Chris Columbus, the screenwriter of the 1984 film, Gremlins, takes a walk down memory lane and answers the questions once and for all: is Gremlins a Christmas movie?
- What is it?
- It's your new pet.
- You're kidding.
KEVIN POLOWY: Speaking of Christmas movies, or non Christmas movies. That's what I want to ask you-- Gremlins. We have this debate with Die Hard all the time, but it's also appropriate to wonder about Gremlins. Is Gremlins a Christmas movie? Was that part of the intent?
CHRIS COLUMBUS: Yeah, I mean, the goal for me-- the reason I'm fascinated by Christmas is the time of year when people are at their most emotional and happiest, yet there's a whole other side of the population that's incredibly depressed, potentially out of work, particularly this year. So you take that, and you set it against the backdrop of back in the day something like Gremlins. And that's an interesting stew to me. When people should be celebrating with their families, these ridiculously evil monsters are terrorizing the town and killing everyone. That is fascinating.
Same with Home Alone. A kid is left home alone, and his worst nightmare happens. He's facing these two burglars.
KEVIN POLOWY: Do you think you might have scared a few kids away from Christmas with those Gremlins and also Phoebe Cates' horrifying dad as Santa Claus story?
CHRIS COLUMBUS: Studio almost made us cut that initially, but it was Joe Dante and I's favorite scene in the movie.
PHOEBE CATES: Firemen came and broke through the chimney top. And me and mom were expecting them to pull out a dead cat or a bird. And instead they pulled out my father.
KEVIN POLOWY: Was that based on an urban legend?
CHRIS COLUMBUS: No, it was based on a-- do you remember a cartoonist named Gahan Wilson?
KEVIN POLOWY: I don't think so, no.
CHRIS COLUMBUS: You'd have to go through all of his early dark, dark-- he used to do cartoons for National Lampoon. And there's a cartoon of a guy in a Santa Claus suit as a skeleton in the chimney. And I don't remember the punch line but that inspired me.
KEVIN POLOWY: You said that the studio wanted you guys to cut that scene. Did you have to fight for that one?
CHRIS COLUMBUS: After the first preview, yeah. They wanted us to cut the scene. But Joe Dante and Steven Spielberg-- I didn't have much say at the time. I was just the screenwriter. And by that, I mean it was only my second movie. But Joe and Steven talked some sense into them.
PHOEBE CATES: And that's how I found out there was no Santa Claus.