INT: Tim Allen

Not only is Tim Allen a big comedic star, he now also has his own personal star—on 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 TV’s 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 it’s 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 doesn’t 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 wouldn’t have been my first pick. If I had just read it, I probably wouldn’t 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. I’ve known Joe for a long time and we’ve been wanting to do something together. I am going to probably do several movies with those guys at Revolution, but they’re all upcoming and not to do with him. He said “I’d 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 didn’t 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 life—I think suddenly—you have an opportunity, and you either move on with the behavior you’re 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’?

It’s 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 Krank—you didn’t even see it—but in his office, he collects comic books-- comic books and little action figures. And it’s the clothes he wears. I know people like this, he’s fastidious. In his garage, I had that stuff, and I wanted to make sure that in the background, that’s what kind of guy this is. He’s 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 don’t go to comic book conventions all over the world.  I don’t hang out on the internet with just those people.

But that’s what Luther Krank is like. He didn’t have any friends. He didn’t have a best friend in this movie. He didn’t really like Frohmeyer, and he certainly didn’t like Emmet Walsh. Spike Frohmeyer was the middle kid—and I know they took a lot of that out, because there was way too much pipe; there’s 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 didn’t really relate to too many people. I’ve never played a guy like that. At work they didn’t really particularly like him either, they just didn’t get him. My secretary was even kind of weird to me.

The only thing I think he related to was his daughter, and that’s 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 don’t want to deal with this. Let’s go, let’s 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 process—it was fast and streamlined and fun—so I was kind of agreeable to a lot of that. The rain: I’d never done that, where you’re wet. It was at night, just a little chilly, and wet. I kept asking, “Where’s the water coming from? Where did they get the water from—was it just out of a fire hydrant?” Kidding. They went, “Yep.” So I asked, “Sewage, or….?” They said No. That’s all I was worried about, because it smelled weird to me. But it was just because they’d 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 you’ve ever been in wet clothes, they’re 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 it’s 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, it’s uncomfortable for me to be in a bathing suit. I always—even as a kid—I never liked being in a bathing suit. Even if I looked all right, it wasn’t that. I feel week and vulnerable, and in bathing suits you’re standing around grips and lighting people, and everybody else has got clothes on. You’re standing there with two girls, and a guy greasing you up, and you’re standing there like, “Hey guys, how ‘bout those Raiders?”  And I’m 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 doesn’t care. She’s flopping around and running and jumping. I said, “Jesus.” You took it off her, she just doesn’t . . . she’s fearless. I haven’t seen how they cut it. It was really a long day. You’re in a mall, too, and they can’t shut the mall down. Across the mall, people were taking pictures of us.  Yeah, that was a great day. There was a priest, Tom Poston—who’s particularly funny anyway—just staring at you the whole time, and when it’s not on him, he’s just, you know, “Hmm. Nice.”

Have you ever felt like boycotting the holidays in your real life?

Yeah. There’s a football player friend of mine who’s family is evangelical I believe—and an NBA basketball player I know—and they completely reject the Holidays on the premise that it’s the birth of the messiah, and somehow it’s gotten off onto this particularly reprehensible path. If you can go that way, certainly. But I think more than Christmas, it’s Easter that’s the weird one. This is the resurrection of the messiah, and somehow it’s 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 I’m against it when it gets so much pressure, and when it gets cheesy. You know, it’s earlier and earlier, and it’s all about buying stuff. Then it gets to my Adbuster mentality, whoever this weird group is that’s against so much commercialism.

What is Christmas like at the Allen household?

As a single parent, it’s a little difficult. My daughter is very, very simple; she doesn’t need much and she says that. It’s just weird, I decorate my house like I’m gay. I’m like Queer Eye for the Straight Guy at my house (laughs). It’s just weird how decorated my house is. Now, because of my financial position, I’m able to fly all my family to my Mom’s house, so we do it every year. I put two extra rooms on her house—I rebuilt her house for her—so she and my dad can now comfortably house a lot of people.

I don’t know if that’s a good thing; this will be the first year we’ve done it. But I wanted her house to be big enough before they go so that they can have everybody—all the grandchildren, and the great-grandchildren, everybody in the same house. And we’ve got it all to down to three days. My mom says, “Relatives and guests are like fish. They stink after three days.” It’s really a nice time, because we work at it. My family’s been though some transitions, as families do. It was a rough time for a while, and now everybody’s realizing, “We’re what we’ve got.” The world, being what it is, your family’s what you have, good or bad. My family still talks, and we all like each other’s spouses and we like each other’s kids. Politically is where we get into trouble—and theologically—we get in big arguments, but that’s what families are about.

Do you have any desire to do straight drama?

It’s like a double-sided question. If I’m interested, it doesn’t really make much difference. The ones that I’ve done, they’ve changed into comedy, and the ones that I’d like to do, they don’t 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 everybody—with your audience—to be funny. If you want to do drama, you have to get a new contract or you’re reneging on your promise that you made to be a funny guy.” I’ve always said, that’s a good point of view. I haven’t got another argument. There are other guys who can do drama but can’t be funny, so why not let them do that? That’s the other way to look at it. 

The other side is, I just get kind of bored doing the same thing, and I don’t want to do it anymore-- I’d 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 didn’t really know I was a murderer—you kind of had to surmise that by me holding the gun, because it tested so poorly. And I said, “Of course it tests poorly-- You’ve 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 it’s safe to bring their kids. You’ve got to be clear that this isn’t a typical Tim Allen role. The studios don’t 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. They’re going, “You just can’t sell it. People aren’t going to come see you shoot people. They’re just not going to do it.”   And they’re right. The guys that have done it—look at Robin Willams—he’s been playing these murderers, and I think he does it great. I don’t know what it does. I don’t know what the end goal is. The best I can say is, I’ve been pretty successful writing movies. I’ve written one that’s been going on now for a long time, and I’m not going to question it. It’s going to be my Rocky. I’ll either finance it myself, or I’ll just do it myself.  It’s not as clever as Braveheart, but it’s a movie that I would have to be in, and then direct, because I don’t think any studio is going to want to do it.

What’s it about?

It’s a science fiction movie, but a kind of threatening science fiction, as if it could actually happen. It’s 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. It’s not a comedy. 

And you want to play that character?

(Nods). I’ve 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 it’s 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 don’t 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 don’t want to see Mikhail Barishnikov play Stomp. There’s no need for it. If you want to do it, that’s fine, but don’t expect us to go along with this. Jim Carrey is brilliant in all the other stuff he does, but they just don’t 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 Carrey—and possibly about me—is when we make you laugh. That movement emotionally is just as powerful as these real sad moments. It’s just as powerful. It just isn’t as powerful to us that do it, because we’re so used to doing it.

I see movies where the emotion is like, “Oh, God, that’s great.” I used to laugh because in Toy Story 2, Buzz has some particularly emotional scenes, but he’s not speaking. So if he’s not speaking, it has nothing to do with me. You’re like, “Oh, he had an emotional moment!” I don’t value, as we don’t, our own talents. My most favorite thing in the world is making people laugh, but I don’t value it like other people do. It’s life changing.  I’ve had very sad, sick, emotionally bankrupt people have a great day around me, and they’ve thanked me forever, and I didn’t 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. I’m one of those comedians who are also funny people. I’m funny most of the time, I enjoy it to the point of annoyance to the people around me. They’re like, “You’re masking your real feelings by being funny.” No, I’m just being funny along with my real feelings. I do tend to be funny when I’m uncomfortable. I do tend to be funny when I’m mad. I’m funny in funerals, and I’m also funny in corporate meetings when I’m 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 things—you’re living it and you’re 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 it’s an acquired skill, you really have to work at it. She goes, “Nothing.” And I go, “There’s a red car, right in front of us, you didn’t remember that?!?” So often in my own world, in the middle real world, you’re going, “Let’s see, I’ve got dry cleaning, I’ve got to do this…”, and you’re 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 you’re 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. That’s what it’s for. You put your writing out, read it! People read it, they don’t like it. You can’t 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 they’re like pirates and carnival workers for the most part, but they’re honest and hard working and they’re 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. She’s 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 didn’t have a red shirt on!” Have you ever seen a movie where things don’t add all up? My daughter loves that stuff.

What do you see her doing when she grows up?

She’s got herself into an art academy. I wanted her to get in for painting—we’re both painters—but she got in for acting. I think she wants to be an artist like me, in many disciplines. She’s a singer and dancer and all that nonsense.

Do you enjoy watching your own movies?

Mmm-hmmm. It’s a sick thing, yes (laughs). It’s getting less, as I get older. It all seems to me like I’m so youthful in those older movies. But now I’m the dad, instead of the action hero.

Source: JoBlo.com



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