“I didn’t want to die, but I didn’t want John to yell at me”: Daniel Stern Risked His Life on ‘Honky Tonk Freeway’ Set After Accidentally Consuming Drugs

Daniel Stern actually underwent a life-threatening situation on 'Honky Tonk Freeway'!

Daniel Stern, Honky Tonk Freeway


  • Daniel Stern nearly lost his life on the set of Honky Tonk Freeway after accidentally using real cocaine instead of a substitute.
  • Stern's commitment to his role led him to take 15 hits of cocaine during a scene, causing severe health risks.
  • Despite his dedication, Honky Tonk Freeway was a box office flop, grossing only $2 million against its $24 million budget.
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Hollywood actor, artist, director, and screenwriter Daniel Stern has bagged a ton of hilariously iconic roles in comedies throughout his career and has managed to land a spectacular performance in nearly every single one of them. As fans must have already understood after watching him in the Home Alone film series, he is immensely dedicated to his work to the core.

Daniel Stern. | Credit: @therealdanielstern/IG.
Daniel Stern. | Credit: @therealdanielstern/IG.

That said, this tremendous commitment once almost had him losing his life while working on his comedy-action from 1981, Honky Tonk Freeway. And, ironically enough, Stern didn’t risk his life this badly while shooting an action scene, but rather, this happened while he was shooting a simple scene, for he accidentally consumed real drugs on set instead of using substitutes!

Daniel Stern Underwent a Life-Threatening Accident During Honky Tonk Freeway

Home Alone actor Daniel Stern had only just started his professional career as an aspiring actor looking for his breakthrough role when he landed the minor part of a drug-addled hitchhiker in the 1981 action-comedy, Honky Tonk Freeway.


Little did he know that not only his career but even his life could have ended while working on that one movie, all because of one accidental drug abuse he underwent on set.

Honky Tonk Freeway. | Credit: Universal Pictures.
Honky Tonk Freeway. (1981) | Credit: Universal Pictures.

In his memoir Home And Alone, the actor shared the story behind the same revealing how, for one scene, he was required to use B12, which was used as a substitute on set, since he was playing a drug addict. But things took a severe turn for the worse because he ended up using actual cocaine.

How? Well, simply because the drug was being rampantly used on the sets at the time, and while everyone was doing it, he had actually never even tried it before.


According to what he wrote in his memoir (via The Things):

This was 1980, and cocaine was rampant. I had never tried it because I could never afford it, but on this movie, everyone was doing it – the director, producers, actors, prop guys, drivers – carrying around little vials with tiny spoons attached, filled with white powder, and whiffing it up all day long.

Stern in a still from Home Alone. | Credit: 20th Century Studios
Stern in a still from Home Alone. | Credit: 20th Century Studios

However, as Stern mentioned, he wasn’t well-versed with the drug. Thus, when director John Schlesinger handed him his own stash of the drug to shoot the scene when he couldn’t get his hands on the substitute quickly, the situation took a turn for the worst for Stern.

As the Rookie of the Year star explained in his memoir:


At first, I thought, ‘Cool.’ But I almost didn’t make it home, because the filming of the scene just wasn’t right. We did take after take, each time John getting more pissed, and each time me taking a big whiff of cocaine.

A still from Honky Tonk Freeway. | Credit: Universal Pictures.A still from Honky Tonk Freeway. | Credit: Universal Pictures.
A still from Honky Tonk Freeway. | Credit: Universal Pictures.

Needless to say, such sudden excessive use of a drug by someone who had never really used it before wasn’t something that could end up in a satisfying result, especially while shooting a scene for a movie. This was why they had to take multiple takes of the same scene.

Because of this, Stern actually had to go very far with his consumption of the drug for the scene. But the most concerning fact was that he didn’t even tell the director how risky this was for him!

Daniel Stern Had to do 15 Hits for the Scene, But He Kept His Mouth Shut

If anything, that one scene must have been a nightmare to shoot for Daniel Stern because not only did he have to use cocaine for the first time in excessive amounts, but he couldn’t even tell the director because he was afraid of being shouted at and maybe even losing his role.

Stern in a still from Bushwhacked. | Credit: 20th Century Studios.
Stern in a still from Bushwhacked. | Credit: 20th Century Studios.

As the actor continued to explain in his memoir:

I finished his first vial, so [John Schlesinger] gave me his backup. I must have done fifteen hits, one after another, and my heart started racing like it never had before. I didn’t want to die, but I also didn’t want John to yell at me.

While the fact that the City Slickers actor actually valued his role over his life is truly unbelievable, what’s worse is that Stern truly ended up regretting this decision.

According to what he further shared in his memoir, this insane story came to the point where the actor “smoked a pack of cigarettes and didn’t sleep for two days” because of the drug abuse overdose he had to undergo for one single scene.

Stern in a still from Home Alone. | Credit: 20th Century Studios.
Stern in a still from Home Alone. | Credit: 20th Century Studios.

But, apart from that, Stern actually ended up acing his performance as the drug-addled hitchhiker, even if his utter dedication to his role ended up going down the drain in the long run because of how brutally the movie underperformed at the box office, grossing an insulting $2 million on its production budget of $24 million (via New York Times).

You can still stream Honky Tonk Freeway on Prime Video.


Written by Mahin Sultan

Articles Published: 1227

Mahin Sultan is a News Content Writer at FandomWire. With almost one year's worth of experience in her field, she has explored and attained a deep understanding of numerous topics in various niches, mostly entertainment.

An all-things-good enthusiast, Mahin is currently pursuing her Bachelor's degree in Commerce, and her love for entertainment has given her a solid foundation of reporting in the same field. Besides being a foodie, she loves to write and spends her free time either with her nose buried in a good book or binging on COD or K-dramas, anime, new movies, and TV serials (the awesome ones, obviously).

So far, Mahin's professional portfolio has more than 500 articles written on various niches, including Entertainment, Health and wellbeing, and Fashion and trends, among others.