WITH Christmas just days away, fans of the holiday season will already be firing up Netflix to stream their favourite festive films.
But they might not be aware of some of the surprising behind the scenes secrets from Christmas films – including one seriously x-rated Xmas mistake.
The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) is just one of countless Christmas films that are watched the world over every DecemberCredit: Kobal Collection – Shutterstock
So crack out the eggnog and slip on a hideous jumper as we look back over some of tinseltown’s most intriguing on-set stories.
Here are the best Christmas film secrets – from the seriously surprising intended star of Die Hard to the real-life person who inspired Buddy from Elf.
Sex line in a kids’ film
Studio executives were left as red-faced as Santa himself when they accidentally included a real-life phone sex line number in one kids’ Christmas classic.
In The Santa Clause (1994), Scott (Tim Allen) is handed a phone number which he reads aloud: “1-800-SPANK-ME”.
Tim Allen in The Santa Clause – which originally included a phone sex line number in itCredit: Alamy
The line is a gag about Scott’s ex-wife’s new mother-in-law, but children watching the film started dialling the number when the film was released on VHS.
One pair of nine-year-old girls even reportedly racked up over $500 in charges after calling the premium adult line in 1996.
The scene was removed from the DVD release of the movie in 1999 and from the Disney+ cut, with the number changed in other versions to “1-800-POUND”.
The gangster film in Home Alone isn’t real
That’s right, ya filthy animals, the gangster movie which Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) watches in Home Alone (1990) isn’t a real film.
The black and white mob movie, which is called Angels with Filthy Souls, was actually shot specifically for Home Alone on a sound stage in an abandoned high school gymnasium in Winnetka, Illinois.
Actor Ralph Foody at his desk between takes playing Johnny in ‘Angels with Dirty Souls’Credit: Fox
The short gangster film was shot specifically for Home Alone in an abandoned school gym Credit: Fox
Shot in a noir style, the action-packed 1min 20s fake gangster film takes its name from the real 1938 gangster classic, Angels with Dirty Faces, but it was simply referred to as “the gangster film” in the Home Alone script.
“I believe the title was decided upon only because we needed to create a label for the tape Kevin puts in the VHS player,” art director Dan Webster told Vanity Fair.”
Another of Home Alone’s iconic moments has a curious history.
When Kevin’s brother’s tarantula crawls across Marv’s (Daniel Stern’s) face, Stern was offered a rubber spider or a real tarantula to use for the stunt.
Daniel Stern opted for the real arachnid – and also screamed for real as it crawled across his face, despite claims to the contrary
“Everyone seemed cool with it, so I just had them put the friggin’ tarantula on my face,” Stern told the Hollywood Reporter.
Many Home Alone fans believed Stern’s scream was dubbed in later to avoid scaring the critter – but Stern says it was very much real, and he had to do it over and over again.
“I asked if that would spook the spider, but I guess tarantulas can’t hear,” Stern says.
Strictly glum dancing
It might be many fans’ favourite scene in Love Actually (2003), but Hugh Grant hated having to dance in the film.
His Prime Minister character David jigs around Downing Street to the Pointer Sisters hit Jump – but Grant certainly wasn’t jumping for joy between takes.
Hugh Grant’s Prime Minister performed an iconic dance in Love Actually – but Grant hated itCredit: Kobal Collection – Rex Features
The actor revealed he would actively avoid rehearsing the sequence because he was dreading it so much
“There was this dance written and I thought, ‘That’s going to be excruciating’ and it has the power to be the most excruciating scene ever committed to celluloid,” he says in the BBC documentary, Hugh Grant: A Life On Screen.
“I certainly dreaded filming it and [director Richard Curtis] kept saying, ‘Don’t you think we’d better rehearse the dancing scene’ and I’d say, ‘Uh yes I’ve just gotta learn some lines… My ankle hurts today’. So it was never rehearsed.”
He added: “Imagine, you’re a grumpy 40-year-old Englishman, it’s seven in the morning, you’re stone-cold sober and it’s like, ‘Okay Hugh if you’d just like to freak out now’.
“It was absolute hell.”
Die Hard dithering
Bruce Willis became one of the all-time action hero greats when he was cast as John McClane in Die Hard (1988).
But Willis, who was known as a TV actor at the time, was way down the list of leading men the film’s studio wanted – with an ageing Frank Sinatra given first dibs of the part.
Bruce Willis cut his action hero teeth as John McClane in Die Hard – but he was nowhere near the front of the queue for the partCredit: Getty – Contributor
Frank Sinatra as Joe Leland in The Detective – the story which was a prequel to the book Die Hard was based onCredit: Getty Images – Getty
Sinatra, who was by then in his early 70s, was contractually obligated to be offered the role as Die Hard was an adaptation of Roderick Thorp’s 1979 novel, Nothing Lasts Forever.
That book was the sequel to The Detective – which had been made into a movie starring Sinatra in 1968.
Even after Ol’ Blue Eyes passed on Die Hard, the role was offered to a string of other stars thought to include Richard Gere, Clint Eastwood, Burt Reynolds, Don Johnson, Harrison Ford, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and even Sylvester Stallone before the part was given to Willis.
Buddy from Elf is based on a real person
That’s right – beloved Elf’s protagonist Buddy (Will Ferrell) was actually inspired by director Jon Favreau’s son, Max.
Max was only one when Favreau was making Elf in 2003, and the director looked to his babyish antics for inspiration for Buddy, Metro reports.
Will Ferrell’s big kid Buddy is said to have been inspired by a real one-year-old
Jon Favreau with his son Max in 2002 – Max was said to inspire Buddy’s behaviourCredit: Getty Images – Getty
It wasn’t the last time Max would have an influence on his dad’s films.
He also worked on The Jungle Book (2016) and played a masked Peter Parker in Iron Man 2 (2010).
All fight on the night
That’s not the only Elf secret.
The scene where Buddy fights a mall Santa (Artie Lange) who he accuses of being an imposter had to be captured in a single take as it would be too difficult and expensive to rebuild the set once it was destroyed.
Will Ferrell and Artie Lange shortly before their epic bust-up in Elf
The pair smash up a LEGO cityscape along with other displays in the ensuing brawlCredit: New Line Cinema
The film’s art department worked long hours over two weeks to set up the scene with an elaborate LEGO city and model railway.
And while the scene was improvised in several takes up till the violence breaks out, the actors only had one chance to get it right once it all kicked off.
“We shot right up until we destroy the place,” Lange said, ABC reports. “So we had one take to destroy it.
“So Favreau says: ‘Just go nuts, but we got one take.’”
Surprise kiss from Jimmy Stewart
It’s one thing to get an on-screen kiss from one of Hollywood’s legends – but it’s quite another when you don’t know it’s about to happen.
In It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), actor Ellen Corby gets a big kiss on the cheek from James Stewart when she asks for a very specific amount of money.
Ellen Corby, centre, opposite James Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life – he leans through the window and surprises her with a kiss when she delivers her lineCredit: Liberty Films
But according to an online post from the It’s a Wonderful Life Museum, Stewart improvised the kiss.
“During the run on the Bailey Building and Loan I requested 17 dollars,” Corby says in The It’s a Wonderful Life Trivia Book, according to the museum.
“There were many rehearsals and many takes… And then [director Frank Capra] came up to me and whispered in my ear.
“On the next take I asked for an odd amount… Not seventeen dollars, but seventeen-fifty. That threw Jimmy Stewart off.
“He was expecting me to say the amount I had requested in the rehearsals and takes we’d already tried.
“But Stewart was wonderful. He ad-libbed his reaction and kiss. That was pure Capra. He knew how to keep things fresh.”
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