Watch: David Harbor lifts the lid on his Violent Night workout regimen
When one thinks of the merry figure of Santa Claus, it’s probably fair to say that jiu-jitsu isn’t something that immediately comes to mind. What about Greco-Roman wrestling?
Well, those are the skills David Harbor had to learn as he geared up to play a less-than-cheerful Saint Nick in director Tommy Wirkola’s holiday action flick Violent Night.
The Stranger things the actor told Yahoo UK that he didn’t get a chance to speak to a Santa trainer before taking on the role, because he was too busy preparing his body.
Read more: The most unusual film versions of Santa Claus
“My training was very different. My training for Santa was jiu-jitsu and Greco-Roman wrestling. But it would have been very interesting to talk to a [Santa Claus trainer],” he said.
In the film, Santa Claus is visiting the wealthy Lightstone clan on Christmas Eve when a band of money-hungry mercenaries hold the family hostage, triggering Mr. Claus’ long-dormant warrior side.
Harbor added that while his training was mostly about how to convincingly hit bad guys with a bat, he’s done “a lot of research” into different versions of Santa Claus around the world.
Read more: John McTiernan settles the age-old Die Hard debate
She said: “There’s St. Nicholas in the Christian tradition, who was the patron saint of repentant sinners, which I thought was really interesting. He ended up giving little gifts to children.
“There’s the Weihnachtsmann in Germany. There’s all these different iterations of him culturally all over the world and I thought that was really cool.”
Harbor said Violent Night creates an origin story for Santa Claus, which uses elements of folklore but also invents some dark aspects of his past as “a very different boy” thousands of years ago.
The film presents Santa as a shell of his former self, pondering retirement while drowning his Christmas Eve sorrows in a bar.
Read more: The best Christmas movies of the 21st century
Harbor said: ‘He had become this corny version of himself that I think for me embodied best in those Coca-Cola ads that we still see every year.
“They started, I think, in the 1920s or 1930s: this big jolly Santa with rosy cheeks and that beard and those little glasses and the bag over his shoulder.
“It was just that image to me that was so important at the beginning of the film and that he himself was trapped in that image. He really wasn’t the guy he was.
“All these mall Santas – he even meets one at the beginning of the film – they’re portraying a version of him that isn’t really him. I thought that was really fascinating, so for me it was the Santa image. “
Read more: Take our Christmas movie quiz
Harbor admitted that he felt some pressure to tackle a Christmas movie, particularly as a huge fan of the genre.
“It’s something I love to do during Christmas. When I go with my friends to the mall and go shopping and stuff, it’s always nice to go see a movie in the afternoon,” the 47-year-old said. .
She added, “To be a part of one of those kinds of movies, when a lot of my movies are more serious or bigger in a certain way, to be a part of one of those Christmas movies felt very special.”
Harbor said Santa Claus was perhaps a clearer good guy than the morally ambiguous heroes he portrayed in films like Hellboy and Black Widow.
Read more: David Harbor explains why Hellboy flopped
“At least Santa has a hot-and-bad list that he sticks to and adheres to. That’s his code,” she said.
Violent Night will be released in UK cinemas on 2 December.
Watch: Violent Night Trailer