It all began with 1983’s comedy National Lampoon’s Vacation, starring Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo as Clark and Ellen Griswold, whose planned trip with their children, Rusty and Audrey, to Walley World theme park goes incredibly amiss.
Now, 32 years later, the grown up Rusty (Ed Helms, The Hangover), his wife Debbie (Christina Applegate, Anchorman) and their two sons, James (Skyler Gisondo) and Kevin (Steele Stebbins) are doing their own road trip to Walley’s World in the new movie Vacation, and yes, they suffer the same fate of it going horribly wrong.
I spoke with Ed and Christina about what it means to them to carry on this popular franchise, which opens on Wednesday, July 29th.
How do you feel about stepping into the role of Rusty?
Ed: It’s an honor to step into the role. I love that Rusty is now the dad. I was super psyched to play that because, although so many great actors portrayed him as a teen, the adult Rusty has never existed before.
I looked at this character as a fully formed human being who’s well past his teenage years. I think, realistically, adults are different than the teen versions of ourselves.
So it was exciting to have a clean slate going on.
In the original movie, the wife is pretty passive. Rusty’s wife, Debbie, is very active in this. Is that one of the aspects that attracted you?
Christina: Yeah. It happens for women quite often that we play the straight man. I’ve done it for many moons. But it’s always important to me because I love being on a set, I love working, and I like having fun.
It’s just fun to me being funny, but I also need a character to have a life. I really needed Debbie to have a [past], because we all have [one]. We’re kids of the seventies, eighties and nineties, we’ve been exposed to a great deal of things.
Most of the moms I know are great parents because they’ve had a past. So I wanted Debbie to surprise the audience with her being game for things that aren’t the norm.
Working together, did you find there was a rapport immediately or was it something you had to work at?
Christina: [It was there] immediately, for the four of us.
The four of us spent a great deal of time together in that car, so if the personalities and the energies didn’t jive it would have been a tedious process.
We were a little family. We had so much fun, I wouldn’t have wanted it to be any other people than the ones that I got.
Ed: I met Christina at the table read for the movie. We’re both a little sarcastic, we both started making fun of each other right away and I think that our comfort just clicked instantly and we had a blast. She’s brilliant, I was in awe of her the whole time.
How did it feel working with Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo in this?
Ed: It was a dream come true for me. The original Vacation is one of a handful of movies that are the reason I do what I do.
I just love those movies and that world so much, and Chevy and Beverly are a huge part of that.
So meeting them was a huge thrill, and then being able to work with them and be collaborative and funny was incredible.
Do you have a bad vacation memory as a child?
Christina: Gosh, no. I grew up as an only child with a single parent, so we didn’t go on a lot of vacations.
So any time that I did spend with my mom, anywhere we did go, was great, because it was the two of us against the world. That’s how we rolled on that one.
All of my memories are pretty great, of going to New York City and going to Laguna.
She did take me to Tijuana once when I was seven, which was a strange choice. It was still fun, but I was little and I just remember chickens in the road.
Ed: I have two older siblings, and we took one family trip when I was eight where we flew from Atlanta to Denver and then drove all across the western United States for two weeks in a rented Oldsmobile, the five of us.
There are beautiful sights in the American west, the Grand Canyon, the Tetons, but there were thousands of miles of bleak desert where we almost killed each other on those drives.
My brother and I got so bored we were eating grapes and we put them in the window and tried to make raisins. It didn’t work.
Check back tomorrow to hear…