Over the course of his illustrious, nearly 60-year acting career, Kurt Russell has played Snake Plissken (Escape From New York), MacReady (The Thing), Wyatt Earp (Tombstone), Herb Brooks (Miracle) and the all-powerful Ego (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2).
Yet it appears his unlikely role as Santa Claus in Netflix’s The Christmas Chronicles movies might be the dearest of them all to his heart — and could potentially be his last.
At least that’s according to Chris Columbus, the famed Home Alone and Harry Potter filmmaker who was so taken with Russell and his passionate performance in 2018’s largely unheralded family gem The Christmas Chronicles that he shifted from the producer’s seat back into the director’s chair for the new equally as entertaining sequel The Christmas Chronicles 2.
“When a guy plays Santa Claus, most of the time it’s not taken seriously,” Columbus tells Yahoo Entertainment during a recent video chat interview (watch above). “When Kurt Russell plays Santa Claus, he writes 170 pages about the guy’s backstory and mythology. That is an actor’s commitment. He is committed to this role in a way that you would expect [Robert] De Niro to be committed to Jake LaMotta [in Raging Bull].
“When you see that kind of passion in an actor, to play a role that some people don’t take seriously, you realize I want to go there.”
While Russell may have initially seemed like a surprising choice to play St. Nick, there’s no doubt he’s cementing himself as one of the all-time great onscreen Santas, imbuing the character with a gruff but endearing edge, wicked sense of humor, newfound hipness and serious musical chops to boot.
2018’s The Christmas Chronicles paired a mourning sister (Darby Camp) and brother (Judah Lewis) with Santa as they adventure around downtown Chicago in an attempt to save Christmas following a sleigh mishap. “It was basically a remake of my first film, Adventures in Babysitting, a night out on the town with Santa,” Columbus admits. The sequel sends Darby’s Kate and Jack (Jahzir Bruno) to the North Pole where they must help Santa and Mrs. Claus (Goldie Hawn, Russell’s longtime real-life partner) fend off a vengeful elf (Julian Dennison).
Between strong reviews for both films and Netflix’s massive Santa sleigh-like reach, The Christmas Chronicles is quietly becoming the rarest of presents for the streaming giant: a full-blown holiday franchise.
And that will certainly please Russell. According to Columbus, the 69-year-old actor wants to eventually make the yuletide role his swan song.
“He said to me, ‘I want to walk into the sunset, this being the last role I play,’” reveals Columbus. “He wants to continue doing it. Deep down into his soul, he’s committed to this role. That means eight weeks growing the beard with little additional flourishes, working with the script every night before he shoots with me.
“It’s an intense commitment. And he takes it very seriously.”
The Christmas Chronicles and The Christmas Chronicles 2 are currently streaming on Netflix.
Watch the trailer for the new sequel:
— Video produced by Jen Kucsak and edited by Jimmie Rhee
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