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John Leguizamo hopes Encanto offsets his evil image in Violent Night (exclusive)

Watch: John Leguizamo on unique evil of Christmas movie baddies

John Leguizamo believes bad guys in Christmas movies are as evil as it gets, but hopes the legacy of voicing Bruno in Encanto will make up for his malevolent turn in Violent Night.

In the new movie from director Tommy Wirkola, Leguizamo plays the Christmas-hating leader of a group of mercenaries attempting to steal millions from the home of the wealthy family they've taken hostage.

"Not only is it an extra level of evil, but an extra opportunity to be hated by a whole new generation," Leguizamo told Yahoo UK.

Read more: Which Christmas movie was crowned most overrated?

He added: "The guy who tries to get rid of Christmas and kill Santa is not gonna be the favourite person this Christmas."

But Leguizamo said his history playing more likeable characters in kids' movies — including the instantly memorable Bruno — might shield him from the hate.

He said: "But I was Bruno. I was lovely at the beginning of the year! That's true, and Sid the Sloth [from Ice Age] I've got in the other back pocket."

David Harbour's Santa and a mercenary played by John Leguizamo match wits and fists in festive actioner Violent Night. (Universal Pictures)
David Harbour's Santa and a mercenary played by John Leguizamo match wits and fists in festive actioner Violent Night. (Universal Pictures)

Leguizamo added, though, that he really relished the opportunity to be a proper bad guy, saying that being able "to get paid to throw mantrums and to chew up the scenery a little bit" is an actor's dream.

Read more: Behind the scenes secrets from Encanto

Violent Night pits Leguizamo's merciless crook against Santa Claus himself, played by David Harbour as a former warrior now hollowed out by the increasingly saccharine spectacle of Christmas.

"The whole thing was very surreal," said Leguizamo, adding that he "started to believe that David was channelling Santa somehow".

Santa Claus protects the Lightstone family from murderous mercenaries in Violent Night. (Universal Pictures)
Santa Claus protects the Lightstone family from murderous mercenaries in Violent Night. (Universal Pictures)

The star added: "He had this depth of rage and sadness and he was so adorable at the same time. I started to believe that he was channelling something. It wasn't just David. Santa was talking through him."

Read more: John Leguizamo discusses impact of Encanto's representation

Leguizamo's research for Violent Night was focused less on Christmas classics than on working out what it takes to be a terrible person on screen.

He said: "I watched a lot of villain movies and great villain flicks, so that I could [find out] what is the secret recipe for that, the secret sauce?

John Leguizamo hopes his voice work in Encanto might ensure he's not every child's least favourite person this Christmas. (AFP/Getty)
John Leguizamo hopes his voice work in Encanto might ensure he's not every child's least favourite person this Christmas. (AFP/Getty)

"What I came across was that you have to make them really smart, you've got to really respect them and not to go silly or ridiculous.

"I could be witty, but I couldn't be ridiculous because then you lose respect and you lose the tension.

Read more: Kevin Bacon talks about his festive Marvel role

"I wanted it to be grounded because I feel like that kept the tension going. Everybody else could be silly and fun. I could be witty, but I couldn't be cartoony.

"I don't respect that kind of villain. I know he's a goofball, so there's no danger any more."

Violent Night is in UK cinemas from 2 December.

Watch: Trailer for Violent Night