Daniel Stern Reveals What Shooting “Home Alone” Was Really Like — And it Involves a "Tarantula Wrangler" (Exclusive)

In an excerpt from his new memoir, the actor reveals behind-the-scenes details and what working with Joe Pesci was like

<p>Laure Stern</p> Daniel Stern and

Laure Stern

Daniel Stern and 'Home and Alone'

Daniel Stern, 66, has been beaten with a (rubber) crowbar by Joe Pesci, drove 100mph in Robert Redford's Porsche, flew alone with Mel Gibson on the maiden voyage of his private jet and got called a "funny guy" by Barack Obama.

Now he's sharing these stories and many more in his funny, poignant new memoir, Home and Alone, out May 21 from Viva Editions. All proceeds from the book will go to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, because helping kids become the best versions of themselves is something Stern has seen as essential to his personal and professional mission since his own parents instilled that ethos in him when he was a kid.

"My dad's a social worker who worked on juvenile delinquency programs and my mom has always been about youth empowering," he tells PEOPLE. "I was an empowered kid from the beginning, and then I ended up in these movies that are about empowering kids to be better and bigger and stronger than they thought, so the message just lined up."

<p>Laure Stern</p> Daniel Stern

Laure Stern

Daniel Stern

Perhaps best-known for his roles in City Slickers, as Marv in Home Alone, the narrator in The Wonder Years and the director of Rookie of the Year, Stern now stars in For All Mankind. Offscreen, he's a bronze sculptor, cattle rancher, avocado farmer and proud parent and grandparent with his wife Laure of 45 years. But whether he's sculpting, acting, writing or directing, he's finally decided to call himself an artist.

"It's such a horrible word to say, because it sounds pretentious," Stern jokes. "But it's okay to be an artist. People make a living at it. It's a contribution to society. You're not just skirting around on the edges, pretending to have a job. And so I've accepted that part of my life, too, of being an artist."

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He looked at writing his book as just working in another medium, and tried not to worry too much about what people would think. "I'm going to learn to write a book, I'm gonna make it funny and I'm gonna do the best I can," he says, of how he approached the process. "I don't know if it's gonna be good or not, but I've told stories in movies. I've made sculptures. I've done various artistic kind of things, and this was a new artistic endeavor."

Another fun part was getting to tell the stories he gets asked about most, especially shooting his now-iconic Home Alone scenes. Being a part of the lasting impact the film has had, Stern says, "really changed my world in my life."

Related: Joe Pesci Reflects on Making 'Home Alone 2' as Movie Turns 30: 'I Did Sustain Serious Burns'

"When I was a kid, every year Wizard of Oz came on at the holiday times, and we'd gather around and we'd watch the Wizard of Oz," he reflects. "Now, Home Alone comes on at the holiday time, and it's a ritual of families. That's crazy that I'm that I get to be a little bit of a piece of their life. It's it's quite an honor."

Below, in an exclusive excerpt from his new book, Stern shares what it was like shooting one of the film's most gasp-inducing scenes.

<p>Laure Stern</p> 'Home and Alone' by Daniel Stern

Laure Stern

'Home and Alone' by Daniel Stern

The weirdest one had to be the scene when I have a tarantula crawl on my face. The day came to shoot that scene and I assumed the genius prop department would come up with a realistic-looking tarantula, but when I got to the set, the prop was just a rubber bug, no mechanics for it to move or crawl.

That’s when they brought in the “Tarantula Wrangler” and introduced me to a very large and scary-looking spider. The wrangler explained to me that they had done some tests where he had let it crawl on his face and nothing bad happened, so it was probably safe. I asked how he trains a tarantula and he said that they are not really trainable, but as long as I didn’t make any sudden moves, I should be fine.

Related: 'Home Alone' Cast: Where Are They Now?

He explained where the poison is located on the spider, how it bites and how long you have to live once you get bitten. He told me that they could remove the poison, but that the tarantula would then die. I said I understood, but if the tarantula bit me then I would die, so maybe we should think about removing the poison.

But I could tell that was not going to happen.

<p>Moviestore/Shutterstock</p> Daniel Stern and Joe Pesci in 'Home Alone'


Daniel Stern and Joe Pesci in 'Home Alone'

The scene had me lying on the floor, not noticing the spider crawling up my body until it eventually crawls across my face, at which point I scream with fear. I was concerned that when it came time for me to scream in the scene, that might scare the tarantula and cause it to attack me, but the wrangler brushed off my concern, telling me that spiders can’t hear. I guess that could be true, since as far as I know, spiders don’t have ears, but this question had never come up in my entire life. I was going to have to hope for the best.

Before the camera rolled, they had it crawl around my face, just to get it used to the terrain and I started to get comfortable with it. By this point in the filming, I was loving the challenge of each individual stunt and gag, and ready to take a few chances. Once I got comfortable, I could really let it rip.

Snap/Shutterstock Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern and McCauley Culkin in 'Home Alone 2'
Snap/Shutterstock Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern and McCauley Culkin in 'Home Alone 2'

They rolled the cameras and released the tarantula onto my face. It just walked around randomly but any time it got into a good camera position, I was ready to go. The crew squirmed, watching it go in my mouth and all over my head, and that only made it more fun. I wanted the scream to sound like the woman being attacked in the shower in the movie Psycho, and I think I got pretty close.

Once we got those shots, we moved on to the equally dangerous part where [Joe] Pesci beats me with a crowbar. Joe had a rubber crowbar, and I had a pad protecting my stomach, but he got me good a couple of times on unprotected areas. Quite a badge of honor, to have been beaten by The Man himself. God, did we have fun!

All rights reserved. Except for brief passages quoted in newspaper, magazine, radio, television, or online reviews, no part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying or recording, or by information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. Published in the United States by Viva Editions, an imprint of Start Midnight, LLC, 221 River Street, Ninth Floor, Hoboken, N.J. 07030.

Home and Alone is out May 21, and available for preorder now, wherever books are sold.

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