Christine Taylor: It's Not Easy to Film a Christmas Movie in May
By Denise Warner Posted Dec 3rd 2010 04:00PM
The actress stars in 'Farewell Mr. Kringle' (premiering Dec. 4 on The Hallmark Channel) as Anna Walls -- a woman disenchanted with the holidays after her newlywed husband dies. But Taylor reveals that it was a bit difficult to get into the right spirit.
"It was May and we'd be deep in the Valley and there was a day when it was 95 degrees," she explains to PopEater. "And the poor guy playing Santa is in this Santa suit and everyone's bundled up in coats and scarves. It's supposed to be northern California, so it's still could be sunny, but it was boiling hot. It was hard. It was very hard."
The mother of two also chatted about what it's like being a working mom, and how she and husband Ben Stiller celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah.
"Ben actually grew up celebrating both as well, because his mom [Anne Meara] grew up Irish-Catholic and then converted when she married Jerry [Stiller]," she says. Read more of our chat inside!
Tell me a little bit about Farewell Mr. Kringle.
It was my first time working for Hallmark. I'd never had the chance to work with them before and this came along. It was in the springtime and it was at a period of time when I had just worked a little bit – I had done a couple of 'Hannah Montana' episodes. I had been in mom mode for a while. My kids had just been able to experience the 'Hannah Montana' thing with me so when this came a long, it was something I was really open minded too. It's been an interesting time ... It was a really important thing when I read it. I was really pleasantly surprised [with the script.] ... it was really heartwarming to me. I feel like I'm at a stage in my life where it's great to be working on something that's age appropriate for my kids – something they would enjoy and can be a part of. I'm a Christmas person, I'm a holiday girl. I like jumping in to the holidays and to be able to be in something that can warm people's hearts and be a little entertaining along the way, I thought was fun.
Was it difficult to get in to the Christmas spirit since you were filming in the spring?
It was May and we'd be deep in the valley and there was a day when it was 95 degrees and the poor guy playing Santa is in this Santa suit and everyone's bundled up in coats and scarves. It's supposed to be northern California, so it's still could be sunny, but it was boiling hot. It was hard. It was very hard to get into the Christmas spirit
I always set a date when I can start listening to Christmas music.
When is yours? Is it December? Or after Thanksgiving?
It's after Thanksgiving, usually. But this year I moved it up to the beginning of November.
I love that you're admitting that. Something about the movie that I liked, I think, for nowadays, the holidays become so commercial and truly stressful. In October, you're having to decide on Christmas cards. Or even before sometimes and it depends how many people or business people are on your Christmas list, it just stars to become a chore. With this movie – and not to be too corny – it really bring you back to the heart of what the holidays should be. It's about being with people that you love and care about. It's more the spirit of it and less about the giving and the getting. All of that is really fun; I'm probably the consumers best friend when it comes to the holidays ... I'm the first to say that's fun too. I think for the character that I play in this movie, she's sworn off Christmas. She had this tragedy happen in her life; she lost her husband and she was newly married ... it's not sending some giant message out there. It's meant to say that even amidst the craziness and the chaos and the emotions that come up for people during the holidays from great great joyful things to depressing things, if you can't be with someone you love or you've lost a family member, I feel like this is a great, simple movie that shows how friends and how opening your heart and having new people in your life and people that you love dearly is really what it's all about.
So at an appropriate time, how do you prepare for the holidays?
[Laughs.] I'm not going to lie. I was picking Christmas cards in October. I really tried to engage in it as much as I could. But I had gotten to the point, where I feel like it has to be fun. I feel like for me, it's got to start being fun. Living in California, it's hard because it is so warm. It's so hard to be playing the Christmas tunes in the car and you're wearing a tank top and sweating to death. And I am known to be the Christmas carol girl. That's something that Ben has to live with and draws the line on. Even on Christmas day, which is the day that you're probably supposed to play them the most, I've noticed that, where I put it on as background music when the kids are opening presents, he casually finds his way into the room and it suddenly gets lower and lower until it's off. I've made the joke that he can only take so much Nat King Cole. But he definitely indulges me for a little while. I think by noon on Christmas day, it's sort of like let's get the iPod and play something else.
Does your family celebrate both Christmas and Hanukka?
Yeah we do. Ben actually grew up celebrating both as well, because his mom [Anne Meara] grew up Irish-Catholic and then converted when she married Jerry [Stiller] to Judaism. They always celebrated both because Ben's mom always celebrated Christmas. It's a mix of everything. Sometimes it's more challenging because Hanukka sometimes falls in the middle of Christmas.
What are your family traditions?
It's interesting. Hanukka, we've almost always been home for. I don't think we've traveled at all. We have a little room in the house where Ben and I will hide the presents and we'll pick out a present for the kids and we'll have a nice hour or so where it's just he and I and the kids. That's just really nice because it's not often that it's just the four of us. That's a great traditional thing that we do. And we've traveled a lot over the years for Christmas and so we just pick up and wherever we are, we make sure we decorate a tree. And get a Christmas candle – you know you get that smell wherever. It doesn't matter if you're in Hawaii. Little traditions like we open our family gifts on Christmas eve and in the morning it's more about the kids. We're still evolving when it comes to that because the kids are at the age when they are starting to [become] ... involved with it a lot more. So if they say 'let's bake cookies,' that becomes the tradition for that year. And it's fun.
In the spirit of 'Farewell Mr. Kringle,' what's your favorite Christmas movie?
I've always been an 'It's a Wonderful Life' girl, that's always been one that I've loved. On the flip side of it, there's 'The Year Without a Santa Clause' with Heat Miser and Cold Miser. That's actually become a tradition in the last couple of years because our kids are obsessed with that. They do the little song and dance of Heat Miser and Cold Miser. We have a lot of video of that, which will hopefully never be seen, of our family doing those songs. Those are the two extremes from the super tearjerker to the guilty pleasure.
Getting back to you and your career, how has it been working more and being a mother?
Somebody said to me 'Do you feel like you made the right choice by taking time off to be with the kids?' And I don't feel like it was a decision I made, it just felt natural. It became harder and harder to take work that would take me away from the kids, especially with Ben working. But genuinely and naturally and inherently, my priorities shifted. I remember working a lot when they were infants and they didn't know when you were coming and going and how long you were gone for. And once they got into school ... I just wanted to be involved as a parent. And Ben works a lot and travels a lot and we'd made a deal together that one of us should be there with the kids, even though we have grandmas and grandpas and everybody that can help, we really wanted one of us to be there and be hands on. That really just became a joy. And yet sort of through it all, there's always been sprinklings of work here and there that have been enough for me, honestly. I've been able to work with friends or get to do a little something with Ben that's fun. It's actually worked out perfectly. This past year, when I did 'Hannah Montana,' that was something I could actually include my kids in and actually say to them 'Would this be fun? Would you guys want to come and see me do this?' With 'Hannah Montana,' I ... [said to my kids], 'If you would like me to do this great and if not, then I don't have to do it.' I hadn't watched 'Hannah Montana,' really and it became a really great thing for them to be involved and also understand that when I go to work, it's different from when Ben goes to work. If he's directing, producing and starring in a film, it's a very different level of work then when I'm going and just working for 12 hours or driving out locally and going to work and coming home. So they can see both ends of it, that I can do it. I can still be mom and still be there for them and when I go to work, they can survive, believe it or not. It was good. It was a really good family experiment for us. At the time, when I did 'Farewell Mr. Kringle,' Ben wasn't working so he could sort of take on my role a little bit – take the kids to school, put them to sleep. It was a really good energy for the kids to experience that, too.
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