Steve Martin, Laurie Metcalf, And More Stars Remember John Candy 30 Years After His Death


John Candy broke into the comedy scene in the 1970s, building a career that enjoyed remarkable momentum. His sudden passing a little over 20 years later would rattle the entertainment world as a testament to the lasting impact and adored impression he left on those who knew him. Steve Martin, Laurie Metcalf, and John Turtletaub are among the stars remembering John Candy 30 years after his death.

Candy was 43 years old when he died on March 4, 1994. His own father, Sidney James Candy, was just 35 when he died in 1955 of heart disease; Candy was just five years old when he lost his father and his death would leave Candy with an enduring concern about his family’s health history. Candy, who suffered from anxiety and panic attacks, passed away in his sleep from a heart attack. He had been filming Wagons East when he died.


Laurie Metcalf and Catherine O’Hara say John Candy uplifted other comedians, actors, and fans whenever he could

Laurie Metcalf remembers John Candy as a source of encouragement / YouTube screenshot

It’s not nearly often enough that the endearing persona an actor puts onscreen matches their everyday actions. To be sure, Candy, for all his easy humor, was plagued by very grim troubles of his own, from anxiety to substance abuse. But when it came to interacting with others, be it colleagues, friends, or fans, he was as sweet as his name.


RELATED: John Candy’s Talent For Comedy Masked His Dark Truth

Metcalf acted alongside Candy in 1989’s Uncle Buck, playing divorcée Marcie Dahlgren-Frost, who flirts with Candy’s titular Buck. One scene had Marcie managing to get a dance with an unenthused Buck, but Metcalf had a case of nerves the entire time.

“What I found helpful at the time was to drill the scene over and over. And I’m sure that it was the last thing he wanted to do, having appeared in probably every frame of that movie, was to spend time doing something over and over again before it was even shot,” reflected Metcalf. “But he was so patient and generous with me, and that’s what we did,” she went on. “We just worked on it together and had a lot of fun. And I think that for me sums up how big-hearted he was and what a sweetheart he was.”

SCTV, (clockwise from top left): Rick Moranis, Dave Thomas, John Candy, Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Joe Flaherty, Andrea Martin, 1976-81 / Everett Collection

Candy also encouraged his scene partners to grow as artists in their own right, to build skills they could use even when their communal project ended. “He just taught me a lot about being a great scene partner,” added Metcalf, “I was scared to death to improv with him because it’s scary to me to begin with, but then to be faced with possibly doing it with a master? No. So, I very cautiously stuck to the script. And I think he picked that up about me too. He was good at reading people and knowing what would make them comfortable.”

Catherine O’Hara, who shared the screen with Candy in Home Alone, saw him extend this same encouragement to fans on the street. “You’d be on the street with him, in a mall, and somebody would come up and just want to do a comedy bit with him,” she recalled. “and he would always pick up on it right away and give something back and see their eyes light up, like, ‘Oh, I’m doing a bit with John Candy.'”

Steve Martin and Richard Lewis are among the stars who saw John Candy as just as great a person as he was a comedian

Richard Lewis was among the stars who would remember John Candy 30 years after the Wagons East actor died / Everett Collection

Sadly, the world mourned the passing of another comedy icon, Richard Lewis, on February 27 at the age of 76. Just weeks before his own passing, Lewis was among the stars who took time to remember Candy as someone who was as upstanding as his comedic sense.

“When I would hang out with him, I would say, ‘Listen, John, let me just make believe I’m a writer at SCTV, and let me just come up with [a scenario], and you do the voice, and you do the improv.’ And he said, ‘Fine,'” shared Lewis.

“I would do things like, ‘I need a root canal, and my dentist is out. And lo and behold, Montgomery Clift is my dentist, and he’s doing the root canal, but he’s very sad because he’s upset that Marilyn Monroe passed away,'” he went on. “I’d go, ‘Action!’ and he would do Monty Clift depressed that Marilyn died, and he’s doing a root canal. I was in comedy heaven.”

PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES, Steve Martin, John Candy, 1987, (c)Paramount/courtesy Everett Collection

John Candy was repeatedly nominated for several awards, including a Saturn Award and American Comedy Award, but at the end of the day, his Planes, Trains and Automobiles costar Steve Martin remembers his boundless compassion, even 30 years after Candy died. “John’s comedy lives on,” Martin told PEOPLE, “but my memory of him has the words ‘kindness’ and ‘sweetness’ in the headlines.”

That is the twofold legacy of John Candy 30 years after his death: comedic genius and tireless kindness.

SPEED ZONE!, John Candy, 1989 / Everett Collection

RELATED: Catherine O’Hara Reveals Crush On ‘Home Alone’ Co-Star John Candy

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