He might not have been the biggest name in Hollywood, but actor John Heard left quite a memorable mark over the course of his 40-plus year acting career. Heard passed away on July 21st at the age of 71, sparking many tributes to his lengthy career in Hollywood including his most famous turn as one of film’s most beloved fathers in “Home Alone”. To honor Heard I took a look at the highlight of his 42-year acting career in the latest edition of “In Memoriam”.
John Heard was born John Matthew Heard, Jr. in 1946 in Washington D.C. to a mother who was heavily involved in the arts and community theater and a father who worked for the office of the Secretary of Defense. Heard was a graduate of Gonzaga College High School, the Catholic University of America, and Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, a college close to where I myself live. Don’t know why I felt like adding that in.
Heard appeared in several stage productions, television programs, and films in the 1970s, sparking the beginning of his big-screen career. Heard’s work in off-Broadway stage-productions like “The Wager”, “Othello”, and “Split” earned him recognition, including an Obie Award, and he earned his first notable film role in “Between the Lines” in 1977. He secured his first notable leading role in 1979’s “Head Over Heels”, which was re-released as “Chilly Scenes of Winter” in 1982. In total Heard played in five different films from 1977 until 1980. He also appeared in his first television movie, “Valley Forge” and the mini-series “The Scarlet Letter” (shown above).
In 1981 Heard landed a starring role in “Cutter’s Way” as the titular Alex Cutter (shown above). The movie was a minor box office success on a small budget but put Heard’s name in the spotlight in a major way. The 80s proved to be a big era for Heard who played in a total of 18 different movies and 12 television shows and made for TV movies. During that time his works included “Big”, “C.H.U.D.”, and the remake of “Cat People” as well as “Heaven Help Us”. Heard played all kinds of roles from minor parts to staring roles over the course of the 80s and his distinctive voice made him the perfect choice to be a narrator in the star-studded “Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam”, a documentary that earned praise in 1987.
The year 1990 debuted Heard’s most well known and iconic character, Peter McCallister, the father in the Christmas season classic “Home Alone”. Heard reprised his role for the sequel, “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York”, in 1992 and over the course of the 1990s he added many other big films to his filmography including “The Pelican Brief”, “Before and After”, “Snake Eyes”, “One Eight Seven”, and “My Fellow Americans”. Heard appeared in 24 films during the 90s and further expanded his television record as well appearing in four television movies, a few episodes of “Law & Order”, an episode of “The Outer Limits”, and 21 episodes of “The Client”. He also appeared as a small recurring character in “The Sopranos” from 1999 through 2004, a role that earned him his one and only Emmy nomination in 1999.
Heard’s career didn’t slow down in the 2000s. He kicked off the new millennium in a big way with a role in “Animal Factory” and didn’t slow down. Over the first ten years of the 2000s he played in 33 films from 2000 through 2010 including “The Great Debaters”, “The Chumscrubber”, “The Photographer”, and “White Chicks” just to name a few. Throughout that time he appeared in at least two films a year every year except for 2003 where he appeared in no theatrical releases for the first time since 1995. Heard’s television career continued to boom as well with parts in franchises like “Jack & Bobby”, the “CSI” series, “Numb3rs”, “Prison Break”, “Battlestar Gallactica”, and “Entourage”. Including “The Sopranos” (shown above), Heard appeared in 28 different television productions and series.
At the end of his life Heard was still going strong with a continued dedication to acting in the 2010s. He appeared in at least one film a year from 2011 through this year, 2017, including four film roles in 2012, six in 2013, and six more in 2014. Among those films were “Runner Runner”, “A Perfect Ending”, “Torn”, “Assault of Wall Street”, and “Boiling Pot”. His final film role will be in “Living Among Us” later this year. Heard’s 2010s television credits included “NCIS”, “CSI”, “Modern Family”, and his final television appearance in a one-off role in “Outsiders”. Heard also enjoyed an appearance in the television movies “Sharknado” (shown above) and “The Murder Pact”, his final two feature-film roles on the small screen.
Heard may not have been the most well-known actor in the world, but chances are if you have seen a film since he started his career in the 1970s you’ve seen him hard at work bringing a character, big or small, to life. For most he will be remembered as Peter McCallister, but Heard’s career is so much more than just his “Home Alone” persona. Heard proved himself to be a versatile, dedicated, and capable actor who appeared in more films over three decades than many actors could ever hope to add to their credit. To “the father”, Mr. Peter McCallister himself John Heard I thank you for your dedication and hard work to the film industry. Thanks’ for the memories and helping make so many projects possible.