Christmas in Paris
Magazine: RTE Guide
Issue: 24th November, 1995
Michael Doherty travels to Paris to meet Tim Allen, star of the smash-hit Christmas movie, The Santa Clause (opening in Ireland this week), and the top television series, Home Improvement.
Tim Allen may not yet be a household name this side of the Atlantic, but he certainly is one of America's biggest stars. Home Improvement has been the top-rated television show for two years running, ahead of Seinfeld and Roseanne, and his debut movie, The Santa Clause, took more than $150 million at the US box office. At the same time the former stand-up comic released his best selling autobiography, Don't Stand Too Close to a Naked Man, which ensured (that) the 42-year-old became the first entertainer in the history of American show business to have a number one television show, a number movie and a number one book, all in the same week.
Further proof of his status, if proof were required, for the European launch of The Santa Clause Buena Vista flew journalists from around the world to Disneyland, Paris, for a huge Christmas party. Allen himself had been whisked in by Concorde and would be whisked out again within 24 hours, but no before he got the full benefit of reindeer, snow machines, the carol singers and a personnel appearance by Yello's Dieter Meier, who provided the theme song for the film. Not bad for a guy who spent 12 years on the beer and smoke stand-up comedy circuit...
MD What was it about The Santa Clause that impelled you to make this your first film as opposed to the dozens of other scripts which must have been sent to you following the success of Home Improvement ?
TA Disney wanted me to do a film because the 38 million people were watching Home Improvement so even if a fraction of those people came to see the movie, it would be a success. But nothing appealed to me about the scripts that were being sent in. However, The Santa Clause was written by two people I knew and my wife and I both read the movie and loved it.
MD How much input did you have into the script ? Was there much ad libbing ?
TA The director and I are both little boys and we were allowed to play in a big playroom. He trusts my instincts and we collaborated a lot on production design. I wanted a say in how the film would look but we missed a few beats because we ran out of money. I wanted the North Pole City to be bigger. In the scene where I stand on the balcony and look out, every second of that cost $30,000.
MD Why was that so important for you ?
TA My biggest problem as a child was, if they made toys for the whole world here, it must be a huge place. We missed that sense of scale but we got the costumes right. I told them at the start - "my advice is free, if you use it, use it : if you don't use it, don't use it". I'm a comedian so naturally I did ad lib a lot. For example I thought it would be funny if the reindeer farted every time I went near them, so they added that in. It's very subtle !
MD In The Santa Clause, the Father Christmas character becomes increasingly bloated over time. Were you tempted to do a Raging Bull on it, or were you happy to let the prosthetics department take over ?
TA That was the joke on set the whole time. Most of the crew were saying, "If you were DeNiro, you would have gained the weight, you would have grown the beard, you would have been a reindeer". It's too much weight. I still applaud DeNiro but I don't know how you could ever gain 65 pounds and then have the confidence to say, "OK, the movie's over, and drop the weight. It would have be fun gaining it though!"
MD Off-screen, you are an avid motor racer and attend many race meets. Are Disney aware that one of its prize assets is putting himself in such hazardous situations?
TA I'm not sure they're really cognisant of it. I find it hard to believe that they really let me race cars. They even have the name Home Improvement on my car and no-one has twigged ! Its a big company and so sometimes the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing. I do find it a little odd, though. Of course, every time I mention it, I'm getting a closer and closer to them going, "Wait a minute, you don't mean actually racing, do you ?".
MD When the film came out in the States, were you aware that you were being pitted head-to-head with Richard Attenborough's Kris Kringle in Miracle on 47th Street ?
TA I wanted to bury him ! No, I'm joking. It was just timing. I'm not big on remakes, anyway. But that reminds me of something that seems to always happen to me ! In the States, when my book came out, the Pope's book came out, so I'm competing with the Pope all of a sudden. And I never saw him at book signings !
MD So who won ?
TA The Pope won, of course. How can the Pope loose ?
Next up, Tim Allen will be heard in the computer-animated Disney film, Toy Story, when he and co-star Tom Hanks provide the voices of rival toys. That will be followed by Indian in the City, a remake of the popular French film. In the meantime, Home Improvement will be back for a new series next autumn.
Thanks to Richard Collumb for sending this article.