What the Cast of Christmas Vacation Is Up to Now

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation was released on Dec. 1, 1989 and launched the careers of stars like Johnny Galecki and Juliette Lewis

By Tierney Bricker 01 Dec, 2019 11:00 AMTags

It's officially December, so you know what that means: you can finally play Christmas movies and music without fear of (unwarranted) judgment.

And what better movie to start with than National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, which celebrates its 30th anniversary on Dec. 1? Released in 1989 and starring Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo, Christmas Vacation with the third film in the wildly popular Vacation franchise, but has since gone on to become the most enduring, thanks to its hilarious holiday hijinks, relatable family drama and iconic scenes and quotes. 

"I think that there was a little phenomenon with it where it was the third movie in the series, but it made more than the second one. Which is unusua," D'Angelo, the Griswold family matriarch, told Rolling Stone of the film's surprising success and legacy. "I didn't know that was going to happen. The first Vacation was rated R, but then this phenomena happened that people brought their kids and instead of saying, 'Look at these people,' the audience went,'"This is us.'"

Directed by Jeremiah S. Chechik and written by John Hughes, Christmas Vacation found the Griswolds welcoming both sides of the family for the holiday season, including some unexpected guests. (We're looking at you, Cousin Eddie.)

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What the Cast of Christmas Vacation Is Up to Now

While it served as several cast members' return to the franchise, it also marked the breakout film for newcomers Johnny Galecki, then 13, and Juliette Lewis, then 15, who played Griswold offspring Russ and Audrey and would both go on to become household names.

"This was such a seminal part of my career, and understanding of comedy and life in general," Galecki recalled of his experience filming the classic. "I remember practically every day."

So what has the stacked cast of Christmas Vacation been up to since enduring that infamous Christmas of 1989? 

Chevy Chase

After becoming one of the top names in comedy thanks to his short-but-celebrated tenure on Saturday Night Live (as one of the original cast members in 1975 and the first anchor for Weekend Update before leaving one year later) and starring roles in hits like Caddyshack and Three Amigos, Chase was already a marquee name when he tried to give his family the "hap, hap happiest" holiday season as Clark Griswold, his third outing as the iconic character. Chase, now 76, would go on to reprise the role in Vegas Vacation, his last starring role in National Lampoon's film (though he did make a cameo in 2015's Vacation).

"Chevy was a hard worker, incredibly committed, and wanted the movie to be great. That's the key," producer Tom Jacobson told Rolling Stone of the film's leading man, with Galecki recalling, "He was so supportive, teaching me comic timing. That took a patience and consideration because the movie would have been funny enough without Rusty having that specific timing. He was terribly generous with me."

Chase would return to host SNL eight times after his early exit and would host his own talk show (that was canceled after just five weeks) before making a comedic comeback in 2009 thanks to NBC's cult sitcom Community. But in 2012, Chase left the series in dramatic fashion, making headlines for his feud with the show's creator Dan Harmon and a scathing voicemail he left that was filled with expletives that was leaked.

Beverly D'Angelo

Beside every frazzled dad is a mom that needs to keep the family together, and the Vacation series, that woman was D'Angelo's Ellen Griswold. After starring opposite Chase in four Vacation outings, D'Angelo would go on to earn an Oscar nomination for her performance in American History X and had a recurring role on HBO's hit series Entourage, playing agent Barbara Miller. 

D'Angelo was in a relationship with Al Pacino for seven years, with the couple welcoming twins Olivia and Anton in 2001 before splitting in 2003. 

The 68-year-old actress reprised her role as Ellen alongside Chase in Vacation, the 2015 addition to the franchise starring Ed Helms and Christina Applegate. Around the same time, the onscreen couple was looking to make a TV show together titled Chev & Bev that would find them playing grandparents whose plans for retirement are thrown for a loop when have to raise their grandchildren. While ABC initially ordered a pilot, they chose not to pick it up to series.

"We've gone through so many things together. We tried to do a TV show a couple years ago. It was a nightmare," she told the A.V. Club. "I was so mad at him when we were shooting the pilot. And it was over, and it was like, thank god, now I can go back to loving him. That's a long-term friendship."

Johnny Galecki

After his run as Clark's trusty son Rusty Griswold, Galecki went on to star on Billy, ABC's spinoff of Head of the Class, before joining the cast of Roseanne as David, Darlene's boyfriend, for five years from 1992-97.

Ten years later, Galecki's other iconic sitcom began its run on CBS: The Big Bang Theory. During its 12-year-run, Galecki, 44, earned an Emmy nomination for his turn as Leonard and quietly dated his co-star Kaley Cuoco for two years.

As for just how big the Big Bang was for Galecki, Forbes reported he was the world's second highest-paid TV actor by Forbes, bringing in $25 million. Bazinga!

Just getting started in the business, Galecki told Rolling Stone that just getting to audition for Rusty opposite Chase was enough for him at the time. "I could have been given my walking papers and sent home on the next flight and it still would have been a dream come true," he recalled. "Chevy told me right there in the room that I had gotten the role."

Juliette Lewis

Lewis eventually thawed out, moving on from Angela Griswold, her first major film role, to her Oscar-nominated breakout performance in 1991's Cape Fear. After that, Lewis appeared in a string of hits, including What's Eating Gilbert Grape, Natural Born Killers and From Dusk Till Dawn. 

In 2003, Lewis, 46, added musician to her resume with her rock band Juliette and the Licks before releasing her own solo music in 2009.

"I haven't seen the movie in 20 years, but I do get to relive aspects of it by other people talking to me about it and I just adore that. I love that I'm part of a Christmas classic," Lewis told Rolling Stone of being in the film. "As a youngster, you don't think past that week. Now, as 40 year-old Juliette, I think back and say to myself, 'I was a Griswold. How cute.'"

Randy Quaid

"S--tter's full." 

After his scene-stealing turn as Cousin Eddie, Clark's inappropriate, offensive and hilarious redneck relative that appeared in four of the seven Vacation films, making his final appearance as the iconic character in the 2003 made-for-TV movie spinoff National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie's Island Adventure. In 2005, Quaid, whose estranged brother is film star Dennis Quaid, earned Globe Globe and Emmy nominations for his turn as Elvis Presley's manager in the CBS miniseries Elvis.

In 2010, Quaid and his wife Evi Quaid, whom he married in 1989, fled to Canada and were considered "fugitives from justice" in California after refusing to appear in court over alleged felony vandalism (and several arrests). In a headline-making interview, Quaid claimed "Hollywood star whackers" were out to get him. After the couple was arrested for trying to cross the border from Canada into Vermont in 2015, a judge in Vermont dismissed the fugitives of justice charge but ordered the couple to stay in the state, which they have.

"I loved working with Randy on all of the Vacation movies," Chase told Rolling Stone in 2014 of his former co-star. "I never even got a hint there was anything going on emotionally or physiologically with him. He just gets right into it."

Miriam Flynn

Ever wonder what woman could possibly be in love with Cousin Eddie? Well, meet Cousin Catherine. 

Flynn appeared alongside Quaid in almost of the Vacation films, including starring in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation 2 (though she didn't appear in European Vacation).  Flynn was grateful for fans to get to learn more about the couple in their own spinoff as a scene was cut from Christmas Vacation, she revealed to Rolling Stone

"There's one scene that didn't make it to the film and I so wish it had. It's a scene where Randy and I are in the infamous motor home and you get to see what our lives are like inside. That was a riot, but at the time it had to be cut."

Also known for her voice-work, Flynn, 67, voiced Maa in the hit film Babe, and provided her vocals to series like The Land Before Time and Family Guy. She also had a recurring role on the sitcom Grounded For Life.

Married since 1977, Flynn and husband Will Aldis have two children together. 

Cody Burger

Burger, now 36, would go on to appear in just three more projects after his time as Rocky, Cousin Eddie's son, with his final film role being in 1995's Heavyweights. He later attended Florida State University. 

Ellen Latzen

Oh, Ruby Sue! Like her on-screen brother, Latzen only appeared in three more projects before retiring from acting after her breakout performance in 1987's Fatal Attraction

After attending California College of Arts and Crafts in San Francisco, Latzen, now 39, hosts a podcast 

She also has this A+ Instagram bio: "Fell in a well, eyes went crossed. Got kicked by a mule, they went back to normal."

Julia Louis-Dreyfus

"Why is the carpet all wet, Todd?" Pity the bougie couple that lives next door to Clark Griswold, right? 

JLD played Margo, one-half of the scene-stealing neighbor couple, just one year before landing her breakout role as Elaine Benes on this little show you may have heard of called Seinfeld. Arguably TV's most beloved sitcom of all time, Louis-Dreyus won a Golden Globe and an Emmy during the show's nine seasons, with the 1998 series finale attracting 76 million viewers. 

Turns out, the star was just getting started. In addition to scene-stealing turns on Arrested Development, 30 Rock and Curb Your Enthusiasm, Louis-Dreyus, 58, earned critical acclaim and more trophies for her CBS sitcom The New Adventures of Old Christine.But that was just another warm-up for her turn as Selina Meyer on HBO's hit series Veep, a role that won her six consecutive Emmys for Best Actress in a Comedy, and she now holds the record for most wins as an actor for the same role. All hail the queen of comedy!

In September 2017, just one day after winning her final Emmy for her work on Veep (which ended in May 2019), Dreyfus revealed she had been diagnosed with breast cancer, writing on Twitter, "One in eight women get breast cancer. Today, I'm the one." Louis-Dreyfus announced she was cancer-free one year later during an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live

Nicholas Guest

"I don't know, Margo!"

Since having his home destroyed by Clark's Christmas fancies as Todd Chester, Guest, 64, has stacked up quite the impressive resume as a voice actor, lending his vocals to projects like Sons of Anarchy (voicing John Teller), several animated Batman series and , among others. He's also voiced characters in the Call of Duty video game series.

Most recently, Guest, whose brother is celebrated comedy director Christopher Guest, has recurred on CBS' Madam Secretary. He's been married to casting director Pamela Guest since 1989.