A Boy Called Christmas is now streaming on Netflix. Directed by Gil Kenan, the holiday family film stars Henry Lawfull, Michiel Huisman, Stephen Merchant, and Kristen Wiig.
“An ordinary young boy called Nikolas sets out on an extraordinary adventure into the snowy north in search of his father who is on a quest to discover the fabled village of the elves, Elfhelm,” says the official synopsis. “Taking with him a headstrong reindeer called Blitzen and a loyal pet mouse, Nikolas soon meets his destiny in this magical, comic and endearing story that proves nothing is impossible.”
ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese spoke with A Boy Called Christmas director Gil Kenan and stars Michiel Huisman and Henry Lawfull about the Netflix release.
Tyler Treese: Gil, when did you first encounter the book A Boy Called Christmas, and what really inspired you to adapt it to film?
Gil Kenan: Well, I read the book. It was sent to me by Graham Broadbent, who produced this thing. It was not very well known in the states way back when it was sent to me in 2017, since then it’s taken hold actually all over the world. But he sent it to me when it was a popular book in the UK and I read it and I just fell in love with Nicholas.
I fell in love with the sort of film it could be, which actually is not the sort of film that is made anymore. A pure fairy tale, a real fantasy. It felt like a classic Roald Dahl story about a young person who has a heap of trouble that is piled onto his shoulders, but still finds a way through his own spirit to cut away a line through it and to find a real adventure and to transform himself in the world. I just fell so in love with what this film could be, and I started to see it, and once I started to see it, I just couldn’t shake it. I had to be the person who made it.
Michiel, a father is always thinking of being a provider, and your character’s put in so many situations because he wants a better life for his son. There’s this great message that being good is better than being rich in the film. Can you speak to that? That message really resonated with me.
Michiel Huisman: The funny thing is that he sort of abandons that motto in trying to provide a better life for his son. I always liked that about the character. It’s one of the things that attracted me to playing this role because I felt like that was something that we can relate to. He wants to be a good father, but he makes the wrong decision and eventually tries to right that wrong by making a big sacrifice.
Henry, you had a really great scene in the film with Kristen Wiig. I thought she was really great as Aunt Carlotta. Can you speak to just getting to work with her?
Henry Lawfull: Yeah, she was amazing. Really funny, really great to work with. Although, it was with her that we filmed one of the least enjoyable scenes to work with.
Gil: Here we go.
Henry: I’ll forever hate Gil for this one, but, the scene where I’m eating my turnip doll as a soup, I remember, I reckon it was Gil personally put in a request to make that thing taste as bad as physically possible, which I guess made it as realistic as possible.
Michiel: Did you do that, Gil?
Gil: I kept tasting it and saying, “Not horrible enough. There’s gotta be something else you can add to this.” Look, Henry, it’s called directing. You gotta get the performance by any means necessary. If that scene worked it’s because I asked them to put your old laundry into the soup pot before they served it to you.
Henry: But yeah, she was amazing, Kristen Wiig, to work with.
Gil, I thought getting Stephen Merchant on board was so great. He talked about how you gave him freedom during the VO. How did you get to work with him, and can you just talk about what a character he is and what he brings to the film?
Yeah, I think he has one of the sharpest comic minds of our generation. I’m such a fan of his performing and writing. I have been for years. I think that one of the smartest choices I made was hiring a brilliant comic writer to write a character who is an inspired comic character. I mean, Miika, in some ways, even though this is a classic fairytale, he has a sense of humor of irony, and sarcasm that comes from the future. So it was so important that Stephen could be let loose to bring that tiny mouse to fill up a screen.
And this is actually something I don’t want to get lost in the conversation about how funny Stephen and Miika as a character is that there is a real tenderness to his bond with Nicholas. That a lot of his edge or his point of view is balanced out by a sense that there is a real vulnerability. That he doesn’t wanna let go of Nicholas or of their friendship. So, yeah, Stephen was an absolute treat to work with.