Vince Vaughn, Paul Giamatti, Kevin Spacey, and David Dobkin are also on hand to talk about this holiday treat
Fred Claus (Vince Vaughn) has lived almost his entire life in his little brother's very large shadow. Fred tried, but he could never live up to the example set by the younger Nicholas (Paul Giamatti), who was just a perfect... well... Saint.
True to form, Nicholas grew up to be the model of giving, while Fred became the polar opposite: a repo man who then steals what he repossesses. Now Fred's dirty dealings have landed him in jail.
Over Mrs. Claus's objections, Nicholas agrees to bail his big brother out on one condition: that he come to the North Pole and work off his debt off by making toys. The trouble is that Fred isn't exactly elf material and, with Christmas fast approaching, this one bad seed could jeopardize the jolliest holiday of the year. Has Fred finally pushed his little brother to the brink? This time, what Fred may have stolen is Christmas itself, and it is going to take more than Rudolph to set things right.
We recently caught up with the cast of Fred Claus to talk about the film and the upcoming holiday season. Here's the press conference with stars Vince Vaughn, Kevin Spacey, Paul Giamatti, and director David Dobkin:
Vince, do you feel like you've ever had to be weary of some sort of backlash? Like people are going to get sick of seeing you do the same character?
Vince Vaughn: I never even think of that. I just don't approach it that way. I never have. I just am fortunate that I try to find stories that I think are going to be fun. Like from a child place, to go work on. Boy, it's easy when you've got David Dobkin directing a movie, this, Wedding Crashers , Clay Pigeons ... And look at the actors I have the fortune of working with. Everyone's been nominated or won but me. I sort of get a complex on the set after a while. Spacey would look at me like, "Well, that's a choice. You could do that. That's nice. You're making a nice turn in the movie." But no, we had such an unbelievable cast of actors. It really elevated everything. Jessie came up with such a great story. I think it was a bedtime story she was telling her daughter. Then David's so good both at shooting and then finding the story in the editing room. I just think that what really worked most in this film was the unique thing about, "Are there naughty kids or not?" It's a thing that's been done so many times. I think Jessie was able to stumble on a different way of looking at the Christmas holiday movie.
Is it hard going from an R rated movie to something more family friendly like this? Which is rated PG?
David Dobkin: We actually shot an R rated movie and then cut it down. No, it wasn't really hard because the mindset of the film is sort of childlike. The movie is geared for kids and the kid in all of us is something that we always talk about. I think that you go out there and at certain times you have a question of where a joke is going to land or not, but the spirit of the film was very family oriented. It was about Christmas spirit, and all of that.
Vince Vaughn: I think it's a testament to David, in that I loved those claymation films growing up. And this kind of feels like a live action one of those. It has such great heart to it. I think it works on a smart level. It is a really smart kind of adult-themed film. The movie never has to be risque or go for shock value or be gratuitous in order to accomplish that. So the adults really are following it on one level, and the kids are really connecting on another level.
Paul, what sort of mindset did you have to get into to play Santa Claus?
Paul Giamatti: I did a lot of deep back-story. Part of the nice thing about it is that it's such an archetype. You know a lot of the stuff you're supposed to do. I had to work up a good, "Ho-Ho-Ho." So I worked on that, I worked hard on that, Kevin, and you laughed.
Kevin Spacey: No, I didn't.
Paul Giamatti: You didn't? Okay. I put in as much effort as I could to get the right things down that everyone expects. You know, it's a character on the page and he's supposed to be sort of a regular guy who is over-worked and over-stressed. He runs a huge business that drives him crazy. I took a character like that and then I overlaid all the typical Santa Claus stuff. I tried to lay that stuff on top of it.
How much did the fat suit weight?
Paul Giamatti: I don't know how much the fat suit weighed.
Kevin Spacey: You were wearing a fat suit?
Paul Giamatti: Thank you, Kevin.
Vince Vaughn: Kevin thought you were like De Niro.
Paul Giamatti: I was meant for this, I was meant for the work.
Kevin Spacey: I just remember watching how you would try to hold a cup.
Paul Giamatti: To hold anything.
Kevin Spacey: The dinner scenes with the fork.
Paul Giamatti: Trying to hold a fork or anything was impossible. I don't know how much it weighed. Seventy pounds or something like that? It was a lot.
Did you overheat in that suit?
Paul Giamatti: It was really hot. I sweated a lot, yes.
Kevin Spacey: So, oddly, you were losing weight while you were looking bigger.
Paul Giamatti: That is weird. I don't know if I lost weight. I don't know. Did I? I don't remember. It was hot. They got me out of it every 40 minutes. I had to open up the suit and cool down.
David Dobkin: I think about a half-hour was the longest, and then they had to cool you down.
Vince Vaughn: It was a hard process. It really was.
Paul Giamatti: It was a whole lot of stuff, but yeah, it. It was fun. It could have been a lot worse.
Kevin, do you like playing the villain?
Kevin Spacey: No. Sometimes people say, "Isn't it great that you are at this place in your career where you can pick the parts that you want to play?" That is only true in the sense that you can pick the parts that they offer you. You can pick the parts that you are available to do, given the schedule that I have is primarily now based in the theatre in London. It's a funny thing because I suppose when people see movies, they then label the character bad, evil, villainous, or good or triumphant or heroic. The truth is that when you are playing a character, you don't ever label a character. You don't say, "Oh, now I'm playing this villain." You are playing a human being who might do bad things, and might do good things. What I liked about Clyde in this film is that even though he starts off in a certain place, he ends up in an entirely different place. There is actually a journey. I reject the idea that he's a bad guy. Yeah, he's kicking Santa's ass. But at the end they are finally using spreadsheets and it's efficient. It's gotten much better.
Vince Vaughn: He's kind of a catalyst too. Without him, I don't know if these brothers would have mended. They reflect both sides of each other.
How many times did you come down the chimney in this film, Vince?
Vince Vaughn: Here is the good news. Sometimes I would come down the chimney, and that was fine because I would just kind of come down the chimney. When you see people falling and doing weird stuff? That is a stunt guy named Joe Bucaro, out of Chicago. For a lot of actors, it's not fashionable. A lot of actors like to say, "Yeah, I do my stunts." I don't do any of my stuff. I don't like to do my stunts. I like to have a stunt guy do my stuff. So, Joe will go and fall on his head and then we'll do some kind of high five thing or something, and then I will lie there and get up. I have sort of a sense memory moment of when I fell when I was much younger. A lot of the harder falls were a stunt guy.
What made you guys want to appear in a Christmas movie?
Vince Vaughn: You guys have an answer? Obviously, for me, I am just thrilled to work with all of these guys, truthfully. These are great actors. The thing in doing more comedies, as I get older, comedy sometimes, and especially the way that David does it, the jokes can come out of the circumstances. It's not so sketchy or just like a sketch show. It really does come from human conditions. When you are fortunate enough to have guys, and the girls like Kathy Bates and Miranda who are in the movie as well, that are really good actors, then you are able to work on such a higher level where it's funny. But like David said, you approach it dramatically. It makes it better and it makes the movie much better.
Kevin Spacey: No, for me I had always wanted to work with Ed Guinn, Ricardo Montalban, Gary Collins. I'm sorry what movie are we talking about? I'm sorry, I got lost. In my life now, the truth is, I am dedicating myself to doing theatre now more than I have films. Whenever there is a movie that comes along, that can fit around that priority for me, particularly one that has in its cast an actor I got to work with on stage nine years ago, in The Iceman Cometh, and still to this day think gave one of the great performances that I have ever been that close to. And Vince, who I've known, but we've never worked together. For me, it was a very easy decision to say yes to coming on, having as much fun as we had. Even though it is in its essence a comedy, I think that what David says about the way in which we worked, the process in which we got to the places, you want to fulfill and check all the comedy boxes. But you also want it to be rooted in something so that by the end of the film an audience walks out and says, "Yeah, the movie has a theme. It's got some ideas to it. It's got a spirit to it." I did a movie a bunch of years ago, the only other Christmas movie I've done, and it was called The Ref, which was a movie that I loved and had a great time doing. Again, it is a movie that has a slightly twisted way into what is sort of the more traditional and a little more sentimental type of film. I had a blast. We had a really good time.
Paul Giamatti: Why did I do this picture? I have to say, I get a script like this and I'm not thinking "Oh, I'm doing a big holiday movie." I just got a good script. I got something that was interesting to me. It's a nice part, a fine director, and then when I hear all the other people doing it, I know it's going to be a good time. Working with David, I know how great he is. This guy is a great director. I never think of it in terms of, "Oh, I'm going to do a holiday picture." It just was a good script.
Do you remember a time when your faith in Santa Claus may have been shaken?
Vince Vaughn: I remember the day I had neighbors that let me know, I was 6 years old, that there was no Santa Claus. They go, 'You know there's not a Santa Claus, right?' And of course covering in front of them I was like, 'Well, yeah. Of course there's not a Santa Claus, guys.' Then I went to my sisters and they said, 'Okay, now you know the painful truth. There is not a Santa Claus.' I was the youngest. They said, 'Don't tell mom and dad because then we may not get gifts anymore. You got to keep pretending that you think there is Santa Claus, or you are not going to get any gifts.' I was like 16 going, 'Dad, when is Santa coming down?' My dad was like 'Look, it's getting weird. You are getting older, you know there's not a Santa. We're going to keep giving gifts, but there is no Santa. You know that, right?" I said, 'You're going to keep giving gifts? Yeah, there is no Santa. I get that. I totally get that." That was my experience with it, but I can't speak for this group of angels that are sitting up here.
Kevin Spacey: I never lost my faith in Santa Claus.
Paul Giamatti: I was never buying it. I never bought it. It never made sense to me. It didn't add up, never bought it. The Easter Bunny, for some reason, I bought.
Vince Vaughn: What's funny about Paul is we just did this fun short for the World Series with these kids. We did Fred Claus kind of coaching. We did the whole thing and when it was over, one of the kids, he had to be about 9 or 10, came running up to me afterwards. He goes, "Hey, Fred." I felt like Joe Green in that Coca Cola commercial. He's like, "Hey, Fred." I turned and looked at him, I said "Yeah." He says, "Tell your brother to get me something this year." I looked at him and I said, "Oh, I got you. I got you." So, now I'm just hoping that this guy is getting something good. Otherwise he's going to hunt me down and hold me accountable.
Fred Claus opens December 9th, 2007.