Tim Allen ('Santa Clause 2')
’Tool Time at The North Pole’
Timothy Allen Dick was born on June 13, 1953, in Denver, Colorado and also has a total of eight other siblings. When Tim was young his family moved to Birmingham, Michigan where in high school his favorite subject was, of course, shop. After high school he attended Western Michigan University and graduated with a degree in Television Production in 1975. In 1978, he was arrested on drug charges and spent two years in jail. Upon his release, he had a new outlook on life and on a dare from a friend started his comedy career at the Comedy Castle in Detroit.
Later, he went on to do several cable specials, including, ‘Comedy's Dirtiest Dozen’ (1988) and ‘Tim Allen: Men Are Pigs’ (1991). In 1991 he became the star of his own hit television series on ABC called "Home Improvement" (1991). While continuing to film his television show throughout most of the 90's, he starred in a string of blockbuster movies including ’The Santa Clause’ (1994), ’Toy Story’ (1995), ’Toy Story 2’ (1999) and ’Galaxy Quest’ (1999).
In August of 1996, he developed and unveiled his own signature line of power tools, manufactured by Ryobi. On top of all that, he has his own racing team, Tim Allen/Saleen RRRRacing. In May of 1999, he ended his show "Home Improvement" (1991) after 8 seasons and has since made more Hollywood movies as both ’Joe Somebody’ (2001) and ’Big Trouble’ (2002).
Sitting patiently for him, I turn to see what all the loud fuss is about suddenly coming from behind me and quickly discover it to be Tim Allen. It’s early, he’s not had the regulated amount of caffeine pumped into his veins yet, and he’s doing yet another series of press junkets for his new Christmas movie, ’The Santa Clause 2’. Eventually getting him to sit down beside me, his face a series of rampant emotions, he eyes tired, yet his brain still operational enough to know that he should just keep knocking over my tape recorder for the comedic hell of it (”How are you doing ? Good, now don’t put that thing too close to me !” he grunts sarcastically. ”Write things down like they used to do. Used to write shit down, they did”), I am at last sitting face-to-face with the Tool Time legend himself, Tim Allen !
Why did it take 8 years to get this sequel operational ? ”Because we never had a script that was worth anything. It was all and I don’t mean to demean Disney because they are really great people, but it was usually a sequel for sequel sake.’
What was it about this one that you finally liked ?”It was the writers. Nobody knew it but they were writing in the nude,” he gruntingly laughs. ”Can you imagine two writers that would write in the nude for a Santa movie. You can’t beat it. Like being circumcised and they were really adamant about the script not being redundant and so we liked their ideas. The others had a really different version about a commercial project than I did. I wasn’t so concerned because I never had been ! I liked the story and I loved the original movie, but I wasn’t going to be pushed. I like movies that make sense. I haven’t seen any lately. ‘Digby Goes Down,’ ‘Barbershop’ and ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’ are throw back to movies that you eventually got so involved with the characters that it took you way back like a movie should do. And ‘Scooby Doo,’ he laughs. ”Thank you. You gotta throw a joke in there !”
Your Director, Michael Lembeck has said that you both “seemed to speak the same language in the spirit of comedy from day one” and that “Tim knows where the comedy jugular is and goes for it like a fuckin’ badger. A fuckin’ badger !” …. Any comments ?! ”Can you say words like that ? I don’t think you can print that, can you ? This is a Disney film, after all,” he finally laughs. ”Anyway, it’s a fuckin’ Mongoose actually. It’s a conjugation of a verb ! And you know what ? Comedy is an exact science. I believe that most everybody, anyone can do drama but comedy is an exact science. You laugh for a reason, jokes work for a reason. We screwed with each other from 6:30 in the morning to 6:30 in the evening. You had to keep up with us or you couldn’t be in the movie,” he laughs. ”It was exhausting to be us and I think we even frightened the children ! We actually frightened the children without using swear words, but just raising our voices like, ‘WHAAAAT ?! LOOKING GOOOOD !," he yells rather too loudly for comfort levels within the room !
It must have been very challenging for you not to go to THAT usual place with the children ?! ”Yeah, I told them they should take them out of the room then, because Santa will be swearing,” he laughs. ”I only did it once. I only did it one time because we had such a tough time getting the right shot. They were all in with 'Mr. Big Shot' and they had to get this one shot and then one kid was out of position every time. Some were even lost in this set and were screwing around with this plane ! And then Santa’s standing there and it was hot and I let out this ‘FUCK’ he yells out again ”and all these kids went ‘ooooh’ !”
How did you deal with that ? ”I went to get the therapist. I was terrified what I’d done but it never happened again ! These kids were pros though. They were phenomenal. On the biggest day, we had 350 in a scene and the smallest day would be a few dozen just to be around. And then you got Santa wandering around and all through rehearsals you could here “Hi Santa” and I’d say ‘DON’T MESS WITH ME,’” he shouts again. ”But there was a constant battle because they’re kids and they were spectacular. They’d wait and say “Bring in the Man” or they’d do all that Hollywood stuff like wait to the last minute for me to arrive on the set in full gear. And the kids were swooning.”
Were they asking you for toys ? ”Just wanted to touch, talk, even if they knew it was a movie. It brings a smile to adults and children’s faces. Such a wonderful icon to play and there was this wonderful world that was created for me. Everybody got on board with this real quick. The first film did the same thing. Adults and children would see this guy walking around and no matter what kind of mood I’m in there’s a weird responsibility that goes along with being in this position. But I’d hate to see Buzz Lightyear doing anything this proper. As long as it’s the TV Buzz, it’s okay, but the real Buzz doesn’t sell cracker jacks. I think he’s above that. He’s self-conscious.”
What is your childhood memory of Santa Claus and what did you bring from that to the movie ? ”Whatever you believe, he’s the sweetest guy, Santa and it’s quasi religious. If you were Christian and celebrated the birth of Christ, that was Christmas. This is an answer. A character that had something to do with joy and was a messenger of joy. There is a scene where I fulfill the fantasies of all these people that are at a very bad Christmas party. And even in the script it was tender. In its way it was a dull painted room and everybody was dull, even the jokes. So I’d have to be a smart guy, but essentially, in the sacrifice it was never even thought about. I didn’t even consider using my magic watch. It didn’t even cross my mind because this just had to happen naturally. The point that I’m making is that several times I watched this movie – and I didn’t see the cut you saw - but I said what a sweetheart that this Santa guy is. It’s truly a guy that sacrifices and his pleasure comes from what looks like a sacrifice for other people. And it’s a wonderful thing. And that’s what I always thought when I was a kid that was what Santa was all about. Although it’s typical when my daughter asked it’s kind of synonymous with parenting and relationship with God. They say ‘how come God doesn’t answer all your prayers ?’ I say, well I don’t give you everything you ask for either ! When I was a kid Santa didn’t respond to my exact wishes but more often than not, I was surprised by the generosity of Santa. And it never ceased to amaze me the image of it. And for the longest time it was hard to write about because you either buy into this with these children or you don’t. Because if you write too much about this then it seems like you’re talking about a movie and then Santa doesn’t exist.”
Did you ever ‘seen’ Santa as a child ? ”There was a point in my life when I swore I saw him. I waited up with my brother and our eyes were dropping. You know, it’s that weird hour of the morning. It’s 9:00 or 10:00 you can’t stay up until 3:00 in the morning it’s like Satan is there. I don’t know what was going on at 3:00 in the morning but I swear we heard bells jingling and then the next morning it was one of the best Christmases ever. It’s really amazing. “
How easy was the transformation of Santa’s for you to keep a grip on ? ”It was such a wonderful transformation personally, that even listening to them was amazing. You’re only seeing 20% of what happened in that guy. Once I got into that suit I wanted to get into the Nazi outfit because I kept saying no ! No ! I want black. I want this guy to go completely authoritarian. I was surprised how interesting the character played out to be. The first makeup didn’t work. The eyebrows were magnetic. It was real funny because my mouth didn’t work with my eyebrows. It hurt so much I said I couldn’t be in this for ten minutes. And the transition finally became what I wanted. I wanted action figure Santa. That’s the original thing. We put a helmet on me. It didn’t work. We did hats but it was real difficult and when we finally got that what that you finally see it was so startling when I first came out. Everybody was grunting like me. I did what they did. It was so fun to play. I was screaming at children. At one point I needed an assistant get one of these elves upgraded to an assistant. And that little blonde, I had her practice and told her not to wince I don’t care how much I yell or how close I get to your face ! I just shouted out ‘WE NEED TO MAKE SOME CHANGES AROUND HERE,’” he screams out again ”and she just stayed right there: stoned faced ! It was always to her. I was always screaming and choking !”
Any behind-the-scenes secrets ? ”There was one take where I completely lose it and I say ‘I’M CHECKING THESE RULES ! SEEMS TO BE A LOT OF CHANGES IN THESE RULES !’ I can’t decide what this meant so I said, ‘WE’RE GOING TO HAVE TO MAKE SOME CHANGES AROUND HERE’ instead ! Michael (Lembeck – Director) said “Cut” and then asked me ‘When did the shoot turn into Coronal Sanders ?’” he laughs. ”We laughed so hard at this ‘CHANGES AROUND HERE’ speech ! So now, my daughter and I have been doing this since the movie. Whenever there’s a problem at the house I say ‘We need to make some changes around here.’ At the time it was very difficult. It’s almost like the original Buzz Lightyear, since it hasn’t formed a groove yet, so that the character doesn’t sound like Sebastian Cabot. He’d call it just like it was – “It’s Gabby Hayes now” and I’d go ‘it is, isn’t it?’ But not unlike Buzz Lightyear - who was sensitive, ignorant, wonderful guy - this lunatic Santa is just so much fun because he slowly turns evil because things aren’t going my way. Like a child and a temper tantrum, he’s such a kid. If there’s ever a reason to do further adventures in the North Pole it’s to find more of this guy. And it’s a great because these great guys with the special effects went and looked at all the toy soldiers throughout history and truly, if you really see a toy soldier, they all look really stiff and scary ! They had to be terrifying, sure, but the Disney guys wanted them to have big smiles on their faces. The transition was really startling because when they came back they looked like devils. And I thought that we might scare children. We had two children just on the edge of being frightened. In the end they were the best storm troopers ever !’
It seems like, one way or another, that you’re in the movie for 95% of the time ! ”It’s so funny because it’s the poison in me. I did this synergy meeting, this strong arm “I WILL ONLY DO SANTA AGAIN IF I’M IN THAT COSTUME HALF AS MUCH” speech,’ he laughs aloud. ”Cut to it’s now twice as much and then I was adamant that “I WON’T DO THIS MOVIE IN THAT COSTUME UNLESS YOU WRITE IT SOMEHOW HALF AS MUCH” … cut to twice as much ! I’m not only in the first damn thing most of the film, I’m in the new one with a harder piece of plastic cut around my eyes for double the time ! The only saving grace was that I had another guy. I had a stunt double this time that did some of the stuff that wasn’t right on my face. To see this guys pain is something that made me smile !,” he jokingly laughs.
Interviewed By Russell A. Trunk
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