You guys have witnessed me recapping the post-sitcom lives of child actors of the ’80s for awhile now – and while I love doing it, I figured it was time for a TV show break. And what better time to take a break than right before the holidays, am I right?
That being said, I’ve rounded up a few of my ultimate favorite movie Santas and figured I’d give each of them a chance to shine. Being able to don the shoes of Santa (or, the shiny and sturdy workboots) is a big responsibility. How did these actors fare?
Jeff Gillen in A Christmas Story
Jeff played one of the most memorable Santas in this Christmas classic. While his screentime was short, he pushed Ralphie down that chute (before he stated his need for the Red Ryder B.B. gun) with such ease that it’s become one of the most memorable Christmas movie scenes of all time.
The actor had two more credits before his untimely passing in 1995, at the age of 52. In 1998, he played a small role in Police Academy 5, and he was in an episode of the TV series Only Fools and Horses in 1991. Gillen lived in Florida, and also owned the Great Southern Studios in North Miami Beach. Florida residents might have also recognized him in commercials for the Florida Lottery.
Tim Allen in The Santa Clause
Tim put the big red pants on after a tragic event – he killed the real Santa Claus, and had to replace him. Grim, right? Tim almost wasn’t cast as the big man, based on a prior criminal record. Disney has a “no hiring of ex-cons” policy, but in this case, an exception was made. Phew.
Tim reprised the role for two additional Santa Clause films, released in 2002 and 2006. In 2004 he starred in another Christmas movie, Christmas With The Kranks. In 2007 he played Doug Madsen in Wild Hogs, and 2010 brought him a role as Tommy in Crazy On The Outside. Of course, he also provided the voice of the lovable Buzz Lightyear in all three installments of Toy Story (as well as a lot of the mini-Toy Story movies that were released outside of the theaters).
Since 2011, he’s starred in the show Last Man Standing alongside Nancy Travis. Prior to The Santa Clause, you probably remember him best from holding a tool belt instead of a bag of presents in the show that brought us Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Home Improvement.
Pretty big turnaround for a guy who spent two years in jail, right?
Billy Bob Thornton in Bad Santa
Our boy Billy Bob had the honor of working with John Ritter, in what would be his last film role. While the movie definitely isn’t meant for kids, it’s slowly turning into a Christmas cult classic.
Just a year after Bad Santa came out, Billy Bob played Davy Crockett in The Alamo, and in 2005, he was featured in the Bad News Bears movie as Morris Buttermaker. In 2006, he was in two films – School for Scoundrels, and The Astronaut Farmer. He went on to play high school gym teacher Jasper Woodcock in the 2007 comedy Mr. Woodcock. His acting career really picked up around 2011 – this year, he played Forrest Sorrels in the drama Parkland, and he has four films slated for 2014 releases.
Billy Bob also has a few writing credits under his belt, most recently writing Jayne Mansfield’s Car, which he also directed and played a role in. One of the most notable films he directed was 2000’s All The Pretty Horses, starring Matt Damon and Penelope Cruz.
Also, we have to remember Billy Bob for his strange relationship with Angelina Jolie, since while that took place before Bad Santa, it helped turn him into a household name. The two of them made tabloids for carrying around drops of each others’ blood. It really drops the “interesting” factor of her having 90000 kids with Brad Pitt down a bit.
Edward Asner in Elf
Ed played Buddy the Elf’s ultimate favorite person in the world, and their friendship was so endearing that he had to make the list. The thing is, Ed is such an incredible actor that he’s starred in about ten billion things since the movie came out in 2003. I’ll recap the best of the best.
Ed was cast in a few television shows that had a limited run – for example, the John Goodman-fronted Center of the Universe which aired from 2004 to 2005, and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip from 2006 to 2007. He also took part in three more Christmas films – Christmas Is Here Again, where he lent his voice to play Krad, and Thomas Kinkade’s Christmas Cottage, which I bet you 5 bucks you can find on Netflix Instant right this second, and in 2009 he played Jerry in a TV movie called Christmas Dreams.
You probably heard him voicing Carl in Up (if you could get past the sob-worthy opening scene). He tried television again in 2011 with the series Working Class, but that one also lasted a mere season. In 2012 he voiced nobody other than Santa Claus on the Christmas episode of Regular Show (they must have been Elf fans!) He also took part in a bunch of TV movies and one-offs for shows like Betty White’s Off Their Rockers, and Law & Order: SVU. Ed is so big that he has projects lined up until 2015. You go, Santa Claus.
David Huddleston in Santa Claus – The Movie
I had the pleasure of catching this film the other night. And while I fell asleep during the end of it (it was late, and I’m old!) David Huddleston did an excellent job with portraying the man in red. While the movie reminded me of a Christmas version of The Wizard (as in, both had tie-ins up the wazoo) I didn’t feel the need to drink a Coke at McDonald’s as much as I felt the need to see people get really amped about the gifts I gave them.
David is currently 83, but is still gracing the screen. While he chooses roles sparingly, he also chooses them wisely. In the early ’90s, he played Grandpa Arnold in The Wonder Years. After a few guest appearances in shows like Star Trek: The Next Generation and Walker, Texas Ranger he moved onto playing the title character in 1998’s The Big Lebowski. In 2000, he appeared on two episodes of Gilmore Girls playing Mayor Harry Porter. After playing the Mayor, he played a Senator in The West Wing for two episodes.
While not playing a Santa Claus, he did play Eugene Hamilton in the Christmas episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (good thing, too – he would have gotten beat up by Charlie Kelly otherwise.) You can see David next in The Accidental President, which is a TV movie set to air in 2014.
Richard Attenborough in Miracle on 34th Street Richard did a good job in turning a young Mara Wilson into a believer. The two of them made this remake shine. And unlike a few of the Santas above, Richard’s beard was real.
Richard is currently 90 years old, and chose a few other roles before retiring from acting in 2004. In 1996, he played an English Ambassador in Hamlet, and then portrayed John Hammond in The Lost World: Jurassic Park (and carried on the role with a few voice-overs for the video games that followed, as well as a short video that aired before Universal Studio’s Jurassic Park: The Ride attraction, assuring tourists that the ride was safe.)
Richard was also a director and producer, directing the film Closing The Ring in 2007. In sad news, Richard suffered a few losses in his life when a tsunami struck in Thailand in 2004. His eldest daughter Jane, as well as his granddaughter and his daughter’s mother in law, were killed while on vacation.
Attenborough has two other children, Michael and Charlotte, who is also involved in the industry.
Who is your favorite movie Santa? Did they make the list?
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