American actor John Heard shot to fame as Peter McCallister, the father who unintentionally leaves his seven-year-old son behind when he takes his close and extended family on a Christmas holiday in Home Alone, the 1990 movie that made a child star of Macaulay Culkin.
Catherine O’Hara played Heard’s screen wife, Kate. “At the time, we didn’t know the movie was funny,” he said. “We were playing the parents who lost their kid, so we didn’t how funny-stupid we could be.”
The actors milked it to the full when they reprised their roles, alongside Culkin again as Kevin, in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992). Both films were massive commercial successes and remain favourites with Christmas TV viewers.
Heard (plus eyepatch) with Jeff Bridges and Ann Dusenberry in Cutter’s Way (1981)
Heard was born in Washington, son of John, who worked in the Defence Secretary’s office, and Helen (née Sperling), who acted in community theatre. On leaving Gonzaga College High School, Clark University, in Worcester, Massachusetts, he studied drama at the Catholic University of America, Washington, but left before graduating because he was impatient to get on stage.
Heard was soon performing in Broadway productions and won an Obie Award for his performance as Cassio in Othello in the 1979 New York Shakespeare Festival.
His breakthrough film role was as the disturbed Vietnam War veteran of the title in Cutter’s Way (1981). “I’m a pretty lightweight guy, and it gave me a chance to play somebody who had a little more strength,” Heard once said.
Heard with Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey in Beaches (1988)
He then played Natassja Kinski’s lover in Cat People (1982), a bartender trying to help the Mr Ordinary having a night of bizarre experiences in director Martin Scorsese’s black comedy After Hours (1985) and Geraldine Page’s son struggling to deal with his own past in The Trip to Bountiful (1985), the moving story of an elderly woman…