Christmas with the Kranks: An Interview with Tim Allen
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By Wilson Morales
Jamie Lee Curtis said recently that she has changed Christmas and that she will not give anymore to adults, only to children. Is there anything you are going to change in terms of Christmas?
Tim Allen: I don't think I will make any changes. That's Jamie Lee's problem. I like giving to adults because since "Home Improvement", I've enjoyed sharing gifts with a lot of my staff and I really enjoy it. I take a whole year to do and I look around and find just little stuff and sometimes it's stuff that they need and sometimes it's just an expression of a year of gratitude for working with them. It does get a bit much if you let it build up, but for me, it's kind of enjoyable especially here in New York, and I love to come to New York. I have a house here but this time I'm not able to do anything cause we are doing this. I usually come to New York during Thanksgiving to shop. I love shopping here.
I understand that you were very uncomfortable wearing the speedo.
TA: Ooh, talk about packages. The only reason I was uncomfortable in the speedo is because Jamie Lee thought it was so much fun to poke and prod and hug. I think she looked pretty dam good, but at our age, we just shouldn't be in stuff that small. For me, I had to around in the back room with grips and other guys, and I have three people rubbing oil on me and "Are you ok?" There are just men going, "I'm glad I don't have to do that." You're back in the backroom in a mall in a speedo, with oil on and botox face, there's no way to be cool or act like a guy. That was the worst part about that. The stuff up front with Jamie Lee, you have the advantage cause I haven't seen the final cut; so I don't know exactly what they used, but that was a very funny day.
You've done a lot Christmas movies and with this film, you're playing the part of the anti-Santa. What was more fun and where do you find yourself?
TA: Well, I wouldn't have picked this movie had it not been for Joe's insistence and the timing. It seemed to me redundant when they mentioned it to me. I hadn't read the book when they first brought it up but it was a gap that and the movie I'm doing now and it worked out perfectly. Joe said after he came off an airplane, "I have a John Grisham book I'd like you to do" and I went "Great!" I get to murder a judge or something like that. Finally I get my big chance. It will be dramatic. He goes, "Nah, it will be a Christmas comedy." It's something different and that will be good. Then he said that it's a Chris Columbus screenplay, a Grisham bestseller, and Jamie Lee is the girl I would like you to play against, and (Dan) Aykroyd has showed interest, and we are going to shoot it in Los Angeles. It got better and better and better and I said "Yeah" based on all those components and the memory of Sigourney Weaver in Galaxy Quest. She goes, "I just came off Alien killers, space movie and you want me to do a space movie?" But it was so different from what she did before. It was sort of paying homage and being a comedy twist to it. I've always like her courage of that. I didn't want to throw this out just because it was a Christmas movie and because my mother disagreed. "Another Christmas movie?" she says. It was just the right time, and I said it was a brilliant script.
Do you have a tacky Christmas something that you don't want friends to see or a tradition that you are embarrassed about?
TA: Well, I don't think I'm the only one about this re-gifting thing. I don't know where this has come from but this is particularily embarrassing. I end up sometimes, because I have so many brothers and sisters and so many employees, with a lot of weird stuff and I forget where they came from and I don't used them; guys especially. They get wallets, belts, and gloves a lot. So I have my own Macy's and I gave the gloves back to the guy that gave them to me. This is not a good thing, especially when he goes, "Hey, these look like the gloves I gave you for Christmas last year." I said, "Wow, they are a very popular style. Everybody has them." He goes, "Like that? Even with the card from me?" I go, "Apparently that's the style."
Have you ever attempted to blow off Christmas yourself?
TA: I've had some years past where my family went through what families do especially when there are eleven of us. We got on certainly different political paths and economic different paths and it was really tough being home because some spouses of brothers don't get along and it was just unpleasant at my mom's house. But we got through it if stick with the family, then they will stick with you. This has been a couple of years with my family and everybody now wants to come home because we don't come home for as long as we did anymore. I bought my parents a house. Well, I put them in a home and because of that, they have other people they can play with. That's a joke. I redid my mother's house and now she has five places to sleep, with is the couch in the basement, 2 bedrooms for kids in the basement. There's a little stove thing in the basement so people can eat and a big bathroom down there. To make a long story short, she now has room to have a lot of grandchildren in the house, which she likes. I still have a home in Detroit so they can come to my house; so everybody's comfortable. Now we have it set up with old cars so that people have cars to get around and have a place to do something with the kids. We've learned how to do it and my mom now wants to be around everyone during those times. It's turned into another great time for us.
From a comic standpoint, how juicy a target has it been for the pressure of the media to meet expectations from you?
TA: As a comic, the juicy thing for me is still Easter. In the Christian thing, it's the resurrection of the Messiah and somehow it's equated with boil eggs and rabbits. I don't get it. Christmas I sort of get the thing, but Easter is really peculiar to me.
Where did the ham come from?
TA: I know, the ham, the colored chocolate eggs and a rabbit. I mean, Christmas is about giving and love and all that, but a rabbit? Don't quite get the Easter thing. Bonnets and baskets; this is the resurrection of the Messiah and a rabbit.
Where do you stand on Botox?
TA: This is one of those things where I hate to see it and I said to myself and I said to Joe Roth and I said to the costume people, "I will not put stuff on my face, and cut two, there's stuff on my face because I'm a comedian first. I went into the wardrobe and Hallie, my makeup girl at the time, put on a rubber cement, and sort of pushed my head back, and Joe walked in and we did the screen test, and Joe said "I guess so." Comics don't want to hear, "I guess so". So I said, "Alright. Give me a day." I told Hallie to contact the people that had worked on Santa Clause and we know how to do it. There are five stages to the "Cluase" stuff. "Put that weird forehead stuff on." And we put the forehead on and look like if Don Johnson could have children with Spock. What we ended up with, and in that chair, it was difficult not to laugh. "Put the eyebrows a little higher up" until it became absolutely ridiculous, and I said, "Perfect". I put a suit on and walked back in and on the way into the set. I'm getting people bursting out laughing. I get to Joe and he couldn't even look at me and I said, "Now, we're getting someplace"; and that ended up being a seven hour laughfest, where Jamie Lee could no longer look at me; which is good. You don't want your co-star looking at you when you are doing a scene and Joe and the DP and everybody eventually had to leave the area. They actually had to have amateurs run the camera. When I started choking on peach wedges (laughs), I sent the whole room - I would do something different every time. I was totally oblivious to the conversation because I couldn't feel a thing. It was the most fun I've had with my pants on for a while.
How do you feel about Hollywood and Botox?
TA: Well, the funny thing is that I'm actually a black man. (Laughs) I've had a lot of work done. What do you think? I'm actually an older black woman. It would have been funnier had I mentioned that first. I don't have any opinion. I guess whatever floats your boat. Whatever you have the dough for. I had a sack tuck so that $3300 and I feel like a young man again. (Laughs).
Would you have plastic surgery? Would you use Botox yourself?
TA: I don't think so, but I haven't gotten to the point where someone would say, "That academy winning role, but you looked like an older woman."
Jamie Lee had some words on the matter?
TA: Her words don't matter. Not here. (Laughs)
She said she doesn't recognize some people anymore.
TA: They all tend to look the same. Eventually if you get enough work done, the woman looks the same. I don't want to say what they look like but she does the fashion thing.
With all the fame you received from on TV, what was it like when you made that leap to the big screen?
TA: I just thought that the work hours are so much different. Television was relentless, but I was never in my dressing room. I had a beautiful dressing room and I'm not even sure where it was. With movies and I think it was Audrey Hepburn who said, "There's no complaining about this work. You work really about 11 minutes a day. Most of the time you are waiting and putting something else on and practicing and whichever you do", and there are no complaints from me. I have an old bus that I redid and I get to sit on that bus and work on that computer and do my artwork and I do design and fabrications for companies. I get to play and bother the grip. That last film, I was certain I was going to buy this old peterbelt to redo a big diesel truck; so it was all I would spend time doing, downloading information from union guys. "What's the best peterbelt?" and they think I'm nuttier than a fruitcake. "You're going to drive a peterbelt around?" I didn't. It was a stupid idea but it takes up time.
Did you have any input with the music in the film and what are some of your favorite Christmas songs?
TA: I liked all that stuff in "White Christmas" and anything with "Little Drummer Boy". It sets me back; no matter who does Little Drummer Boy. I think the song that Bing Crosby did with Davie Bowie, that's one of my favorites. Just see those two in the same room. What I thought was interesting about the music choices in the Kranks was that everything about this movie was different. It reminds me, because I just saw it, "Friday Night Lights. It was so different from what I expected. It really took a different turn in that movie and I think Kranks does the same thing. It's not quite a simple comedy about a goofy over-the-top comedy. It actually has a sweet difficult turn for the actor, being me at the end, because I'm never sure where that turn came from, but I'm never sure how anybody makes a major turn in their lives. People that learn to lose weight or people that stop smoking or drinking. One day you do and one day you don't. That's as simple as it is and he was shamed beautifully I might add by Jamie Lee, who seemed to be shaming me personally when she said, "Luther, you're still not getting it." in that great scene in the kitchen where he said, "I still think I can get away with this trip." I've done this so many times and I don't know if it's a male trait but when men get bullheaded about something, we will just .. It seems selfish and it is because we were task oriented, but in that scene, she just shames me and I still think, and even when she leaves the scene, she doesn't understand. I spent $3000, I've worked all this out and we're that close to going and that stupid daughter of mine and that stupid Enrico and those stupid friends of mine; it's everybody but me and somehow I make that great change. To listen and talk to great veteran actors, let me tell you, I learned a whole bunch in that scene. They acted my pants off by just looking at me and just listening. These are terrific actors. They sucked dialogue right out of me. I was able to do great things because they sat there and just listened to me. It got real. I thought she had cancer. It was a great scene for me. Joe was able to isolate me and I asked him to do that, to set up in the middle of the snow, and let me make that decision and he listened. That one scene I got and I love visual stuff. They had to snow the whole street and light it all the way back two blocks so you could see me standing in the street just as an isolated figure. And he did it. I listened. It was a really remarkable two days.
Is Revolution Studios doing "In the Pink"?
TA: That's a film where I'm the first Mary Kay salesman. It's hardly a big comedy and more of a morality tale. That film has been pushed back. "Zoom" is the next film through Revolution Studios.
How do you feel about socializing with your neighbors? Do you like to do that?
TA: You can't in California. You have to buzz them. "Hey, is anybody in there?" I have neighbors and I happen to know my neighbor next door cause he happened to cut down the trees in between us. "Oh, is that yours?" he would say. "Yeah, since it fell into my pool, you would call it mine, wouldn't you? But in Hollywood, and I live up in Hollywood Hills and you are gated and it's not like where I grew up. I miss that and so does my daughter. In Los Angeles, you have to organize playdates with security personnel, and in Michigan and in the Midwest, people still have the paper bags with candles in them, and the streets are lit up and they are caroling. It's changed a bit and I said that in Los Angeles, it's not quite the same.
What's your take on "The Shaggy Dog" and how's it going to be different?
TA: Since I wrote "The Shaggy Dog" with a guy named Matt Carroll, and just going through the archives at Disney and I promised them I would do this years ago, I was looking over the material with him; I came across the original film and with all due respect, it's terrible. The memory of it is better than the movie. I loved that movie and the only corollary I come up with is "The Miracle Worker". The guy turns into a dog but he can't talk, nor can dogs talk in this movie. Dogs can't drive cars nor can they get hot dogs in the streets. They are dogs and there's a human in a dog randomly. Sometimes I'm human and I'm a dog. There's a mixture meaning behavior. It's never a transition and you don't see furry face. I want it, in the sense that I turn into a dog and it's very funny. We start shooting recently. It's very different than you might expect. The best thing is that I get to see the family from a very different perspective cause I sit around the house all the time and I see what I have done to this family and what's it like to be a fly in the wall and on top of that I get to run really fast and the food smells better and when I'm a human being and I smell like a dog, and his colors are brighter and it sounds better, I feel emotion. Sometimes I like people that I don't like and in meetings like this I growl. It's got a big room for comedy for me.
How much fun is it to imitate a dog and take on its mannerisms?
TA: It's been hysterical because people forget what dogs do and then when you see a human being do it, it's really funny because I can't concentrate for any length of time if there's food in the room. Literally everything is misinterpreted; either I got to take a leak or I got to eat. That's what everybody says. "He probably has to go out." When I'm the dog, I'm always excited to tell people that it's me. "You got to go out?" and I'm like, "No" and then when I'm a human acting like a dog, I can't concentrate. Plus I always want people to touch me. I'm always walking by the courtroom and seeing the judges and laying on his arm, and he's saying "You've got to take your head off my arm." I also growl at the prosecutor but it's subtle. We had a very funny first rehearsal. It's going to be big for me because I get to be broad.
What about the cat? Are you afraid of upsetting cat owners?
TA: Mind you, I am a cat owner. That scene with the cat turned out to be an hysterical moment. We had a trained cat; only in Los Angeles. Of course, it's not really trained but it's always, "I've never seen you do that before." How many times do we hear that? They has a fake cat and a real cat. They had to put the fake one underneath my foot really quick and then the real one is already down there and has to run away and it did. It ran away. It just got up and ran down the street with people chasing it and it was gone. The cat ran in between houses and ran away.
Do you have a favorite Christmas movie?
TA: A Christmas Story is one of my favorite movies ever and it happens to be a Christmas movie. I lived in that era with the BB gun. I wanted it so bad. I got it and ended up shooting my grandmother with it and they took it away from me.
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