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Violent Night director Tommy Wirkola on making a new Christmas classic

Violent Night is an unhinged new Christmas movie and we loved it so we jumped at the chance to sit down with director Tommy Wirkola and pick his brain

David Harbour in Violent Night

Violent Night is a hyper-violent action movie combined with your favourite festive film. It shouldn’t work, to be honest, but somehow the two genres come together like tinsel and pine to create something extraordinary.

David Harbour stars as Santa Claus, but this isn’t the Father Christmas you know from greetings cards and coke bottles. This Santa’s a jaded drunk who’s tired of bringing joy to good boys and girls. When a little girl, Trudie (Leah Brady), is taken hostage by the mercenary Mr Scrooge (John Leguizamo), however, Santa must find his Christmas spirit once again to cross some names off his naughty list permanently.

We loved Violent Night. It’s funny, violent, and surprisingly heartfelt, everything you want to kick off the Christmas season. So when we got the opportunity to chat with Tommy Wirkola, the mastermind behind this new Christmas movie, we jumped at the chance.

The Digital Fix: I can’t lie. I thought the film was glorious. How do you feel when you hear people say that you potentially made a new Christmas classic?

Tommy Wirkola: Well, I mean, I’m honoured and flattered. It feels weird hearing it, but, of course, when we made it, we were hoping that people would embrace it as a different type of Christmas movie.

We hope it’s something that you necessarily haven’t seen before in this genre, but same time brings a lot of that traditional stuff that you expect from a Christmas movie. So no, thank you so much for saying that. It’s really nice to hear.

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TDF: You mentioned you wanted to maintain some Christmas movie traditions, but this is a very violent action movie, was it difficult to balance those two genres?

TW: Well, it was the thing that we talked the most about going into it. When I first got the script, 87 North, the producers said to me it was ‘Die Hard with Santa Claus’, and I was like, OK, that sounds cool and fun.

What I didn’t realise when I read it was like, OK, this has so much to more it is. Yes, it has the humour, you expect the action and all that stuff, but it also has a big beating heart. That, to me, going into it, was what I latched on to.

It was about getting Santa and the little girl Trudy’s relationship right and weaving it through the whole film. If we could get that right, we could go as crazy and bananas with the rest as we wanted.

So yeah, that was it, but it’s a tricky thing. You have to keep that balance and what is too much. And when you need a joke, what do you need to relieve tension? So it’s something we discussed a lot.

David Harbour in Violent Night

TDF: Was there anything the studio wasn’t comfortable with you doing?

TW: No, not necessarily. There were moments I was sure that the studio was going to say to us, ‘Tommy, you can’t pull people through a snowblower in a Christmas movie,’ but it turns out you can!

I have to give credit to Universal. Every time we sent in a script, we were sure we were going to get some notes back saying, ‘this is too much,’ but they were like, ‘Yeah, go for it. Go for it. Go crazy’. So that was a very encouraging thing to have come from the studio, and it really gave us belief in what we were doing.

You mentioned the “beating heart” at the centre of this movie. I spoke to David [Harbour] earlier, and he told me he thought the heart was Mrs Claus. We don’t see her in the movie, but if we did, who would you have cast?

You know, I’ve gotten that question a couple of times today. I don’t know what to say because I was I don’t want to jinx it. But if we were lucky enough to get another one, I have some ideas in my head. I don’t think I should share them, just in case. I don’t want to put anything out there.

David Harbour in Violent Night

TDF: Now I’ve saved it till the very end, this is the most difficult question I’ve got. What was the best Christmas present you ever got?

TW: I got a few good ones throughout the years. I think my favourite, because I wanted it for a few years before I got it was a Star Wars toy. It was a Star Destroyer, Darth Vader’s Star Destroyer. That was a big moment. I remember the moment wrapping it up and seeing what it was. I lost my mind. So that’s an easy answer.

Violent Night is in cinemas from December 2 2022.