How Amy Madigan Put Her Own Touch On Her Uncle Buck Character

Amy Madigan found her breakout role as Annie Kinsella in the 1989 sports fantasy drama "Field of Dreams," starring alongside Kevin Costner, James Earl Jones, Ray Liotta and then-child actress Gaby Hoffmann. That same year, Hoffmann and Madigan also both appeared in one of my favorite John Hughes movies: the comedy "Uncle Buck." The movie's premise is simple but charming: a bachelor becomes an unlikely babysitter for his brother's kids. Whereas Hoffmann plays Maizy, the niece of the loveable but slobbish and irresponsible titular character (John Candy), Madigan plays his loyal and impatient girlfriend, Chanice Kobolowski.

Madigan met Hughes for the first time in the casting office to discuss the project. As she explained in a 2016 interview with Vanity Fair, she and Hughes, both Chicagoans, hit it off. "He had seen some other stuff I did, and I certainly knew of his work," she said. "He was a very smart Chicago kind of guy. You know what I mean? Very funny and very self-deprecating — had a dry sense of humor." They talked about a lot about different things, but when it came down to discussing Buck's girlfriend, Hughes asked for Madigan's input on one critical detail of the character.

John Hughes asked Amy Madigan to name her character

Madigan had some say in her character: During casting, after Hughes gave her the rundown of Buck's girlfriend, he asked her what she thought the character's name should be. "I said, 'How about Chanice?'" Madigan laughed. "Chanice is just a name I really liked and I felt that would go really well with Kobolowski. John definitely went for that." Madigan's performance as Chanice in "Uncle Buck" didn't receive the same recognition as did her performance in "Field of Dreams," but she told Vanity Fair the name "Chanice Kobolowski" has stayed with her through the years and she still likes it.

John Hughes carried a collaborative spirit into "Uncle Buck." Hughes' directorial style was so actor-friendly that the film set became a playground for John Candy and the cast. In her interview with Vanity Fair, Madigan recalled her joyous experience onset with Candy. She hadn't met the "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" actor and comedian before the movie but knew of his comedic prowess: 

"He was the king of ad libs," she said. "He and John Hughes had worked together before, so they had a really neat shorthand. It was sometimes all I could do to keep a straight face since he was just so hilarious. You would be doing a closeup, so the other actors are off camera, and he would just throw this stuff at you to crack you up."

Speaking to Vanity Fair in the same interview, "Uncle Buck" co-star Jean Louisa Kelly — who played the eldest child Tia — similarly noted that "John Hughes really just let John Candy take the ball and go with it through a lot of the movie." 

John Hughes had a collaborative spirit

John Hughes' collaborative nature is documented. The 1985 teen classic, "The Breakfast Club," for example, became the iconic film that it is today in part because of Hughes' willingness to listen to those around him. According to the HuffPost, the writer-director allowed his ensemble cast — Molly Ringwald, Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Judd Nelson, and Ally Sheedy — to improvise several lines throughout the film. Hughes made Claire's (Ringwald) appearance more sophisticated after the actress protested her character being portrayed as the daddy's girl type. "John was very accepting of suggestions from the actors," Tom Del Ruth, the director of photography on "The Breakfast Club," told the HuffPost: 

"He wanted them to feel free and that gave them a lot of latitude. If there was a line or two or even a paragraph that lent itself to the character or enhanced the story, John would simply rewrite on the spot."

It wasn't just the actors who Hughes accepted input from. At the behest of the casting director Jackie Burch, Hughes changed Andrew (Estevez) from being a football player to a wrestler because Burch felt Estevez was too short to be believable as a football player. The "Sixteen Candles" writer-director wasn't a pushover, however. As Burch told the Huffpost, Hughes rejected Ringwald's petition to be cast as Allison Reynolds, which was given to Ally Sheedy. Burch noted, "He finally didn't do it and thank God! I think it would have ruined the movie. I thought that was ridiculous."