“Planes, Trains and Automobiles” was shot in New York in the winter of ’87. According to John Hughes’ biography “John Hughes: A Life in Film,” freezing temperatures sucked all the fun out of Steve Marine and John Candy’s improvised plot.
During filming several outdoor scenes, Hughes used the one-shot shooting technique, which positions only one actor in the camera frame. For example, in the scene where Neal and Del are driving together in a car, the camera only focuses on one character as he talks to the other. The thing is, when one of them ad-libs while filming, actors who aren’t in the camera frame naturally ad-lib back. This means that the camera crew must position themselves to capture the response. Martin describes in his biography:
“It gets ridiculous, covering it all fifty times if we do an ad-lib. It’s going to go on and on and happen under very different circumstances – like in an outdoor car with a roof on fire. Completely freezing. I was in a coat and John [Candy] a jacket. All this ad-libbing has the camera crew rocking us in the camera car again and again [to cover the shots]. Candy and I finally agreed not to do any more ad-libs.”
Apart from Mother Earth, it seems Candy and Martin are having fun working with each other. Martin calls Candy one of his best acting partners. “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” still survives today with the theme of family vacations and gratitude, making it one of John Hughes’ best films.