The Christmas season was in full swing as the first day of Christmas has brought us a partridge in a pear tree (at least in song), some good times with our families and friends, and the annual ‘Doctor Who’ Christmas special. But the Doctor isn’t exactly the most recognizable figure associated with this time of year. In the mainstream media, the date of December 25th is most closely associated with Santa Claus. Many stories exist about jolly ol’ St. Nick, and we see depictions of his iconic red and white suit everywhere we look, especially in malls and various holiday attractions. But have you ever taken the time to wonder about those people who take up the mantle of Kris Kringle every year from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve?
The creators of the documentary ‘I Am Santa Claus’ did exactly that as they explored the lives of various figures in the Santa community during the rest of the year when they’re not donning the classic garb of Father Christmas. The film offers an unprecedented look at the men who bring one of the most famous fantasy figures to life by introducing the world to the very real people that dedicate their lives to making Christmas as special as possible.
When the movie from executive producer Morgan Spurlock hit Netflix recently after being released on Blu-ray, DVD, and VOD earlier this month, we had the extreme pleasure of speaking with Mick Foley, a producer of ‘ I Am Santa Claus’ that also appears as a subject that is looking into becoming Santa for the first time. Foley is a New York Times Best Seller, a comedian, and a Christmas enthusiast, but he’s best known as a WWE Hall of Famer and a hardcore wrestling legend with the aliases of Cactus Jack, Mankind, and Dude Love. Though I could have gone into his famous fall from the top of the Hell in a Cell or his beloved ‘This Is Your Life’ segment with The Rock, we discussed many interesting aspects of the film such as the larger Santa community’s reaction to the film, the process of picking the subjects, and the look of his version of Santa. We also went into professional wrestling’s response to his Santa passion and a potential appearance on ‘Girl Meets World’ in the future. You can check out our interview below:
Mick Foley: [Jolly laughter] Thank you! Why do you think that is?
SF: Something about the joy of Christmas and the way you guys showcased it. It was like going under the cowl so to speak of a legendary superhero.
MF: I appreciate that, especially since there was so much concern within the Santa community that we would be showing Santas in a negative light. I think that anyone who sees it realizes that you’re better able to appreciate the joy of Christmas when you se the struggles that people go through to make it happen.
SF: Absolutely. I feel like that’s how Marvel succeeds too because their heroes are flawed, so people tend to relate to them and understand them and appreciate them more.
MF: Yeah! That’s a great point. I think that if you look at some of the guys who knocked the movie without ever seeing it, they have the perception of Santa as a flawless character and I don’t think that’s accurate, even in the Rankin/Bass classics. Santa has lessons that he has to learn throughout the course of the animated specials, so thank you for seeing that and appreciating that.
SF: So how did the movie come about? Was it something that you pursued or was it happening and you jumped on?
MF: I was asked about being a subject early on. I would be the guy that gets the chance to become the iconic figure for the first time. I mean, I had dabbled in it. I would wear a Santa suit to an event and I would wear the cheap Party City suit and beard for our troops overseas a time or two on WWE television. But no one was ever under the impression that it was anybody but me, so this movie allowed me the chance to step into the role and appreciate it. When I walked away from the six-hour bleaching process with a white beard, I could better appreciate the sacrifices it takes to do the best job possible.
SF: Were you involved in picking some of the other subject involved in the film or was that purely the filmmaker’s decision?
MF: That was all [director] Tommy [Avallone] and the other producers. They had all that footage shot and it wasn’t until 2013 that I came on board as a producer. Then we started going through the mountain of footage to try to tell the best story possible. We started out with a four hour and thirty minute film, but we found a way to trim it down to ninety minutes. It’s tough making those choices, but in the end, I think we did a pretty good job.
SF: In doing this project, I’m sure that you had the opportunity to meet some other interesting Santas that didn’t make it into the documentary. Were there a few that you wish made it in there that you would’ve liked the world to see?
MF: Aw it’s tough to say. I think we did a really good job of showing a cross section of interesting people. One of the knocks was that it wasn’t an accurate portrait by showing a sort of cantankerous man in Russell Spice and gay man in Santa Jim and a man so thoroughly involved in being Santa that he legally changed his name to Santa Claus. They felt that we weren’t accurately portraying the people who make up the Santa world and I kinda just shrug my shoulders. If you want to make a movie called ‘I Am Regular Guy’ and showcase average people by putting three years of your life, money, and time into making that movie, then be my guest, but these are extraordinary people.
SF: Most definitely. Moving on to your own journey as Santa Claus, I was wondering what iteration inspired your look since I noticed that your suit is a little different than the traditional Santa that we see.
MF: It was kind of a combination of Victorian Christmas and Father Christmas. I liked it. I like the burgundy and the gold, but oddly I’ve gone back to a more traditional look. As far as the things that I really enjoy about being in that world is that everybody has their own idea of how to make this wonderful, iconic character work. Everyone has their best idea of how to create magic and bring memories to children. It’s really not about the suit though, as we say in the movie. It’s not about the suit, it’s not about the beard, it’s not about the bowl of jelly, it’s about having the heart. You could have a great looking Santa who provides relatively little joy, but you could also have a Santa with a cheap suit and a beard that makes the suspension of disbelief a thing of beauty.
SF: As a wrestling fan, something that I found interesting was the Blue Meanie and Tommy Dreamer mentioning that they were surprised by your enthusiasm for Christmas. Who in the world of professional wrestling do you think was the most surprised when they found out how much you love Christmas and Santa Claus?
MF: Hmmm… I don’t know how to answer that. I think that slowly but surely the WWE Universe has accepted that this is something I do. It’s like Shawn Michaels and his outdoor adventures. It’s not for everyone, but people accept it as part of what we do. I hope that wrestling fans will take a chance, especially since it’s available on iTunes, DVD, and Blu-Ray. We’re just asking them to take a peek and I think that five minutes in they’ll be hooked.
SF: For sure. I just thought that it was interesting that Cactus Jack, King of the Deathmatch, the Hardcore Legend, is also Santa Claus.
MF: It would have been totally surprising if you told people in 1991 or 1995. When I’m walking to the ring, “Oh yeah, you see that guy there? In eighteen years, he’s going to be Santa Claus in a documentary.” But over the course of time, it’s generally accepted that I’m the sensitive wrestler.
SF: Recently, you were in the news when ‘New Girl’ approached you to be Santa. Though you turn that one down, have any other shows or movies approached you to be their Santa?
MF: Yeah, there’s a TV show! It’s another one that I love. I don’t know what happened but as soon as I told my agent that I can’t be a seedy Santa, I found out the next day that they went in another direction. It’s my one rule. I have no trouble playing myself, Mick Foley, as a seedy guy, but I just can’t do that to Santa. My hope is that next year ‘New Girl’ will have a different role for me. I mean, it’s a great role for an actor. I have no problem with a guy playing a seedy Santa, but for a guy who really wants to be the guy every year, it just wouldn’t feel right.
SF: Speaking of playing yourself, you appeared as Mankind in ‘Boy Meets World’. Now that they’re back with ‘Girl Meets World’, do you think that you’ll be getting a call from Ben Savage and the crew any time soon?
MF: You know what? I think that people always enjoy a story surrounding a story and the fact that I still keep in touch with Topanga [actress Danielle Fischel] warms people’s hearts, so it would seem like something natural for me to be Santa on ‘Girl Meets World’ next December.
SF: Not gonna lie, that would be so great. Finally, what is your greatest hope for ‘I Am Santa Claus’ once it gets out into the world? What do you hope your audience takes away?
MF: I hope that they take away that this is something that people don’t resort to, as it’s sometimes seen in movies. Being Santa Claus is something that people aspire to do and love being and look forward to doing for an entire year. I think that any good story makes people think and I hope that this makes people ask questions about who should and who has what it takes to become this kind of character.
For more information on ‘I Am Santa Claus’, be sure to check out iamsantaclausmovie.com.