If you’ve ever walked out into the freezing cold and uttered “It’s a bit nipply out,” congratulations: you’re probably one of the many fans of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation—the third installment of the Vacation series. A perennial favorite, this 1989 John Hughes’s film follows Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) as he tries to make a memorable holiday for his wife Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo), son Rusty (Johnny Galecki) and daughter Audrey (Juliette Lewis). Griswaldian comedy ensues: Clark uproots a 20-foot Christmas tree, emblazons his home in blackout-inducing Christmas lights, and hosts a disastrous dinner for his family that includes surprise visitor, Cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid). Ever wonder what happened to these Christmas stars? Read on…
Chevy Chase (born Cornelius Crane Chase) was a box office star when he took on the role of Clark Griswold for the third time. He was commanding big bucks thanks to the success of Caddyshack, the first Vacation movie, and Fletch, but his career started to stall after a succession of box office bombs followed by a short-lived talk show. In 2009, however, the comedian re-entered the spotlight as Pierce Hawthorne on the acclaimed sitcom Community. His success lasted fewer than four seasons, however, as the actor engaged in a highly publicized feud with series creator Dan Harmon. Upset over the lack of attention paid to his character, he left the show, calling sitcoms “the lowest form of television.” Perhaps looking to redeem himself as a thespian, he appeared in the 2010 art house film Hot Tub Time Machine. He’ll be appearing in the upcoming sequel to that film, as well as the comedy Lovesick. The actor is on his third marriage and has three daughters.
Never mind the fact that Beverly D’Angelo appeared in Annie Hall and Coal Miner’s Daughter—she’s best known as Ellen Griswold, the ever-loyal Griswold matriarch. Following her movie success in the 80s, she went on to appear in such films as Pacific Heights, American History X, Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, and The House Bunny. In 1988, she met Al Pacino on the set of Sea of Love. The couple had twins together but never married. In 2013 she appeared in the grindhouse-inspired indie film, Bounty Killer.
Although a household name nowadays, Juliette Lewis was relatively unknown when she first appeared as Audrey Griswold. Her big hit came years later when she was cast by Martin Scorsese in his 1991 film, Cape Fear. Her largely improvised “thumb-sucking” scene with Robert De Niro punctuated an award-winning performance and led to roles on Woody Allen’s Husband and Wives, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (opposite Johnny Depp), and Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers. She has appeared consistently on both television and film, pausing only long enough to star in a cringe-worthy Gap commercial featuring Daft Punk and my dance moves from last year’s Christmas party. An outspoken Scientologist, she divorced skateboarder Steve Berra in 2003 and lives in Los Angeles. She currently stars on the network drama, The Firm.
Chevy Chase might consider television sitcoms the lowest form of comedy, but that probably doesn’t bother Johnny Galecki. Since 2007, the third actor to play Rusty Griswold is best known for his role on the CBS comedy The Big Bang Theory, in which he plays the physicist Leonard Hofstadter. His paycheck? About $300,000 an episode. Galecki had a recurring part on Roseanne for five years, as well as roles in such movies as Vanilla Sky and Hancock. He is currently dating actress Kelli Garner but was formerly linked to Big Bang Theory co-star Kaley Cuoco.
Randy Quaid’s life after Christmas Vacation seemed to be going just fine until he went full Eddie Griswold in real life. The Oscar-nominated actor followed up his role as the Hamburger Helper-loving army vet with roles in Independence Day, Kingpin, and Brokeback Mountain. Then in 2010, he and his wife were arrested for causing more than $5,000 in damage at a rental house. The couple fled to Vancouver, claiming a cabal of Hollywood executives and lawyers were out to destroy them. Still a fugitive, he has since claimed that the group has had a hand in the deaths of actors David Carradine and Heath Ledger.