Highly regarded as the best of the National Lampoon Vacation movies — or at least in the opinion of this writer — Christmas Vacation is celebrating its 25th anniversary this holiday season. I’ve probably watched Cousin Eddie declare that the shi*ter’s full at least every other year since the movie’s release and it currently holds a permanent spot in my Netflix queue (as it should yours). It remains to be seen how the new National Lampoon movie underway will stack up with the original four, but one thing is a definite: there will be a completely new Audrey and Rusty.
One would think that in a film series centered around a family of four, some consistency with the children would be a priority, but John Hughes said screw that. The Griswold children were a disposable rotating cast of young actors with very little attention given to developing their characters. Sometimes Russ is older than Audrey, sometimes it’s the other way around. It doesn’t really make a difference, because CHEVY CHASE! We’ll have to wait and see how Ed Helms and Leslie Mann fit into the lineup as the adult versions of Rusty and Audrey in next year’s reboot, but in the meantime, here’s how the previous eight stack up in the Griswold hierarchy. As well as what they’ve been up to since.
The Audrey Griswolds
Christmas Audrey — Juliette Lewis
Somehow Audrey aged faster than her brother after the Griswold clan returned from Europe, and Audrey is now the older sibling played by Juliette Lewis. Christmas Audrey is more apathetic about spending time with her family than her predecessor, and Juliette Lewis was the perfect fit for a bitchy 80s teen that had no interest in “the most fun-filled old-fashioned family Christmas ever.” In terms of Hollywood recognition, Juliette Lewis has established the most diverse of acting career of the Griswold kids with roles in 90s classics Natural Born Killers, Kalifornia, and From Dusk Till Dawn. The actress also embarked on a music career with her rock band Juliette and the Licks, and returned to her Griswold roots with that Old Navy commercial you probably saw in your Facebook feed two years ago.
Original Audrey — Dana Barron
Dana Barron is the ONLY Griswold child to come back to play their part a second time. After trekking to California’s Wally World in 1983, Dana returned to play Audrey 20 years later in the bastard child of the Vacation series: Cousin Eddie’s Island Adventure. Aside from her stint as a Griswold, Dana Barron has worked on and off in television, appearing in Beverly Hills 90210 and Babylon 5.
Vegas Audrey — Marisol Nichols
Vegas Audrey is an example of what can happen to a Griswold when they starting spending too much time with the wrong crowd, i.e. their cousins. Cousin Vicki makes a return from the first film (different actress of course) and lures Audrey into the seedy — but in a PG-13 way — world of go-go dancing. After partying around Vegas, actress Marisol Nichols appeared with her onscreen brother Rusty (Ethan Embry) in Can’t Hardly Wait, and has roles in Nip/Tuck, 24, and NCIS.
Euro Audrey — Dana Hill
Audrey’s role in the second Vacation movie isn’t particularly memorable. John Hughes gives her a cartoonish nightmare scene, but for the most part, she’s just hanging around in the background while Clark gets the family into one jam after another. Following her Euro trip with the Griswolds (or the Griswalds as they’re known in Europe) Dana worked steadily as a voice actor. Dana lent her voice to 90s cartoon diet staples like The Gummi Bears and Goof Troop before dying of Type I diabetes at age 32.
The Rusty Griswolds
Original Rusty — Anthony Michael Hall
You can’t beat original Rusty. He understands his father’s need to give the family the great American vacation, and doesn’t make big deal about sitting next to the corpse of a family member. The first Vacation movie was just the start of Anthony Michael Hall’s stint as one of the biggest teen actors in the 1980s, appearing in hit movies like The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Weird Science, and a single season of SNL. Since his time as an awkward teen swilling beer with Chevy Chase, Hall put in six seasons of the sci-fi series The Dead Zone and recently appeared in Foxcatcher.
Euro Rusty — Jason Lively
Actor Jason Lively’s portrayal of Rusty is probably the closest fit to original AMH Rusty. While just as awkward as the original, Euro Rusty envisions himself as an American heartthrob, but finds out that even European women think berets look stupid. Jason Lively shifted out of acting in the early 90s — his final role was 1992’s Maximum Force — and today works for a computer company and is the owner of a mobile roasted-corn business.
Vegas Rusty — Ethan Embry
The Griswolds actually do fairly well in Vegas — except for Clark who is left practically in debt by the end of the movie — but it’s Russ who has lady luck on his arm. Taking the pseudonym Nick Papagiorgio, Rusty cleans up after scoring a fake id and by the end of the movie has a fleet of cars. Since earning his spot as the most recent Rusty, Ethan Embry had roles in comedies like Can’t Hardly Wait, Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle, and the TV drama Brotherhood.
Christmas Rusty — Johnny Galecki
Considering that Johnny Galecki has proven he’s more than capable of delivering a dry comedic line, it’s a bit surprising his Rusty Griswold wasn’t more memorable. Besides helping to electrocute his dad, we don’t get too many scenes featuring Rusty. Since moving on from the Griswold clan of course, Johnny Galecki has had supporting roles in sitcom giants like Rosanne and CBS goldmine, The Big Bang Theory.