8 Surprising Facts About John Candy

George Rose, Getty Images
George Rose, Getty Images

It’s difficult for any one actor to win over every member of a filmgoing audience, but comic performer John Candy (1950-1994) might be a rare exception. A perpetual presence in a string of 1980s comedies from National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983) to Uncle Buck (1989), the gregarious Candy mixed humor and heart in his roles, making him one of the decade’s most likable onscreen talents. For more on Candy, including a potential role in a Sylvester Stallone movie and his involvement in a Saturday morning cartoon, keep reading.

1. John Candy is an Emmy winner.

Actors John Candy and Joel Grey attend the American Comedy Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California
John Candy with Joel Grey at the American Comedy Awards.
Joan Adlen/Getty Images

Born in Toronto, Canada on October 31, 1950, John Candy was just 4 years old when his father, Sidney, passed away at age 35. Both John and older brother Jim were raised by their mother Evangeline, with help from his aunt and grandparents. As a kid, Candy excelled in football, where his size made him a formidable opponent. Then he discovered acting. After dropping out of Centennial Community College, Candy took the advice of his friend, Dan Aykroyd, and joined the Second City comedy troupe in Chicago in 1971. In 1974, he came back to Toronto to perform with Second City’s Canadian arm. By 1977, the group’s television series, SCTV, became a hit on Canadian television, and Candy got notices for playing everyone from director Orson Welles to Luciano Pavarotti. When SCTV began airing in America in 1981, Candy earned two Emmys for his writing contributions to the show. The success of the series drew the attention of Hollywood, who began casting him in bits parts in films like The Blues Brothers (1980) and Stripes (1981).

2. John Candy was asked to be in Ghostbusters.

By 1983, the year Ghostbusters began shooting, Candy had proven to be a popular supporting player in comedies. It was only natural that producers of a big-budget project involving his friend Dan Aykroyd, who co-wrote the script and played paranormal investigator Ray Stantz, would seek out Candy for a part. The film’s director, Ivan Reitman, sent Candy a treatment and asked if he would be interested in the role of inquisitive neighbor Louis Tully. Reitman was surprised when Candy told him he wasn’t interested.

“He didn’t like the treatment I had sent,” Reitman said in 2014. “He didn’t get it. He said, ‘Well, maybe if I played him as a German guy who had a bunch of German shepherd dogs.’” Reitman didn’t feel the Tully role required that much heavy lifting. The part eventually went to Rick Moranis, Candy’s SCTV co-star.

3. Splash was John Candy’s ticket to Hollywood.

Tom Hanks and John Candy in Splash (1984)
Tom Hanks and John Candy in Splash (1984).
Buena Vista

Splash, the 1984 film in which Candy plays Freddy Bauer, whose brother Allen (Tom Hanks) falls for mermaid Madison (Daryl Hannah), was a hit, and critics were kind to Candy’s turn as the supporting comic relief. (Curiously, Hanks originally auditioned for Freddy Bauer but was moved to the lead role.) The success of the film led to Candy's first starring role in 1985’s Summer Rental, one of three movies (including Brewster’s Millions and Volunteers) that year. Unfortunately, all three failed to meet box office expectations, though Candy eventually rebounded with John Hughes's holiday buddy comedy Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, co-starring Steve Martin.

4. John Candy didn’t like watching himself on camera.

Film premieres were a source of stress for Candy, who disliked seeing himself on screen. According to his son, Chris, his father avoided his own movies whenever he could. “He put a lot of effort and love into everything he did, but he didn’t like going to the premieres,” Chris told The Hollywood Reporter in 2016. “He had a hard time watching the final product.” Instead, Candy would send his wife, Rosemary, to screenings and ask her which parts the audience laughed at.

5. John Candy spent 24 hours straight on the set of Home Alone.

Candy and director and writer John Hughes were frequent collaborators whose joint work included Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987) and Uncle Buck (1989). Candy happily agreed to film a cameo role for 1990’s Home Alone, which Hughes had written, playing Gus Polinski, a polka musician who helps Kate McCallister (Catherine O'Hara) get back home to her son Kevin (Macaulay Culkin). With only a day of shooting scheduled, Candy improvised with director Chris Columbus for nearly 24 hours straight. Reportedly, Candy was paid scale—essentially the actor’s version of minimum wage—for the work as a favor to his friend Hughes. O’Hara, Candy's co-star and former SCTV colleague, told Chicago magazine in 2015 that most of the footage was unusable. “[Chris] laughed and said, ‘You’re supposed to be looking for your kid, and you’re just having a good time with these guys in a truck.”

6. John Candy almost made a movie with Sylvester Stallone.

All actors have films that got away from them for one reason or another. Among the more intriguing what-ifs in Candy’s career was Bartholomew vs. Neff, a comedy in which he would have played a neighbor feuding with fellow homeowner Sylvester Stallone. The comedy, which was announced in 1990 and had John Hughes attached as director, was never made.

7. John Candy had his own animated series.

At the height of his popularity in the late 1980s, Candy agreed to lend his name and likeness to Camp Candy, a Saturday morning cartoon that debuted on NBC in the fall of 1989. Candy voiced a camp counselor at a summer getaway for kids and appeared in live-action segments at the beginning and end of each episode. Candy also invited his children, Jen and Chris, to do voiceover work. It ran for three seasons.

8. John Candy co-owned a football franchise.

Though he hadn’t played since he was a kid, Candy still had a love for football. In 1991, he became a minority shareholder in the Toronto Argonauts, a team in the Canadian Football League (CFL). Candy and fellow investor Wayne Gretzky put up 10 percent each of the $5 million purchase price, with Candy using his fame to promote the team.

Thanks in large part to Candy's efforts, attendance went up and so did morale. Candy was thrilled when the Argonauts won the 1991 Grey Cup, the Canadian equivalent of the Super Bowl. The team was eventually sold off by its principal owners in 1994, the same year Candy passed away of a heart attack at age 43.

This Smart Accessory Converts Your Instant Pot Into an Air Fryer


If you can make a recipe in a slow cooker, Dutch oven, or rice cooker, you can likely adapt it for an Instant Pot. Now, this all-in-one cooker can be converted into an air fryer with one handy accessory.

This Instant Pot air fryer lid—currently available on Amazon for $80—adds six new cooking functions to your 6-quart Instant Pot. You can select the air fry setting to get food hot and crispy fast, using as little as 2 tablespoons of oil. Other options include roast, bake, broil, dehydrate, and reheat.

Many dishes you would prepare in the oven or on the stovetop can be made in your Instant Pot when you switch out the lids. Chicken wings, French fries, and onion rings are just a few of the possibilities mentioned in the product description. And if you're used to frying being a hot, arduous process, this lid works without consuming a ton of energy or heating up your kitchen.

The lid comes with a multi-level air fry basket, a broiling and dehydrating tray, and a protective pad and storage cover. Check it out on Amazon.

For more clever ways to use your Instant Pot, take a look at these recipes.

At Mental Floss, we only write about the products we love and want to share with our readers, so all products are chosen independently by our editors. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a percentage of any sale made from the links on this page. Prices and availability are accurate as of the time of publication.

Q&A: Kristen Bell Celebrates Diversity In Her New Kid's Book, The World Needs More Purple People

Jim Spellman/Getty Images
Jim Spellman/Getty Images

Kristen Bell is one of those household names that brings to mind a seemingly endless list of outstanding performances in both TV and film. She is Veronica Mars. She is the very memorable Sarah Marshall. She's the voice of Gossip Girl. She just recently wrapped up her NBC series The Good Place. Your nieces and nephews likely know her as Princess Anna from the Frozen films. She also has one of the most uplifting and positive presences on social media.

Now, adding to her long list of accomplishments, Kristen Bell is the published author of a new children’s book called The World Needs More Purple People. Born out of seeing how cultural conversations were skewing more toward the things that divide us, the new picture book—which Bell co-authored with Benjamin Hart—encourages kids to see what unites us all as humans.

We spoke with Kristen Bell about what it means to be a purple person, her new animated series Central Park, and becoming a foster failure. We also put her knowledge of sloths to the test.

How did The World Needs More Purple People book come to be?

Basically my genius buddy, Ben Hart, and I were looking around and sort of seeing how our children were watching us debate healthily at the dinner table, which is fine. But it occurred to us that everything they were seeing was a disagreement. And that’s because that can be fun for adults, but it’s not a good basis for kids to start out on. We realized we were not really giving our kids a ton of examples of us, as adults, talking about the things that bring us together. So The World Needs More Purple People was born.

Book cover of Kristen Bell and Benjamin Hart's 'The World Needs More Purple People'
Random House via Amazon

We decided to create a roadmap of similarities to give kids a jumping off point of how to look for similarities ... [because] if you can see similarities, you’re more likely to walk through the world with an open mind. But if you walk into a conversation seeing only differences, your mind is going to think differently of that person’s opinion and you just never know when you’re going to hear an opinion that might enlighten you. So we wanted to give kids this roadmap to follow to basically say, “Here are some great features that no one can argue with. Have these features and you’ll have similarities with almost everyone on the planet.”

Part of the reason I love the book so much is because it encourages kids to ask questions, even if they're silly. What are some silly questions you’ve had to answer for your kids?

Oh my god. How much time do you have? Once she asked in rapid fire: Is Santa Claus real? Why is Earth? Who made dogs?

How do you even answer that?

It was too much; I had to walk away. Kids have a ton of questions, and as they get older and more verbal, the funny thing that happens is they get more insecure. So we wanted to encourage the question-asking, and also encourage the uniqueness of every child. Which is why Dan Wiseman, who did our illustrations, really captured this middle point between Ben and I. Ben is very sincere, and I am very quirky. And I feel like the illustrations were captured brilliantly because we also wanted a ton of diversity because that is what the book is about.

The book is about seeing different things and finding similarities. Each kid in the book looks a little bit different, but also a little bit the same. The message at the end of the book is with all these features that you can point out and recognize in other people—loving to laugh, working really hard, asking great questions ... also know that being a purple person means being uniquely you in the hopes that kids will recognize that purple people come in every color.

What was it like behind-the-scenes of writing a children’s book with two little girls at home? Were they tough critics?

Shockingly, no. They did not have much interest in the fact that I was writing a children’s book until there were pictures. Then they were like, “Oh now I get it.” But prior to that, when I’d run the ideas by them, they were not as interested. But I did read it to them. They gave me the two thumbs up. Ben has two kids as well, and all our kids are different ages. Once we got the thumbs up from the 5-year-old, the 7-year-old, the 8-year-old, and the 11-year-old, we thought, “OK, this is good to go.”

I hope that people, and kids especially, really do apply this as a concept. We would love to see this as a curriculum going into schools if they wanted to use it to ask: What happened today in your life that was purple? What could you do to make tomorrow more purple? Like as a concept of a way of living.

Weirdly, writing a children’s book was a way of getting to the adults. If it’s a children’s book, there is a high probability an adult is going to either be reading it to you or be there while you’re reading it—which means you’re getting two demographics. If we had just written a novel about this kind of concept, we’d never reach the kids. But by writing a kid's book, we also access the adults.

Your new show Central Park looks so incredible. What can you tell us about the show and your character Molly?

I am so excited for the show to come out. I’ve seen it and it is exceptional. It is so, so, so funny and so much fun. I signed on because I got a phone call from my friend Josh Gad, who said, “I’m going to try to put together a cartoon for us to work on.” And I said, “Yes. Goodbye.” And he and Loren Bochard, who created Bob’s Burgers, took basically all of our friends—Leslie Odom Jr., Stanley Tucci, Kathryn Hahn, Tituss Burgess, Daveed Diggs, and myself—and created a family who lives in the middle of Central Park.

I play a teenager named Molly who is very socially awkward but has this incredible, relentlessly creative, vivacious personality going on only inside her head … and it’s a musical! So, she's awkward on the outside but when she sings her songs she really comes to life. And she's a comic book artist, so the cartoon often switches to what she's seeing in her head.

It's so funny and Josh Gad plays this busker who lives in Central Park, who is the narrator. Stanley Tucci plays this older woman named Bitsy who is trying to build a shopping mall in the center of Central Park, and the family’s job is to basically save Central Park. But the music is so incredible. We’ve got two music writers, Kate Anderson and Elyssa Samsel, who write the majority of the music, but we also have guest writers that come in every episode. So Sara Bareilles wrote some music and Cyndi Lauper wrote some music. It is such a fun show.

My husband, who does not like cartoons or musicals, watched the first couple of episodes, and he looked at me and said, “You’ve got something really special in your hands.” And he doesn’t like anything. It made me so happy. I cannot wait until this show comes out, I am so proud of it.

What was it like to reunite with Josh Gad on another musical animated series that isn't Frozen?

Josh and I talk a lot, and we had a lot of behind-the-scenes conversations about how we can work together again, just because we adore each other. And part of it is because we get along socially, and part of it is because we trust each other comedically. He's a creator and writer more so than I am, so I usually leave it up to him and say, "What’s our next project?" We have other things in the pipeline we would love to do together, but [Central Park] was an immediate yes because I trust how he writes. Josh is at every single one of my recording sessions; he is very hands-on with the shows that he does or produces or creates. I trust him as much as I trust my husband, creatively, and that’s saying a lot.

Given your well-documented love of sloths, we do have to throw out a few true or false questions about sloths and put your knowledge to the test …

Oh my gosh. OK, now I'm nervous. Hit me.

True or false: Sloths fart more than humans.

Fart more than humans?


I’m going to say it's true.

It’s actually false. Sloths don’t fart at all. They might be the only mammal on the planet that does not fart.

You’re kidding. Another reason to love them. You know, I was trying to think medically about it. I know they only poop once a week and that if you only go poop once a week ... I thought, “Well in order to keep your GI healthy, perhaps you have to have some sort of flow from the top to the bottom during the seven-day waiting period until you release.”

True or false: Sloths are so slow that algae sometimes grows on them.

One hundred percent true. In the wild, they’re always covered in algae and it helps their fur, all those microorganisms. But in zoos, they don’t have it.

Nice. OK, last one. True or false: Sloths poop from trees.

No way. They go down to the ground, and they rub their little tushies on the ground, and then they go back up.

You are correct.

I know a fair amount about sloths but the farting thing was new. My kids will be excited to hear that.

We heard recently that you are a part of the “foster failure” club. What went wrong? Erright?

Well, what I learned from Veronica Mars is you root for and cherish and uplift the underdog always. And my first foster failure was in 2018; I found the most undesirable dog that existed on the planet. She is made of toothpicks, it is impossible for her to gain weight. She has one eye. She looks like a walking piece of garbage. Her name is Barbara. She's 11 years old. And I saw a picture of her online and I said, “Yes. I just want to bring her over. I don’t even need to know anything else about her other than this picture," which was the most hideous picture. I mean it looks like a Rorschach painting or something. It was so awful. I was like, “She’s mine. I’ll take care of her. I’ve got this.” And it turns out she is quite lovely even though she can be pretty annoying. But she is our Barbara Biscuit, and she is one of the most charismatic dogs I have ever met. She piddles wherever she damn well pleases. So that is a bummer, because she is untrainable, but we love her.

That was our first failure. Then last year, we genuinely attempted to just foster a dog named Frank. And about two weeks in, I realized Frank was in love with me—like in a human way. He thought he was my boyfriend.

Oh no …

I just felt like … I didn’t even want a new dog—well I shouldn’t say that, because I always want all the dogs—but we weren’t planning on getting a new dog. But I had to have a conversation with my family and I said, “I think it’s going to be like child separation if I separate him. We have to keep him.” And sure enough, he can’t be more than two feet from me at any time during the day.

Does he still give you “the eyes”?

Oh my gosh. Bedroom eyes all day long. I can’t sit down without him like … not even just sitting comfortably in my lap. He has to have my arm in his mouth or part of my hair in his mouth. He’s trying to get back in my womb or something.

That’s love.

Yeah, I said, “What am I going to do? The guy is in love with me. He can live here.” So there is foster failure number two.

Wow, so it’s Frank and Barbara.

Frank and Barbara. And we also have Lola, a 17-year-old corgi-chow chow mix. Who I have had since she was one-and-a-half, who was also a pound puppy. She is our queen bee.

Before you go, we do this thing on Twitter called #HappyHour, where we ask our followers some get-to-know-you questions. If you could change one rule in any board game, what would it be?

I am obviously going to Catan ... oh I know exactly what I would do. In Catan, I would allow participants to buy a city without buying a settlement first. In Catan, you have to upgrade from a settlement to a city first, which is a waste of cards. If you have the cards for a city, you should be able to buy a city.

What was your favorite book as a child?

My favorite book as a child was Are You My Mother?

Aw, I love that one. I forgot about Are You My Mother?

It’s a good one.