When you think about the jolly figure of Santa Claus, it's probably fair to say that jiu-jitsu isn't something that comes to mind straight away. What about Greco-Roman wrestling?
Well those are the skills that David Harbour had to learn while preparing to play a less-than-jolly-old Saint Nick in director Tommy Wirkola's festive action movie Violent Night.
Violent Night will be released in UK cinemas on 2 December.
TOM BEASLEY: Playing Santa Claus puts you in-- you know, a lot of great actors have played that character.
DAVID HARBOUR: Absolutely.
TOM BEASLEY: I did a thing a few years ago, where I interviewed someone who trained Santa Claus people to be in shopping centers and stuff.
DAVID HARBOUR: Oh, that's amazing.
TOM BEASLEY: Did you have, I guess, any like Santa Claus training like that?
DAVID HARBOUR: [LAUGHS] No, my training was very different. My training for Santa Claus--
TOM BEASLEY: [LAUGHS]
DAVID HARBOUR: --was ju-jitsu and, like, Greco-Roman wrestling. But that would have been very interesting to talk to a guy like that. You know, well, my training was mainly fight training. And then in terms of Santa Claus, I did do a lot of research, in terms of where he came from and different traditions, like there's Saint Nicholas of the Christian tradition, who was the patron saint of repentant sinners, which I thought was really interesting.
And he wound up giving little gifts to children. And there's this Weihnachtsmann in Germany. There's all these different sort of iterations of him, culturally, throughout-- throughout the world. And I thought that was really interesting because our version, we sort of have an origin story of Santa Claus. That 10,000 years ago, he was a very different guy. And we hinted that. But I had done all sorts of stuff on that.
But then to begin, he's sort of become this saccherine version of himself that I think, for me, was embodied best in those Coca-Cola ads that we still see every year. But they started, I think, in the '20s or '30s-- of this big, jolly Santa with rosy cheeks and that beard and those little glasses and, like, you know, the bag on his shoulder.
And that was-- it was just that image, to me, that was so important at the beginning of the film and that he, himself, was trapped in that image, that that wasn't really the guy he was, that all these mall Santas-- who he even meets a mall Santa in the beginning of the movie-- are portraying a version of him that isn't really him. And I thought-- I thought that was, you know, really fascinating. So for me, it was about the image of Santa Claus.