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Danny DeVito Discusses "Deck the Halls" - A Family Holiday Comedy

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Danny DeVito Discusses

Danny DeVito and Matthew Broderick in "Deck the Halls."

© 20th Century Fox

Danny DeVito stars as Buddy Hall, a car salesman who moves in next door to a guy known in the small town of Cloverdale, Massachusetts as the 'King of Christmas' in the holiday comedy, Deck the Halls. The 'King of Christmas' - aka Steve the optometrist (played by Matthew Broderick) - soon finds out the new guy on the block has a special plan for holidays. Buddy's goal is to cover his house with so many Christmas lights that it will actually be visible from space and Steve's determined that's one plan that won't come to fruition.

Danny DeVito Shares His Christmas Memories: “In my family when we all got together, that was a big thing. It’s not so much about the [decorations]. We decorated the tree. We decorated the house a little bit. My mother used to have these like little electric candles in the window, you know, and all that on in New Jersey. Sometimes we’d throw a couple of – not very neatly – throw a couple of strands around the little bush in front of the house. But there were people in the neighborhood around the corner who would do very elaborate [decorating].

We’d always do… I don’t know if you did it, get in the car, ‘Let’s go see the Christmas lights,’ you know, drive around a little bit and see the lights. But I guess Christmas because of that signal of, you know, ‘Let’s all join together, get together as a family – bring the uncles and aunts, even the ones that you didn’t like.’ Get them over to the house and eat – big time eat.

Lasagna was big in the family. My mother cooked like amazing lasagna. We’d have eggplant parmesan. They’d make a ham or a turkey or both and chestnuts. Love chestnuts. Oh, start with the antipasto with all the different meat and cheese and stuff. And then you get the endive. We used to do Foeniculum – fennel - which was really great with a little salt and pepper and olive oil. Oh my god, it’s so good. And, you know, a lot of wine. My father’s friend, Joe Falco, was a baker, but he also made wine in his cellar. They’d always have a big gallon of wine on the floor. We used to get wine and ginger ale, that was the kids’ drink – little kids. We always had wine. When you get older, you could just have the wine straight. But I remember that taste of like wine and ginger ale, like, as a kid. It was really good.”

Getting Into Character: DeVito says this sort of character comes easy to him. “The thing about it is I feel like, especially in like Deck the Halls, there’s a definite objective involved. You have an arc of the character. Like, here’s a guy who’s working his head off, he’s done all kinds of things, he’s probably sold these tape recorders. He’s sold everything, you know, to people and he could sell you your shirt. You know, he’s a really good salesman and now he’s selling cars. But there’s something in there in that kind of… His wife is happy and his kids are doing well but there’s something in there that’s just not like giving him that 15 minutes of fame. You know, that thing that he wants. That little bit of self esteem that pushes him out into the [spotlight], gives him something to be proud of. And sometimes those things come right from right under your nose. When the kids do the thing with the computer and he goes out and he gets the idea. Now, to follow that objective – which I loved – was unfortunately I had to invade the space of my neighbor, which I also enjoyed. I guess if you can map out the ABCs and connect the dots, then the characters feel like they come easy to you.”

Taking a Break and Just Acting: DeVito wasn’t called on to do more than act in Deck the Halls, which was just fine with him. He relished being able to relax a little and not have to make decisions as a director or producer of the film. “Oh, yeah. I think it’s a great thing to do. You know, I feel good about working, especially with… You know [director] John Whitesell really knows exactly what he’s doing. It’s like a joy to do that. It was really fun to work with Matthew [Broderick]. You get ‘camper life’ when you’re an actor, which you don’t get when you’re a director or a producer. You can be off the set for a little bit while they’re lighting. You can make a phone call, you can learn your lines, you do something – you know, watch a movie. It’s a break. It’s like a really good respite.

But, also, we had to shoot in Canada. I like Canada, it’s really beautiful. I actually went to Vancouver Island. Rita [Perlman, his wife] came up for a week and we went to this really great place on Vancouver Island. She’s never forgiven me for making her go onto a helicopter, The thing is that, you know, I wish we could do more movies in the United States. That’s what we have to try to do, especially in California. It’s very difficult. I need everybody’s help. I mean, we have to figure it out. I mean Arnold’s trying. The thing is that every industry wants the break if you give it to the film industry, and I don’t blame them. ...But it’s great if everybody could be thinking about that all the time when they’re writing stuff or you’re talking about stuff. It would be great to be able to get the incentives that keep films in the United States.”

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