THE SANTA CLAUSE 2 - Q&A with Tim Allen
How much fun was it playing Santa Claus?
It was fun because the children on the set - the elves - actually believed that I was Santa Claus and it was a tremendous amount of responsibility on my shoulders so I didn't disappoint them. I had to stay in character all the time. I couldn't swear and get mad, the elves would gaze at me all day long and ask me ridiculous questions about Christmas. I told them elves don't really like vegetables and they eat a lot of fish at the North Pole because it's fresh. They don't eat a lot of candy because only Santa eats candy. They don't smoke or drink, the reindeer don't talk to anyone but me, they mumble but no one else can, which comes out in the movie. The reindeer don't really like celery they like carrots and red peppers. I made up all this stuff. The older ones who are 13 and 14 would say, "that's not Santa, that's an actor". I'd say "just think about this, are you sure I'm an actor? Are you sure you want to irritate Santa?"
You seem to be doing a lot of family films these days, was that a deliberate move or something that simply happened?
It was quite by accident. Coming from my background, adult comedy that I started out with it's a little ironic that I ended up in this boat. I appreciate any kind of challenge put in front of me and I do this very well but it's probably because it isn't ultimately what I want to do.
What do you want to do?
Well I love science fiction. I loved GALAXY QUEST, that was the closest I got to action adventure. I loved it but it was angled so it was a comedy. I love action adventure, that's what I like watching and would love to make one, but if I have to do these family films I do them so I'd watch them.
Do you mind about the wholesome family image?
No it isn't really up to me it's the audience. I love being on movie sets and I love doing films. And really this is a beautiful film because all of us took care of the costumes, lighting sets - it's an artistic film believe it or not. And I don't know if the audience want to see me as an action figure.
The film is really entertaining; it's obviously not strictly for children is it?
We never designed it just for kids otherwise it would be an animated film. It's OK for kids to watch but it's really about their icon looked at through an adult's eyes. But there are adult jokes and the thrust of the story's between the boy and the father, he's trying to juggle too many jobs, kids wouldn't understand that.
When do you lose that innocent belief in Santa Claus?
About 20 minutes ago! (Laughs). Boy am I tired. You gotta be really careful what you say about Santa Claus. We had a closed set; we didn't want kids to see what we were doing. There's really quite a responsibility because kids believe. Oh man, these kids on the set, the elves, they really believed they were doing a movie with Santa Claus. I'd walk on the set, and there were so many questions, they were in awe: "what do the reindeer eat and where do they go at night?" It was amazing and I had to be very creative because it's the first and last time these kids are ever going to talk to Santa Claus. So you know the reindeer sleep in big dormitories, they like to eat vegetables. It's an awesome responsibility.
What kind of Santa or Father Christmas are you portraying in the film?
If you mixed up all the myths and metaphors of Santa all over the world, this is a melting pot rendition of those. It sounds so cheesy but essentially it all comes from a Coca Cola ad, that's what this image is in the red coat and white beard.
Did you believe in Santa as a child?
Yeah I swear I saw him, it's one of those things you believe so hard. I waited at the top of the stairs; fell asleep heard the noise, looked out. Eventually you make up that you did see him. My brothers and I swear we heard those reindeer bells on the roof every year.
Why did you do a sequel?
It's been a long process like ageing a wine. Once we got all the original characters who were still interested in doing another one, I had to be convinced it wouldn't just be a sequel. I fought this from four years ago because the original was too important a movie to me. It made people happy about the season again, none had done a good Christmas movie. It was Arnold Schwarzenegger who reminded me, "I can't believe no one's done a Christmas movie, it's unbelievable" he said. And this is a guy who knows about that stuff, he did one. But it's tough to make one that people latch onto, that isn't silly. And this is a comedy but it keeps the character integral to the myth. I was able to convince Disney over two big issues the boy had to do something naughty to be on the naughty list and there had to be some sort of drama at the North Pole. There were several brilliant writers who love Christmas who came up with great stories. I wanted it to be called 'Return To the North Pole', I don't like the word '2' in the title.
What's special and different about this film?
We didn't set out to do anything except make that first movie, but what happened was that we handled the Santa Clause myth in such a responsible manner that it seemed plausible to the older kids and adults could see it to. What we did this time was to make a movie for adults that it's OK for kids to see. Really it's a story about four adults set in Santa's world. What would happen if Santa had to deal with the same problems that most adults go through? You're working too much, not seeing your family enough, and right when a big deal comes up at work, your kid's in the biggest amount of trouble. What do you do? It's got to grab your heart a little bit?
How difficult is it being in the fat Santa suit?
I did not want to be in that outfit and fat suit more than 25 days, I knew I couldn't physically do it. Instead I ended up being in it 55 days. It's this fat boy here that's the most uncomfortable one. All the girls on the set said he was cute but I don't think you'd actually marry him. It's easy to say when you're not sleeping with him. But this guy is the most difficult to do because you can't cover anything up with the beard and the hair. I didn't want to do it again, the makeup. It's very difficult for me to sit still for four and a half hours a day, I'm so energetic and fidgety and there's nothing that makes a difference. You can't make it faster. It looks so good it's startling. I was able to get a masseuse to do reflexology, they couldn't touch much but she could work on my feet for about 40 minutes, which I've become addicted to. I couldn't eat, but they got a chef (I had to eat with a straw) and they gave me breaks. Last time I didn't take care of myself, this time I took care of myself, I was able to do it this time with dignity. When you take care of the artist instead of treating him as a federal express package.
Why is it so uncomfortable?
It's just horrible, it's smelly, glue attached to your face for sixteen hours, it stinks. Glue around your nose, glue around your eyes. Everything pulls, it's difficult to move and on top of that you're in 90 pounds of foam and someone else's hair. There's a famous place in Spain that makes hair. It's not my hair so you've got someone's hair around your mouth and you can't eat. It's really claustrophobic.
Will there be a SANTA CLAUSE 3?
I'd do it now because I've opened up the possibility of personal relationships with other mythical creatures, there's so much to do in the North Pole and about making the gifts and stories about Charlie.
The film deals with fatherhood. Santa has to split his time between his job and his son. Did the character come from your personal experience and how important is that aspect of your own life?
I spend a lot of time with my daughter. But that's where my Santa came from. Every father and every parent I know goes through this struggle, everyone's working all the time, and Santa's working all the time and needs to spend time with his son. It's very much like my life. My daughter is the daughter of a famous person and what's it like Charlie being Santa's son? The problem is Charlie can't tell anyone what her dad does.
Is your daughter very spoilt? How do you keep her down-to-earth?
Of course I try my best by telling her what's going on, because I live in an absolutely fake world. When I'm on billboards like I am at the moment all over town I can literally do no wrong, I could go into a store and grab couches and my daughter lives with me in this unreal world. This country tends to treat stars like your royalty. My daughter knows very well that I'm not equipped to be royalty. I love being an artist and everybody's creative. I tell them the movie's a result of everybody's creativity, the script supervisor, everybody, but when it comes down to it there's one guy's face on camera and that would be your dad, but it's no more important than any other. And I couldn't do anything without everybody else working as a team?
Have you given her strong values because you didn't grow up rich and have had quite a troubled time in your early career?
That's definitely true. Unfortunately she does not know what it's like not to have everything. She's always been privileged and I remind her about saving, I remind her about taking care of others. The rest will be up to her. You do the best you can and hope she doesn't get arrested. But essentially it's lead by example and you know I've certainly not been a perfect person.
How patient are you with your daughter?
I'm very patient and I'm always asking what's the difference between being patient and being a pushover? Sometimes I'm patient to avoid confrontation. People say I'm one of the most patient people in a stressful situation. To me I'm just about ready to slap her or yell at her or react, instead I just take one more step back. I don't want fights.
Does your daughter live with you?
Umhum - yes.
Is it hard being a single parent?
I'm used to it. Her mom and I live very close to each other and she lives with both of us actually. I'm the house my ex wife and her husband and I'm good friends with their daughter and it's mixed up but it's a group effort and I think my daughter thinks the same thing. It's not like how you'll read it in books but life is not like how you read in books.
Do you spend a lot of time with your own daughter, who's 12?
Now I do, I'm at her school all the time. My dad was at my school for science fair, that's the only time I ever saw him. I'm in my daughter's life too much. I take her to concerts all the time. I took her to Britney Spears, that girl can sing. I didn't know she had a voice.
Your father died at 11, has that made you a more active and devoted dad?
You bet there's no doubt. I'm no better and no worse but I'm more aware of the responsibility. And I grew up with all boys so I'm constantly asking mothers for advice and what's going on. I understand boys' aggression but I really don't understand what goes on in my daughter's head half the time. I have to read books on adolescence because I haven't a clue about the hormone thing happening. I'm very good with kids now, with my brother's two boys. And as uncomfortable as it is my brother and I show affection. So the little boys see grown men show affection which is unlike our parents, but we're just doing it different because we don't want them holding back. I'm just huggin' and kissin' these boys and it is making a huge difference in how they're expressing themselves.
Would you get married again?
I don't know, it feels like a failure when you get divorced and when you fail I'm not sure that's the first thing you think about. I don't have any idea about relationships because I'm not that fond of myself. I get very moody or isolated or something - I disconnect. It has nothing to do with other people, it's do with my discomfort in here, inside.
All the women I've spoken to who know you including your SANTA CLAUSE co-star say you have the most profound effect on women?
That's true and my brothers are all the same. I wouldn't call us womanizers, but we all really like women. As much as the women in my family have been really odd, my grandmother, real strong authoritarian not very funny women which was a real challenge because my brothers and I were very funny so we constantly made jokes at their expense and they'd just stare at us. She always accused us of being retarded. What's wrong with you boys and her husband was very funny. And I studied women in college, I took any course on women and they had a lot of courses on women and feminism. It was a great way to meet girls - women in business, the new feminism, blah blah, reviving Ophelia about adolescent girls. Women say they want men to listen, but you got to be careful what you want because men can get very dangerous if they turn into listeners, a combination of aggression and testosterone and a good listener.
What is it like for her having a famous dad?
I tell her all the time it's not a good idea to gloat because a lot of kids don't have some of the advantages she has. You can't brag. I want her to have the possibility of being her own person, so her friends don't all know what her dad does. I don't want her to be Tim Allen's daughter?
Is she following in your footsteps, does she want to act?
Yes and I bring her to press conferences and interviews sometimes because I want her to see all of this business. There's a whole bunch of this that's not that glamorous. She's an industry kid, she's used to being on sets but she's not arrogant about it. She likes it when women are in control, women directors.
Do you encourage women in the business and help them?
Yeah, I am a guy and I generally side with men in a pinch in any kind of argument because that's how I grew up. But I took a lot of feminist stuff in college because I'm a people pleaser. And it was very obvious that women were being mistreated and the women in my life have always been very important. My teachers had strong views and used to get angry about women's rights and choices. But actually the men in my life didn't have choices either. They're electricians and plumbers who worked for other people and they had no more say in their life than women. They have fewer choices than women; they don't have choices about being a mother and having a job. Most men go to a job and come home - they can't stay at home. But my brother stays at home with the kids.
Is it a relief not being in homes every day with HOME IMPROVEMENT?
It's in homes more now, that show's on twice a day in markets all over the world. It's not getting 23 million dollars every Tuesday but cumulatively it's the same. There's a whole audience out there that doesn't know I do movies, they think I'm that guy.'
How do you deal with attention from your fans?
It's acceptance I think, this is what happens and the older you get the better you get at dealing with it. We showed a great deal of respect for the audience.
Will there be a TOY STORY 3?
I don't know if it'll happen but everyone wants to do another one, me and Tom Hanks. They're terrific films But it's such a pain in the ass to do, working by yourself, working against the clock, it's really difficult. TOY STORY was great as a sequel - it was a good film.
Will there be a GALAXY QUEST sequel?
I'd love to do one. I've leaned very hard on DreamWorks to do one, Sigourney Weaver wants to do one too and everyone loved making it because it was fresh. But by doing a sequel you could lose that. I'm working on another science fiction film with Mel Gibson's company, a sci-fi comedy, it's really wonderful and it looks promising that we will make it, but I'm very superstitious talking about it too much.
How do you spend Christmas?
I have a house near my mother's house in Michigan. Christmas Eve I'm there with my daughter and we look at lights, then I go to church. We get up on Christmas Day and go to my mom's house - all the family, my in-laws and everyone meet there - which is a small house. There are seven brothers and two sisters times two and a lot of children. And I like it, everything's moved down a generation and your parents are going, "see, not so fun is it?" Did your parents ever say that? "I can't wait till you have children".
Would you have more children?
Oh yeah. But I wish they came with instructions. Everything has instructions and a book and with kids it's terrifying. But once you have one you don't get so upset with the second one. My mum after about six I think she thought she could juggle chainsaws.
'I can't find my way home' by Blind Faith and Revolver, the Beatles.
What would you like for Christmas?
Isaac and Ishmael, see if they can't make up and be friends, peace. Those two big brothers, if those guys would get along I think we'd all be much happier.
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