clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Actor John Heard, best known for ‘Home Alone’ dad role, dead at 72

John Heard in 2006. | Getty Images

Actor John Heard, who starred as the father in “Home Alone” and played a corrupt cop in “The Sopranos,” has died. He was 72.

His death was confirmed Saturday by the Santa Clara medical examiner’s office. The cause of death is still under investigation.

Heard, who lived in southern California, was found Friday at a Palo Alto, California, hotel where he was recovering from back surgery, according to Variety.

Heard was perhaps most famous for his role as Peter McCallister, the father of Kevin, played by Macaulay Culkin, in the 1990 hit movie “Home Alone” and its sequel “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.” Heard said in later interviews that he was looking for a movie with kids in it so his son, 5 years old at the time, could come to the set and have someone to play with. After it became a big hit, he was reluctant to revisit the role, but his agent convinced him the money was too good to pass up.

“I didn’t want to be the ‘Home Alone’ dad for the rest of my life,” he told Yahoo! News in 2013.

Written by the late John Hughes and directed by Chris Columbus, “Home Alone” told the story of a resourceful little boy (played by Culkin) accidentally left behind by his frantic family when they head to the airport to begin a Christmas vacation. Filmed in the Chicago area, the sprawling McCallister home was located in Winnetka. Other scenes were shot in Oak Park and at O’Hare Airport.

Born March 7, 1945, in Washington, D.C., Heard grew up performing in local theater. Heard began his career Off Broadway, where he won an Obie Award for his work in “Othello” and “Split.” In Chicago, he starred in a Steppenwolf Theatre production of “Love Lies Bleeding” in 2006.

One of his memorable early film roles was as a disabled Vietnam War veteran in the 1981 movie “Cutter’s Way.” He was active in film for the next decade, with roles that included Tom Hanks’ rival in the 1988 comedy “Big,” actress Geraldine Page’s son in “The Trip to Bountiful” and parts in the movies “The Milagro Beanfield War,” “The Pelican Brief,” ”Beaches,” ”Gladiator,” ”Rambling Rose” and “After Hours.” His most recent movie roles were in the 2016 comedy “Jimmy Vestvood: Amerikan Hero” and the drama “So B. It.”

On television, he got a guest-acting Emmy nomination for playing dirty cop Vin Makazian in the first season of HBO’s “The Sopranos.” He also had roles in “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” ”Elementary,” ”Prison Break,” ”Modern Family” and “Entourage.” He most recently appeared on the now-canceled WGN America series “The Outsiders.”

One of his favorite jobs came in the original “Sharknado” television movie in 2013.

“I knew it was going to be a cult classic,” he told the Baltimore Media Blog last year. “It’s just ridiculous. I thought it would replace people calling me the ‘Home Alone’ dad.”

Heard was married and divorced three times, first, briefly, to actress Margot Kidder in the late 1970s, then to Sharon Heard from 1988 to 1996, with whom he had two children (son Max and daughter Annika) and finally, Lana Pritchard for less than a year in 2010.

He also had another son, Jack, the subject of a bitter custody dispute with former partner and future Oscar-winning actress Melissa Leo. She and her boyfriend at the time accused him of assault and stalking in 1996 at their home in Baltimore, where she was working on the 1990s detective series “Homicide: Life on the Street.”

Contributing: Sun-Times staff; Associated Press; USA Today

John Heard, as Alex, is seen rehearsing in April 2006 for Steppenwolf Theatre’s production of Don DeLillo’s play “Love-Lies-Bleeding” in Chicago. | AP
John Heard, as Alex, is seen rehearsing in April 2006 for Steppenwolf Theatre’s production of Don DeLillo’s play “Love-Lies-Bleeding” in Chicago. | AP