Talk about the ultimate family scrapbook. National Lampoon's Vacation star Dana Barron still has her copy of the first script for the 1983 comedy favorite that introduced America to the Griswold family, headed up by Chevy Chase's pratfall-prone patriarch, Clark. And the actress knows firsthand that there are some substantial differences between what screenwriter John Hughes wrote on the page and what ended up making it onscreen under the direction of Harold Ramis.
"I have the original script, so I can always go back [to it] and say, 'Oh, this is what happened,'" Barron tells Yahoo Entertainment about that first Vacation, which is arriving on 4K Ultra HD on June 27 in honor of its 40th anniversary. And she's been going back to it a lot recently as she's been working on her own behind the scenes memoir chronicling the making of the movie. "I've had to go back and relive what I remember," says Barron, who was 16 when she played the eldest Griswold child Audrey alongside Anthony Michael Hall as her younger brother Rusty and Beverly D'Angelo as their long-suffering mother, Ellen.
Watch our interview with Dana Barron on YouTube below
And some of those memories include Vacation's never-seen original ending. In the film, Clark piles his clan into their Wagon Queen Family Truckster and embarks on a wild road trip to Walley World — the happiest place on Earth not called Disneyland. Both versions of Vacation conclude with the Griswolds pulling up at the park only to discover that it's closed for maintenance. In the theatrical cut, Clark takes Walley World's hapless security guard, Russ Lasky (played by the late John Candy), hostage and squeezing in as many rides as possible before the cops show up.
But in the version of the finale that Hughes scripted and Ramis originally shot, Clark heads straight to the home of the park's owner, Roy Walley (Eddie Bracken), and takes him hostage instead. But test audiences reacted poorly to the Griswolds becoming home invaders, so Ramis quickly re-assembled the cast to shoot the alternate ending. To this day, the original ending has never been released, although Chase has said that he has a copy of it on VHS.
"I should ask Chevy to show me that, because I'm seeing him in a couple of weeks," Barron says, laughing. "I think they should have released it on this [4K edition], too, because I'm sure fans would love to see it."
In the absence of Chase's VHS footage, Barron has to rely on her own recollections — as well as her copy of the script — to reconstruct what they filmed. "I have a picture of me posing on the Truckster that's in Roy's koi pond," she says. "We storm the estate with a BB gun and Chevy makes Roy and all the executives dance and sing. That was fun, and I miss not being able to see that part."
On the other hand, Barron didn't enjoy shooting that siege in the middle of the summer. "It was extremely hot, and people were literally passing out," she recalls. "They had to give them smelling salts to wake them up!"
While she'd love to see the original ending released for historical purposes, Barron ultimately thinks that Ramis made the right call in ending the film at Walley World instead of Wally's estate. "Harold said that the first ending didn't work, because no one went to Walley World. It wasn't fun — it was a downer. The whole time we're trying to get there, and we never got to see it. Now we do!"
Because the new ending was shot months after production wrapped, there are some visible continuity errors in the Walley World finale. Hall had gone through a growth spurt, so Rusty is significantly taller than he was in the rest of the movie. And all four Griswold have lost the summertime tan they had acquired during the first round of shooting. But Candy's hilarious performance as Russ more than makes up for those discrepancies. "It was so much fun to be with John," Barron confirms. "I think the film works because everyone loves Wally World."
Barron says her forthcoming book will also correct the record about other Vacation stories that aren't quite accurate. For example, there's a fan theory that Christie Brinkley's famous "Girl in the Red Ferrari" — who becomes Clark's road crush — is actually Roy Walley's daughter, and that's why she's driving cross country as well. "That is so not true," Barron insists.
Meanwhile, on a previously recorded commentary track, Chase seems to suggest that a previous version of Clark's late night motel pool encounter with Brinkley included a kiss before they're discovered by the rest of the guests — including his embarrassed family. "That was not shot, and it was pretty much shot the way it was written," Barron remembers. "Chevy and Harold re-wrote John's script, which didn't make John very happy. But they had to make it Clark-centric; originally it was supposed to be from Rusty's point of view and they changed it to Clark's point of view and that changed the whole movie. Chevy was this huge story and he had to be the star of the film."
But Barron is also quick to note that the notoriously prickly Chase didn't bring a star's ego to set. "He was very charming and fun — no issues with him whatsoever," she says, adding that the actor took the time to pen a recommendation letter for her New York University business school application years later. "He's a kind guy, but you also have to be very quick. We did a convention once where the announcer was kind of goofing around and he pounced, because he saw a comic-timing way to have fun. You have to be quick on your toes [around him]."
Speaking of Rusty, Barron reveals that one Hall-related story beat was shot during the pool scene that didn't make the final cut. "There's a woman that Anthony is standing next to on the balcony and she was supposed to be a hooker," she says. "[Rusty] was going to go into his hotel room with her. But they cut that out — it was like, 'Not appropriate!'"
According to Barron, her then-14-year-old co-star did conspire to pull off another age-inappropriate moment behind the scenes. Early on in the film, Ramis stages a homage to Alfred Hitchock's Psycho where Clark sneaks up on his wife when she's in the shower. When he pulls back the curtain, he surprises a topless Ellen with... a banana. Meanwhile, Hall surprised everyone when it turned out he had crashed the set to see D'Angelo's nude scene.
"Being 14, Michael Hall was hiding on the set to watch his mother naked," Barron says, laughing. "He was caught by [producer] Matty Simmons, who said, 'What are you doing? You get out of here!' He was trying to spy on his mother naked! That's Vacation for you."
Sadly, Barron wasn't able to join her parents when they jetted off for their European Vacation two years later. The 1985 Amy Heckerling-directed sequel cast new actors as Audrey and Rusty after Hall was unavailable to reprise the role due to his commitment to Weird Science. "Amy said, 'We can't have the old Audrey with a new Rusty,'" she remembers. "So they got two new kids, and Matty Simmons has said it was one of the biggest mistakes in his career that he ever made." (Dana Hill and Jason Lively play the siblings in European Vacation, while Juliette Lewis and Johnny Galecki take over for 1989's Christmas Vacation and Marisol Nichols and Ethan Embry join the fray in 1997's Vegas Vacation.)
"It was sad," Barron admits. "I was like, 'My family went off and left me!'" But rather than mope in her room, she went on her own European vacation. "I was 18, so I put a backpack on my back and took myself to Europe! I thought, 'If they're not gonna take me, I'm gonna take myself." I had a great summer on vacation — like, actually on vacation."
National Lampoon's Vacation will be released on 4K Ultra HD on Tuesday, June 27.