Uncle Buck wasn’t supposed to be a hit, which is why Universal Pictures dropped it into a mid-August slot back in 1989. Especially back then, that’s typically a release date reserved for odd ducks that the studios don’t know what to do with, or don’t have enough confidence in to open during the more prime summer weekends. Nonetheless, audiences responded to star John Candy’s warm, funny performance, as well as his comic interactions with his young co-stars. When all was said and done, Uncle Buck turned out to be a solid performer, earning $66 million at the domestic box office, which is $145 million in today’s dollars.
Writer/director John Hughes concocted this goofy, yet touching story about Buck Russell (John Candy), a commitment-phobic screw-up who is enlisted to babysit his nieces and nephew during a family emergency. Through the process, he learns to grow up a little bit and start embracing adulthood responsibility. The movie works because, as with all Hughes’ films, it was very carefully cast. If you’re wondering what the stars of Uncle Buck are up to today, you’re in luck. We’ve tracked them all down, and some of the results may surprise you.
Here’s a look at the where the cast members of Uncle Buck are now.
15. Macaulay Culkin – Miles
Young Macaulay Culkin already had small roles in Rocket Gibraltar and See You in the Morning when he landed his breakout role as Miles, the wise-beyond-his-years youngster in Uncle Buck. Audiences loved his comic timing and ability to hold his own opposite a seasoned veteran like John Candy, which was most evident in a famous scene where Miles bombards Buck with questions, Dragnet-style.
Hughes was so enamored with his star that he wrote 1990’s Home Alone as a vehicle for Culkin, and the young actor became a household name as a result. Roles in My Girl, The Good Son, and Richie Rich soon followed, cementing his place as one of the greatest child stars in Tinseltown’s history. Culkin made an admirable stab at adult stardom with more grown-up parts in 2003’s Party Monster and 2004’s religious satire Saved!, but he never managed to replicate his earlier successes.
As with many child stars, Culkin became a fixture of the tabloids, thanks to a high-profile divorce from Rachel Miner in 2002 and a split from longterm girlfriend Mila Kunis in 2010. He also made headlines for a 2004 drug arrest in Oklahoma City that found him in possession of marijuana and several prescription drugs. On a more positive note, Culkin has indulged in his love of music in the past few years, recording and performing with his band, The Pizza Underground. He also appears from time to time on The Jim Gaffigan Show.
14. Gaby Hoffmann – Maizy
Gaby Hoffman had a big year in 1989. After starring in a series of commercials, she made her motion picture debut opposite Kevin Costner in the blockbuster Field of Dreams. That same summer, she played the precocious Maizy in Uncle Buck. From there, Hoffman became a much in-demand young actress. She appeared alongside Mel Gibson in The Man Without a Face and with Tom Hanks in Sleepless in Seattle, and the 1995 tween drama Now and Then teamed her with fellow adolescent stars Thora Birch and Christina Ricci. That film remains a touchstone for many women who saw it in the era.
Hoffman never became the star that Macaulay Culkin did, but her career has flourished nonetheless. You may not recognize her all grown up, but she’s something of a fixture on the independent movie scene, delivering strong work in Obvious Child, You Can Count on Me and Wild. On television, she had a notable recurring role as Adam’s pregnant sister Caroline on HBO’s Girls. You can also see her as a series regular on Amazon’s Transparent. Hoffman has a busy life off-screen, where she is the mother to an almost two-year-old daughter with her longtime boyfriend.
13. Garrett M. Brown – Bob Russell
Garrett M. Brown plays Bob Russell, the harried father who hesitantly calls his brother Buck to come help out when he and his wife have to leave town abruptly on a family emergency. Brown is one of those “that guy” performers — a character actor who pops up in anything and everything, yet you probably don’t know his name. His post-Buck resume is filled with bit parts on hit TV shows (NYPD Blue, 7th Heaven, Law & Order: SVU, Big Love) and supporting roles in big studio movies (Gridiron Gang, Kiss the Bride, and the two Kick-Ass pictures, in which he played Mr. Lizewski, the title character’s father).
Brown continues to remain very busy, having recently been spotted in two extremely well-regarded television projects. He portrayed Chancellor Fitzhugh on Showtime’s acclaimed series Masters of Sex and was Lou Brown on the Emmy-favorite FX sensation, American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson.
12. Elaine Bromka – Cindy Russell
Cindy Russell, the matriarch of the family, does not want Buck watching her children. Some of the movie’s humor stems from her utter disapproval of Buck’s ne’er-do-well ways and her comic worry about what he might do to the kids. Bringing the character to life is actress Elaine Bromka. Uncle Buck was a very early credit in her career, but it certainly wasn’t the last. A slew of TV parts followed, on shows as varied as L.A. Law, Sex and the City, Will & Grace, and The Sopranos. Like co-star Gaby Hoffman, she also has a tie to Girls, having played a realtor in an episode.
Bromka — who has an extensive stage resume both on and off Broadway — still acts intermittently. Her next role will be in the independent film Happy Yummy Chicken, opposite Orange Is the New Black‘s Taryn Manning. She also strives to give back in gratitude for her career success. In recent years, Bromka has been a faculty member at Smith College and NYU’s Steinhardt School. She conducts a respected one-day acting workshop at various colleges and schools across America.
11. Brian Tarantina – E. Roger Coswell
Brian Tarantina’s role in Uncle Buck is small but pivotal. He plays E. Roger Coswell, a cohort of Buck’s who provides a hot tip on a racehorse. This sets up the movie’s third-act conflict, in which Buck has to decide whether to go to the track or go looking for his runaway niece. The New York-born actor made his screen debut in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1984 drama The Cotton Club before going on to co-star in the 1987 Richard Pryor comedy Critical Condition.
After appearing in Uncle Buck, Tarantina continued to work steadily in film. Carlito’s Way, The Jerky Boys, Donnie Brasco, and The Talented Mr. Ripley are just a few of the movies in which he’s appeared. His television work is just as varied, as hit series like ER, The Sopranos, and Heroes are among his credits. One of Tarantina’s most visible TV gigs was a recurring role as Stars Hollow newsstand owner “Bootsy” on a handful of episodes of Gilmore Girls. Most recently, he was on an episode of HBO’s The Night Of. He will next be seen in the indie Breaking Brooklyn, co-starring Louis Gossett, Jr.
10. Dennis Cockrum – Pal
Chicago’s own Dennis Cockrum began his career in several respected theater companies, including Steppenwolf, which also proved to be a launching pad for Gary Sinise and John Malkovich, among many others. In Uncle Buck, he plays Pal, an acquaintance of Buck’s who inappropriately hits on the underage Tia at a bowling alley and promptly gets a stern talking-to.
Interestingly, Cockrum went on to play a completely different character, “Skank,” in the first TV sitcom adaptation of Uncle Buck that ran for a season on CBS in 1990. He is the only actor from the film to do so. Like many of his co-stars in the Hughes comedy, Cockrum has built a solid career as a guest player, popping up on Home Improvement, Star Trek: Voyager, The West Wing, and Desperate Housewives. He recently portrayed Terry Milkovich on twelve episodes of Showtime’s Shameless, and had a very small role as a cop in the Coen brothers’ Hail, Caesar!
9. Anna Chlumsky – School Child
Anna Chlumsky has no lines in Uncle Buck. None. In fact, she’s only an extra, sitting next to Maizy in a classroom. As many actors know, you have to start somewhere, and even the most seemingly inconsequential role can lead to bigger things. That’s exactly what happened for this young actress. Just two years after making her screen debut, Chlumsky landed her breakout role, starring in the touching drama My Girl with Uncle Buck’s own Macaulay Culkin. The movie was a huge hit, making her an instant child star. A less well-received My Girl sequel followed, as did the long-forgotten Sissy Spacek comedy Trading Mom and the adventure drama Gold Diggers: The Secret of Bear Mountain with Christina Ricci.
Chlumsky took a few years off to attend college — she received a BA in International Studies from the University of Chicago — before resuming her acting career. These days, she earns raves for her performance as Amy Brookheimer, the Vice President’s Chief of Staff on HBO’s Veep, a role for which she has received several Emmy nominations. Off-screen, Chlumsky is married and has two children.
8. Suzanne Shepherd – Mrs. Hogarth
In one of the funniest Uncle Buck scenes, Buck tells off Mrs. Hogarth, the unsympathetic, overly-authoritarian school vice principal who gives Maizy a hard time. Suzanne Shepherd plays that vice principal, and she makes a big impression in only one scene. The actress was in Mystic Pizza and the Oscar-nominated Working Girl before her work in this film, and she went on to appear in Goodfellas, Requiem for a Dream, and John Waters’ outrageous NC-17 sex comedy, A Dirty Shame.
It’s been a few years since Shepherd appeared onscreen, but that doesn’t mean she hasn’t been busy. She has long worked as an acting teacher. Christopher Meloni, Joan Allen, and the late Gregory Hines are just a few of her students who went on to great success. She continues to teach the Meisner technique to aspiring performers. If you want to know more about her courses — or even study with her — you can get all the details on her official website.
7. Mike Starr – Pooter the Clown
Uncle Buck has one of the all-time great anti-clown scenes. If you hate clowns, you doubtlessly recall the bit where intoxicated children’s entertainer Pooter shows up for a birthday party at the Russell home, only to get punched in his obnoxious face by a disgusted Buck. Veteran character actor Mike Starr plays the role, although he’s virtually unrecognizable in costume.
Starr is a versatile performer, able to convey boisterous charm or intense menace with equal effectiveness. After playing Pooter, he had high-profile roles in Goodfellas, The Bodyguard, Ed Wood, and Spike Lee’s Clockers. By far, though, the role he’s most associated with is that of Joe Mentalino, the criminal with a stomach ulcer in Dumb & Dumber. In total, Starr has over 200 credits on his resume, with at least five new films in the can, including Highly Functional with Bruce Campbell. The actor is also devoted a family man with a wife and three children.
6. Amy Madigan – Chanice
Amy Madigan, daughter of noted political journalist John Madigan, plays Buck’s long-suffering girlfriend Chanice, who’s been trying to get Buck to settle down for eight years, only to repeatedly come up short. Like Hoffmann, she also starred in Field of Dreams that summer, which cemented her recognition factor with audiences. Further helping on that account was a 1989 Golden Globe win for the TV movie Roe vs. Wade.
Madigan has continued her successful career in film, on TV, and on the stage. She’s been nominated for an Independent Spirit Award, an Emmy, a Critics Choice Movie Award, and even a Fangoria Chainsaw Award. (That last one was for her work in The Dark Half.) Pollack and Gone Baby Gone are among her most well-known movies, and she has several big screen projects on the way, most notably Warren Beatty’s long-gestating Rules Don’t Apply.
As if all that wasn’t enough, the actress has one of the most solid, long-lasting celebrity marriages around. She and husband/frequent collaborator Ed Harris have been married since 1983. They have one daughter.
5. Laurie Metcalf – Marcie Dahlgren-Frost
Stepping into the role of Marcie Dahlgren-Frost, the amorous neighbor with eyes for Buck, was Laurie Metcalf, an accomplished stage actress who, despite plenty of dramatic chops, is most known by audiences for her comedic work. At the time of Uncle Buck‘s debut, she was already making America laugh with her supporting role as Jackie on the smash hit sitcom Roseanne, a role for which she won three Emmys.
Even though she’s never quite been a household name, Metcalf has firmly established herself as an immensely gifted performer, as evidenced by her filmography. JFK, Leaving Las Vegas, Scream 2, and the Toy Story movies (for which she provided the voice of Andy’s mom) are just a few of her credits. Her resume also sports a ton of television work, including Desperate Housewives, The Big Bang Theory, and Horace and Pete, all of which earned her even more Emmy nods. Metcalf also received recent acclaim for her turn as Annie Wilkes in the Broadway adaptation of Misery, where she co-starred with Bruce Willis. Next year, she will be back on the silver screen in Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird.
4. Jay Underwood – Bug
As a child actor, Jay Underwood worked regularly. His first movie role was in Disney’s The Boy Who Could Fly. Desert Bloom and The Invisible Kid are among his other pre-Buck films. His turn as Bug, Tia’s bonehead boyfriend (who, at one point, is locked in a car truck by his girlfriend’s uncle) is a comic high point in the movie. Afterward, he went on to appear on 21 Jump Street and as Ernest Hemingway on The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. Most interestingly, he was cast as Johnny Storm in the ill-fated 1994 version of The Fantastic Four, a movie infamously made and left forever on the shelf.
Underwood’s last screen role was in the 2010 faith-based drama No Greater Love, and there’s a very good reason for that. He walked away from acting after discovering something he loved even more: Jesus. Underwood gave up performing for preaching, and today he is the pastor at First Baptist Church in Weaverville, California. You can see a 2012 video of him preaching the gospel on YouTube.
3. Jean Louisa Kelly – Tia
As we’ve already seen, John Hughes had a real knack for casting young actors. That was certainly true with Jean Louisa Kelly, who perfectly played Tia, the moody teen with a chip on her shoulder. It was her screen acting debut, and she came to the role after breaking out in the original Broadway cast of Into the Woods. Kelly went on to work in Mr. Holland’s Opus, as well as in some TV movies. She was later one of the leads on the CBS sitcom Yes, Dear, which ran for six seasons.
These days, Kelly balances a career in the entertainment business with her family. She and her husband have two children. Recent acting gigs include a stint on the series Sin City Saints, a one-shot on Scream Queens, and a small part in Marvel’s Ant-Man. Kelly has also been working on music, recording a children’s album entitled Color of Your Heart and releasing several EPs. (You can listen to one of her songs right here.)
2. John Candy – Uncle Buck
Uncle Buck came out when John Candy was at the peak of his comedic powers. He started out as an admired sketch comedy star on SCTV before turning into a scene-stealing supporting actor in hits such as The Blues Brothers, Splash, and Spaceballs. At the same time, he had the talent and charisma to be a conventional lead, too. Summer Rental, The Great Outdoors, and Planes, Trains and Automobiles proved this, permanently solidifying his stardom.
Despite the box office success of Uncle Buck, Candy’s career struggled in the years afterward. Nothing But Trouble, Delirious, and Once Upon a Crime all proved to be flops. The romantic comedy Only the Lonely failed to attract audiences despite earning good reviews and showing him in a new light. His dramatic work in Oliver Stone’s JFK was respected, but that was just a small role. Only the 1993 Jamaican bobsled comedy Cool Runnings was a certified hit.
A year after that movie’s release, John Candy was in Durango, Mexico, filming Wagons East when he suffered a fatal heart attack. He was just 43 years old. His legacy endures in his extraordinary body of work, as well as the John Candy Visual Arts Studio at Toronto’s Neil McNeil Catholic High School, his alma mater.
1. John Hughes
The man behind Uncle Buck was of course John Hughes, a former National Lampoon writer who went on to become a filmmaking pioneer. His movies, especially The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink, took teenagers and adolescent problems seriously in an era where few other pictures did. He then transitioned into observantly funny movies about adult issues. Planes, Trains & Automobiles and She’s Having a Baby are the most popular examples of that.
Uncle Buck was his penultimate film as a director (1991’s Curly Sue was the last.) Following the massive success of 1990’s Home Alone, which he wrote and produced, Hughes cranked out a series of increasingly lazy slapstick screenplays that became Dennis the Menace, Beethoven (which he penned under a pseudonym), 101 Dalmatians, and Flubber. Whereas his earlier work was characterized by identifiable characters and authentic situations, his later efforts were mindless, family-friendly comedies aimed at kids. Still, his best work ensures Hughes a place in the hearts of many.
Eventually, he dropped out of show biz altogether, retiring to his estate to spend time with his family. Like Candy, Hughes left us too soon. On August 6, 2009, while walking through Manhattan, he suffered a fatal heart attack. He was only 59.
Who’s your favorite Uncle Buck cast member? Do you have a favorite scene or line of dialogue? Let us know all about it in the comments.
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