Vince Vaughn stars as Santa's naughty brother in Fred Claus.
In Fred Claus, Vince Vaughn gums up the North Pole toy works by agreeing to help his famous brother Nicholas, a.k.a. Santa (Paul Giamatti), with the Christmas rush in exchange for a $50,000 loan he needs for a Chicago business opportunity. Soon enough, an efficiency expert (Kevin Spacey) is taking advantage of the turmoil to threaten Santa’s very livelihood. We got a chance to hear from Vaughn firsthand about making his holiday movie debut.
Question: You’ve had a good run lately. How do you choose your scripts?
Vaughn: I just look for stories that are going to be fun to work on. It’s easy when you’ve got David Dobkin directing a movie – we worked together on Fred Claus, Wedding Crashers and Clay Pigeons. And look at the actors I have the good fortune to work with on this project. Everyone has been nominated or won an Oscar but me. I would work on a scene and Spacey would say, “Well, that’s a choice. I guess you could do that, but….” I started to get a complex.
The unique thing in this film is how [Santa] finds out if kids are naughty or not. The Christmas movie is a genre that has been done so many times, but Jessie [Nelson, producer/screenwriter] was able to stumble on a different way at looking at the mythology.
Question: Is it hard to move from a raunchy R film to a family oriented PG-13 movie?
Vaughn: Not really. After Old School and Wedding Crashers, it was fun to jump into this kind of movie. I loved those animated [Christmas specials] growing up, and this feels like a live-action one of those. It has such great heart to it, and I think that’s a testament to David. There are some adult scenes, but the movie never has to be risqué or gratuitous. So I think the adults will follow it on one level and the kids will connect on another.
Question: In the movie, Kevin Spacey’s character gets his gift wish. What’s your gift wish?
Vaughn: Thanks for asking. I guess…understanding. Sometimes beneath this shell exterior, there’s a soft interior. [Grins] No, seriously. I have a nephew and some nieces, and it’s nice to have kids around at Christmas. I like to enjoy it through their eyes, opening presents and enjoying them. But my gift wish is understanding, and that’s OK if I don’t get it this year. Sometimes, you have to be happy with the things that you receive and wait until next year for those you didn’t.
The scene where Paul as Santa gives Kevin his gift wish is my favorite scene of the whole movie. You have two great actors in a scene for which the circumstances are absurd at first glance – it’s Santa Claus and the efficiency expert having this moment. But the emotional truth of the scene is relatable and human; it has a nice message in it. And it’s played by these two guys in a way that’s very real and committed to their circumstances, which are obviously make-believe.
Question: Vince, there’s a great scene where you gorge on some flan. Did you have to do many takes for that one?
Vaughn: No, that was a “oner.” It was fun. There’s no fat suit with me; what you see is what you get. Normally I’m 170 pounds soaking wet, but not on this one!
Question: Did you get bruised up from the scenes where you’re shown going down a chimney?
Vaughn: When you see my character falling and doing weird stuff in the movie, that’s a stunt guy named Joe Bucaro out of Chicago. So Joe will go and fall on his head, then we’ll do some kind of high-five thing or something. And then I’ll go lie in there in the same spot, get up and I’ll have a sense memory moment of a when I was much younger and fell on my head. A lot of actors like to be fashionable and say they do all their own stunts. I do not like to do my stunts! I like the stunt guy to do my stunts!
Question: If there were such as a thing as the naughty-nice evaluation criteria shown in the movie, which one would you have been growing up?
Vaughn: I would have been nauuuughty, but in a very nice way.
Question: Do you remember when you stopped believing in Santa Claus?
Vaughn: When I was six years old, I remember the neighbor telling me, “You know there’s no Santa Claus, right?” And I, of course, covering, answered, “Well yeah, of course.” Then I went to my sister and she told me, “Now you know the truth that there is no Santa Claus.” But I was the youngest in my family, so Mom and Dad said I had to keep pretending that the gifts were from Santa Claus, or else I would stop getting gifts from them.
So I’m 16, asking Dad, “When’s Santa coming down the chimney?” Finally my dad is like, “Look, this is getting weird. You’re older, you know there’s not a Santa Claus. It’s OK, you’ll keep getting gifts.”
We did this little promo for the movie that aired during the World Series a while back. When we were done, this little kid came up to me and [addressed me in character] and said, “Hey, Fred - tell your brother [Santa Claus] to get me something this year!” And I said, “Oh, OK, I got you.” So now, I keep thinking about this kid, and I’m just hoping that his parents are going to give him a good gift this year!
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