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Trivia / Planes, Trains and Automobiles

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  • Actor-Inspired Element: Dylan Baker created the Owen character himself. The snorts, facial tics, and twisted expressions are all his own making. Lulie Newcomb, who played his silent wife, said it was extremely difficult to keep a straight face while filming the scene with him.
  • Awesome, Dear Boy
    • Steve Martin was convinced to join the production after favoring two scenes he had read from the script; the seat adjustment-scene in the car, and the F-word tirade at the car rental desk.
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    • John Candy claimed that it wasn't one specific part of the script that convinced him to come on the project, but his opinion that all of Del's lines read like things he'd actually say and think.
  • Billing Displacement: Although he receives fourth billing, Michael McKean appears in only one scene, and is on-screen for ninety seconds.
  • Cast the Runner-Up: Steve Martin and John Candy were cast in each other's roles.
  • Creator's Favorite Episode: Both John Candy and Steve Martin called their performances their favorites of their entire careers.
  • Deleted Role:
    • Jeri Ryan was cast, but her part was cut from the final release.
    • Debra Lamb's role was cut from the final finished version of the film.
  • Deleted Scene: Watching the movie on TV gets you an extra scene where Neal struggles to eat his airplane dinner.
  • Dyeing for Your Art: John Candy got his hair permed for the role.
  • Hey, It's That Place!:
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    • The real life house used as Neal's house is in the same neighborhood as the house used for Kevin McCallister's house in Home Alone, which Hughes wrote and produced.
    • The rural train station, where Neal and Del buy the tickets for their ill-fated train ride, is the same station seen in The Natural. It's located in South Dayton, New York.
  • Method Acting: According to Lulie Newcomb, who played Owen's wife, Owen wiping spit from his face before shaking Neal's hand was unscripted. Dylan Baker (Owen) learned that Steve Martin, like Neal, was something of a neat freak, so he did that to generate an actual reaction of disgust.
  • Mid-Development Genre Shift: The original plot involved Del Griffith being a bungling vampire bent on trying to get Neal Page to invite him into his family's house (vampires can only enter a house if they've been invited). John Hughes was so impressed with the on-screen chemistry between John Candy and Steve Martin, that he removed the vampire plot from the script, in favor of a more wholesome Thanksgiving theme.
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  • Missing Trailer Scene: A scene that is not included in the movie, but featured in the trailer, shows Del in the bathroom of the first motel he and Neal are staying in. In the scene he does, among other things, an impersonation of Elvis Presley in which he sings into his hair brush.
  • Orphaned Reference: Due to more than half of the film's original running time being cut, a number of gags, subplots and even characters don't get their intended setup, requiring some creative editing choices to help fill in the blanks.
    • The scenes on the airplane originally ran longer and gave more credence to Neil's accusation that Del told too many boring, irrelevant stories. After asking Neil about his career, Del would ramble about his own, which eventually devolves into rambling about Psycho, intrusive personal questions about Neil's showers and a Prince biography he'd just read before Neil politely asks for some quiet. Del's response that he also hates when someone else talks his ear off would have been more of a "Here We Go Again!" joke as a result. The airplane food scene (the only deleted scene to be properly released) would have also served this purpose.
    • The guy who breaks into Neil and Del's room and steals their cash while they're asleep was originally a pizza delivery guy getting revenge on Del and Neil after Del had given him a paltry tip of one dollar. In pennies. Del would have been shown paying for the pizza with Neil's money, albeit with Neil's permission, which Neil mentions the following morning when he assumes Del robbed him. The exploding beer can Neil mentions was also shown as they'd eat, as the script called it, "the ugliest pizza ever."
    • There was going to be an ongoing subplot that Neil's wife was under the assumption that "Del" was made-up and the real reason Neil hadn't come home was because he was having an affair, not helped by the fact that Neil's coworker John (the one who'd told him that Neil would't make his 6 PM flight) had returned home on time, having waited out the Chicago blizzard that diverted Neil's flight to Kansas. Her crying Tears of Joy upon Neil's return and welcoming Del with a warm "Hello, Mr. Griffith." was meant to show her relief that Neil was telling the truth.
    • Why does Del have a black eye when he comes to tell Neil that he found a trucker who's willing to give him a ride home? In the final film, Del's line that the driver is uncomfortable letting people ride up front implies that the driver punched him out of paranoia, but in the original cut, it's Neil who gives it to him, after the state trooper who pulls them over informs the pair that they "overshot" Chicago during the night and are in the middle of Wisconsin.
  • Playing Against Type: Unlike most of John Hughes' writing and directing works during the '80s, this film focuses on adults rather than teenagers.
  • Screwed by the Lawyers: Elton John and lyricist Gary Osborne were commissioned to compose the theme song for the film. They had nearly completed writing it when, just two days before they were to record it, Paramount Pictures issued a last minute demand that the original song master become property of the studio. Elton's record company, Polygram, would not allow this as he was under contractual obligation to give Polygram rights to all his released music. Paramount and Polygram could not reach a deal in the impasse, both composers withdrew from the project and the song was never recorded. Paramount instead opted to license Paul Young's cover of "Everytime You Go Away" as the movie's theme song, but because Young's record company, Columbia Records, wouldn't allow it, a different cover was recorded in its place (Young, a huge fan of both Steve Martin and John Candy, later said that he was quite upset about this).
  • Shout-Out: Del's rental car looks like a smaller version of the Wagon Queen Family Truckster.
  • Technology Marches On: If mobile phones were as common back when this movie was made as they are today, things would have been different for Neal. Or at the very least, his trip wouldn't have been as troublesome: for one thing, it would have been much easier to call or text his wife to give her regular updates on his ETA, and finding the next flight or the nearest hotel is as easy as opening an app. On the other hand, Neal seems the type who would not only run the battery on his mobile devices into the ground in order to keep working on the go but also be too impatient to stop to charge it somewhere, nor would he be resourceful enough to think of bringing a charger. Meanwhile, a traveling salesman like Del would most likely be able to afford a cheap flip phone only capable of making calls (interestingly enough, the 2010 film Due Date still manages to borrow heavily from this film despite having been made in the internet age).
  • Throw It In!: A twofer for the car rental scene. It was Edie McClurg's idea to have her character be on the phone when Neal walks up to her, just to make Neal have to wait longer. Originally she was on the phone with another customer, but John Hughes suggested that she be taking a personal call in order to twist the knife just a bit further for Neal. Her phone conversation seen in the film was completely ad-libbed.
  • Troubled Production: The experience of making the film was not a happy one for John Hughes as many shooting days would either be lost or delayed due to weather issues or having to work around certain loopholes (for example, a sequence involving a train had change shooting locations due to a lack of snow and the crew had to create a train route from scratch as the local train company wouldn't allow them to use theirs). Also, the rough cut ran over three hours and the film spent many months in post-production so to cut the film to a manageable length (this is also why there are a few references to Hughes's next film, She's Having a Baby, as it begun production right after this film finished filming). In addition to these problems, Hughes was also smarting over the fact that his long term business relationship with Molly Ringwald had gone sour after she turned down the Lea Thompson role of Amanda Jones in Some Kind of Wonderful. Hughes was so upset over the rejection that he never worked with Ringwald again for the rest of his life.
  • Unintentional Period Piece
    • Neal's Cluster F-Bomb includes a demand for a Datsun. Just a couple years earlier Nissan had ditched the "Datsun" name in North America and began marketing their cars under their own name, and a lot of their marketing at the time reflected this. (Indeed, Nissan's slogan in 1987 was, "The Name is Nissan!")
    • Several scenes depict characters smoking inside places of business (restaurants, hotels) and on a bus, both of which would become illegal in 1998. The airplane scene manages to avoid this by clearly showing Del chewing gum (rather noisily, as per his character) during the flight.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • John Hughes originally wanted Tom Hanks for the role of Neal Page and John Travolta for the role of Del Griffith. But Hanks was unavailable as he was busy shooting Big and Paramount executives did not want Travolta, whose career had taken a considerable dip in the '80s after starring in such flops as Two of a Kind (1983) (this being before his Career Resurrection with Look Who's Talking and Pulp Fiction).
    • Rick Moranis was considered for Neal Page. Had he been cast, it would have reunited him with his SCTV co-star John Candy. Meanwhile, John Goodman was considered for Del Griffith. Had both Goodman and Moranis been cast, it would have presaged their casting as Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble in The Flintstones.
    • The original ending was slightly different. Neal would have stayed on his train and gotten off at his local station, only to find Del sitting there. Del would reveal he took a cab there specifically so he could tell Neal the truth about his wife and living situation, causing Neal to take pity on him and bring him back home for Thanksgiving dinner. It was decided it made Del come across as too clingy and unsympathetic, so the crew used editing and blooper footage of Steve Martin on the train to have Neal realize the truth himself and go back to the downtown Chicago train station to confirm his suspicions and bring Del with him.
    • The original screenplay also contains a subplot where Neal's marriage is suggested to be in trouble, with his wife Susan increasingly skeptical of his increasingly outlandish adventures and beginning to suspect him of having an affair, to the point where she was planning to leave him before meeting Del and realising he was telling the truth.
  • Word of God: John Hughes said in 1999 that several of his movies, including Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and Planes, Trains And Automobiles, are all a part of the same universe. According to Hughes, Del lived two houses away from John Bender.
  • Write What You Know: John Hughes was inspired to write the film's story after an actual flight from New York to Chicago he was on was diverted to Wichita, Kansas, thus taking him five days to get home.

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