful. Starting in 1976 at the ripe old age of 26, Candy was the breakout star of SCTV, a Canadian version of Saturday Night Live featuring nearly all of his Second City cast mates. (Second City is the “SC” in SCTV.) Tom Hanks remembers flipping channels in a bad Ohio hotel when he randomly came across SCTV for the first time, a show he’d never even heard of before. The first one he caught featured Candy as a homicidal Theodore Cleaver in a Leave It To Beaver sketch.
”It was,” Hanks says, “like hearing the Beatles for the first time.”
In addition to the Beav, Candy dominated the small screen with characters like Johnny LaRue, Dr. Tongue, Luciano Pavarotti, Billy Sol Hurok, Yosh Schmenge and Gil Fisher, the Fishin’ Musician.
Go to town, Reynolds, we can’t get enough.
Wrestling with Stripes
For moviegoers, 1981 was when Candy first caught their attention as Dewey “Ox” Oxberger in Billy Murray’s Stripes. His breakout scene featured the big man taking on a gaggle of lady wrestlers in a pit of mud.
But we want to hear more of the story behind the story. According to legend, Candy practically needed a real-life Murray pep talk to get him to film the scene, one that Candy was convinced would be humiliating. Would he come across as a pig in mud? He begged (unsuccessfully) for the scene to be cut. According to his biography, Laughing on the Outside, he felt degraded.
Making a Splash
Stripes was a “hello, how do you do,” but Splash with fanboy Hanks was when Candy officially arrived as a full-fledged comedy superstar.
Colin Hanks is involved in the documentary, so could he maybe ask dad about the time Candy showed up to the set drunk as a skunk when Jack Nicholson kept him out all night? Candy felt terrible about it, he confessed to director Ron Howard, but what was he supposed to do when Jack Nicholson kept buying him drinks? He was completely schnockered but sobered up enough to film this classic racquetball scene.
The Hughes Muse
John Hughes is primarily known for his teen movies with Molly Ringwald, but wasn’t his true muse John Candy? After all, the guy showed up in at least eight films that Hughes produced, wrote, directed or all three, including Vacation, Home Alone, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Uncle Buck, The Great Outdoors, Career Opportunities and She’s Having a Baby. That sounds like a relationship worth exploring.
“I know there were films he didn’t want to do," his daughter Jen told The Hollywood Reporter. "But with John Hughes, it was always, ‘What’s the next one? You gotta hurry up and write something,’ because they were perfect for each other.”
And let’s not overlook Only the Lonely, a sweet Hughes-produced comedy written and directed by protege Chris Columbus. It’s a movie largely forgotten but one that was a Candy favorite because he got to play a regular guy, not one whose weight was a constant punchline. Hey Ryan, line up an interview with co-star Ally Sheedy so she can offer up more about Candy’s leading-man qualities: “John has a way of making you feel like the most beautiful actress he’s ever worked with.”
The Frustrated Footballer
At some point in the early going, it would be great for Reynolds to note that Candy was a pretty decent athlete. In fact, his first “what I want to be when I grow up” was a football player before a high school knee injury brought that dream to an end.
But one cool part of making it big as a comic actor is that you get to buy nice things, like going in with Wayne Gretzky to buy the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League. The deal turned out to be a financial disaster, but at least he got to shill season tickets in spots like these.
Candy seemed to be just getting to the good stuff around the time he appeared in Oliver Stone’s JFK. Clearly, he was capable of more than just goofy comedies.
Which is why we’d like to hear more about two projects that Candy was discussing but never got the chance to make — an adaption of John Kennedy Toole’s Confederacy of Dunces (also rumored for John Belushi and Chris Farley) and a biography of scandal-plagued comedian Fatty Arbuckle (again, rumored for Belushi and Farley).
Related: When We Become the Punchline
The documentary will necessarily have to end with Wagon’s East, Candy’s last picture. He’s not exactly the picture of health in this clip:
The sad parallels to his own father’s death will be impossible to ignore. But we trust Reynolds and Co. won’t linger here for long. So many people loved Candy that the film won’t be able to help but to end on a sweet note. As Reynolds has warned, bring your tissues.
Top image: Hughes Entertainment