The 1997 book from Martin Knelman explores John Candy’s life growing up in Canada, and gaining fame as a comedic actor in both Canada and the U.S. Candy, who struggled with weight his entire life, fought off his demons by diving into the acting realm.
Candy was most generous to people he met along the way, and was adored by his fellow actors. Along with hockey great Wayne Gretzky, he became part-owner of the Toronto Argonauts, a Canadian league football team. They reached the title in 1991, capturing the Grey Cup for the best team in the CFL. He bounced around Toronto with a group of other up-and-coming comics including Gilda Radner and Dan Ackroyd. In 1976 SCTV, a television comedy series spoofing television networks was born starring Candy, among other comedic stars Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, and Rick Moranis.
During his career, Candy appeared in more than 40 films in Canada and the U.S. His breakthrough U.S . film, 1941 was directed by Stephen Spielberg and released in 1979. The 1980s brought a string of hits for Candy, Stripes, the animated film Heavy Metal (where he voiced two different characters), The Blues Brothers, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Splash, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, and Uncle Buck.
With Candy’s root comedic talents, he could also pull off dramatic roles, such as the shady lawyer in Oliver Stone’s 1991 film JFK.
“I think I may have become an actor to hide from myself. You can escape into a character.” -John Candy
During the 1990s, Candy’s career suffered through several unfunny box-office flops. He was able to strike gold, in the 1993 Disney film Cool Runnings, loosely based upon the Jamaican bobsled team competing at the 1988 Winter Olympic games in Calgary, Alberta, Candy played coach Irv Blitzer, and was able to direct the Jamaican athletes to qualify for the games.
Sadly, John Candy died March 4, 1994 in Durango, Mexico at age 43 from a massive heart attack. He was in process of making the film Wagons East with Richard Lewis. The movie script had to be re-written, a stand-in and special effects were used to complete his remaining scenes. The film was released five months after his death.