Netflix vacation movie "Christmas Chronicles" producer chris Columbus and also director Clay Kaytis talk around creating kurt Russell"s "tough guy," Elvis-singing Santa Claus; spreading non-Hollywood kids; and also those "Gremlins" echoes.


The Christmas Chronicles.

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With their new family vacation film for Netflix, The Christmas Chronicles, director Clay Kaytis (The angry Birds Movie) and also producer chris Columbus (Home Alone, Mrs. Doubtfire, Gremlins) hope to provide a fresh spin on the magic the Christmas.

The movie stars kurt Russell together a grizzled Santa Claus ~ above a mission to save Christmas and features a 21st century reimagining the Yuletide staples like the phibìc Pole and also Santa’s sleigh.

It to be the combination of standard Christmas lore and brand-new mythology that spoke come Kaytis, an animation veteran making his live-action directorial debut.

“What really hooked me were few of the ideas in Matt ’s initial script of how Santa it is intended gifts, exactly how he gets to the phibìc Pole, simply some really initial ideas around how Christmas actually works that have never yes, really been defined in Christmas movies,” Kaytis speak The Hollywood Reporter.

With 19 year of endure working for Disney under his belt, Kaytis’ first project as a director was Sony’s 2016 Angry bird Movie. After that film’s release, Kaytis decided to shot his hand at live-action.

“I obtained this manuscript as a sample the Matt Lieberman’s writing, not as a movie the was being produced,” Kaytis says. “My creating partner check out it too. I said, ‘This is good, you should read this,’ and also she was like, ‘How come no one’s do this movie? This is far better than most of the stuff us read!’ for this reason then we tracked that down and found that 1492 had currently purchased it.”

Even though Kaytis had actually never directed a live-action function before, Columbus knew he was the right human being for the job. “I liked Clay’s energy,” he speak THR. “I knew he would be an excellent with the actors. And patient. The was necessary to me, the level the patience. Particularly with children— someone that understands kids, who can work v kids.”

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“I’ve constantly wanted to cast kids that didn’t feel choose they were, for lack of a better phrase, ‘Hollywood’ kids,” Columbus states of the casting decision. “Kids who had been top top too numerous sets, who had done too much work and basically spoiled their own naturalistic instincts. Because that me, Judah and also Darby… both felt like real kids.”

In the movie, Kate and also Teddy sign up with Santa Claus top top his yearly trek roughly the world after lock accidentally do him crash his sleigh. However in the original draft the the script, Santa played a much smaller function than the does in the finished film.

“Santa Claus was originally only in the movie more than likely for around seven minutes,” says Columbus. There to be a summary in the screenplay about Santa Claus being this ‘big lumberjack the a man.’ It motivated me in a method that i thought, ‘Well, this might be a various version of Santa Claus.’ us talked around it, and also we chose to beef increase the duty of Santa so the he would certainly basically it is in the star of the movie.”

Columbus worked carefully with Lieberman to redevelop the script. With the review process, Columbus aimed to “create a Santa Claus that audiences had never viewed before, a Santa Claus that’s a bit of a hard guy, a bit of a superhero” however “still charming and still obsessed through the idea the Christmas and the idea that giving.”

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For Kaytis and also Columbus, over there was just one man who could embody “superhero” Santa. “Really indigenous the beginning we assumed Kurt Russell,” Kaytis says. “He was our number one choice. We wrote it through him in mind. Us planned the entirety movie approximately it. Us didn’t have actually him, yet luckily he check out the script and also he love it. He to be so into the principle of playing Santa.”

“Kurt was just so obsessed v playing this role,” Columbus adds. “After we finished the movie, he said to me, ‘You know, I’ve played three really important, iconic duties in my life: line Plissken, Elvis Presley and also Santa Claus."”

Russell, who made his movie debut in the 1963 Presley auto It happened at the World’s Fair and played Presley in the 1979 made-for-TV movie Elvis, tapped into some of that Elvis Presley swagger because that The Christmas Chronicles. In one of the film’s standout scenes, his personality covers Presley’s “Santa Claus Is earlier in Town” in a prison cell.

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Columbus come up through the idea for the succession after listening come The Pogues’ “Fairytale of new York.”

“I to be like, ‘Oh, God, that’s — a musical number in the jail cell!"” that says. “I called Kurt and I said, ‘What perform you think around a music number? hear to this song, hear to “Fairytale of new York.”‘ that listened, referred to as me back, and said, ‘Man, that is a boring song. What if it to be a little more upbeat?’ so I began going through song after song and also I found this Elvis Presley song, ‘Santa Claus is earlier in Town,’ the I always loved but has always fallen by the wayside in terms of Christmas classics. It hasn’t to be overplayed.”

Columbus had actually Russell document the song with frequent collaborator Steven van Zandt and his band, the hands-on worker of Soul. “Kurt laid down the track in 3 takes and also that to be it. That was fully his organic voice. didn’t also have to adjust anything around it,” Columbus says. “It take it Kurt most likely 45-50 minute to record the command vocal.”

The music number was “the one point I didn’t setup for,” Kaytis says. While he was originally worried around how the step would work within the context of the film, he currently cites it together a to mark of the film. “It was a an extremely wild idea, yet I just love it. Anyone loved it.”

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Following the musical number, Santa is rescued indigenous his jail cell by a spunky team of man elves. Kaytis describes the elves’ design as a “cross in between a cat and a monkey.”

“I didn’t desire the elves to be the very same thing the you’ve viewed in a many Christmas movies, even if it is it’s CG, shrunken under humanoid civilization or human being in costumes with forced perspective,” Kaytis explains. “I did want to have actually this concept, ns think it remained in the early on designs: They have both elements of naughty and also nice. Ns think if Santa wasn’t around, they might be a little more wild, yet he keeps lock in order.”

According come Kaytis and also Columbus, any type of resemblance The Christmas Chronicles‘ mischievous elves bear come the eponymous furry troublemakers that Columbus’ 1984 horror comedy Gremlins is completely coincidental. Still, Kaytis admits that “knowing Chris’ tastes and also background of the things he’s made, ns knew that I had leverage come portray these elves together not simply these twee, happy, little, always-up characters.”

And Columbus walk intentionally try to make The Christmas Chronicles similar in ton to his lover ’80s film. “For me, to get a tiny bit the the Gremlins vibe in there was important,” that explains. “I’ve always responded come a small anarchy in the Christmas world.”

Columbus, who gained his begin writing movies choose Gremlins and also The Goonies because that Steven Spielberg’s Amblin entertain in the 1980s, views The Christmas Chronicles together a spiritual follower to those films. “I’ve bring away so plenty of meetings in Hollywood where civilization are constantly saying, ‘Can we get an Amblin-type film from you? can you give us something prefer that?’ and I was constantly reluctant, saying, ‘No, I’ve got to carry out something different,"” he says. “Finally, I pertained to terms v my own past and I said, ‘You know what? We need these type of movies.’ so The Christmas Chronicles is sort of my method of saying, ‘I’m gonna go back and begin making the sort of movies ns made twenty years ago and see if the works."”

If that does without doubt “work” — the is, if enough Netflix subscribers tune in — Columbus and also Kaytis room both open up to the opportunity of continuing the Christmas Chronicles saga.

“Everyone’s so in love through this film and into the potential of making more,” Kaytis says. “Kurt’s into it, so i think it’s definitely a possibility. Even if it is it’s Santa going roughly the civilization on various other adventures or coming back to this kids, I’m no sure, however it’s definitely open.”

“It’s a human being that ns love, for this reason if that opportunity arose, i would certainly consider it,” adds Columbus. “I’d love to job-related with kurt again.”