“You can have a great character in a really bad script, and the film will never be seen. It’s just too much work to commit to a film and not have it released.” Long before he became one of the best-known bullies on the silver screen, Devin D. Ratray made his debut into the world on January 11, 1977 in New York City, New York. The son of actors, Ratray was six years old when he followed in his parent’s footsteps and was nine when he made his acting debut in the 1986 film, Where Are the Children? From there, he appeared in Little Monsters and Worth Winning before he provoked fits of laughter and mild rage from audiences as he bullied Kevin McCallister in the 1990 classic, Home Alone, a film that would go on to define Ratray’s entire career whether he liked it or not.
“I had done films since I was six and I just auditioned for Home Alone just like any other,” Ratray recalled. “I knew that it was a John Hughes film and I was a fan of his, but I had no idea that it would be different from any other movie audition I had been going on.” Landing the part of the bullying Buzz McCallister opposite Macaulay Culkin, Ratray gave an incredible performance as the film grossed over $476 million at the box office and guaranteed Ratray a spot in the 1992 sequel, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. By then, he and his costars like Culkin and Joe Pesci were good friends with Culkin even introducing him to his longtime friend, Michael Jackson.
“It was a Saturday rehearsal, we were just rehearsing a small scene. It was us running out of the house getting into our vans,” Ratray recalled. “When I got out of the transport van, Macaulay came up to me and said, ‘Come here, I want you to meet somebody.’ He wouldn’t tell me who, but he was very excited. I followed him into the back of one of the prop airport vans that was there, and in the backseat of the van was Michael Jackson—long gray overcoat and gray fedora and sunglasses. This is seven o’clock in the morning on a Saturday, in February, in the middle of Illinois. I didn’t know what to do or say, but suddenly I’m shaking Michael Jackson’s hand without the glove on. What do I say? I say, ‘HI, I'm Devin and I play Buzz.’ He said, ‘I know, it’s a real pleasure to meet you!’ And I just stood there and said, ‘Yes, Michael Jackson, it is a real pleasure to meet me.’ That kind of made him smile. I was able to make him laugh and that brought his guard down a little.”
Later interviewing Jackson with his own video camera and eventually sharing the rare footage with the media after Jackson’s tragic death in 2009, Ratray was dumbfounded by the many opportunities that Home Alone offered even if he never found the same level of success. In fact, his last major silver screen appearance came in 1993 when he played Mickey in Dennis the Menace, a role that would mark a huge shift in Ratray’s career as he left acting to pursue his other interests and enrolled at New York University’s School of Visual Arts to study film. There, he honed his talents behind the scenes and, after graduation, focused on promoting a string of independent flicks before returning to mainstream television and film in the new millennium.
Making cameos in The Prince and Me, The Winning Season and Slippery Slope throughout the early 2000s, Ratray caught a big break in 2009 when he starred alongside Bruce Willis in Surrogates, which helped him separate himself from his early success in Home Alone and redefine his talents and reputation as a serious adult actor. Continuing to do as much over the last eight years, he’s earned credits in Nebraska, Agent Carter, The Good Wife, Supernatural and Masterminds in addition to teaming up with Steven Soderbergh on his mysterious project known as Mosaic.
Offering only a teaser on Soderbergh’s Mosaic, Ratray remains tight-lipped about the project saying, “It is a format and a technology that we’ve never seen before. It’s an interactive, fully-immersed film experience, in the sense that the audience will be able to see a story unfold from beginning to end but they can choose how they want to see it and which character to follow. It’ll be on HBO Now. Through the website, they’ll be able to follow whoever they choose to see and the story changes drastically between whose perspective you wish to see it through. It’s going to be incredible.”
Apart from his work with Soderbergh and his credits on primetime television, the now 40-year-old Ratray is grateful for the doors that Home Alone opened in his career especially now as a musician who often takes the stage with his band, Little Bill and the Beckleys. In fact, he’s finally come to terms with his early success and doesn’t shy away from Home Alone. Instead, he embraces the film and the opportunities it’s given him over the years—from his film career to meeting the King of Pop himself and even working with President Donald Trump, whom he said he actually met years later outside a movie theater on the Upper West Side. “I go walking straight up to him and, of course, he has a bodyguard with him… I said, ‘Excuse me, Mr. Trump. You and I were in the same movie [Home Alone 2: Lost in New York].’ And, without batting an eye, he said, ‘Well, I’m sure you were much better in it than I was.”
Apart from meeting Trump and Jackson, Ratray doesn’t let Home Alone define his career but uses it as a stepping stone to prove his talents today. “Well, being in Home Alone always helps,” he says, “because people can instantly have name recognition and face recognition, and they recognize the movie and now instantly remember my part, which at least gives validity to future projects or auditions I go for. Of course, you know, it was a quarter of a century ago, so I’m a totally different person. So, it probably helped during my younger years in the business. But it certainly doesn’t hurt that people still know a film I did twenty-five years later.” With Home Alone still a staple during the holiday season, there’s no question that Ratray will forever be known as the tarantula-loving Buzz!