INT: Tim Allen
Not only is Tim Allen a big comedic star, he now also has his own personal staron the Hollywood Walk of Fame. "Stop traffic! All these buildings will be named after me!" he joked during his honorary ceremony. His ability to laugh at the world, and himself, has endeared Allen to millions of fans around the globe. While probably best known for his eight year stint as the grunting, handy everyman on TVs Home Improvement, he has also made his mark in films such as TOY STORY and THE SANTA CLAUSE.
In his latest movie, CHRISTMAS WITH THE KRANKS, Allen stars as Luther, a man fed up with the expenses and stress that accompany the holiday season. He has the shocking epiphany to skip Christmas this year, and instead spend it with his wife, tanning and drinking martinis on a Caribbean island. His plan is met with extreme opposition from everyone in the neighborhood, who feel he is being a modern day Scrooge and missing the essence of the holidays. They proceed to harass him like a pack of angry fascists, trespassing on his property, persistently calling his house, and demanding that he succumb to the Christmas spirit. In real life this would land people with a nice stack of restraining orders, but since its the movies, we bring the kids and eat our nachos and enjoy the suffering the protagonist endures. Holiday family fun for all!
Tim Allen is every bit as dry and funny as he appears on television. He doesnt seem like a celebrity, but rather like the cool uncle you wish you had in your family. He spoke briefly about his desire to take more serious roles, despite the grief actors often receive for attempting that transition. We can also expect a dark science-fiction movie on the horizon, written by Allen, inspired by Twilight Zone type stories, and starring the funny man himself.
While choosing to do this movie after the Santa Clause movies, were you afraid or concerned that people would be like, Oh, Tim and Christmas again?
Yeah, it wouldnt have been my first pick. If I had just read it, I probably wouldnt have been as interested, but it was impossible to say no. The fact that it was a John Grisham book, Chris Columbus did the screenplay, and Jamie Lee Curtis was interested-- it was hard to say no to the totality. Ive known Joe for a long time and weve been wanting to do something together. I am going to probably do several movies with those guys at Revolution, but theyre all upcoming and not to do with him. He said Id like to direct this one and I said, Even more interesting. There were just too many things right about it.
What was the challenge in playing this character?
He has a rather dramatic turn at the end, without much pipe being laid. I didnt really know where that decision came from, but very rarely do those decisions come from any place. They happen kind of suddenly. When we make major changes in our lifeI think suddenlyyou have an opportunity, and you either move on with the behavior youre comfortable with, or you make a change. And he decided to make a change.
How do you bring something new to characters that people have seen you play before? How do you spice up the every day, American, blue collar guy?
Its all in the little things. I tell them on the set, I need a tapestry behind me. Meaning, I like to work with the property and set people. Luther Krankyou didnt even see itbut in his office, he collects comic books-- comic books and little action figures. And its the clothes he wears. I know people like this, hes fastidious. In his garage, I had that stuff, and I wanted to make sure that in the background, thats what kind of guy this is. Hes a loner, and I made him a guy that collects comic books. I was one of those kids. I still collect comic books, but I dont go to comic book conventions all over the world. I dont hang out on the internet with just those people.
But thats what Luther Krank is like. He didnt have any friends. He didnt have a best friend in this movie. He didnt really like Frohmeyer, and he certainly didnt like Emmet Walsh. Spike Frohmeyer was the middle kidand I know they took a lot of that out, because there was way too much pipe; theres way too much of me and this kid. I could do a whole movie with me and the Frohmeyer children. I think I wanted a boy, so some of those kids I kind of liked, but this guy didnt really relate to too many people. Ive never played a guy like that. At work they didnt really particularly like him either, they just didnt get him. My secretary was even kind of weird to me.
The only thing I think he related to was his daughter, and thats what this whole thing was about. When you find out the one thing you relate to is going away, what do you relate to? What are you about? Nothing. I dont want to deal with this. Lets go, lets get out of here.
There was a lot of physical comedy in the film. Was it difficult doing some of these segments, like the scene where rain is pouring down on you?
The rain was terrible. I like Joe; I really enjoyed this crew and this processit was fast and streamlined and funso I was kind of agreeable to a lot of that. The rain: Id never done that, where youre wet. It was at night, just a little chilly, and wet. I kept asking, Wheres the water coming from? Where did they get the water fromwas it just out of a fire hydrant? Kidding. They went, Yep. So I asked, Sewage, or .? They said No. Thats all I was worried about, because it smelled weird to me. But it was just because theyd pipe it, and then run it again, then run it again, and it was just a little cold, and they could never really get you dry. If youve ever been in wet clothes, theyre really hard to get out of, so I thought it would be better if I stayed in the wet clothes, but was put in a warm environment. But then its warm wet clothes-- Ugh. It was another learning curve.
What was it like doing the scene in the tanning salon with Jamie Lee Curtis? Were you cracking each other up?
Well, its uncomfortable for me to be in a bathing suit. I alwayseven as a kidI never liked being in a bathing suit. Even if I looked all right, it wasnt that. I feel week and vulnerable, and in bathing suits youre standing around grips and lighting people, and everybody else has got clothes on. Youre standing there with two girls, and a guy greasing you up, and youre standing there like, Hey guys, how bout those Raiders? And Im in a bikini with that bullshit on my face, all that oil. I just felt very, very vulnerable and stupid. And then Jamie Lee, she doesnt care. Shes flopping around and running and jumping. I said, Jesus. You took it off her, she just doesnt . . . shes fearless. I havent seen how they cut it. It was really a long day. Youre in a mall, too, and they cant shut the mall down. Across the mall, people were taking pictures of us. Yeah, that was a great day. There was a priest, Tom Postonwhos particularly funny anywayjust staring at you the whole time, and when its not on him, hes just, you know, Hmm. Nice.
Have you ever felt like boycotting the holidays in your real life?
Yeah. Theres a football player friend of mine whos family is evangelical I believeand an NBA basketball player I knowand they completely reject the Holidays on the premise that its the birth of the messiah, and somehow its gotten off onto this particularly reprehensible path. If you can go that way, certainly. But I think more than Christmas, its Easter thats the weird one. This is the resurrection of the messiah, and somehow its equated with colored eggs and a bunny (laughs). That one is really peculiar to a comedian. Christmas I can get away with, because essentially, the brotherhood of mankind somehow comes through in those last three days. People generally do find some kind of connection with each other, especially in the Western Civilization ideal. So Im against it when it gets so much pressure, and when it gets cheesy. You know, its earlier and earlier, and its all about buying stuff. Then it gets to my Adbuster mentality, whoever this weird group is thats against so much commercialism.
What is Christmas like at the Allen household?
As a single parent, its a little difficult. My daughter is very, very simple; she doesnt need much and she says that. Its just weird, I decorate my house like Im gay. Im like Queer Eye for the Straight Guy at my house (laughs). Its just weird how decorated my house is. Now, because of my financial position, Im able to fly all my family to my Moms house, so we do it every year. I put two extra rooms on her houseI rebuilt her house for herso she and my dad can now comfortably house a lot of people.
I dont know if thats a good thing; this will be the first year weve done it. But I wanted her house to be big enough before they go so that they can have everybodyall the grandchildren, and the great-grandchildren, everybody in the same house. And weve got it all to down to three days. My mom says, Relatives and guests are like fish. They stink after three days. Its really a nice time, because we work at it. My familys been though some transitions, as families do. It was a rough time for a while, and now everybodys realizing, Were what weve got. The world, being what it is, your familys what you have, good or bad. My family still talks, and we all like each others spouses and we like each others kids. Politically is where we get into troubleand theologicallywe get in big arguments, but thats what families are about.
Do you have any desire to do straight drama?
Its like a double-sided question. If Im interested, it doesnt really make much difference. The ones that Ive done, theyve changed into comedy, and the ones that Id like to do, they dont offer to me. I really wanted to do Ray, but they went with Jamie Foxx (laughs). I have a lot of different opinions. A good friend of mine, Marty Short, said once when we did a movie together one time, You did a contract with everybodywith your audienceto be funny. If you want to do drama, you have to get a new contract or youre reneging on your promise that you made to be a funny guy. Ive always said, thats a good point of view. I havent got another argument. There are other guys who can do drama but cant be funny, so why not let them do that? Thats the other way to look at it.
The other side is, I just get kind of bored doing the same thing, and I dont want to do it anymore-- Id rather do something else. I got to play a murderer in Who Is Cletis Tout? but in the middle of it they got so scared, they took out the whole beginning of it where I murdered all the people. So you didnt really know I was a murdereryou kind of had to surmise that by me holding the gun, because it tested so poorly. And I said, Of course it tests poorly-- Youve got Buzz Lightyear and Santa Clause shooting people in the face! (laughs). You have to expect that people are going to find that revolting, especially people that see me in a movie and immediately think that its safe to bring their kids. Youve got to be clear that this isnt a typical Tim Allen role. The studios dont want to do that work.
Is it more of a concern that it will hurt the actual film, or that it will hurt the brand of Tim Allen?
My problem is my brand; their problem is their movie. Theyre going, You just cant sell it. People arent going to come see you shoot people. Theyre just not going to do it. And theyre right. The guys that have done itlook at Robin Willamshes been playing these murderers, and I think he does it great. I dont know what it does. I dont know what the end goal is. The best I can say is, Ive been pretty successful writing movies. Ive written one thats been going on now for a long time, and Im not going to question it. Its going to be my Rocky. Ill either finance it myself, or Ill just do it myself. Its not as clever as Braveheart, but its a movie that I would have to be in, and then direct, because I dont think any studio is going to want to do it.
Whats it about?
Its a science fiction movie, but a kind of threatening science fiction, as if it could actually happen. Its about a guy who changes everything...everything. Literally, what happens to this guy--he has the ability to do whatever he wants. I don't think anyone's strong enough to take that. Its not a comedy.
And you want to play that character?
(Nods). Ive always dreamt about it as a kid--if you could have whatever you wish. It would be fun for a couple of hours, but after that, it would become somewhat of a handicap or a punishment.
I guess Bruce Almighty took that premise, but had a more comedic bent.
Comedic bent, yeah. But he had an end-- what if it didn't end? What if it just went on and on? It's scary, and not a good position to be in. It would be fun for awhile. I think Twilight Zone did those. I grew up on that stuff, those twisted stories.
Why do you think its hard for audiences to accept comedians in dramatic roles? Even Jim Carrey and Robin Williams took a lot of flak for making the transition.
Because, essentially, you dont want to see them in those roles. Bruce Willis does this. Johnny Depp can kind of do it. Mel Gibson does it. But, You guys are funny, we like you guys funny. I dont want to see Mikhail Barishnikov play Stomp. Theres no need for it. If you want to do it, thats fine, but dont expect us to go along with this. Jim Carrey is brilliant in all the other stuff he does, but they just dont care. They want to see him stick a banana in his ear and do that goofy stuff that really moves you. What moves you about Jim Carreyand possibly about meis when we make you laugh. That movement emotionally is just as powerful as these real sad moments. Its just as powerful. It just isnt as powerful to us that do it, because were so used to doing it.
I see movies where the emotion is like, Oh, God, thats great. I used to laugh because in Toy Story 2, Buzz has some particularly emotional scenes, but hes not speaking. So if hes not speaking, it has nothing to do with me. Youre like, Oh, he had an emotional moment! I dont value, as we dont, our own talents. My most favorite thing in the world is making people laugh, but I dont value it like other people do. Its life changing. Ive had very sad, sick, emotionally bankrupt people have a great day around me, and theyve thanked me forever, and I didnt remember that I did that-- either in a set, or in one of my live performances, or in movies, because I laughed. It was all dark that day, and they said, And then you changed my day. And I said, Oh, yeah, but I still want to do that movie where I have AIDS, like Hanks did in Philadelphia. That was so moving to me, I want to do that.
When people see you in the street, do they expect you to be funny?
I generally am. Im one of those comedians who are also funny people. Im funny most of the time, I enjoy it to the point of annoyance to the people around me. Theyre like, Youre masking your real feelings by being funny. No, Im just being funny along with my real feelings. I do tend to be funny when Im uncomfortable. I do tend to be funny when Im mad. Im funny in funerals, and Im also funny in corporate meetings when Im getting slammed by something.
When did you realize that you had that power? How young were you?
Really young, I did it in school. I used to get kicked out of school a lot for cutting up in class. As long as I can remember, I always had a different point of view. Comics wake up, somehow, a little bit before the rest of us. You just observe thingsyoure living it and youre observing it at the same time, and observation is a desirable skill to me. I encourage it in my daughter all the time. I tell Taylor to shut her eyes in the car and I say, What do you see around you right now? What do you remember? and its an acquired skill, you really have to work at it. She goes, Nothing. And I go, Theres a red car, right in front of us, you didnt remember that?!? So often in my own world, in the middle real world, youre going, Lets see, Ive got dry cleaning, Ive got to do this , and youre driving the car.
I thought that was funny, that they want to outlaw cell phones. Why? Have you ever tried driving with kids in the car? With a radio on? Cell phones are just minor. At least youre looking forward.
What do you find more rewarding, acting or writing?
I think acting. Writing is a little frightening, lately. I have so much respect for both screenwriters and literary writers. It just never seems to end, you can never get it right. It never seems to finish. You put everything in it, and then someone reads it, and goes, No, no, no. So quick to judge. Thats what its for. You put your writing out, read it! People read it, they dont like it. You cant make them like it.
How do you balance being a parent and working as much as you do?
I include her. I love the movie business, and I love the people in it. I think theyre like pirates and carnival workers for the most part, but theyre honest and hard working and theyre in the best business in the world, to me. So I bring my kids to the lot of them. Whenever I can she eats with me, comes with me on the road. Whenever possible. She really is comfortable on sets. Shes attached herself to script supervisors; she loves that nit-picking crap. (Joking): Nope, nope, your hand was up! The strangest job in the world, and the most important, is the person that watches what we all watch, and is like, Hey, wait a minute, he didnt have a red shirt on! Have you ever seen a movie where things dont add all up? My daughter loves that stuff.
What do you see her doing when she grows up?
Shes got herself into an art academy. I wanted her to get in for paintingwere both paintersbut she got in for acting. I think she wants to be an artist like me, in many disciplines. Shes a singer and dancer and all that nonsense.
Do you enjoy watching your own movies?
Mmm-hmmm. Its a sick thing, yes (laughs). Its getting less, as I get older. It all seems to me like Im so youthful in those older movies. But now Im the dad, instead of the action hero.
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