1. Anthony Michael Hall had a mouth full of metal when he auditioned for the part of Rusty Griswold. The producers’ only note on his casting: “make sure he keeps the braces!” The movie marked the first of Hall’s four films with Hughes, followed by Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club and Weird Science.
2. Supermodel Christie Brinkley made her film debut as the nameless temptress in the Ferrari. Though she had only a few scenes in the movie, she was along for the ride throughout the whole shoot, spending her off-camera days horseback riding and whitewater rafting.
3. Hughes’ movies sometimes traffic in cringe-worthy racial and ethnic stereotypes. (See also: Sixteen Candles and Weird Science.) Of the scene where the Griswolds get lost in a St. Louis ghetto, director Harold Ramis has said, “This is probably the most politically incorrect sequence I’ve ever shot” and that it “dehumanizes everyone involved.” He has said he’s not sure if he’d include the scene if he were making the movie today.
4. Establishing shots of Walley World were created using matte paintings.
5. During the father-son scene in which Clark and Rusty share a beer, the beer can is actually empty and the two had to pretend to take swigs from it.
6. Ramis cast his daughter Violet as Daisy Mabel, Eddie’s silent daughter, the one born without a tongue.
7. Stunt coordinator Dick Ziker made a bet against other crew members that he would be able to jump the Family Truckster more than 50 feet during the desert scene. Ziker won the bet.
8. Chase claims that no one ever spots the gag early in the film, when Ellen and Clark are doing the dishes and the dishes never actually get washed. Ellen merely scrapes off the food, and Clark just dries them and puts them back in the cabinet.
9. Chase and James Keach, who plays the highway patrol officer, improvised much of the scene in which the two realize Clark accidentally killed Aunt Edna’s dog Dinky by forgetting to untie his leash from the rear bumper. The two are noticeably trying to stifle laughter during the scene.
10. Deleted scenes include one where campground manager Brian Doyle-Murray scared the sleeping Griswolds while disguised as a bear. (That’s the “wildlife fun” he promised when the family checked in.) Ramis ended up cutting the scene for timing reasons and had Aunt Edna’s dog Dinky attack Clark and Ellen instead.
11. Vacation opened just one week after Mr. Mom, also scripted by Hughes. The back-to-back hits led to a $30 million, three-picture deal for Hughes with Universal.
12. Chase and D’Angelo have portrayed Clark and Ellen Griswold in four Vacation movies, several commercials, and even reprising their roles for an episode of Family Guy. Randy Quaid played Cousin Eddie in three of the films and one made-for-TV movie.
13. The movie cost an estimated $15 million to produce. It grossed $61.4 million, making it the 11th highest-grossing movie of 1983.
14. The original ending had the Griswolds — who were livid over the closing of Walley World — invade Roy Walley’s house, hold him and his associates hostage, and force them to dance and singe Marty Moose songs for the family. Test audiences hated this ending, so Hughes wrote a new one in which Clark and Walley’s confrontation ends peacefully and the family gets its fun time at the park. To shoot the new finale, the cast reunited four months after principal filming had wrapped. In that time, they’d all lost their tans, and Hall had grown three inches, so that he was now taller than D’Angelo, as sharp-eyed viewers have noted. Hughes recycled the kidnapped-mogul ending in the sequel Christmas Vacation.
15. Imogene Coca, who played Aunt Edna, was hesitant about taking the role because she was worried she couldn’t be mean enough. “She was one of the sweetest ladies in the world,” Chase later said of Coca. However, producer Matty Simmons talked Coca into taking the part, assuring her she was a fantastic actress who could play any role.
16. Ramis has said the production needed five Wagon Queen Family Trucksters (which were actually modified Ford LTD Country Squire station wagons) to complete the cross-country odyssey because they took such a beating throughout the shoot. Stunt coordinator Dick Ziker won a bet during the shoot that he could jump the car more than 50 feet.
17. Jane Krakowski made her big-screen debut in Vacation at age 14 as Eddie’s daughter, Cousin Vicki.
18. Randy Quaid based Cousin Eddie’s trademark tongue click on a guy he knew in high school and marked every spot in the script where he wanted to incorporate the sound.